A number of Guyanese have been titillated by the prospect that the recent T&T electoral outcome can be replicated in Guyana. Of course a few commentators have already indicated the dismal history of coalitions and coalition endeavors in Guyana that compares unfavorably with the relative success of coalition politics in T&T. Others have referenced the many differentiated political landscapes of the two nations, especially the electoral systems. Still, others have pointed out that while Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s UNC would have won the May 24 elections on its own, in the case of Guyana no opposition party nor the combined political opposition can boast of such potential and the recent CADRES poll, which has been cited as proof that this reality has changed, has, in fact, been fact discredited in a number of ways. Furthermore, Persaud-Bissessar became the magnet that attracted support across genders, ethnicities, class and other divides and provided leadership that was untainted, strong, affirming, embracing, charming, healing, whereas there is no one currently in Guyana’s opposition, who even remotely possesses such a capacity. Finally, and most critically, no coalition in Guyana will succeed without significant crossover Indian support. Yet in all the analyses and hypotheses attempting to understand Indian support for the PPP, no one has verbalized the actualities.
For one, the PNC has done nothing to instill confidence in and win the support of Indians since being in opposition. In fact, its various post elections shenanigans, the ‘mo fyah, slow fyah’ strategy and covert support for the purveyors of violence dubbed ‘Freedom Fighters’, only succeeded in driving fear and antipathy in Indians. So how will it persuade Indians to move beyond this or it’s more than a quarter century of rigged elections, militarized rule, racism, despotism and suppression of rights? Besides, where are the Indian leaders in the opposition that can command significant electoral support among Indians? Even Ravi Dev, who has been embraced culturally by Indians, failed to make a dent electorally.
Secondly, there is the attitude on the part of some who display an obliviousness to the experiential reality of Indians vis a vis the PNC – pre and post 1992 including the episodes of kick down door banditry of the eighties and the so called ‘freedom struggle’ of the nineties – and/or pretend that it has not impacted (collectively, accumulatively and longitudinal) their political loyalty and relationship perceptions, especially given that the alternative to the PPP still remains the entity that put them through those experiences. That reality includes Indians being made to feel like aliens in their own land, by among other measures, a systemic exclusion of Indians from statal structures such as the military/para military and public service; an invalidating climate (for example National Service, banning of foodstuffs such as flour and dhall, token inclusion of Indians for national awards and other recognitions) characterized by communication or environmental cues that negated or nullified the cultural and normative fabric of Indians (one nation, one people, one destiny; national service demands for UG students et al) and the invisibility syndrome characterized by all of the above.
Additionally, there is the history of macro and micro aggressions against Indians that has resulted in a psychosocial mindset, of which opposition politicians and certain commentators fail to take cognizance. One manifestation is the constant attacks on and stereotyping of Indians in a way that devalues their social group identity, such as, for example, ‘a racist mindset’ – an argumentation debunked by psychologists Norman Epstein and Donald Baucom (2002) who describe five distinct cognitions that affect relationships: assumptions, standards, perceptions, attributions (explanations) and expectancies (expectations) and state that these are unique to each person thus making invalid the attributing of mindset to group think.
Then there is the fact that while Afro commentators can freely write from an Afro centric perspective without being labeled, Indian commentators like Ravi Dev are labeled racist and PPP apologists when they write from an Indo perspective. In fact, Afro commentators emphasize that Indians “have to accept that there are African voices that are simultaneously pro-African and multiracial; that there are African voices that disassociate themselves from African extremism and anti-Indianism without denouncing their Africaness or the entire African race…(Dr. David Hinds, 2002)”. Yet, ironically there is an expressed reluctance to accord Indo commentators the same acceptance: that there are Indian voices that are simultaneously pro-Indian and multiracial, that disassociate themselves from Indian extremism and anti-Africanism without denouncing their Indianess or the entire Indian race. Similarly Afro commentators affirm Africans’ have the right to determine their own leaders but are not willing to accord Indians that same right. Instead they seek to denigrate Indians for not wanting to follow their lead and their leaders while disallowing Indians the language and concepts to speak about their own experiences and to express their own outrage. Such strategies have additionally created a healthy paranoia of cultural mistrust of Africans among Indians, a mistrust reinforced by the likes of Kean Gibson, whose superficial pseudo knowledge of Indian culture and synecdochic constructs became the basis for outlandish attacks on Indians.
Besides the constant labeling and denigrations, certain letter writers and commentators engage in attributional ambuiguity: while their actions/words appear to be rational and bias free, their views are repeated with such consistency that the subliminal anti-Indian messages become evident. This is compounded by the practice of aversive racism – a belief in equality and an embrace of democratic ideals, hand in hand with a harboring of non-conscious racist attitudes and beliefs, on the part of the best intentioned commentators – and blaming the victim: Indians being blamed for the pains – real or perceived – of blacks and the pathologies in society with no recognition of the fact that Indians are victims twice over, previously under the PNC and now under the PPP.
All of this only serve to make Indians retreat more into peoplehood – seeking social support and validation from within the group and clinging to the institutions that they perceive to be there for the group, of which the PPP is one. Besides, resulting from this experiential reality, the consequential historical trauma – wounds passed on from generation to generation – and its biological, cognitive, emotional, psychological and social impact on the well being of Indians is far from being dissipated. Thus those who seek to transform Indian political loyalty would only acquire success when they break the culture of silence relating to this trauma and display a willingness to engage Indians at the psychosocial level as a necessary condition to reshaping the dynamic of political behavior.
Meanwhile, for Indians, the 1992 change of political guard has not withered away the functional and adaptive mechanisms (social masks, bicultural flexibility et al), that enabled them to navigate life under the PNC. Thus they are better able to manage under the PPP than blacks who lack these mechanisms, as Blacks had no need for such under the PNC. And since, in the current situation, Indians are no longer invisible they would thus not be motivated by mere facile exhortations to change the status quo.
Therefore, electoral change that leads to a government in which the PNC plays a significant role, for Indians is a no win situation. And the argument that blacks were willing to migrate to the AFC while Indians were not, fails to take cognizance of the fact that despite AFC rhetoric, Indians perceive the AFC as Afro-centric and Trotman as a black leader, with no correspondingly significant Indo leader, despite the presence of Ramjattan. Other manifestations of this perception include the Goumatie Singh affair; the treatment of Peter Ramsaroop; the fact that while Trotman has never attacked the PNC since parting ways with them, Ramjattan has made it a past time to take on the PPP; the selective human rights dossier collaboration with the PNC; the constant references to race by Sheila Holder; the racial imbalance in AFC structures; attempts to sideline Ramjattan and now the ‘coalition talks with the PNC.