This President of Guyana, like all past Presidents, including Burnham and Hoyte, has not only a right, but a duty, to visit as much of Guyana as possible. One would have thought that, having regard to the recent history surrounding Buxton, and the regular outreach exercises pioneered and perfected by the President, that all would know that Buxton would be a prime candidate for a Presidential visit.
The large turnout and warm welcome received by the President from Buxtonians ought not to have surprised anyone. As soon as the Fineman Gang was finally eliminated with the killing of Rondell Rawlins, the Government, through the indefatigable Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, began the process of restoring agriculture. Clearing of land, infrastructural works building upon that already done, incentives and encouragement, all had a role to play in restoring normal village life and economic activity. In this effort the villagers were fully consulted and benefited from the employment created.
Obviously, little attention was being paid to what was going on in Buxton. The regular visits and engagements with the villagers made by Minister Persaud, ought to have indicated that the restoration of Buxton’s pride was on the Government’s agenda. The President’s visit seized the moment and the people of Buxton responded.
The President undertook to look forward not backward. He understood that the work yet to be done in Buxton is enormous. It is still a deprived village, like so many others in Guyana. But it experienced special traumas in recent years. That is why Buxtonians responded positively to the President’s commitments because they see that their village is going to benefit.
President Jagdeo’s visit to Buxton is not the first time that a leader portrayed as being from one side of the ethnic divide visited a community perceived to be on the other side of the ethnic divide. When the violence engulfed villages next to Buxton where the population was predominantly of
Indian Guyanese extraction, and fences were erected to separate the villages and prevent invasion by armed gangs, Mr. Robert Corbin made a courageous visit to these communities and sympathized with those villagers. Not a single voice was raised against Mr. Corbin. In fact the villagers, and many others, welcomed him. They expressed their grievances to him and he listened sympathetically. He offered words of comfort.
Why then the hysteria?
Because Buxton, resonating symbolically as the pre-eminent focus of African Guyanese history and hopes for the future, is seen to be the prime example of the ethnic argument. President Jagdeo’s welcome to Buxton did not disprove the claim of ethnic insecurity, but it revealed another narrative from out of the bosom of this historic village of African pride, once again leading the way.
The people of Buxton have traditionally supported the PNCR at election time. They may well continue to do so. But President Jagdeo’s visit, which demonstrates that supporters of one party can welcome with open arms the leaders of another party, as Lusignan welcomed Corbin in its grief, challenges the argument that we in Guyana are condemned, or need to condemn ourselves, to ethnic exclusivity in politics. If we don’t, then all the arguments will unravel and the case of the ethnic activists will wither away. The Buxton visit did this, hence the unusual venom.
I have already pointed out that the PPP did not allow itself to be intimidated by the ethnic activists or wait until it attained office to start campaigning in areas where it had no support before. When memories were still raw, it began political work in Linden. Today the PPP can boast, not that it has swept Linden, but that it can count on a solid community of support. If the PPP wants to do the same in Buxton it has every right to do so. Politicking is a ancient as politics. Obama does it. Why can’t Jagdeo? The opposition is welcome to do the same in Lusignan, Annandale or Canje.
Another allegation is that the PPP Government stationed troops in Buxton and that these troops oppressed the peaceful villagers. Disciplined forces carried out raids which terrorized the people, it is alleged. The violent takeover by criminals who murdered scores of people, including Buxtonians, and criminalized many children and youth and using Buxton as its base, is apparently hardly a factor in the reckoning. It was a footnote in the hysteria, but barely. Memories are not short. They are selective. That’s sad.
I would have thought that the opposition and other activists would have welcomed the visit of the President and expressed the hope that his visit will see a resurgence of economic activity and upliftment of the welfare of the people. They may well have wanted to reiterate the concerns they had in the past. They may even have wanted to renew their condemnations. But to argue that the President has no right to visit Buxton, or that the people have no right to welcome Guyana’s President to their village, betrays the desperation of disappointment. (www.conversationtree.gy).