Feb 11, 2017
When asked about suspected shortcomings in his government’s PR department, President David Granger said the media (referring to the private ones) have to showcase more of what the government was doing. He obviously did not meet the question head on. But the private media are doing PR work for the Government that his PR experts need to zoom into.
We can start with Anil Nandlall. Mr. Nandlall wrote a long missive in which he observed that whenever the PPP is in Government there is economic progress and freedom in this country; and whenever the PNC is in Government there is economic decline and authoritarianism.
Mr. Nandlall traced the years of the PPP from 1956 to 1965 then from 1992 to 2015. He then juxtaposed this period with the PNC’s – 1964 to 1992 and 2015 to the present time. Mr. Nandlall’s conclusion was that the PPP’s period saw growth, the PNC’s saw retrogression. He then went on to enumerate the PPP’s achievements, the PNC’s non-achievements.
In response to his commentary, I wrote a column in which I enumerated some exciting accomplishments of Presidents Burnham and Hoyte (see my December 23, 2016 column). Nandlall’s juxtaposition was obnoxious but logical – he wants to preserve his supporters’ faith in his party.
Nothing is wrong with that. What is wrong is that the one-sided, lopsided version of Guyanese history by Nandlall needed to be confronted by the ruling coalition. It was not. It may not have attracted widespread conversion among PPP constituencies but even if one person was, then the effort as worth it.
Next there is the unstoppable demonization of Forbes Burnham and the continued deification of Cheddi Jagan. But there is no attempt to put history in proper perspective by the PR people in government. Even someone like Ralph Ramkarran who makes plausible critiques of the PPP and did so when they were in office is not restrained in his writings of seeing Cheddi Jagan as a great leader and will not concede that like Burnham he was possessed a type of political behavior that was far from great.
A little letter was written in the newspaper that holds enormous significance for understanding the political attitudes of Dr. Jagan. It is relevant material to use in the juxtaposition of the two men’s profiles. Written by a former top leader in the WPA, Ms. Bonita Bone, the letter did not generate polemical interest. But its iconoclastic value is very important.
Ms. Bone wrote; “I was asked by the new President, Dr Cheddi Jagan, to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Industry & Commerce. While a member of the Board, a decision was taken, presumably by powerful elements in the then PPP government, to sell our national bank to Republic Bank of Trinidad & Tobago.
“I don’t know what other directors knew, only that I did not know why the Bank was being sold, how much the Bank was worth to a potential buyer or how much it was selling for or was eventually sold for. This was not a Board matter!”
This is a serious indictment of Dr. Jagan’s approach to governance but the PR people in the government ignored it while the likes of Nandlall could write that the PPP can be counted on for good governance once in office while the PNC will always be the bad guy.
Next we move to Hydar Ally’s recent letter in this newspaper. Ally is one of the long-standing members of the PPP’s leadership. In his missive he asserted the working class credentials and boldly painted a picture of the elevation of the working classes under PPP’s tenure – 1992 to 2015. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It was left up to former PPP stalwart, Rajendra Bissesar, to confront Ally’s with a vivid description of the impoverishment of the masses under Jagdeo’s rule published in a letter in this newspaper. This should have been the task of the PR Tsars in the Coalition administration.
We can conclude with former President Donald Ramotar. In frequent letters to the newspapers, Mr. Ramotar laments countless dismissals from the civil service and the wider public sector. The counter to Ramotar is a submission of data, statistics and facts to show that not since the birth of modern British Guiana, was there such a systematic and extensive removal of public employees as what took place under the Cheddi Jagan presidency after the PPP came to power in 1992.
This episode of mass firing is one of the most sordid and brutal assaults on the rights of workers and their unions in the history of Guyana.