Petronella Trotman is the name adopted by Ronnell Trotman, who is a transgender person. Born a male, she identifies as a female. Two famous transgenders, born as males and now identifying as women, are Caitlin Jenner, an Olympian and television personality, and Chelsea Manning, a soldier who was imprisoned for leaking information to Wikileaks, both of them of the United States. Bruce Jenner struggled for many decades and Bradley Manning, who is much younger, for many years with gender identity issues before formally and publicly adopting the female gender with which they have identified.
A transgender person suffers from a gender dysfunction. He or she identifies with the gender opposite to that assigned to him or her at birth. It has nothing to do with sex. Their sexual preferences do not necessarily change. And it is not the same as homosexuality and lesbianism, which has to do with sexual, not gender, preferences. Homosexuals and lesbians are not transgenders.
October 5, 1992, was an historic day for Guyana – the day when democracy returned in free and fair elections for the first time in twenty-four years. It is commemorated only by the PPP but in a way that aids its own credentials and whatever current political disputes it is engaged in. It would have marked a maturing of Guyana’s political leadership if the PNCR could have also noted the importance of October 5 and claim ownership of the role it played in restoring democracy. Since the PNCR would have had to confront a part of its past to do so, this period of its and Guyana’s history, like several others, for which it shares some credit, remain unaddressed. Guyana will have to ascend to a higher level of statesmanship for both of our main political parties to put the events of that now historic period in full perspective without the politically antagonistic framework in which it is now remembered.
By the time October 5, 1992, came along, both the world and the PNCR had changed. The Cold War had ended and, quite independently, the PNCR had transitioned dramatically from a party that espoused Marxist socialism, close relations with socialist countries and state ownership of the means of production, to a party which identified itself in completely opposite terms. The PPP came to accept these changes in 1992.
Accusations of racial discrimination in Guyana’s politics by Guyanese politicians are nothing new. Between 1957 and 1964 the PPP Governments endured charges of ‘apaan jaat,’ adapted to mean ‘support your own kind.’ During 1964 to 1992 the PNC Governments were consistently accused of racial and political discrimination. Between 1992 and 2015 PPP Governments were targeted by the Opposition for ethnic cleansing and ethnic discrimination. No one should therefore be surprised at accusations by Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, and the PPP that racial discrimination is taking place in Guyana.
The realities of Guyana have caused our main political parties to take cognizance of the fact that organized political expression and activity are driven by ethnic insecurities. Both Indians and Africans feel more secure in supporting parties that they believe represent and protect their ethnic interests. In order to sustain that support, each of our main parties must appear to represent, or purport to represent, the interests of the ethnic group which supports it. This is one of the factors that explain the accusations of discrimination by the party out of office against the party in office and their appeals, subtle or open, to ethnic constituencies.
John Gladstone, the owner of Plantation Vreed-en-Hoop, was regarded as a prime mover for indentureship. In his now famous (or infamous) letter of 4 January, 1836, to recruiters in India, he painted a glowing picture of the possibilities: “They are furnished with comfortable dwellings and abundance of food….They have likewise an annual allowance of clothing sufficient and suitable for the climate; ….it may be fairly said they pass their time agreeably and happily…They have regular medical attendance whenever they are indisposed, at the expense of their employers. “
John Gladstone was guilty of monumental deception. After the Whitby and Hesperus deposited their 396 passengers on May 5, 1838, the first of 208,909, and the system was exposed, the British Anti-Slavery Society, in a statement said: “The whole system has been characterized by the grossest fraud and cruelty, and has been sustained by the most infamous tyranny and oppression.” It quotes Mr. Special Justice Anderson’s letter to the governor, that “many of them have actually been kidnapped” in “circumstances second only in atrocity to those connected with the African slave-trade.”
There are growing concerns within the Indian Guyanese community that the Government has embarked on large-scale discrimination against them. This is being fuelled by politically driven accusations by the PPP using the same emotive language used by the PNC/PNCR in the 1990s – ‘ethnic cleansing.’ I do not accept that there is such discrimination but the growing perception is a negative phenomenon so early in the life of the Government. It should not be dismissed because once such perceptions take hold, they are very difficult to overcome.
Guyana’s politics are organized for the expression of ethnic sentiments and are driven by ethnic considerations. The PPP governments of 1957 to 1964 were accused of racism and of being a ‘rice’ government and worse. During the PNC era of the 1970s and 1980s, the PNC governments were accused by the PPP of ‘racial and political discrimination.’ When the PNC lost the elections in 1992, one dominant theme emanating from its leaders, members and supporters was PPP’s discrimination. That theme quickly developed into accusations of ‘ethnic cleansing.’ It finally settled in to ‘marginalisation’ where it remained constant throughout PPP’s terms of office and became an accepted fact among African Guyanese. It attained great resonance when Dr. Luncheon said in evidence in Bharrat Jagdeo’s libel case against the Kaieteur News and Frederick Kissoon that no African Guyanese were qualified to be ambassadors.