As was expected, my column last week, which sought to remind Guyana of the PPP’s attitude to African Guyanese while in office, drew negative responses from PPP supporters, many of whom continue to live in denial about the ethnic biases inherent in the PPP’s praxis.
On the other hand, those government supporters who have been frustrated by my critique of the government welcomed the column and urged me to write similar ones in the future. For a brief moment, I was embraced by the family. Brief, because I have no intention of confirming to the mindless one-sided politics that characterizes our political discourse and culture.
Many African Guyanese believe that any criticism of this government, especially by one of their own, is sinful. This is the very attitude that was exhibited by many Indian Guyanese when the PPP held office and which African Guyanese found revolting. But now, with their government in power, African Guyanese are behaving in the same manner. This hypocrisy by our ethnic communities is at the root of Guyana’s failure to move from the backward politics of colonial domination to a more enlightened politics that embrace equality of opportunity and national consensus as guiding principles. And this failure has impeded economic liberation from poverty and want, and kept us a poor, underdeveloped country.
While African Guyanese approve of my enumeration of the PPP’s sins against their community, they choose to ignore the failings of the current government when it comes to African Guyanese empowerment. I say ignore, because the average African Guyanese knows full well that after three years in office, this government has not implemented a single policy initiative aimed at addressing the structural socio-economic problems of that community.
Yes, the government has made available some resources to the community as part of the International Decade of Peoples of African Descent. But at the level of policy, which is the primary source of transition from socio-economic underdevelopment to empowerment, the government has been found wanting.
After three years, the government has not afforded the Black-dominated Public Service, including teachers, a living wage. This is an age-old problem that dates to the first PPP government of 1957-64. Since then all governments, including the Burnhamist PNC regime, have refused to settle this vexing issue. This government had vowed to break this cycle, but, alas, once it got into power, it broke its promise. Only recently at the 2018 May Day observances, we had the uncomfortable sight of the president, after being given a rousing welcome by teachers, having to give them the bad news that there would be no wage increases.
When you add to the public servants’ and teachers’ plight, the poor wages that policemen and women receive, you understand why the collective African Guyanese community, who work mostly in the public sector, remains economically poor. The president correctly advises African Guyanese to get into the business sector, but his government is yet to unveil a policy to facilitate that transition. You don’t move from the public service to the business sector without access to start-up capital.
Most African Guyanese live in the urban areas and in ancestral villages. But these spaces are hardly hubs of economic opportunities. Three years after its assumption of office, there is still no comprehensive Urban and Village renewal initiative. Many African Guyanese villages and communities don’t have markets, for example. Hence, there is little money circulation in those communities.
I know there are many who would say that Village and Urban Renewal are not government business. I beg to disagree. The poor state of those communities is a direct result of government policies, so the repair job must be initiated by government policy. Successive PPP governments from 1957 to 2015 have failed to make Black Empowerment a priority and I am very certain that that attitude will not change anytime soon.
So, if there is going to be any movement in that regard, it must be launched by a Black-led government. And this government cannot boast of a passing grade in that regard. Yet many African Guyanese feel that their primary responsibility is to defend the government even when it is wrong, while ignoring the fact that they would not get any favourable policy out of the government without agitation.
When the PPP was in office, African Guyanese organizations were very vocal in their condemnation of that government’s aggression against their community. But since 2015, we have not heard a squeak from these organizations about the failings of the government, including its failure to address African Guyanese concerns.
Yes, this government has not ordered the police to shoot down innocent African Guyanese or Guyanese in general. Yes, this government has shown more empathy towards African Guyanese than its predecessor. Yes, the presence of this government gives African Guyanese something symbolic to hold on to. But at the end of the day, the presence of this government has not led to any qualitative change in the condition of the collective African Guyanese community.
African Guyanese and their organizations ignore that reality at their peril. Are we doomed forever to be uncritical cheerleaders of Black governments with nothing lasting to show when those governments leave office? History must be a great teacher. The Burnham government implemented some initiatives that benefitted African Guyanese, but by the time the PNC left office, many of those benefits had dwindled, mostly by policy decisions of the very PNC.
African Guyanese must learn how to defend Black governments simultaneously while holding them accountable. The love for Black leaders must be a tough love that gives solidarity to dignified governance and oppose undignified rulership. African Guyanese must not continue to trade Black Empowerment for the mere presence in office of a Black Government. That has been a recipe for the continued disempowerment of that ethnic group.
More of Dr. Hinds ‘writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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