De Mortuis nil nisi Bonum
by Rakesh Rampertab

Of the dead, speak no evil. Speak of what has been done for the improvement of their lot. This is the ultimate service any public servant can render to human society. A few months ago, as the PNC approached its Congress, I wrote an editorial stating, "Hoyte is still valid." Then shortly thereafter, as it became increasingly obvious that PNC leaders like Bernard and Alexander were justifying anti-Indian violence, I wrote what I felt, that Mr. Desmond Hoyte, was the most relevant person in relations to the future of East Indians in Guyana. Of course, this translates into the future of Guyana itself. At the point of writing the aforementioned, I supposed that Mr. Hoyte was the man that East Indians had to keep alive.

There are a number of reasons for this, two of which were that he was the restraining factor in the PNC camp, from where voices have been inviting anti-Indian violence or plain violence. Second, he was old-fashioned and this meant a connection with a more disciplinary school of public servants from the 50s. While he knew (but never accepted publicly) that PNC anti-government demonstrations often led to violence and mayhem, often orchestrated against Indians, Hoyte did not approve of or promoted either violence or anti-Indian hatred. The future is now a word imbued with terror and dread.

No one can truly doubt that as a leader, Hoyte made necessary, serious changes that broke with traditions. It was no easy task to break with the PNC's hold on Guyanese society that Burnham had encouraged, nor was it easy to expel Hamilton Green, the ill-reputed PNC strongman and true inheritor of the helm, until Hoyte came alone. In fact, while Burnham has to be given credit for allowing Hoyte such credibility in the party, Hoyte had to be loyal to long serving PNC folks like Robert Corbin, in the bitter fight against Green. One may speculate that Corbin helped Hoyte get rid of Green so as to clear the way for his own (Corbin's) role as leader once Hoyte passes on.

After the elections loss in 1992 in the first transparent elections under the PNC regime, Hoyte could have allowed for violence to sweep the city streets as we have seen after the follow up elections in 1997 and 2001. But he did not. He could have asked for power sharing since 1997, but he did not. Hoyte played the "opposition role," possibly hoping that constitutional reforms would enable the PNC and the African population to inherit a stronger political voice in Guyana.

Of course, by 2001, after three elections losses and a consistent decline in the attitude of PPP rule, it was clear that elections done by ethnicity would never bring the PNC any victory at the polls. This was especially obvious with the racial tensions that were being escalated. By August 2001, he officially approved of an adjusted system of governance, saying that "whether we call it 'power-sharing,' 'shared governance,' 'inclusive governance' or any other name-appears to be an idea whose time has come." When asked a few years ago about power sharing, as man who believed in the traditional form of democratic rule, with a strong opposition, he said that he did not know what it meant.

Mr. Hoyte has set the stage for the PNC, which is a deeply fractured unit that is now leaning increasingly towards the support or advocacy of a violent campaign to force the government to come to its terms. The tone of the New Year will be set by the combination of a call for shared power, supported, even unofficially, by the violent and criminally aligned Black militancy program and violent anti-government demonstrations. Ironically, this is not the true legacy of Hoyte-but perhaps this combination best exemplifies what the PNC has come to represent over the decades-part demand to rule, part use of political violence.

After 17 years as boss of the PNC, it appears that the PNC has not been changed at all by Hoyte at the fundamental levels. Tomorrow, after the mourning is over, shall come the terror and dread of the future.

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Dec 26, 2002
© 2001