The nation has been transfixed during the first week of the New Year over what has inevitably become a test of wills between the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the PNC. There has been a barrage of legal points thrown out to the public in addition to that presented to the Courts on the nature of the lease that was secured by the Cheddi Jagan Research Center from the previous administration.
But from the tone and intensity of the rhetoric from the PNC officials in the PNC-led government – not the Alliance For Change (AFC) – it is clear the Red House lease is “the occasion for the war and not the cause of the war”.
The question, then, arises as to what is “the war” and why is it being launched at this time? The war is one of “misdirection” designed to distract the PNC’s core support, which has received a continuous series of body blows from the initiatives from a government they expected to fulfil the explicit and implicit promises that were made to them. The PNC had coalesced with five paper organisations, with the only one having strategic value being the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA), which had challenged them effectively during the 1970’s.
More than anything else, this first step in the one-two shuffle that catapulted the PNC back into office, was a threshold issue that had to be resolved since it would signal for the first time, the fissure in the base was officially bridged. It was imperative that this gain not be lost. The second step was to claim a “multiracial” platform through its coalition with the AFC that suddenly decided it was “uniracial” with Indian support
But from the moment the government took office, there followed the broken promises – the first being to claim the cupboard was dry and the “substantial” pay raises promised to government workers, nurses, army, police etc., all dominated by their supporters in their manifesto, had to be denied. Most damaging was the 50% pay raise the government awarded its Cabinet, now swollen to one-and-a-half its previous size. The President himself, and leader of the PNC, said that lazy Public Servants did not deserve a raise. This was followed by several scandals that proved the promised “lean and clean” government was merely a fiction, especially when none of the transgressors were punished.
Rather than deploying the funds they claimed had been “siphoned off” by the PPP, to grow the economy and create jobs for their supporters, the PNC-led government refused to offer a stimulus, and not surprisingly, the rate of growth fell. The list of disappointments is too long for an article of this size, but the final straw was the presentation of the last Budget last November, which could only be described as a “tax but don’t spend” budget. That the Government would actually tax water and electricity drove the PNC supporters over the edge. They became openly restive and commentators from their ranks made the point that even the PPP could not have expected the government to shoot itself in the foot so fast and so furiously.
Something had to be done and quickly to prevent the bleeding of support – and this is where Red House come in as a diversion. Even though they had claimed there was a slew of corrupt appropriations by PPP operatives, none of these could be backed by hard evidence. And as one of their supporters said ruefully they chose to dub the lease to the CJRC as “invalidly awarded” even though no individual benefited personally.
While the PPP has effectively halted the eviction of the CJRC from Red House, the PNC has now been exposed to be even more inept so we can expect an intensification of this war on any number of fronts. To the PNC, they have no choice: it as a matter of survival.