Last Updated on Sunday, 26 March 2023, 18:00 by Denis Chabrol
General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Bharrat Jagdeo on Sunday urged supporters to aggressively represent their party and position themselves on Social Media to counter opposition views as part of efforts to stave off defeat at the next general and regional elections.
He appealed for more “gratitude and understanding” f0r what the PPP has done for Guyana. “People have to fight for what they believe in and the fight can’t be waged at the party leadership level alone. Every gathering that you are in you have to standup and let your voices be heard,” he told a rally at Babu Jaan, Port Mourant, Corentyne to pay tribute to the PPP’s founders, Cheddi and Janet Jagan.
Mr Jagdeo criticised the overwhelming majority of the 500 rice farmers in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) for failing to rebut an estimated six persons who claimed that the PPP had not done anything for the rice industry since returning to office in 2020. “You know what bothered me is that in that gathering, you had supporters of this party- 500 of them- and they stayed silent. If your silence, through your silence, you allow the naysayers to dominate and to create a wrong impression of the party, then you are going to suffer in the long run,” said Mr Jagdeo who is also Guyana’s 2nd Vice President.
At the March 2020 general election, the PPP won 18,785 votes compared to 16,045 in 2015. For that same region, a traditional PPP stronghold, A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) won 7,306 in 2015 and 7,340 in 2020.
The PPP General Secretary said that small group of rice farmers, who was recently vocal against the spike in fertiliser price due to rising global crude oil prices, had been aligned to the Alliance For Change (AFC) during the 2015 general election campaign and had been promised GY$8,000 per bag of paddy.
However, he said when the APNU+AFC won those elections, rice farmers President David Granger had said that rice farming was private business. “None of them, when I looked at the pictures, were with us. They were all with the AFC or some other group saying ‘oh! PPP didn’t do anything for the rice industry since we go back in office’. In that regard, he defended his government’s record in keeping the rice industry buoyant. “The rice industry would have died had it not been for the PPP’s return to office,” he said.
Instead, the PPP General Secretary said rice farmers should have defended that party’s record for ploughing GY$8 billion in assistance during severe floods.
Similarly, he railed against APNU and a number of sugar workers for not supporting that State-owned industry. “Imagine APNU now saying we are not helping the sugar industry. I heard this from some sugar workers too. If the PPP had not returned to office, there would have been no sugar industry,” he said. The then APNU+AFC government had shuttered Skeldon, Rose Hall, East Demerara and the Wales sugar estates, citing prolonged unprofitability and a multi-billion dollar drain on the treasury.
From all accounts, though, the PPPC administration has been struggling to fully reopen Skeldon and Rose Hall-Canje estates. Wales will not be reopened and most of the estate lands there have been converted into use by the Wales gas-to-energy and natural gas liquids plants. Attorney General Anil Nandlall on Saturday reconfirmed that the Enmore Estate would not resume operations, and government was looking to integrate jobless sugar workers into the oil and gas sector. “Remember, with the closure of the estimates in Demerara, a lot of people were left without employment; not only in the area of Enmore but a lot of people believe that only Enmore people used to work at Enmore Estate…We intend to find a replacement source of employment for the people on the East Coast and that industrial complex is one the initiatives that we will implement to realise that promise that we made to you,” he said at a cabinet outreach in Victoria village, East Coast Demerara.
In obvious reaction to intensified opposition criticism that the PPP was discriminating against Afro-Guyanese, Mr Jagdeo said the evidence shows that his party is the “only” multiracial party because it has made a deliberate effort to change the face from one that draws the bulk of its support from Indo-Guyanese as well as Indigenous Amerindians.
One of the repeated recommendations by Mr Jagdeo was the need for PPP supporters to counter opposition views on Social Media. “I want each of you to have a Social Media presence so that you can portray a positive nature of this party and you can fight off the naysayers,” he said. He cautioned against a repeat of the opposition strategy in 2015 when it tarnished the PPP’s image on Social Media and won the elections in that year. “Somehow in the past, we let the narrative from the other side overpower us and it led to our demise in 2015. In 2015, they were controlling the narrative. They used Social Media to distort everything that this party stood for. They even denigrated and changed our track record of progress. They spoke of corruption as a massive campaign tool and we did not do enough in 2015 to fight back against that narrative and it led to our demise,” he said.
He vowed that the PPP would defend its record, but it was not insensitive to criticism and disliked civil society.