The OAS Observer Mission, the British High Commissioner, the United States Representative and the Private Sector Commission have all publicly raised concerns about the dangers of inflammatory language being used in the election campaign in Guyana. The US representative went further and pointed out that the consequences that such language could endanger post-election peace and stability.
The pit bull politics of aggression and personal villification were launched this elections season, as it was at the last elections, with Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. The elections of 2011 were characterized by the excessive use of hostile and accusatory language, focused mainly on the PNCR’s past and abuse of political opponents.
It appears that the PPP/C’s view is that the aggression and abuse adopted for the elections in 2011 were not sufficiently inflammatory to secure its majority. It has obviously concluded that the intensification of inflammatory language and the instillation of greater fear in its supporters, mainly Indians, against the Opposition, whose supporters are mainly Africans, are necessary strategies to now retrieve its majority.
The campaign commenced at Babu John in March with the accusation by Dr. Jagdeo that on the morning of the elections in 2011, the Opposition was going around beating drums and calling on its supporters to go out and vote the Indians out, using the known offensive slang for Indians. It was the first time that anyone had heard of this allegation, throwing some doubt on its authenticity.
The most egregious of Dr. Jagdeo’s assertions was his claim that with the alleged large number of former military officers supporting the APNU+AFC, if the latter wins the elections, ‘they’ would be kicking down the doors of PPP supporters. The use of the ‘kick down the door’ imagery conjures up to Indian Guyanese the decade or so between the 1970s and 1980s of ‘kick down the door bandits,’ who were mainly, though not exclusively Africans, across rural Guyana. Many Indians were victims.
Then there is also the policy of personal destruction that we have all experienced after criticizing Dr. Jagdeo. Commodore Gary Best, a former Chief of Staff, chose to express his political preference for APNU+AFC, which the Constitution allows him to do. Dr. Jagdeo, who appointed him and probably considers him ungrateful, questioned Commodore Best’s acquisition of his home, ignoring the possibility that he might also have acquired it just as Dr. Jagdeo acquired his own home – by saving.
In a further exercise in intimidation, Dr. Luncheon has said that the President will have to address the issue of the former Chief of Staff ‘consorting’ with the Opposition because he could leak sensitive information. This is blatant intimidation of Gary Best because there is nothing the President can do to a citizen for exercising a constitutional right. Seeking to criminalize both him and the Opposition, with the suggestion that he might be leaking secrets, is disgusting.
The same principle, if principle at all, that the PPP is now seeking to wrongly apply arose in the 1980s when Justice Massiah retired as Chancellor of the Judiciary, an independent office, and was immediately appointed as Attorney General, a political office. This was criticized by the Bar Association and the PPP. This did not stop the PPP Government of 2006-2011 from appointing Justice Charles Ramson as Attorney General immediately after he resigned as a Judge of the Court of Appeal. Commodore Best, a retiree, is not employed in a political office.
The strategy of aggression emerged early in Dr. Jagdeo’s Presidency and has since been adopted by the leadership of the PPP. Its most infamous manifestation was his insult to Mrs. Janet Jagan when in 2006 she called for the restoration of the advertisements to the Stabroek News, which Dr. Jagdeo had taken away in November, 2006. He effectively told her to mind her own business when he deemed her a private citizen. The PPP remained silent. The intimidation of Commodore Best is the latest effort, designed to maintain a climate of fear created by the intimidation and personal abuse, and sustained by selective implementation.
Dr. Jagdeo is by no means offended by being associated with pit bull politics. He relishes the tough guy image, which does wonders for what I once described as ‘his monumental ego.’ He feels justified in his aggression and proudly refers to it as his ‘style.’ He receives loud acclamation and sustained applause for it, and generally, at PPP/C rallies.
The election strategy consisting of the type of inflammatory language complained of by the diplomatic and observer communities and the PSC, is not going to end because the instillation of fear in PPP supporters is Dr. Jagdeo’s main strategy for the recovery of power. Also, it has been proved more than once that the PPP has little or no regard for the views of diplomats when they complain about the behavior of the Government or its allies.
No one should be surprised if Dr. Jagdeo is later invited to head other elections observer missions and criticizes the inflammatory language of others. As head of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to the Sri Lanka elections, he criticized Government’s abuse of the state owned press. This occurred in Guyana in 2011, in elections strategy over which he presided and is occurring once again.