Today marks 39 years since Walter Rodney was killed. At the time of writing, the WPA, the party Walter headed, is now in government and strategically placed too. After the 2015 election victory of APNU, the WPA was given a parliamentary seat and a Cabinet post, both held by the same person – Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.
Clive Thomas was made head of SARA. Dr. Maurice Odle took the chairmanship of NICIL. That was the WPA’s quota. Since then, the WPA’s presence has increased. WPA’s executive member (there are only five executive members and that number constitutes the party’s general membership), Desmond Trotman, was selected by the President to be a GECOM Commissioner. Roopnaraine has been replaced as Minister of the Public Service by WPA Chairman, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, but Roopnaraine is still there holding the position of Director of Public Service Training.
So on this, the 39th anniversary of Walter Rodney’s passing, the WPA has extended its influence in government since the last death anniversary. In 2018, the WPA did not sponsor the death anniversary event. The advertisement in the newspapers, listed “Friends of Walter Rodney” as the hosts. At the time of writing this piece, I haven’t seen any notice if there is going to be a celebration of Walter’s life for the 39th anniversary of his death.
For the time he was Minister of Education (June 2015 to July 2017), Roopnaraine did not attend any of the death anniversary ceremonies. Clive Thomas has not spoken at any of these gatherings, though I can recall I saw him at one of them. There has never been governmental input into the organising of the event. Will it be different today, assuming that there will be an observation of the 39th anniversary of the passing of the great revolutionary?
I doubt it, and we can look no further than in the direction of David Hinds. He writes; “Here in Guyana, Walter Rodney and the WPA are generally forgotten—the party has been relegated to the fringe of the political landscape. The WPA, the only Radical Left party of the region that survives, has ceased to be radical. Our party is now part of a government and coalition which do not share our traditional political agenda.”
Is it a question that the WPA has ceased to be radical or has there been a shocking decline of political integrity of many of its leaders, a decayed process that is far more putrid than the similar occurrences in the PPP and PNC? I saw Roopnaraine at the cremation of Andaiye last Saturday, and couldn’t bring myself to say hello. I have not spoken to Clive Thomas since 2014, but I did last Tuesday.
I contacted him for the column I did on SARA yesterday. I asked him how someone with his ideological background, could have SARA renting its office from a multi-billion family business. He said they couldn’t find similar accommodation. I didn’t tell him then; I am saying it now – I don’t believe him.
I asked him what the rent was, since I know it is in the millions. Thomas, the head of SARA, works out of a building and doesn’t know how much rent his outfit is paying. Thomas thinks I am a fool. Is it a cessation of radicalism or pathetic decline?
Tacuma Ogunseye wrote a letter in the press three years ago, in which he noted that Roopnaraine informed his party executives that he could not discuss Cabinet business with them. One of the leading members of the group named the “Overseas Friends of the WPA,” told me that he, along with David Hinds and Dr. Alissa Trotz, paid a courtesy call on Minister of Education Dr. Roopnaraine, and after the meeting, he felt that the WPA should have expelled Roopnaraine.
The remnants of this revolutionary party of the seventies now endorse and support perhaps the most shameful neoliberal government Guyana has had. The Jagdeo regime was neoliberal, but many of the PPP ministers retained their working class credentials and did positive economic things for poor people. Forbes Burnham is turning in his grave. They weakened Burnham’s grip on power, but look at the mediocre government these remnants support.
In another column on the WPA, I will quote the glorious statements of Roopnaraine and Thomas on their participation in the revolution against Burnham from the book, “Walter Rodney: A Promise of Revolution”.
I end with the reproduction of part on an email Andaiye sent me not long before her death. She wrote of the remnants of the WPA; “Although I retain friendship with some leaders here and overseas, I don’t agree with what they’re doing politically and I don’t want to be associated with it. Regards, A”.
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