The arrival of East Indians on November 28, 2011
The election results of November 28, 2011 mark the second arrival of the East Indians in Guyana. The consequences have produced some unpleasant effects on the organization that sixty years ago claimed moral, legal and physical ownership of the East Indians in Guyana. I am referring to the PPP.
On voting day last year, Berbicians stayed away. Those who marked a ballot gave the Alliance for Change a chance to challenge the invincibility of the PPP. Now in a most, sickeningly brazen attempt, the PPP is set to call another election to reinforce its legal ownership of the East Indians of Guyana.
It is a Kafkaesque drama filled with compelling scenes of moral decay and human depravity. Let us look at the great realization of Guyanese East Indians on November 28, 2011 last year.
Since the PPP broke into a Jagan group and a Burnham faction, the Indians and Africans have stood frenetically with their respective ethnic leadership. The cycle was broken in the immediate post-colonial period by African Guyanese led primarily by African intellectuals and trade unionists and a sizeable chunk of the African middle class.
Led by the Working People’s Alliance under the charismatic personality of Walter Rodney, African-Guyanese confronted President Burnham on their expectations following Independence.
The consensus among scholars is that Burnham was unfortunate to be weakened in the immediate post-colonial period when in today’s Guyana, the PPP’s tyranny far exceeds what Burnham practised. East Indians who cried mercilessly against Burnham’s autocracy are quite happy, tranquil and content to live with an Indian Government that has to be one of the most morally repugnant in the Third World at the moment.
Two figures are contrasting shadows on this horizon of an ongoing tragedy. One is a friend, African rights activist, Tom Dalgetty. Tom was a huge supporter of Walter Rodney when Forbes Burnham was President. So riled up at the continuation of PPP’s authoritarianism since 1992, he penned a strongly emotional letter a few years back in the Stabroek News assessing the WPA’s role in the seventies with the conclusion that Walter Rodney was wrong to confront Burnham in such a revolutionary manner as he did. Dalgetty was direct – Rodney should not have sought the removal of a Black President.
It is obvious that Tom was incensed at the cooperative support of East Indians for a Government of the PPP that made President Burnham look literally like a schoolboy dictator.
Dalgetty obviously had in mind the other shadow – Rickey Singh. No other factor could explain Singh’s twenty-year support for the PPP than race. Singh campaigned against the PNC’s oligarchic stranglehold from the seventies until it lost power in 1992, even fulminating against the democratic rule of President Desmond Hoyte. He is one of the staunchest media supporters of a regime that he must know is far more abominable than what Guyana endured under Mr. Burnham.
The East Indians of this land have come in for severe castigation for their quietude under the Indian-dominated PPP Government. The recurring allegation against East Indians is that if Black people could have opened their eyes against a Black President then surely Indians must be decent enough to see their Indian Presidents are worse than the Black Presidents they so hate.
Things began to change as President Jagdeo got out of hand and out of control. In Berbice, the heart of the PPP, only 53 percent went and voted and a substantial portion of that figure voted for the Alliance for Change in the last general elections. For many commentators, analysts and scholars, the East Indians had arrived. The apocalypse had occurred. They broke with evil politics.
But a new equation is beckoning on the horizon. The PPP simply cannot live with what the East Indians did last year. It was cultural treason. The Indians had rebelled against their slave-masters. The soldiers are on the hunt to bring them back. Those soldiers are the election campaigners. The talk of the town is that the PPP wants to hold a snap poll within months to reclaim its people, its property, its divine inheritance.
Could it happen? Opinions are divided. The East Indians in Guyana are an interesting group of people. Unlike their Trinidadian and Surinamese counterparts, they tend to be more rigid in their beliefs, more conservative in their politics and more loyal to their ethnic leaders and less modern in outlook.
The PPP knows this only too well and is going after the reclamation of its great asset. But a start was made in 2011. It was history in the making. Can history die in another election?