Under the Shadow of a Gun
by Rakesh Rampertab

I found the President's statements given in Berbice relating to Mr. Desmond Hoyte's $250M socio-economic proposal for Buxton, etc. (see Stabroek News [SN] Octoberr 20th), amusing; "We cannot be held to ransom by any politician. You cannot put a price tag on peace. A lot of people have also rejected this proposal." Additionally, commenting on water supply in the Berbice community, and some of the "disturbing reports" he heard, one is told, "If people are not doing their job then they will have to leave."

Unfortunately, the evidence says the contrary. It shows that the President (and the PPP/C) has, since 1997, led Guyana under the shadow of a gun. For the records, I remind the President, his entire Cabinet, and his supporters, especially hardliners who delight in terrorizing ROAR supporters, and the folks up in Berbice who continue to pamper this failing political body, of 2 basic examples that illustrate how PNC-benefiting socio-political violence and PPP/C (government) weakness go hand in hand:

      1) The Herdmanston Accord (1998) reduced the usual 5-years term of government to a 3-year one for the PPP/C, which was an affront to its constituents. Even CARICOM admitted that it erred in support of this accord thereafter.
      2) In 2001, a mere few weeks after garnishing 53% of the electorate, the PPP/C accepted unconditionally a PNC-drafted Dialogue (built around 15-17 points brought by Mr. Hoyte).

On April 5th, 1999, the Chronicle reported; "President Janet Jagan yesterday announced she will in a few days be putting forward a solution to advance the deadlocked talks between the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the main Minority People's National Congress (PNC) party…The President said that in the 'heat' of the attacks on the Government and repeated violence in the city in January last year, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders offered to have talks held between her and Hoyte, which ultimately resulted in the Herdmanston 'peace' Accord." Did someone say "peace"? Obviously, "Herdmanston" did not succeed.

To demonstrate that the PNC/R always dictates terms to the PPP/C when it really matters, hear this; after the mayhem in Georgetown in January of 1998, the PPP/C government banned protests for one month (see SN, January 13, 1998). The very next day, we read in Stabroek News; "Police tear-gas PNC protesters"; "The Bourda ward in Georgetown was yesterday transformed into a war zone, as pro-PNC protesters threw down the gauntlet to the police despite an order banning processions and tear-gas laced battles erupted between the two sides." This came as a result of a demonstration led by Mr. Hoyte. This march occurred, I repeat, the very next day after the ban.

Let us fast forward to 2001, the year of the golden revelation (i.e., the Dialogue); the Dialogue began on April 17, or thereabouts, less that 14 days after the President announced publicly that his administration would not talk under threats. In fact, speaking of threats, the very first two meetings occurred while violent acts were still being carried out against Indians by PNC supporters. Threat was always in the air (and still is); PNC supporters were outside the President's Office chanting, "No talk, more fire" as the two leaders dialogued. The Chronicle itself hinted by declaring, "Mr. Hoyte did not return the President's smiles" even thought they had a "very fruitful session." Did someone say "fruitful"? Obviously, the glorious "Dialogue" failed.

I remind the President and his supporters that the "Dialogue" belongs to Congress Place, both in content and in nature. It is Mr. Hoyte (and not the PPP) who sets the pace; for example, by May 2002, when the Dialogue was stopped-it was because Mr. Hoyte wanted a "pause" (see Chronicle 04/28/2002). This "pause" is still in effect today. In fact, only this past week the PNC refused the Commonwealth envoy's suggestion that the Dialogue be restarted. The same can be said about politics in Guyana; it is the PNC/R that will dictate what shape the future of Guyana will take--not the PPP, its 52%, or Civil Society (whatever that means). If Freedom House can show us otherwise, let them do so. There have been numerous opportunities.

Today, Mr. Hoyte still refuses to smile, and I don't expect him to smile soon or say anything contrary to what was said in and about Buxton. He must do what he sees as necessary and practical to improve the position of his party and his constituents, and for this, I do not fault him. In his letter to Stabroek News this Sunday, he writes; "My stand on Buxton is clear. I do not resile one inch from anything I said or any position I took in my speech at Buxton on 10th October, 2002." We are reminded of his stance on the "slow fire" slogan, in which he said (SN 6/21/2001); "Dear Editor, I refer to your editorial captioned 'Fire' (SN Monday 6/18/2001). People's National Congress Reform adopted the slogan 'slow fire' during the last elections campaign. Obviously, with an intent to mislead you have misdescribed it as 'slow fire/more fire,' twisting the slogan 'to set a trap for fools'. If the slogan 'slow fire' upsets you, so be it: it remains. You can attribute whatever interpretation you like to it. Opinion is free.'"

So there, one cannot be more forceful than that, unless we're talking about raping women or bashing their heads with gun butts as the criminals are doing in Guyana under the PPP administration. It would be wise if the President refrain from making bold declarations which neither himself nor his party can support decisively. Sooner than later, the President will concede in one way or another because it is the nature of the PPP to concede (be it "critical support" or what not) and, given the violence of today, Buxton will get its $250M. Only in this case, it would be sensible indeed to concede. Unless Buxton get some serious cash and economic programs, there is no way of apprehending the criminals network within, or stopping the anti-Indian campaign underway.

Interestingly, Buxton (or part of it) is already collecting money (blood) and there is nothing that the old brains or flaccid muscles of Freedom House can do about it, except come to terms with Mr. Hoyte's proposal instead of headbutting it.The Buxtonians know this and the PNC/R knows this. Perhaps the Berbicians who applauded the President there do not know this. Or maybe the Berbicians pretend to be deaf, blind, and mute. If the President cares to demonstrate to the public that his words reflect his views, and his actions reflect his words, then let him fulfill his own line, "If people are not doing their job then they will have to leave," or explain why today's Home Affairs Minister still receives a salary.

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Oct 20, 2002
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