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The PPP Post-Budget Political Theatre: Appealing to Race and Pretending to be more hurt than it is

by Professor David Hinds

If you have not been around long enough or have not studied Guyana’s political history, you may be tempted to misinterpret the noise coming from the ruling PPP in the wake of the budget cuts made by the Combined-Opposition as genuine hurt.  Guyanese should not be fooled by the PPP’s antics. That party is driven by two things—maintaining its hold on Executive power at a minimum and in the final analysis regaining the iron grip on the Indian Guyanese community so that its total hold on power can be restored at the next election.  Every action of the PPP is geared towards achieving these objectives.

While the budget cuts have dealt the PPP a body-blow by puncturing the aura of invincibility and inevitability, the PPP knows full well that its control of the overall political process remains largely intact. So long as that control of state, executive government and society are not being seriously challenged, the PPP is relatively happy.  It does not mind paying the price of $20.8 Billion to retain Executive power. So what we are seeing from them is political theatre aimed at doing two things.

The first is directly racial.  The political crying and cussing are aimed at scaring the populace, in particular the Indian Guyanese community. By projecting itself as the victim while framing the opposition APNU as the “heartless” bullies and the AFC as traitors, the PPP is playing to a familiar racial narrative aimed at the Indian Guyanese political reflexes. In this regard, Minister Lawrence Ramsammy’s article (AFC’s Betrayal of Trust, Guyana Chronicle, and April 28, 2012) is most revealing. The Minister addressed his missive to “my sisters and brothers who voted for the AFC “and asks “Did you really vote for the AFC to have them join with APNU.” Dr. Ramsammy did not have to put “Indian Guyanese” before “brothers and sisters” or “African Guyanese” before APNU to get his message across. He knew full well what he was getting at and his intended audience understands what he is saying. The images of the “Indian victim,” the “African bully” and the “Indian traitor” are quite vivid in the Minister’s discourse. One should not be surprised at the PPP’s call to race—racial appeal is in that party’s political genes.

The second objective of the PPP’s theatre is to draw the opposition, particularly the APNU, into a state of complacency. The crying and chest-beating are aimed at giving the opposition the impression that they have severely wounded the PPP. The PPP is hoping that the opposition would start congratulating itself and take its foot of the pedal. President Romotar’s constant invocation of the word “Dialogue” and the not so veiled threat of an early election are deliberate tactics in this regard. The aim is to lure the Opposition back into dialogue with the PPP with the twin objective of bogging them down with talking and arriving at deals to reverse some if not all of the cuts. Again this tactic of containing the opposition through nebulous dialogue has served the PPP well for the last 20 years, including up to two weeks ago.

Given the above, the PPP is very worried at David Granger’s rhetoric in his recent address to the nation. His use of the term “leverage” sends a clear message that the APNU knows that the fight over the budget is part of a larger political fight; it’s a means to an end. This frightens the PPP because it now knows that its political end-game is now being matched by the APNU’s political end-game. And it is when you challenge the PPP on the political front that it starts to sweat.

In closing I am glad Mr. Granger referenced the APNU constituency. The APNU and the AFC, from now onwards, must not make any major decision without first discussing it with the people who are affected by it. The Linden fiasco should not be repeated. And the APNU and the AFC must not go back to another election—Snap or Non-Snap—under the current rules which allow a party with a minority vote to form the Executive Government on its own. Hence, the next big job of the parliament must be Constitutional Reform.

David Hinds is a Political Activist and Commentator. He is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. His writings can be found on his website guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com.