Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall rushed into the National Assembly last week with a raft of proposed amendments to the Motion by Leader of Opposition David Granger calling for a Commission of Inquiry into criminal violence. Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman, however, was obliged to rule that many of Nandlall’s proposed amendments in their original form offended the National Assembly’s Standing Orders. Trotman described some as ‘scandalous’ and suggested several changes.
Granger was to have moved the Motion seeking to have the government appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate criminal violence – ranging from the assassination of Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh to the massacres at Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek. He declined to proceed with it, however, on the grounds that the People’s Progressive Party had poisoned the atmosphere for rational debate. The PPP was bent on twisting the Motion that sought the promotion of reconciliation with relatives of the victims of violence and the advancement of national unity into a weapon of hostility and disunity.
Ralph Ramkarran, former Speaker of the National Assembly and long-standing member of the PPP’s Central Committee then tried to explain what he called the PPP’s ‘psyche.’ He rushed to publish an article, “PPP’s enduring fears” only last week, which rationalised “the deeper realities” that motivate the PPP’s approaches to governance.
Ramkarran attempted to separate the consequences of the PPP’s own criminal behaviour from its causes. In referring to the “restriction and imprisonment of its leaders and members” in 1954, for example, he blindly ignores the several acts of terror which the PPP perpetrated in that very year. Official reports stated plainly, “There were several attempts at sabotage by a gang connected with the extremist element of the People’s Progressive Party. They involved the use of dynamite in various localities, culminating with the blowing up of the statue of Queen Victoria in the grounds of the Law Courts at Georgetown.”
Ramkarran, blandly, refers to the ethnic and political violence of the 1962-1964 period and to the imprisonment of its leaders, but again omits any reference to causation. The imprisonment of PPP leaders to which he refers occurred 24 hours after several members of the Abraham family were burnt to death when a ‘channa’ bomb was thrown into their home on Hadfield Street in June 1964. He surely must know that the Progressive Youth Organisation – the PPP’s youth arm – was largely responsible for the violence.
The British Guiana Trades Union Congress published a report which stated, “In 1962 alone, at least 110 members of the PYO were sent off to Communist countries for training, mainly to Cuba. More than 200 are known to have gone to Cuba altogether. Training schools have been established in British Guiana, the instructors being Cubans, in some cases, and Cuban-trained or Soviet-trained PYOs members”.
Ramkarran must be aware, also, that Clem Seecharan, a well-known Guyanese historian wrote of Cheddi Jagan’s premiership that “…in an obvious attempt to prevent the holding of elections under the proportional representation (PR) system in 1964, the PPP-backed GAWU [Guiana Agricultural Workers’ Union] called a strike in which sugar workers were the “backbone” in the campaign of violence on the estates, in an “orgy of arson, bombing and personal attacks on people who refused to strike.”
Ramkarran must be aware, too, that some defectors confessed that the PPP had sent them for military training in Cuba. This included sabotage tactics and the making of different types of bombs with the objective of fomenting violence. They expressed concern that such a campaign could only have resulted in racial warfare among the two major race groups in the country.
Akbar Alli, a PPP activist, publicly stated, in December 1965 that he had been trained in Cuba, especially in military tactics, the making of bombs and the carrying-out of sabotage. Alli’s public betrayal of the PPP’s strategy of violence led to his own violent assassination within three months of his public disclosures.
The PPP, despite its own bloody record of violence, persists up to today in distorting history. The PPP peddles tales that are being handed down from generation to generation to persons who do not know the truth, that it was the PNC that was the aggressor.
Ramkarran, in fact, is admitting that the PPP is the author of its own problems. It is the PPP’s paranoia that has precipitated a crisis in confidence – in its government, the law-enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system, the regulatory agencies, and in the political process.
The crisis arose out of the collapse of the PPP’s electoral majority at the 2011 general and regional elections. The crisis of governance exists at the national level in the National Assembly and at the local level in the systematic debilitation of the municipalities and local government organs and the imposition of undemocratic interim management committees.
Ramkarran and Nandlall are both aware that the PPP’s focus is on power for its own sake rather than for the achievement of the specific goal of national unity and national development. Its problems have arisen primarily because of a particular culture that exists at senior levels in the PPP.
That culture holds that the PPP must never share or lose total executive power. Its astonishment at losing control over the National Assembly after the general elections of November 2011 is the main factor inhibiting its openness to change and inspiring Nandlall’s Supreme Court challenges to the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker of the National Assembly.
The PPP has called for a ‘Truth Commission.’ It ought to be careful, because it might just get what it is asking for.
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