Nov 22, 2017
TUC President, Lincoln Lewis, wrote the following in his article last Sunday; “None other than ACDA saw it worthy to come on my Facebook page, accusing me of joining with others to undermine the PNC.”
I haven’t seen a denial from ACDA since Lewis’s accusation, meaning that ACDA has not disowned what was sent to Lewis’s Facebook. I called Lewis to ask him his reaction but first wanted his opinion on the authenticity of the posting by ACDA. Lewis said it came from ACDA.
Lewis’s reaction was brief. I asked him if he believes it was a subtle form of Apan Jaat politics. He agreed. Then he said others have reacted to ACDA’s accusation on his Facebook page reminding him that Mrs. Janet Jagan had told Indians not to split the vote.
Lewis informed me that postings on his page are of that view that it was exactly this that ACDA meant. Can one argue that when ACDA boldly confronted Lewis, it meant that he should not split the vote? Lewis ended our conversation by saying in the context of how people reacted, he thinks ACDA’s position is a very dangerous one.
Before we answer that, let us polemicize on three factors – the background material that led to the ACDA accusation, what is Apan Jaat and thirdly, how is this going to play out in Indian districts all over Guyana. Lewis provided the background. He said he was part of a panel, sitting next to Ramon Gaskin, when Gaskin got up and announced that he,( Gaskin), was forming a political party to contest the 2020 elections. Lewis believed that ACDA has interpreted that event to mean that he, Lewis will be part of the political formation.
Apan Jaat is a Hindu phrase that became part of election campaigning that has a long, tortuous history in Guyana. According to Baytoram Ramharack (Against the Grain: The Politics of Balram Singh Rai, page 117) Dr. Cheddi Jagan accused legislator and lawyer, Daniel Debedin, of first using the term. Ironically PPP leaders in the sixties were accused of making use of the slogan to urge Indians to vote race.
Apan Jaat then was first used as an appeal to Guyanese East Indians in the context of one must vote for one’s race. But this is the campaign connotation. The literal (and in the sociological context) meaning is to support your own or conversely do not go against your own. Lincoln Lewis says this is what respondents on his Facebook think ACDA meant.
Thirdly, how this unnerving attitude of ACDA will be received in Indian communities? Before I expand on that, my opinion is that in the broad meaning of the phrase, I am of the view that ACDA’s accusation against Lewis contains Apan Jaat sentiments. While talking to Lewis about the subject, I told him it will be a difficult period for anti-PPP Indians who have spent unlimited energy telling Indians to reject Apan Jaat and vote on issues and now comes an African based organization with a subliminal message to Africans to stay away from organization that criticizes the government because they will undermine the PNC. Lewis said it is for that reason the accusation is dangerous.
The revelation by Lewis that ACDA thinks he is part of a new political formation to challenge the PNC and therefore he will undermine the PNC is going to have enormous consequences for the entrenchment of democratic values in this country.
I have absolutely no doubt that from the time Lewis publicized the emanation of ACDA, the PPP war machine have been in overwork mode. It will not be an easy task, rather an almost impossible one for democratic activists who are East Indians to tell their fellow Indians to reject the PPP and vote for issues in the 2020 campaign. Such activists are going to be insulted. It is a daunting prospect. ACDA does not know the damage it has done to the body politic of Guyana. But more frightening is the fact that ACDA has handed a gold mine to the PPP.
The person who reminded Lewis on Lewis’s Facebook page that Mrs. Jagan once told Indians not to split the vote knows what he is talking about. Subtle versions of Apan Jaat has permeated the politics of this country since the forties (not the fifties) and it has come from both sides.
At bottom house meetings in 2011, both the PPP and PNC made use of Apan Jaat sentiments. I have proof of this in Enmore by the PPP and Linden by the PNC. Can the damage done by ACDA’s accusation against Lewis be controlled? I doubt it