The PNC/R is predictable. Whenever it is in the Opposition, it will deploy the same old tactless stratagems for which it has become known.
The PNC/R does the same things in virtually the same way, each time it is in Opposition. What has been taking place in the country over the past few weeks should not surprise anyone familiar with the methods of the PNC/R.
The PNC/R’s strategy is to invoke the notion of African victimhood. As such it peddles the line of African dispossession, African discrimination, African economic marginalization, African extermination and African bureaucratic power. This is its agenda and has been its agenda while in Opposition.
When the PNC lost power in 1992, former President Desmond Hoyte held a meeting to pacify his disgruntled supporters at the Well Site in Ruimveldt. He told them that the PPP/C would not be around long. Hoyte bad-mouthed himself since the PPP/C ended up being around for 23 years.
He also claimed that they would soon find out how difficult it was to rule. Hoyte subtly related a story which a Permanent Secretary told him about how he could delay projects. By the use of this ruse, he was signalling to his supporters in the government bureaucracy to use their positions to ensure maximum administrative delays (MAD) in frustrating the works of government.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) soon emerged as raging bull against the PPP/C administration. It used the decision of the PPP/C to clean an Augean stable at the then Customs and Excise Department to launch a campaign against the PPP/C government.
This campaign intensified following the elections of 1997 and was joined by persons protesting alleged discrimination. One group erected a tent in the avenue outside the home of the Prime Minister, even cooking their own meals there.
Protests over the elections then morphed into violence and ethnic attacks. Persons were beaten and business looted and burnt. This became known as the “slow fyah, mo fyah” campaign which, according to Hoyte, was intended to apply pressure to the PPP/C to soften them up.
Just after becoming Opposition leader, Hoyte launched his campaign of African dispossession. He took sides in a dispute between two groups contesting for lands in an area known as Rosinante. He tried to turn the issue into one relating to African dispossession. Today we see attempt to drum similar claims of African dispossession over lands at Kingelly.
The recent protests over the Henry boys at No.3 village began as an outrage over their deaths. The roads were blocked but there was no physical violence, robberies or ethnic attacks until incendiary statements were made by PNC/R politicians who told the villagers that what they were doing was the right thing and that they had a right to self-defence.
The same right to self-defence was used by Desmond Hoyte against alleged extra-judicial killings by the police. We know how this ended in the conscripting of criminals as freedom fighters. It should not come as any surprise therefore if the morally and intellectually bankrupt PNC/R attempts to resurrect this threat of African physical extinction. Stabroek News did a piece of investigate journalism which named the lie of this narrative.
The GPSU has been dormant for many years. But it always expected that once the PPP/C returned to office, it would become revitalized. The nurses have always been the most militant supporters of the GPSU and it is no surprise that the present protests by nurses have emerged and enjoys the “solidarity” of the GPSU.
The GPSU and the nurses have been quiet for the past five years. The APNU+AFC violated their rights to collective bargaining and imposed salary increases on workers without concluding negotiations with the GPSU. The union grumbled but never lifted a finger against a PNC/R government.
Nurses were given certain promises by the APNU+AFC earlier this year. It is not clear whether those promises were honoured. But up comes the protests over risk allowances which the present government has promised. Comments on the picket line sound more like political statements than industrial relations arguments.
The nurses who are protesting know that the government in its Budget has asset aside funds to pay frontline workers a risk allowance. But how can the allowance be paid when the Budget has not yet been passed. Why protest when the provisions for payment are already part of the Budget. It proves that the protests were not about risk allowances; it was part of a plan to put the government on notice of what to expect from the nurses and their union.
These nurses’ protests are political and a signal to the PPP/C government that the same old discredited opposition which they faced between 1992 and 2015 is being resurrected.
(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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