I grew up in political activism. I have lived on only two horizons, apart from marriage, in my entire life – politics and academia. My entry into non-PPP organizations brought immense knowledge about the light complexioned Georgetown Creole class, the Portuguese aristocracy and the urban Georgetown elite including westernized, light complexioned, East Indians, hereafter referred to as (WLCEI)
One of the most fascinating sociological and anthropological deformities of Guyana that has gone unwritten is the intense dislike for non-Christian East Indians of Guyana by the WLCEI. The man who expanded (he didn’t birth it, he came and met it) this psychological miasma was Lionel Luckhoo. It was taken to perfection from the sixties onwards by Walter Ramsahoye (deceased) and was embodied in the seventies onwards by Rupert Roopnaraine.
Ramsahoye had two libel cases against me and though he is one of the most obnoxious creatures this world produced, I was grateful for his open frankness because you knew where you stood with him. On countless occasions in court, in the presence of his Portuguese friend, Ramon Gaskin, Ramsahoye would tell me quietly that people like me and Glenn Lall are not worth being known in this country because we are at the lowest rung on the ladder of humans. He would viciously tell me that what has always counted in Guyana are people like him and Gaskin.
Many, non-Christian, urban based East Indians never encountered these cultural insults because they never were part of the society where the Portuguese, WLCEI, and the light-skinned African Creole elites dominated. As a human rights academic, my world brought me into contact with them. I became active in WPA, an unapologetic middle class outfit then, became a weekly columnist with the Catholic Standard and Stabroek News, both owned and controlled by the Portuguese crème de la crème (with Father Morrison definitely not snubbing me), then the AFC which like the WPA was essentially an unrepentant elite entity.
Before I move to make a connection with these cultural spheres with the 2020 election rigging, an unambiguous contention of mine must be expressed. I say without hesitating, the PPP and PNC are not insensitive, snobbish, class dominated, political organization. They never were. They are not.
Space will not allow for an elongation but it had to do with how they evolved (see my column of Monday, August 24, 2020: “The demise of petty bourgeois politics in Guyana: A class analysis”). The inner leadership of the WPA and AFC were shameless exhibitionists of class snobbery, a depravity that Burnham and Jagan would never have tolerated.
When I sat down each night, for five months, looking at the Atlantic Ocean through my study window, writing about the rigging, I would ask myself, if David De Caires and Miles Fitzpatrick were alive who would they have supported – the APNU+AFC for cultural, anthropological reasons or those dark-skinned country boys – Irfaan Ali and Bharrat Jagdeo?
The 2020 election in Guyana will remain for me one of the most priceless goldmines in academic research in the entire world in the 21st century. If you are a political theorist, then the attitudes of different classes, of different cultural groups to the election should be one of your scholarly priorities.
A caveat is in order. If you are going to study these attitudes, then you have to do a relevant demarcation. There cannot be a holistic approach. Your conclusion will be misleading. People like Lincoln Lewis, David Hinds, Eusi Kwayana, among others, did not endorse the rigging for cultural, class reasons. They saw the election drama as Indians versus Africans and they wanted their race to win. The class background of Dr. Ali never featured in their thinking.
Certain women groups, certain WPA aligned academics, certain columnists in the Stabroek News, certain UG lecturers, certain Creole groups in the West Indian diaspora did not support David Granger’s game of rigging because of the essential, ethnic binary that people like Lewis, Hinds and Kwayana used. Culture, class and anthropology were the driving factors in their psychological attitudes. These people saw the election arena after March 4 as a zero sum battle between a middle class, light complexioned member of the Georgetown Creole society against an obscure boy from the country side who in their thinking should not be in charge of a country that will be the main CARICOM economy in the 21st century.
For them, it was infra-dig to have Guyana run by such a president even though he had a doctorate from UWI. It is not the education that matters but class and colour. I wish Dr. Ali well and hope he gets his party’s nomination in 2025.
(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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