The Truth of the Matter

Posted January 24th. 2004 - Special Feature by David Hinds

The PPP has given Democracy a Bad Name

I am not surprised at the number of letters to the press, from mainly Indo Guyanese, praising the work of the Phantom Squad. I expected this and I understand it. I am also not surprised at the number of voices, mainly African Guyanese, calling for Minister Gagraj's head. This is Guyana's reality: the unsettled racial struggle for political power continues to take deadly twists and turns. Simply put, Freedom Fighters and Phantom Squads are mere euphemisms for Race. African Guyanese supported the Freedom Fighters in Buxton and Indian Guyanese support the Phantom Squad. Both sides feel justified. There is little or no room for compromise.

If the government or some of its members are indeed involved in the use of Phantom Squads, then we have reached an all time low. Organized violence is violence regardless of the origin. Organized murder is murder regardless of the origin. But when the State organizes violence, something really stinks. And the PPP's attitude to the allegations stinks. We now understand why that party does not want to share power with others. They have given democracy a bad name and in the process they have made the PNC, which they love to lambaste, look like Sunday school boys and girls.

I don't know whether Minister Gagraj is guilty, but I am sure the PPP knows. And so long as they continue to play stupid games like calling on George Bacchus to give evidence to the police, they are exposing their guilt and in the process are hustling Guyana further down the road of racial conflict. If the government does not have confidence in the police, why do they think George Bacchus should have confidence in them? There is still some time left for the PPP to do the right thing. If they do not act honorably, I, as a Guyanese citizen, will cease to recognize them as my government. I add my voice: Gagraj must step down, nothing short of that. And the government must submit the case to the most independent scrutiny.

African Guyanese know where I stand on violence perpetrated by African Guyanese against Indian Guyanese with or without the support of African Guyanese. I still have no stomach for that. Indian Guyanese have a right and duty to defend themselves against such attacks. But the Phantom Group was not about Indian self-defense in the same way that the Buxton operation was not about African resistance. If George Bacchus' testimony is credible, the Phantom group was about an Indian regime hiring Africans to murder Africans. And that has nothing to do with Indian security. In fact that kind of action would compromise Indian security.

So, even as I understand their position, I must part company with the Indian view that the Phantom brought an end to attacks on them. It is simply not true. And even if it were true, the PPP would still be indicted in my book-the governors of the state must take the higher ground at all cost and at all times.

David Hinds lectures in Caribbean and Africana Studies at Arizona State University in the USA. He is also a political and social commentator who has written extensively on Guyana and Caribbean politics. More of his writings can be found on his website.