Guyana Elections; Reasons Why Guyanese Must Vote With Their Conscience
By G Girdhari
Apologetic: Just over a year ago I had an unfortunate and bitter experience with a few individuals who deemed themselves “leaders” and “do-gooders”, individuals I considered to be close colleagues and friends. They did something that to me was morally and ethically wrong. I have since lost these “friends”. My trust and faith in people who were very close to me for many years have been brutally diminished. I consciously withdrew… from community activities that had such “leaders” and “do-gooders”.
Reading the Guyana newspapers regularly and following to some politicians, columnists, and letter writers over the years makes me shudder with disgust. I did not want to get into the fray during this election time. But after some last moment internal deliberation I changed my mind.
I did not go to the meeting held on Sunday March 22, 2015 at Naressa Palace in Queens, New York when PNC (the acronym APNU makes no difference) David Granger and AFC Moses Nagamootoo addressed a gathering of Guyanese diaspora. I felt then that an inevitable face-to-face with Moses Nagamootoo would be a cause pour le malaise and possible embarrassment. You must know that Moses and I have known each other very well since the 1960’s; and I consider him a real friend. As I sit writing I wrestled with the thought of losing a friend, but seriously considered my integrity, that is, never to do anything against my conscience even if friendship is at stake. (Hopefully this may not shut the door on over 45+ years of friendship.)
One colleague of mine told me that Moses’ presentation in Queens, New York was very good, and I retorted that Moses has always been good; he did not mention Granger! My information on that meeting was derived from press reportage.
I learned that Moses said among other things that “we must forget the past”. Moses knows, more than most people, of the past. He is an accomplished veteran journalist, a great speaker and speechwriter, and an erstwhile campaigner. He knows Guyana’s history better that most historians. He served the people of Guyana during his tenure in the PPP in more ways than one, and better than most in the PPP during his youthful years through his adult and seniors years.
At the 1998 PPP Congress Moses gained immense popularity he received the second highest number of votes, second only to Janet Jagan. I was there, and my friend and colleague Harry Ramdass was the returning officer who attested to this.
Despite this Moses was not the PPP’s presidential candidate; Bharrat Jagdeo (an inexperienced political neophyte at that time) was selected instead! This was a blow a heavy blow below the belt! Despite this Moses worked arduously and faithfully in and for the PPP. He was a formidable and arguably the most articulate speaker during PPP campaigns, in particular with the PPP A-team. He appeared to disguise or feign any feeling of hurt. His current political teammate and then law partner Khemraj Ramjattan had already left the PPP; but he remained loyal to his PPP, and he is reportedly quoted as saying that he would not be a “neemakharam” (= ungrateful).
The next time round he was again sidelined and deliberately elbowed out of the PPP. There is a tipping point for all of us, and this I presume was his. He left the PPP, and the rest is now current knowledge. Whatever might have been the reasoning for the hierarchy of the PPP to keep Moses at bay is obscure to me, but to my mind a great injustice was orchestrated, and this was a disservice to Moses. Moses relented on his words and left the PPP justifiably so in my opinion! And in one swoop he became anti-PPP. Voilà! Today you’re for; tomorrow you’re against. One wonders what the scenario might have been had he been the selected PPP presidential candidate; but then this is hypothetical and conjecture, and intended to be rhetorical.
Moses went on the proverbial warpath and lashed out against the PPP. He certainly had a lot of ammunition being deep in the party for most of his life. He assumed the warrior posture in speech, attitude and behavior akin to jingoist anger, a kind of higher probity.
If one pauses and fast-forward…. Moses’ pronouncement that “we must forget the past” means that Guyanese should not think of the past not of the PNC past to be specific to bury that part of history. While this may be existential political praxis, it is very stunning to Guyanese as a whole, and perplexing to me specially. George Santayana has become clichéd. He wrote (in The Life of Reason): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Moses more than anyone in the PPP (with the exception of Cheddi and Janet Jagan) was in the trenches tooth and nail to expose the atrocities and ignominies of the PNC regime. He has written and spoken about these. Notably he authored:
· “The Three Trials of Arnold Rampersaud: a true story narrative.”
· “Fraud (a Synopsis of Guyana's 1980 Elections).”
· “Paramountcy over the Media in Guyana.”
PNC election riggings are well documented for anyone to examine, for example:
· “British TV Documentary: Making of a Prime Minister (PNC rigged elections)”;
· “The Trail of the Vanishing Voters: A look at how PNC rigged elections in Guyana.”
(I was in the UK and I saw TV documentaries in astonishment and shame.)
How then can he opportunely ask the Guyanese people to forget! Phenomenology 101.
