Apaan Jaat: Then and now
The PPP has been in power since 1992. And with each passing day, the mirror reveals its hidden tales. As the years come and go, the sixties have been made simple, ironically by the PPP, for those who didn’t know about that period.
But more importantly for those who were brought up to think that the sixties was a period of violence and racial hate instigated by a bad organization named the PNC against a school of good humans named the PPP.
This historical caricature was virtually preserved as the precious national truth by the autobiography of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, “The West on Trial.” This preserved “truth” lasted from the middle sixties until the middle nineties.
For almost three decades, “The West on Trial” was the only bible available to Guyanese on what happened in the first half of the 1960s. It was like a village that had several lawyers, doctors, teachers, accountants, engineers, business people who built it and made it into a modern economy.
Then one day, one of the businessmen who were there from the beginning decided to write the history of the village. And the pages from start to end are filled with grand patriotism of the businessman and his family and no one else.
Even though the canvas painted by “The West on Trial” has been seriously dented by recent books of formidable scholarship, the real facts and the essential truths about the sixties come from the type of rule we have seen from the PPP itself since 1992.
It has become a revelation to the post-1970 generation in this land, of the devious and selfish role the PPP played in the cause of the conflicts of the first half of the 1960s, now that we see what it is made of in the 21st century.
We were brought up to think that racial hostility was the exclusive preserve of Mr. Burnham and his party, the PNC. The story of who invented the slogan “Apaan Jaat” was that it was done to harm the PPP. The story of how crazy about power the opposition was, rested in the attitudes of the PNC. The story of who made their party more powerful than Guyana itself was that it was the Machiavellian dream of the PNC.
The story of how the media could be used to incite ethnic conflagration was the example of the opposition-controlled Argosy. And there were lots more tales and sagas and dramas of the bad guy (PNC) inventing evil things to harm the good guy (PPP).
More than forty years after “The West on Trial” was written, the nature of the exercise of power by the PPP has revealed to this nation who really was the culprit of the sixties. The signs are graphic and compelling. The PPP and “The West on Trial” didn’t tell us the whole truth. Was Apaan Jaat (to each his own) the work of the PPP’s enemies from 1957 until 1964? The answer is no.
At every election since 1992, the bottom-house meetings of the PPP are filed with the smoke and fire of Apaan Jaat. It was the PPP that openly said that race intimidation by the opposition was present in the 2011 election. No other party accused any other of racial violence during the voting.
A nasty, racist editorial in the Chronicle has been met with total silence in Freedom House. Maybe silence means approval. Is this the party that told us people used Apaan Jaat against them in the sixties?
Young Guyanese were serenaded with large volumes of PNC’s use of violence against the PPP during the sixties. But from 2001 onwards, State violence included marauding drug barons facilitated by ruling politicians that were used to kill a large amount of citizens, suggesting that the PPP was no innocent victim of the sixties, but may in fact have been the instigators.
Cheddi Jagan cried tears that reached every ocean in the world of how dangerous the media was in the sixties and that under Peter Taylor, the Argosy incited violence against his government and party. But the Chronicle under the same PPP in 2012 has made Peter Taylor look like a schoolboy journalist.
And finally, what about power? Who was more obsessed with having power in the sixties? The same PPP that put the blame on the PNC is the party that has been in office since 1992. For this columnist, the terminologies of dictatorship and fascism are useful tools in understanding just how crazy the PPP is about power. And one would like to think it was like that in the sixties.