RACE AND POLITICS


The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, issued an invitation to President Granger to debate race, in the context of which political party in government has done more for African Guyanese. The immediate issue was the rejection by the casting vote of the Chairman of the Elections Commission of Vishnu Persaud as Deputy Chief Elections Officer, which the Leader of the Opposition described as ‘unfair.’ The issue spawned accusations and counter accusations of racial discrimination.

The KN reported on Mr’ Jagdeo’s challenge as follows: “I am prepared to debate race relations and which party has contributed to worsening race relations in Guyana. I can talk to him (President Granger) about this fallacy and the myth that they keep perpetuating that they have done more for Afro-Guyanese than the PPP…” He stated that he is prepared to match the record of the People’s National Congress between 1964 and 1992, and then from 2015 to present as against the PPP’s 23 years in office… According to Jagdeo, the debate can be on several grounds, including employment practices, access to wealth, land and businesses… “I am sure that you will see a pattern with Afro-Guyanese having fared better in that period under the PPP than ever under the PNC rule. I am prepared to debate that openly.”

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ABUSE HAS NO PLACE IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE


The slow dismantling of Cheddi Jagan’s legacy of reasoned debate as a method of convincing opponents and educating supporters began at the turn of the century. It created the opening for the introduction of  an alternative approach to political discourse – the cuss-down. Many had hoped that with the change in Government, this particularly degrading and offensive type of verbal assault would come to a welcome end. It was felt that necessity would dictate a change of course because it was believed that the cuss-down tactic caused the PPP to lose votes at the last elections. However, it appears to have been given a new lease of life at the rally at Babu John on March 3, in the name of Cheddi Jagan.

Cheddi Jagan always reserved his anger for systems and policies, not people. He fought against colonialism with the greatest zeal and the sharpest language, but never abused colonial officials and, in fact, worked with them between 1957 and 1964. He condemned imperialism not only in Guyana but worldwide. But he was unfailingly polite to its representatives. The same Cheddi Jagan proposed coalitions with the PNC and good relations with the United States throughout his life, never insulting or abusing their leaders.

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