There was high drama last Thursday night when President David Granger addressed the National Assembly – constituting it as the ‘Parliament’ – and the entire body of Opposition PPPC MP’s walked out before he could even begin his speech. They were protesting, the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo explained, presidential overreach in the incumbent’s suspension of the holder of a Constitutional post from his substantive position.
But if the Opposition had stayed, they would have been subjected to one of the most revisionist recounting of recent Guyanese political history. The President, who is a trained historian, made his claims under the rubric of ‘Public trust’:
“Dreams of a ‘good life’ turned into a horrible nightmare at the dawn of the new millennium. The most unforgettable experiences and most frightening evidence of our descent into chaos were the bloody, drug-driven, decade-long ‘Troubles.’
The ‘Troubles’ will be remembered as the darkest hour in our history. It was a time of the un-investigated assassination of a Minister; of the investigation into the alleged implication of another Minister in the direction of a ‘death squad’; of the alleged implication of yet another Minister in the acquisition of a computer to track the telephone communication and location of adversaries targeted for assassination.
It was a time of arbitrary arrests; of disappearances and of torture of young men; of the surge in armed robberies, narco-trafficking and gun-running. During that first, deadly decade, there were 1,317 murders and 7, 865 armed robberies.”
While few would disagree with the president’s assessment of the “troubles” as “the darkest hour in our history”, his account is more striking for what it omits than what it mentions. For instance, there were in fact, “1,317 murders and 7,865 armed robberies” but what the president failed to mention was among those murdered were over two dozen policemen killed by bandits, the most killed in the entire history of the 177 year-old force. He therefore failed to explain what were the reasons for the murders of so many policemen? The answer to that question would definitely indicate that the “troubles” of the first decade in this millennium were fundamentally political in nature since it challenged the legitimacy of the PPP government so profoundly, institutions of the state were attacked.
President Granger addressing Parliament last Thursday. The Opposition benches were empty at the time as the PPP/C Members of Parliament had staged a ‘walk out’
The President did not mention that the “troubles” were a direct outgrowth of the refusal of the PNCR to acknowledge the report of a battery of international and domestic observers that the December 1997 elections were “free and fair”. The intensity of the insistence by the PNC that the election was “rigged” by the PPP, even after the “forensic audit” it demanded was conducted and demonstrated that there were no bases for their claim, pushed hundreds of their supporters on January 12 1998, to assault hundreds of Indian Guyanese because they were deemed to be “PPP supporters” and therefore complicit in the “fraud”.
The empty seats on the Opposition side of the House
The President did not also mention that the PNC expanded their protests from Georgetown into the East Coast of Demerara where the Public Roads at Buxton were dug up and more “PPP supporters” were violated. Then came the killings in the Buxton/Friendship backlands. The President also did not mention the five convicts who violently broke out of the Camp Street Jail on February 23, 2002 and ensconced themselves in Buxton, while assuming the title of ‘African Freedom Fighters’ who launched armed attacks against surrounding Indian communities. He did not mention that most of the “armed robberies” were not only against large institutions but against Indian Guyanese.
While the President purported to “reach across the divide” to the PPP, in his speech, it is very difficult to envisage the offer being accepted in the context of such a lopsided view of our recent political history. This is very unfortunate because there needs to be a political rapprochement in Guyana.