Race Mongering Was First Used by The PNC


In his missive entitled ‘Why Indians should support APNU” Malcolm Harripaul states, “The PPP has used racial fear mongering because it prevents us from thinking objectively and it causes most Indo-Guyanese to support the PPP” Perhaps Malcolm can share with rest of the studies et al the logic by which he arrived at those conclusions. Unless he’s telling us that because Harripaul sys so it has to be so. But that line of bombastics has been practiced by numerous other, far more incisive and credentialed than Harripaul. Harripaul needs to revisit the speeches of Burnham to cognize the genesis of racial fear mongering in the context of Guyana’s political history.
One example: after the PNC lost the 1961 elections appealed to his constituents intensely, suggesting that a PPP government meant an “Indian” government (and “Indian racial victory”) and the destined subjugation of Blacks.
Another example: at Bourda Green, in May, 1963, Burnham suggested that the PPP plans to form “an authoritarian regime” in the Legislature, and if such occurs, then “there would have to be a shifting of the scene of agitation and opposition from the Legislature to the places where they grow rice.” The reference to ‘where they grow rice’ is anything but subtle.
A third example: Leading from the streets, Burnham challenged his supporters through racial fears, reinforcing their sense of “power,” saying, “In fact, comrades, you do not realise your power, but I do not want you to use your power recklessly.”
Horrified with his party’s campaign, Dr. D.J. Taitt, a founding member of the PNC, accused Burnham of leading its members into a “blind alley of improvised tribalism at variance with the economic and social realities of the two major ethic groups of our country…”Also, the Commonwealth Commission of 1962, noted that the “political professions of the PNC were somewhat vague and amorphous. There was a tendency to give a racial tinge to its policy. Mr. Burnham expressed the opinion that it was Dr. Jagan who was responsible for this unfortunate development. We do not, however, think that there is much substance in the contention of Mr. Burnham and it seems to us that whatever racial differences existed were brought about by (Burnham’s) political propaganda.”
In effect, as Stephen G. Rabe pointed out in his book , it was the PNC under Burnham that first appealed to race as a political tool and promoted racism to gain political objectives. Of course no one would deny that both parties subsequently played the race card.
Harripaul also needs to do a content analysis of the PNC’s governance to understand how racial fear mongering was used as a weapon to cow Indians and keep them appropriately subjugated: from party paramountcy to the PNC party card becoming a requisite for jobs; from references to ‘our steel is sharper’ to ‘we shall deal condignly with them’; from refusing to implement the recommendations of the International Commission of Jurists to balance the security forces to establishing a public service structure that was manned predominantly by one race; from denying Indians economic opportunities to creating conditions that jump started the exodus of Indians from Guyana (an exodus quickly joined by other races seeking better opportunities and that continues to this day); from excluding Indians from the decision making process to a policy aimed at deculturalizing Indians (banning of certain foodstuff, National Service, Guyana People’s Militia; Mass Games); from military expansionism to party policies to elevate the country’s Blacks, such as the building of housing schemes, many at critical points near Indian-populated villages (e.g., Samantha Point near Grove, EBD and Melanie Damishana near Enterprise, ECD).
Harripaul accuses the PPP of demonizing the PNC. News flash: the PPP did not have to do that, the PNC has done a superb job of demonizing itself, rigged elections being the crème de la creme on its menu of oppression, suppression, coercion and dictatorship. The facts illustrating this reality are all in the public domain, and need not be repeated here.
Harripaul also states that PPP chose the wrong ideology – a blanket statement bereft of historical context – what is referred to as transhistorical approach. Harripaul would have made some sense if he had indicated that while an embrace of socialism may have had some relevance in pre-colonial and early post-colonial times (Cheddi was in the company of such revolutionaries as Julius Nyrere, Kwame Nkrumah, Amiclar Cabral, Leopol Senghor, Aime Cesar, Jawaarhlall Nehru, Abdel Gamal Nasser and others) it subsequently lost its efficacy and should have been dumped rather than held on to long after it practice was debunked.
Furthermore Harripaul waxed lyrically on how the PPP was able to hold on its support seemingly oblivious that the PNC has held on to its support in exactly the same manner. But Harripaul’s selective amnesia has an explanation. Experiments have repeatedly found that people tend to test hypotheses in a one-sided way, by searching for evidence consistent with the hypothesis they hold at a given time – technique known as “selective recall”, “confirmatory memory” or “access-biased memory”, and one which reinforces attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence) and belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false). Put another way this selective perception prevents Harripaul from seeing, much less acknowledging the total truth, especially given that doing so would destroy his hypothesis. Of course, given his use of this self-defeating manoeuvre it seems reasonable to infer that Harripaul knows not what he writes. Somehow, however, this esteemed gentleman also seems to think that Indians are equally, if not more ignorant.
Meanwhile, to assertions of PPP’s links with Roger Khan et al, Indians point to post-1992 PNC’s links with Blackie, Fine Man and the escapees/criminals dubbed ‘freedom fighters’ by some elements, as well as Rabbi Washington and the House of Israel, Jim Jones et al pre-1992. In fact, for many Guyanese, rightly or wrongly, Roger Khan was a folk hero because of his alleged role in tackling violent crime and criminals, at a time when the government seemed powerless to do so – recall placards asking for Roger Khan in the aftermath of the Lusignan Massacre. And the icining on the PNC’s cake, would, of course, be rigged elections – from 1968 to 1985 as well as attempts to rig in 1992, defeated by the Carter Center stipulations, the courage of then Elections Commissioner, Rudy Collins and the vigilance of Guyanese everywhere some of which was documented in his memoirs by Dr. Yesu Persaud (see Kaieteur News of September 4, 2011: http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2011/09/04/election-fever-–-a-chapter-in-guyana’s-history-from-dr-yesu-persaud).

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About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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