For his role especially during the Burnham’s years Moses was harassed and violated by the PNC. During the heyday of the WPA he was the only non WPA politician to share platforms with Walter Rodney (and Rupert Roopnarine and others). He knows of:
· PNC riggings of elections
· the X-13 plan
· the “ballot box martyrs”
· Arnold Rampersaud incarceration without trial
· Hamilton Green power role
· the House of Israel violent destabilizing tactics at WPA meetings
· the murders of Ohene Koama and Edward Dublin
· Joshua Ramsammy who was shot
· Vincent Teekah’s murder
· the murder of Father Darke
· and of so many more organized brutalities and mayhems.
Yes, Moses knows everything. He was/is a master journalist, writer and author, and a superb politician. He must know! He cannot, should not, forget. And he dares not ask any Guyanese to forget! Too many Guyanese in all walks of life (including diehard PNC supporters) suffered, and this was the principal push factor for unparalleled Guyanese initial exodus to foreign lands. Such chauvinistic statement to “forget the past” is without any intellectual justification or rationalization, and can only be seen as self-serving.
So Moses knows the history, and David Granger said that he is unaware of any wrongdoings of the PNC. Granger is reported to say that he does not have knowledge of any (1968, 1973, 1978 referendum, 1980, 1985) rigging or of any of the aforementioned PNC evils. But at the same time he (Brig. Granger who was the head of the military) said that the military did their job “splendidly” [in removing the ballot boxes and taking them to GDF headquarters for the count]. David Granger is adamant in denial, and Moses plays possum.
Moses knows; and Granger has no knowledge! How disingenuous! As a people Guyanese cannot and should not be hoodwinked to have convenient memory loss for expedience and deception.
History is most important as a guide to peoples’ development, as a tool for self-concept, self-esteem and self-determination. Should the world forget the Armenian genocide? The holocaust? Slavery, especially in America and the Caribbean? The Trail of Tears? … and so on .... The answer is unambiguously a resounding no. Why then ask the Guyanese people to forget! Even if one were to stand on the high moral ground, seeking restorative reconciliation, one would have to adhere to the cardinal principles of acceptance first, apology, asking forgiveness, and then be forgiven. Thus far no one in the PNC (past or present) has done even the first of these.
Granger’s quip “I am not Burnham” is very suggestive of his awareness of Burnham’s reign, which deteriorated into de facto dictatorship, economic ruin, and delusional madness. Yet Moses fantasizes to stand on the high moral ground to appease, and Granger pretends. How misleading, Machiavellian and duplicitous!
I am reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein: “Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.”
So here we are at election time when politics makes strange bedfellows. Within the PPP camp there were Odinga Lumumba and Philip Bynoe, and others. But in the opposite camps are the unbelievable dalliance of WPA people, prominently Rupert Roopnarine, David Hinds, and a few others (who are not so ostensible) with the PNC. As observed already, the PNC was the target of the WPA activism in the 1970’s, and vice versa. The WPA de facto leader, Walter Rodney, was assassinated…. Yet the so-called Rodneyites kissed and made up with the perpetuator of the most heinous murder of one of Guyana’s greatest patriots, scholar, freedom fighter Walter Rodney. Why such dissonant embrace? It boggles the mind! They are in bed with the enemy, so to speak. To me these turncoats have had no foundational philosophy ideologically speaking. They jumped ship whenever the opportunity avails damn opportunists.
(But this is nothing new in Guyana. Remember Vincent Teekah, Joshua Chowritmootoo, Philip Chan, Fred Sukhdeo, Ranji Chandisingh, Halim Majid, and others who jumped the PPP ship to be on the gravy train of the PNC hierarchy.)
Analysts may try to explain this phenomenon in the future. Is it the need for recognition? Pure opportunism? Is it that time is running out for some? Is it racist politics that is surfacing? Is it that the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Regardless, it seems that people will allow their backbone to become spineless for expediency.
Putting your foot in your mouth
Someone once said: “Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Yet, exuberance and poor judgment cause some to explode. Intense in-your-face provocation caused Bheri Ramsaran to lose his cool, and to utter profanity and abusive language, which is unforgiveable, especially for one in high public office. Bharat Jagdeo’s uncalled-for comparison of himself with Cheddi Jagan is putting his foot in his mouth. Khemraj Ramjattan’s “haul yuh ass” is noteworthy for its coarseness. And David Hind’s “tit-for-tat” is symptomatic of those who relentlessly pursue the outmoded “race” line. And what was the seminal importance of Moses’ “I’m not an Indian” in any context!
