OPINION: Why the PPP is the only national Party in Guyana – Part I

Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2024, 14:42 by Writer

By Dr. Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus, American University, Washington DC

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is the only national party in Guyana. But what does it mean when we say the PPP is a national political party, and the only national political party in Guyana. A truly national political party must have, by my reckoning, nine elements. In Part I, I examine four of these constitutive aspects. Others will follow soon.

  • It must cover the entire territory of a country and have a nation-wide political infrastructure to have ongoing dialogue with communities in all regions.
  • It must have broad representation in its leadership.
  • It must be open and welcoming to membership across class, gender, ethnic, religious, geographical, and ideological lines.
  • It must be anti-racist and embrace persons of all national origin.

Cover the Entire Country
By the criteria above, the People’s Progressive Party is the only national political party in Guyana. The PPP+C has large numbers of supporters in every county, region, city, township, and village across the country. Unlike the PNCR, which is mostly concentrated in urban environments, and with some stretches of support along coastal regions, Freedom House can pick up the phone and call on supporters from Lethem to Leonora, or from Linden to Lesbeholden. In the past year alone President Ali, Prime Minister Phillips, and Vice President Jagdeo have met with the residents of (in no necessary order) Mabaruma, Port Kaituma, Baramita, Kikan, Arau, Eteringbang, Karaudarnau, Potarinau, Nappi, Karasabai, Lethem, St. Ignatius, Mara, New Amsterdam, Cotton Tree, Palmyra, Rose Hall, Port Mourant, Tain, Manchester, Black Bush, Skeldon, Hururu, Wiruni, Canal No 2, Vreed-en-Hoop, Crane, Leonora, Uitvlugt, Tuschen, Parika Backdam, Anna Regina, Bartica, Linden, Muratario, 58 Mile, Coomaka Mines, Kwakwani, Ituni, Malali, Timeheri, Soesdyke, Friendship, Mocha Arcadia, Grove, Diamond, Eccles, West Ruimveldt, Kitty, Albouystown, Tiger Bay, Plaisance, Success, Good Hope, Pigeon Island, BV, Buxton, Lusignan, Enterprise, Paradise, Supply-Mahaica, Ann’s Grove, Victoria, Bush Lot, Itacha, and, among others, D’Edward. This is just illustrative. The full list will run in a few pages.

Broad Representation in Leadership
The PPP is noted for significant diversity in its leadership. This can be seen from day-one. The membership of the Political Affairs Committee was Cheddi Jagan, Ashton Chase, Janet Jagan, and Jocelyn Hubbard. That kind of diversity continued into the formation of the PPP when LFS Burnham joined the party. He became the first PPP Chairman. The PPP government of 1953 also demonstrated a commitment to diversity. The members of that first cabinet were Cheddi Jagan, Ashton Chase, J.P. Latchmansingh, Forbes Burnham, Jai Narine Singh, and Sydney King. All subsequent cabinets of the PPP+C have maintained this commitment to and expression of diversity. You may want to note that since the early days Afro-racialists condemned Burnham for serving in the PPP. Although he was Chairman of the PPP, those extremists still argued that he was token. If so, what about Sidney King and Ashton Chase.

Inclusive Membership
The PPP has been engaged in a massive drive to broaden the party’s demographic base. President Ali, Prime Minister Mark Phillips, and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo have all made public appeals to join the PPP as the country moves forward with economic, social, and cultural development. Those calls have yielded a significant infusion of new members from across all regions, classes, and ethnicities. In fact, the campaign to deepen the inclusivity of the party was met with great circumspection by the Opposition. Recently, several top members from the opposition have switched to the PPP. Among them were Ronald Backer, Patricia Chase-Greene, Malcom Ferreira, and Trichria Richards. Mr. Backer was “a veteran member of the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) and former Political Assistant to Joseph Harmon. Chase-Greene is a former Mayor of Georgetown, a known PNC-led APNU stronghold. Ms. Richards was the APNU Georgetown Councillor for Constituency #13 since 2018. In the municipality of New Amsterdam, the sitting Councillor of the APNU, Esan Vanderstoop, switched to the PPP.

Anti-racism is a core value of the PPP, and this is one of the key pillars of it being a truly national party. In the early days of the party’s history, it was criticized for not being Indian enough. Some of these criticisms persist in the pages of some national newspapers. The APNU and AFC are fond of making spurious charges of racial politics but to date no credible report has ever been filed with the Ethnic Relations Commission. In 2023, there were some trumped up charges about unfair removal of squatters from some parts of Moco on the East Bank Demerara. The fact is that the Government of Guyana acted fully within the law to relocate those structures that were illegally in the path of a major new highway. The squatters were offered significant compensation for their property, as well as house lots to facilitate their relocation. Most of the intellectual authors charging racism live in the US, Canada, and U.K.

One signature feature of the current administration of President Ali is the national orientation towards One Guyana. One Guyana is an expansive approach to human security and human development. President Ali told Dr. Rebecca Bill Chavez, the President, and CEO of Inter-American Dialogue that concept, “… centers on building prosperity at both the household and community levels. He underscored the pivotal role of good governance and democracy as essential pillars for shaping the future of Guyana, ensuring a prosperous and equitable society. The president has consistently called on the Guyanese people to put aside a conflicted past and embrace a future built on a commitment of universal equality. As for Ret’d Brigadier Mark Phillips, in his first speech after he became the PPP’s prime ministerial candidate, he declared “I will be a Prime Minister for all Guyanese, regardless of race, religion or political persuasions!”

Broad representation in leadership, inclusivity, and a commitment to anti-racism are central elements of any party that claims to be national in scope, character, and commitment. To date, only the PPP has satisfied these requirements. In the second instalment, I will explore some other important elements.

Dr. Randy Persaud is Adviser, Office of the President.