Kaieteur News – It cannot be missed by any reader in or out of Guyana, that Dr. Clive Thomas has not penned even a line on two subjects in his weekly column since the defeat of his party, APNU, in the March 2020 election – analysis of the APNU in power and the exodus of the WPA from the APNU.
Dr. Thomas, before he entered government in 2015, was generally seen as an iconic Guyanese long known for his anti-dictatorial activism, leadership role in the era of Walter Rodney, and scholarship on Guyana’s political economy. During the tenure of the Jagdeo/Ramotar presidencies, his weekly column on economic/financial issues drifted consistently into pure political analysis.
He described the nature of the rule of Jagdeo and Ramotar as a criminalized state. Many of the columns were condemnations of the PPP’s governance. Strangely, Dr. Thomas, has for the past two years composed each and every column on the petroleum industry that prior to those two years, he never wrote about. Despite his formidable scholarship, petroleum economics was not Dr. Thomas’ field. After two years, his outpourings on oil have exhausted themselves.
More importantly, because of his colossal presence since the late 60s in the analysis of Guyana’s political sociology and political economy, the young nation of Guyana is expected to hear from him on the two subjects cited above. But one can add a third – his experience as the anti-corruption tsar in the APNU+AFC regime, where he headed the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA).
It is sad that the young academic minds may never read Dr. Thomas’ insights into the subjects mentioned above. At age 82, one wonders if we are ever going to read about his time as chairman of GuySuCo, head of SARA, the pitfalls in the political economy of the APNU+AFC’s time in office. But what about the missing link?
At age 82, are the Guyanese people ever going to see a brilliant analysis from Dr. Thomas on the era of the 70s when he, Walter Rodney, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Eusi Kwayana, Moses Bhagwan, Dr. Joshua Ramsammy, Andaiye, among others, literally confronted Forbes Burnham’s autocracy and became glowing icons in the Third World? It would appear that Dr. Thomas has become part of the missing link.
What is the missing link? We can start with Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine. When his book, “The Sky’s Wild Noise,” was published, most Guyanese no doubt were eager to see how this erudite mind would explain the Burnham regime, why Burnham became so totalitarian and why the WPA sought to remove him. But The Sky’s Wild Noise was so subdued that it became a whistle. There was nothing by Dr. Roopnaraine on that tragic moment in Guyanese history that made him a Guyanese icon. For more on my chagrin, see my column of Wednesday May 1, 2013, captioned: “The Sky’s Wild Noise drowned me with pessimism.”
Then there is Andaiye. She was equally prominent in the anti-Burnham struggle as anyone in the WPA’s leadership, except for Walter Rodney. After Andaiye’s death in 2019, Dr. Alissa Trotz (the great evader – not a word in her weekly Stabroek News column on the 2018 no-confidence motion and the 2020 election), edited a compilation of Andaiye’s writing (titled The Point is to Change the World).
There is no essay in that book on Andaiye’s analysis of the Burnham regime and why it was a post-colonial dictatorship that had to be removed. In fact, if you go through the list of all her articles, none is on that momentous period in Guyana’s modern history – 1970 to the time of Rodney’s assassination in 1980.
Obviously, the question is why Andaiye and Dr. Roopnaraine would not leave anything on that period. I have been talking to people about this enigma, but the cluster of folks who belonged in that era is in advanced age or dead. In another column, I will explain my thoughts on why these two WPA leaders chose not to analyse Burnham.
So will Dr. Thomas fill that void? That is left to be seen. Dr. Nigel Westmaas, the quintessential WPA ideologue, is doing for Moses Bhagwan what Dr. Trotz did for Andaiye. But I am not aware that Bhagwan had done any analytical pieces on the nature of Burnham’s rule as a reflection. So as time moves on, as the surviving leadership of the WPA of the 1970s gets older, that void will remain. As it is, there are only two books that look at the 70s. One is Father Andrew Morrison’s “Justice: The Struggle for Democracy in Guyana, 1952-1992.” This is a good read, but it is not an academic work. The seminal book on Burnham, remains Tyron Ferguson’s “To Survive Sensibly or Court Heroic Death: Management of Guyana’s Political Economy, 1965-1985.”
(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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