Blind denial and political betrayal – the APNU/AFC response to Jagdeo

first_imgRacism has been an integral part of our society since the arrival of African slaves to the Guyana lowlands. It has been aggravated by the arrival of other ethnic groups during colonialism. Guyanese old enough to remember the events of the 1960s will recall the divided state in which our society found itself. The pre-independence violence set the stage for the divided politics of present-day Guyana. Every fair-minded Guyanese knows that the country remains divided and that elections since independence were racial censuses that further revealed our continued racial divide. Not surprisingly, the manifestos/blueprints (or action plans) of every political party pledged to create a united nation by fostering national unity. Only a naïve person would believe that racism, racial hostility and racial discrimination have suddenly disappeared after the election of the APNU/AFC Government.A manifestation of these attitudes was revealed at a recent event in New York when former President Jagdeo briefly addressed a group of Guyanese expatriates. The Guyana Government quickly issued a statement condemning former President Bharrat Jagdeo for his remarks. It should be pointed out that most of the attendees at the reunion were Indians. The Administration took umbrage at Jagdeo’s statements that the Granger Administration is engaged in an “assault on people of Indian origin” and dubbed Jagdeo’s statements as “hateful race baiting and malicious fabrications and falsehoods” and described his statements about discrimination towards Indians as “a complete figment of Mr Jagdeo’s imagination”.As would be expected, the Government continues to position itself as a coalition that has addressed Guyana’s racial divide. The Government statement, widely attributed to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, noted that the coalition was in the process of building a “good life” for all Guyanese. From the perspective of the Government, how dare Jagdeo make such statements against the Government? I am no great fan of the former President. But the over-reaction of the Government did not reflect the reality of Guyanese politics.First, Jagdeo, as leader of the PPP, is simply consolidating his political base. He knows that it is primarily the Indians and the rural-based population that have been traditional supporters of the PPP. He understands that a party cannot reach out to non-traditional supporters unless the base of the party is strengthened. He is simply engaged in politicking. Furthermore, he has made the point that he can back up his statements with evidence, arguing that since he has made similar statements in Guyana, his words should not come as a surprise to anyone. It would help if the Government was not so quick to cuss down the Opposition Leader but provide evidence to dispute Jagdeo’s claims. But this is Guyana, a place where politicians continue to pelt mud. We would expect that Jagdeo would also be more forthcoming with his evidence of discrimination against Indians. Perhaps this would be a good starting point to engage in a discussion about the racial problem that is plaguing this nation.Second, the Government should not be surprised at Jagdeo’s statement. Guyana’s racial problems have not disappeared, contrary to what the coalition Government would like citizens to believe. The creation of a Ministry of Social Cohesion under the stewardship of Amna Ally was an admission that the nation remains divided. Beyond its existence, the Government has nothing of substance to show for any success in this area. But in Guyana, things just keep moving along and all that matters is who control political power. Power-sharing, a clarion call by many in the newly-formed coalition who were once in the Opposition, is now dead on arrival. Commentator David Hinds has already concluded that power-sharing with the PPP is not going to happen under this government, since it is obvious that both the coalition and the PPP have already ruled out this option.If President Granger and his Government hope to bridge the racial gap, he has to address the racial problem frontally and make concrete proposals to do so. This would also mean working with the Opposition. Instead of trying to demean, lecture and belittle the Opposition Leader, the Government should adopt a comprehensive plan that would convince Indians that their leaders are not being persecuted and that the Government is not pursuing discriminatory policies against Indians. Perception is everything.last_img

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