guyana chronicle March 12, 2017

This is the month of March—the month of International Women’s Day and the anniversary of the Grenadian revolution. It was March 13, 1979 that the New Jewel Movement of Grenada seized power from the authoritarian Eric Gairy-led Grenada United Labour Party government and ushered in the Anglophone Caribbean’s first revolution. The Caribbean had witnessed the Haitian Revolution of 1804 and the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the people of those two countries and the wider Caribbean paid an enormous price for daring to wrest their freedom from bondage by force.
The Grenadian people would suffer the same fate. Four years after the triumph of 1979, the revolution was smashed by a combination of internal strife and external subversion. With its demise went the last chance for the Caribbean to dictate the content and character of its independence on its own terms. By the end of the 1980s our region had returned to where it was at independence as the IMF-World Bank became the new colonial overlords.
Now, almost four decades after the Grenadian revolution, the Caribbean is in serious crisis at all levels and in all aspects of life. The condition of the least and poorest among us continues to deteriorate in the face of uncaring approaches to economic development—were he around Walter Rodney would pen “How Structural Adjustment Further Underdeveloped the Caribbean.” There is a crisis of imagination at the level of our leadership in all our pivotal institutions from government to university to cricket boards. Caribbean nationalism has fallen by the wayside and, in its place, we have developed a cruel individualism that has turned our region into a hustling space.
This past week in Guyana, we saw some high officials of the previous government and their friends being taken in for questioning regarding their alleged pilfering of state assets for personal enrichment. Where this process will end up is anybody’s guess, for one thing we have learned about Guyanese and Caribbean politics is that government is driven not by principle but by political expediency. In other words, one is not sure that the present government is committed to seeing the process of public justice reach its logical conclusion. Yes, the matter is in the hands of SOCOU and the police, but it is the government that started the process with the audits and which, whether it says so or not, has a political interest in the outcome.
I understand President Jagdeo has listed me as one of the persons who has helped to pressure the government into what he and his colleagues have labeled an act of witch-hunting. I don’t know whether Mr. Jagdeo is correct in his assessment, but I wish to remind him that my interest is in the cessation of corruption as a way of life in Guyana. Insofar as I have stressed the role of his government, it is because in my view, corruption was institutionalized during his tenure. Whether he personally played a role in the process would hopefully be determined, but it is clear that members of his administration benefited—at least the investigators are working with that theory in mind.
Having said the above, I do think that we are in for rocky times. The PPP is testing the resolve of the government. The calls by Indian activists for Indian Guyanese to rise up in defense of their gains in Guyana and the PPP’s threat of street demonstrations are part of something larger. I have absolutely no problems with Indian leaders calling on their people to resist unfair government—I would do the same if I felt African people were unfairly targeted.
But my issue with the case made by the Indianists is its deception. Yes, diversifying out of sugar would have a near-term impact on the mostly Indian Guyanese workforce. But to not point out that the present government has continued the subsidy of the industry even as it searched for ways to get out of the historic hole leads me to question the objective of the leaders. If you are making a case of Indian suffering, at least lay all the facts on the table.
Its commonsense economics that if a poor economy such as ours continue to bury money into an unprofitable industry that is not able to generate enough to at least pay back the subsidy, then in the end the country including the workers in the subsidized industry suffers. Yes, sugar workers would have their jobs, but their wages and those of other workers would continue to be low, the government would have less to spend on other critical areas such as education, health care and infrastructure.
I am aware that this line of argument will not easily convince those who are about to possibly lose their jobs. But the truth should be told. The Indianists should pressure the PPP and the government to devise a plan to guarantee the sugar workers an income during this period of transition. The fight should not be simply to save a dying sugar industry but more importantly to guarantee sugar workers their daily bread while we root ourselves out of the sugar trap we have found ourselves in.
Directing sugar workers anger at the government while behaving as if the PPP has no responsibility for where things are is unhelpful and deceptive. For 23 years, the PPP, in the face of all the signs that sugar was dying, did absolutely nothing to sensibly address the situation. The Indianists must remind the sugar workers that GUYSUCO under the PPP threatened to de-recognize their union for standing up to the powers that be. This government has not done so.
They must also tell Indian Guyanese that SARA’s threat to recover Stolen State Assets is not directed at the Indian Guyanese people who are not the beneficiaries of loot—it’s not the Indian Guyanese masses who were given lands at Pradoville way below market value. It’s not the average Indian Guyanese businesspeople who are being targeted by SARU/SARA; it’s the small cabal which has ruthlessly appropriated state assets with direct and indirect facilitation by the then government. The Indianists must tell Indian Guyanese that their suffering arises in part from this ugliness that occurred when their party was in power.
I have decided to use my small voice to ensure that this government does not go down that ugly road; that insofar as it draws its support from the African Guyanese community, it does not shame that community and compel it to defend wrongdoing. Some government supporters have pleaded with me to “ease up” with my critique of the government for fear that it would help the PPP. My answer to them is always this—I saw Indian voices and other independents “ease up” on the PPP when it was in government and we ended up with the worst administration in the post-independence Anglophone Caribbean. I am not repeating that mistake. Government gets my love, but not the uncritical type.
More of Dr. Hinds ‘writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com. Send comments to dhinds6106@aol.com