Volda Lawrence is the Chairperson of the People’s National Congress. She defeated the likes of Joseph Harmon and the incumbent, Basil Williams. That was how she became the news last week. She was addressing a forum of her party at Congress Place.
These days the most secret party activity is infiltrated. Someone in the party meeting recorded Volda and made her address public. The nation heard her say that her friends are PNC and the first people she would give a job to would be PNC people.
Some immediately interpreted this to mean that she was favouring Black people. Those making the accusation ignored the fact that the People’s National Congress has people of every ethnic group.
It is the same with the People’s Progressive Party. The average man when he speaks about the PPP would conclude that the name PPP connotes people of Indian ancestry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is no secret that people who support the PNC have become disgruntled. Their major grouse is that they have not been given jobs. It is also no secret that these people are threatening to withhold their votes come 2020.
The just concluded local government elections featured a low turnout at the polls for the parties that form the government. Needless to say many interpreted this to mean that come 2020, the PPP would win by a landslide. The leaders of the PNC are saying, “Not so fast.”
That is why Volda had to inform her supporters that she was keen to provide jobs for members and supporters of the party. She was speaking frankly to her family. Her speech has gone out to the nation.
I was not there, so I cannot comment on the context. I am not even going to analyse her speech. What I do know is that the purists in the society feel that there should be no discrimination when it comes to jobs. Even those who practiced what Volda Lawrence openly spoke about, are saying that she should not be so blunt.
I remember directing Dr Roger Luncheon to some of the things his party did. At the time we were talking about what this new government was doing. Dr Luncheon simply said that once there, people should not carp on what happened in the past, because the nation would go nowhere. And he is right.
But no one in the country could be that forgiving. When an action is perpetrated over the years it becomes the norm. I felt the action of the PPP, because as both Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar would remind me, I am a dyed-in-the-wool PNC.
I have written time and again about the actions the PPP adopted against me, but I suppose people would say to me that what is past is past. But tell that to the person who experienced the vitimisation on political grounds.
Many of the people to whom Volda Lawrence spoke would have experienced the political discrimination. They would contend that they are still jobless, although the government they supported is now in power.
Not so long ago, I pointed to the fact that many of the people who want jobs refused certain jobs and demanded those for which they are not qualified. It is a case of wanting a job but not wanting to work.
The PPP had a distinct advantage when it came to sharing jobs among supporters. There were those who presented themselves as contractors, although they did not have either experience or equipment. They got contracts, and even though they performed poorly they were compensated. People who appeared to be non-PPP members were largely ignored.
Not surprisingly, this trend of favouring party supporters is common worldwide. When the Democrats are in power in the United States, we see the large contributors to the party getting large contracts. We also see Democratic states getting more money than others.
In Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Antigua, this trend is endemic. Guyana is no different. People are now saying that even if Volda Lawrence was prone to supporting her own, she should not have said it openly. But her back is against the wall and she has to appease her supporters.
I know the woman. She is going to tough this out, and before long she would not be tainted by any scandal, because she can point fingers of her own.
Having said that, I can only point people to the reality of the employment market. People are employed once they are qualified for the job. Bharrat Jagdeo was a known PPP supporter but when he returned from Moscow, he was employed within the State Planning Secretariat. But as things went, when his party acceded to government, he sent Carol Corbin, his boss, packing. This was a clear case of political discrimination.
Forget the Foreign Service. A lot has been said about that. And this brings me to the issue of who is a supporter. How can someone determine who is a party supporter? I suppose even people in the political hierarchy would use the racial consideration.
There are many stories of people using the name of a person to determine who he is. Someone seeing the name Cheddi Seepaul would assume that he is of East Indian ancestry. Frank Anthony would at first hint be perceived as someone of African ancestry.
Meanwhile, I must not hide my head in the sand and pretend that Guyana is a normal country. It is sharply divided along racial lines. People who support a political party in the stronghold of another could be tormented. Many are. Some have been beaten and others have actually had their homes torched.
Volda Lawrence may have made the front pages, but she is not alone in all this. She has her opposite numbers.
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