Ramjattan and a New Political Culture
by Rakesh Rampertab

The Ramjattan expulsion has people talking of some new political culture. Where is it? I see no inept ministers dismissed, no defunct leader exiled. Instead, people from the sixties are still among us leading, young political upstarts are still being indoctrinated in obsolete ways of politics; and the country continues to be cultured along manners of professional malpractice. Above all, the politics of mutual disrespect between the kindergarten bureaucrats of the PNC and PPP tramples on. What new political culture can we possibly resurrect from such colossal mess?

It is odd to think of progress without reform in our politics, and it is odder to think of progress in our politics without reform in our primary parties. This is, of course, if the debate on the future of politics is still to be centered on the PPP and PNC after their 100 years of failed leadership. Since the “future” rests with the young generation—civilians who came of age in the 80s and thereafter and have no political heroes of their time (the sixties gave Guyana too many heroes and the seventies, a few we could not protect), I say it is time to look beyond these two degenerate, dead-ended parties. The hallmark hero of my generation is blackout. We’re a population fumbling in the dark because our leaders are people from another age (Jagan, Green, Corbin, and Ramotar), who do not share our dreams, temperament, or outlook on life. Year after year, all we do is stagger on—half dead and half hopeful.

A young friend said this recently; “I think this country needs some bright young daring politicians who are not into the old school methods…some radicals to shake up things and I don't mean just trying to get at each other and pick on inconsequential stuff. The world has big problems and we need people who can see beyond their noses for a change.” Yes, she is right; the politics of my generation is the politics of youth versus old age—“daring ” and “bright” on one hand and “old school” on the other. Unless we move away immediately from the trickle-down sewage of the Jagan-Burnham legacy, unless we begin a serious resistance against this destructive, incompetent legacy, there will be no viable place for my generation or our children in the 21st century.

What has the PPP-PNC done for my generation, except to make life a nightmare? We do not owe anything to them; indeed, it is they who owe us our lives. Still, it matter little what the young people say, our kindergarten bureaucrats will resist democratic changes because democracy is a threat to their privileges. They fear democracy for it is a disease to their youth organs (PYO and GYSM), where people of my generation are being cultured like piglets to continue in the art of self-disrespect. Individual integrity taught by their parents are destroyed by party “rules.” For example, both Ms. Lurlene Nestor (PNC) and Mr. Robert Persaud (PPP), youth “leaders,” elaborated last year of national unity over the GIHA cricket match, but neither raised a finger when the PPP and PNC held separate Independence celebrations. It is a sign of the terror still to come.

The only escape from this regurgitation of narrow-mindedness is a substantial break from the past, the dismantling of what we call the PPP and PNC. Already, a survey on young women showed them being uninterested in politics for obvious reasons. Good. Mrs. Jagan ought to stop giving advices to young women. Having the skin of a rhinoceros is of no use if one behaves as if one has its brain also. The nature of a rhinoceros is that it knows not when to stop head butting, and this makes it uninhabitable in public space.

Speaking of “space,” here is Mr. Ramjattan on the subjects; “Challenges, which are legitimate and intellectual, are what Guyana needs most. The debate must start and continue. We will all be better for it. This space must be created and given. So frontiers have to be relocated, boundaries changed. For too long, only a few leaders within the major spheres of our society have created this space; most usurp all, and interfere where they should not.” In this light, the expulsion is a necessary virtue.

Since the PPP is very alike the PNC, new “frontiers” cannot be constructed in one without the other. One cannot be happy Mr. Ramjattan was expelled and not disappointed that “trusted comrades” saved Mr. Trotman from a similar fate. If these are our best new options, they should be far from these two kangaroo courts where one is rewarded for advocating violence (Alexander), and fined for speaking the truth (Trotman, Ramjattan). If they want to lead Guyana into the new world, they ought to get on with it and stop being part of an ancient problem. With country truly above party—my generation will support them.

This is why it seems wrong for Mr. Ramjattan to say, “I am not a kangaroo” (meaning he will not fight the PPP from outside). Better to be a kangaroo kicking than a hardheaded rhinoceros, especially since the politics of Guyana will have to come to terms with real democracy (not the slogans). Whichever party embraces it first will be the party to profit the most. No one in Guyana wants to vote because voting serves no purpose. Give them universal reasons to vote and they will. This cannot be done easily, since the well-established traditions of the PPP-PNC will not allow for their demise, unless the population confronts them head-on. And this will not happen if potential new leaders continue to believe well-rooted “boundaries” can merely be redrawn inside Freedom House and Congress Place.

Until potential future leaders are willing to step out and do the hard work, there is no new political culture at hand, only another day of sterility.


March 2nd, 2004
© 2001