I looked at still photos and television clips of the delegates at the last PNC congress and the ambience was not inviting. Almost 99 percent of the images were African Guyanese. It is the same image at the PPP congresses. It is certainly an ugly environment that both parties live in.
When you look at the scenes of these two parties, the first thing that flies into your mind is what is so scientifically, sociologically and philosophically impossible for these two parties to attract members of other ethnic worlds in Guyana.
As the crowds rose up to cheer Granger as he walked in to give his congress address, they were about ninety-nine percent African Guyanese. As people swarmed over Volda Lawrence when she won the chairmanship contest, I saw two Indian faces out of maybe forty persons.
Both parties are over sixty years old. Both parties have controlled the government for long periods of time. Why with domination over the country’s resources, the Indians in the PPP hierarchy and the Africans on the top of the PNC pyramid could not have established genuine camaraderie with people from the other side of the racial and ethnic fence and allow them genuine power in the leadership of the PPP and PNC respectively?
The danger with the PPP and PNC is that their image penetrates the psyche of the nation. When an Indian sees the faces of the top ten leaders in the PPP and when African Guyanese see the twelve men and women that control the PNC, the obvious conclusion is; “that is the party that I will be more comfortable with so I will join and support it.” This becomes an endless perpetuation.
A young educated Indian isn’t going to be attracted to the PNC when he/she saw those images at the last PNC congress. A bright African intellectual isn’t going to seek membership in the PPP when he/she attends a PPP conference in Berbice and the delegates are almost a hundred percent Indians.
The PPP and PNC perpetuate this cultural and sociological emasculation because when one looks at the two parties, the conclusion is inevitable – “I am not going there because I will not make it; they have their own people.”
This is what Africans and Indians tell themselves every moment when they see the PPP and PNC in operation. A person’s emotions become indescribable when they walk into a room and see people of different ethnicities in the vortex of friendship, sharing and giving the warmth of belonging. That is what a country should be like.
When you as an Indian born in a far off country come to Guyana for the first time and you walk into a PNC conference hall, you see only Black people, you are bound to ask; “Where are the Indian people that make up half of the population?”
If you are born in Africa from Guyanese parents and you come to Guyana and go to Berbice to attend the celebrations of Cheddi Jagan’s death anniversary, you are inclined to ask, “Why no Blacks are in attendance?” The question is; can these two parties get out of their racial and ethnic entrapment? But more importantly have they ever tried and if they did, why did they not succeed?
I think Burnham tried to use state power to attract Indians but he failed for two reasons. One is that Indians put their fate and faith in an Indian party named the PPP and they rejected Burnham’s overtures because he was calling them to join him as individuals rather than embracing their party. In other words, they wanted Burnham to have courted the PPP rather than identify with select Indians. The second reason was that Burnham did not reach out to the real substance of the Indian population – the poor agricultural and rural-based Indians.
Jagan in power from 1957 to 1964 and from 1992 onwards was not against the policy of elevating Blacks in his party and government but it was the same syndrome. Blacks would have gone over in both periods but they wanted Jagan to reach out to their party, the PNC. Both Jagan and Burnham were essentially non-racist but they ran their respective parties and their respective government in ways that lacked innovative thinking. The result was that both men and both parties perpetuated racial consciousness and ethnic insecurity.
President Desmond Hoyte never reached out to the Indian rural proletariat. Presidents Jagan, Jagdeo and Ramotar were not interested in expanding Black leadership in the PPP. As for David Granger, he is certainly no different from the rest. A truly tragic land!
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