About 25 years ago, I asked former prominent Permanent Secretary, historian and UG lecturer, Pat Dyal, if he could offer me an explanation why Kwayana writes in such a persistently cryptic manner. Kwayana’s style is one that uses simple language, but the sentence structures are designed (and I believe deliberately so) to be recondite. Pat went into a long discussion which should not detain us here.
In his mid-nineties now, I don’t believe Kwayana will change his approach. But it is one that is unfriendly to history. Kwayana is virtually a dictionary of Guyanese politics, except for the last sixteen years when he would have lost his presence in the nuanced politics of Guyana. Kwayana’s writings are essential for Guyanese historiography. But the enrichment is partially lost because of his enigmatic use of language and his willingness to allow certain omissions.
In a long letter in the KN and SN over the weekend, he adopts two stances that are bewildering to the historian. The first concerns Rupert Roopnaraine. Kwayana wrote; “I question in passing two things that she (Walter Rodney’s wife) said. She claims that the Working People’s Alliance had said that it was accumulating arms. Up to now, this statement has been reported as coming from Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, a co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance, and not from the WPA. Her language is not an error of words, but it seems to me by choice”
I am not going to search for a motive for Kwayana’s distinction, but the distinction has no intrinsic value, and the historian should pay no attention to it. The only purpose Kwayana’s differentiation serves is a legal one. Roopnaraine said it; it was not an official WPA statement. Roopnaraine was the co-leader of the WPA during the years of Walter Rodney’s energetic campaign against President Burnham. Every major policy of and every major direction the WPA went into, Roopnaraine would have known. And even though the WPA had an executive, Roopnaraine was privy to information that Rodney chose to share with him alone.
Here is a quote from Roopnaraine; “We had to get him (Walter Rodney) from here to Zimbabwe. The decision was taken and it was kept to a very tight group …Pat, Eusi and myself” (source – “Walter Rodney: A Promise of Revolution” by Clairmont Chung, page 110). Here then, is plausible evidence of Roopnaraine’s importance to the WPA’s leadership. Is Kwayana telling the present generation that the WPA was not stockpiling arms because the WPA has never admitted to that, just Roopnaraine?
I am surprised a learned man like Kwayana can find comfort in that kind of questionable methodology. A perfect hypothetical example would be the foreign minister of a country telling the press that he was sorry his government secretly arranged an asylum flight for a guerrilla leader from a neighbouring nation, but the president’s wife then told the press, the foreign minister said so, not my husband, as president. The president had to know that his government was receiving a high-powered guest. As a trained historian, I would categorically record history as having the WPA involved in arms acquisition based on who said it – the second most important leader in the movement.
The second stance relates to Kwayana’s reluctance to enrich history by naming names that are already in the public domain. This is more than bewildering. It is strange and mysterious. During the Walter Rodney Commission, Shaun Samaroo, former journalist, was covering the inquiry for the Stabroek News. His reporting was very questionable because he was slanting his journalism in a pro-PPP manner. Samaroo was exposed as working for the Ramotar Government whose task was to write a book on the commission’s work.
No doubt this was a conspiracy by the PPP government. Samaroo’s book was designed to be propaganda material for the PPP. The Stabroek News then parted company with Samaroo. All of this information is in the public domain which a Google search will reveal. Kwayana goes at length to describe the PPP’s relation with Samaroo, but is stingy with history, because in all the paragraphs, he referred to the person only once and used his last name, “Samaroo.”
When we write, we have to understand that generations of Guyanese will naturally want to know what their country was like 60 years ago; who were the movers and shakers, who were the key actors, who did what to whom, when and how. The story of WPA’s role in the confrontation with President Burnham is yet to be told. We owe it to future generations to record what we know. I support Walter in what I believe he was trying to do – overthrow President Burnham. I know this for a fact.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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