We humans criticize, often make unjustifiable objections, and sling mud when these suit our purpose. Then we stand on the high moral ground. This is hypocritical. Take for example how silent politicians were/are about the obscure “settlement” of the case of GRA Khurshid Sattaur’s withdrawal of criminal tax evasion charges against Glenn Lall regarding the importation of two Lexus. Take also the case of Johnny Welshman Jr. alleged sexual molestation by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, when Welshman was muzzled by court order. Take the cases of Nigel Hughes: alleged tampering with evidence in a Buxton Gas Station murder; his failure allegedly to divulge his previous association with a jury foreman allowing two alleged murderers to walk free; and failure to disclose his post as the ‘Secretary’ of the Amaila Falls Hydro Inc./Sithe Global, a vital project which his party AFC stymied. How quick we forget and let things slide! We benignly bow into submission the silence of good people a discredit to fundamental morality.
‘Cuss down’ seems to be the default mode of the Guyanese political aggressive campaign, contemptuously accepted as a norm that’s politics is the shrug-your-shoulder refrain! Well, it shouldn’t be so; it’s not civilized. It’s just not politics!
At this time there seems to be a lot of rancor, bitterness and revenge politicking. There are numerous accusations on both sides, but mostly from the opposition. Kaieteur News and Guyana Times are head-to-head in this regard, with Kaieteur News way ahead of the game in regularity, constancy, and nastiness. Some columnists and letter writers often criticize and make spurious negative claims without evidentiary substantiation. Some are crude and uncouth, not worthy of their adopted profession. The Guyanese people are not given the truth.
Moses Bhagwan in his Stabroek News April 2, 2015 letter is a dreamer he still has not come to grips with reality that there is no WPA anymore since the murder of Walter Rodney. His letter reeks of generalizations, with no stated evidence. The same pattern is observed in the columns and missives of many Christopher Ram, Frederick Kissoon, Lincoln Lewis, to name some. Scholarly writing and objectivity are a rarity. These are replaced by sensationalism, gutter journalism, and cheap shots for revenge and the attainment of power. History will be the judge.
There is a paucity of truth seekers. Instead the perverse objectives are the goalposts of victory and power at all costs, akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
May 11 is just around the corner. The people must choose. The system allows one choice. Both sides do have many shortcomings. So it boils down to deciding on the better of the two the PPP or the conjoined Opposition.
Is the PPP guilty of corruption as is repeatedly claimed by the opposition? In my mind this is quite possible. However, the claims are many but the evidences are short. Does the opposition helped in progress and do they have a way forward? I don’t know at the time of writing a “leaked” Manifesto does not say very much. Has the PPP done a good job since 1992? The answer is yes in most instances in infrastructure, education, healthcare, housing and more. Justice Charles R. Ramson (SN April 3, 2015) (allowing for some degree of poetic license) summarizes thus: “Tracks became roads, roads became streets, streets were made into highways; shacks became houses; houses became two- and three-storied buildings; shops became stores; parlours became restaurants; shopping areas developed into malls; petrol stations proliferated; banks expanded nationwide; donkey carts disappeared and vehicles replaced them; bicycles were no longer essential forms of transportation; motorcycles replaced them. Hotels littered the skyline; canefields were converted into housing schemes with metropolitan-style homes; TV and radio stations took to the airwaves; information technology replaced conventional databases; schools and hospitals were constructed around the country, making education and health care accessible to the general population. The list of improvements is endless and credit must be given to the government for its vision, energy and management of the state of the economy. The small man became the real man, indeed. Working class people became middle class and higher. This developmental trajectory, if compromised, would signal retrogressive consequences.”
I may add that the most important for me is the return of democracy the freedom to move, speak freely, write in the press, radio, TV, and generally in the society at large. Aristotle said so many years ago: “The basis of a democratic state is liberty.” Renowned economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in his book “Development as Freedom” implores that our lives must be measured by the degree of freedom we enjoy. This freedom to me is of exceptional and fundamental importance in the landscape of Guyana. Many have been jailed, tortured and have died, in the pursuit of this freedom. Let us not ever forget!
For all of his partial failings, Abraham Lincoln must be admired for what he said: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
We all have our biases and prejudices brought about by different constructs in our lives. I believe as Albert Einstein: “Never do anything against conscience even if the state [or a party/politician] demands it.”
The Guyanese people must decide. Despite the many constraints, are the people and the country better off now or not? The people must examine the totality of things and decide which of the contending parties has served and will serve Guyana better. Their future is at stake. A voter has one vote. This should be cast wisely with the head, not just with the heart.
The great universal teacher, Buddha, cautions and entreats: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your common sense.”
To the Guyanese electorate, I say:
· Do your sacred duty!
· Vote wisely.
· Let your conscience be your guide.