By David Hinds
THE ongoing elections dispute has brought into the public domain several things which had remained hidden for decades. One such thing is the PPP’s hypocrisy as it relates to the regional integration movement. The party’s embrace of CARICOM today is purely opportunistic; it is attempting to use CARICOM for its narrow partisan ends. In its quest for power, the PPP is prepared to embrace even those it has deemed to be its worst enemies.
For those who are old enough to remember, the PPP has always taken an ethnic attitude to the integration movement. That party views CARICOM and its predecessors as an African club that is hostile to the interests of Indian-Guyanese. Many Guyanese of recent generations may be excused for not knowing that when the Anglophone Caribbean made its first attempt at integration, Guyana, then governed by the PPP stayed out of it.
The PPP kept out of the Federation (1958 -1962) on the grounds that Indian-Guyanese would become a minority.
Historian Hazel Woolford reported that while the PPP rejected the Federation, The PNC fully supported the initiative: “During the 1950s, more politicians joined the campaign for a West Indian Federation, but British Guiana did not participate. Forbes Burnham tabled a motion in the Legislative Assembly requesting British Guiana to join the Federation, but this was rejected.”
This was one of the reasons for the second split of the PPP when Sydney King (Eusi Kwayana), Martin Carter and others left the party in the face of its transition to an East Indian-based party. Whereas King et al favoured taking the then British Guiana into the West Indies Federation, the Jagan faction was determined to steer clear of it. In a Stabroek News editorial of December 19, 1986, on regional integration, the paper stated that others, notably Eusi Kwayana (then Sydney King) attributed Jagan’s opposition to the Federation to his editorial also reported unwillingness to be swamped in a predominantly African grouping. The eminent philosopher CLR James is also reported to have taken a similar position.
A 1992 Country Study for the US library of Congress supported this view: “Jagan’s veto of British Guiana’s participation in the West Indies Federation resulted in the complete loss of Afro-Guyanese support. In the late 1950s, the British Caribbean colonies had been actively negotiating establishment of a West Indies Federation.
The PPP had pledged to work for the eventual political union of British Guiana with the Caribbean territories. The Indo-Guyanese, who constituted a majority in Guyana, were apprehensive of becoming part of a federation in which they would be outnumbered by people of African descent. Jagan’s veto of the federation caused his party to lose all significant Afro-Guyanese support.”
Then, during the 1970s and 1980s when the PNC held the reins of power, the PPP consistently charged CARICOM with upholding dictatorship in Guyana and accused the Caribbean leaders of racism. They were very scornful of CARICOM and had no place for regional integration with the Caribbean. The PPP instead argued for a continental destiny with South America. The PPP sought common ground with the communist parties of Latin America, while relegating the Caribbean left to the back seat. In the end the party viewed integration in ethnic terms.
It was therefore no surprise that when the PPP returned to power in the 1990s, it advocated for a sub-regional organisation including Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, all of which were then governed by East Indian-based parties. While the initiative did not gain much traction, the PPP and Trinidad’s UNC developed a close fraternal relationship that superseded their relations with other CARICOM leaders and countries.
Commenting on the proposed union among the three East Indian-led countries, columnist Freddie Kissoon had this to say: “Finally, what is behind his call for closer ties between Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad with eventual closer economic integration with South America? The answer is race. Basdeo Panday is one of the purest Hindu ideologues in this part of the world. In fact, Hindu supremacist may not be a misnomer if applied to him. Mr. Panday is not exactly a believer in multi-racial politics and may be happier with Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname becoming closer for obvious reasons.” ( Kaieteur News, March 12, 2014)
That the PPP today behaves as if CARICOM has always been a close ally is the height of hypocrisy. The PPP never trusted CARICOM for purely ethnic reasons. It now seeks to use CARICOM to help install it in power illegally. With all due respect to most of the current CARICOM leaders, they may not be aware of that history.