On a Trail of Forgetfulness: Eusi Kwayana responds to Rohee

Posted October 20th. 2010 - by Eusi Kwayana.

This is a response to Rohee SN October 9. For reasons I shall explain in due course I make no comment on the statement by Brother Rupert Roopnaraine that sent Minister Clement Rohee on a trail of forgetfulness.

I nearly wept when I read Minister Rohee's written lamentation over the questionable Fall from Grace of the WPA due to that statement and the equally questionable Rise to Glory of the People's Progressive Party almost by default. We are in the presence of what my book, Guyana: No Guilty Race, warned about, the fiction of innocence of parties in communal conflict. Mr Rohee boasts that in opposition, the PPP's "intelligence" had information suggesting that the WPA was taking an "extremist" line, no doubt against decades of lawful, constitutional government against which the PPP had railed. This is testimony from the same Minister of Home Affairs who, now in government, had no intelligence that his Ministry was in bed with drug magnates in order to retaliate against the gunmen encamped at Buxton. The PPP had better intelligence in opposition than in government.

No amount of ink and fine words, or twists of circumstances can change the history of racial violence and the pattern which I stated in Guyana: No Guilty Race. Mr Dev finds this title to be "a felicitous phrase". In the West On Trial, the author, Dr. Jagan, although a party leader, writes enough to allow the pattern of communal strife to be clear. There were years in which the PPP was not the aggressor and years in which the PNC was not the aggressor. In fact in the first year, the PPP can be said to be a bystander not an instigator to what I have claimed some of its supporters did. Mr Rohee's claims about arms are not supported in the history, whether written by me or by Dr Jagan. Thus Mr Rohee is not speaking for the PPP's and young people experienced leadership.

The WPA was never involved in ethnic violence which has been the scourge of the society. In the WPA I did not bring my perceptions of the PPP to my new colleagues but trusted their own perceptions and experiences. They never knew about what I had written in Next Witness, except they were researchers, until I reprinted it in 1999 in the face of Mr. Dev's false history.

The WPA was very successful under Rodney and Roopnaraine as "symbols of the new politics" as we called them. They and others created a climate in which people of all races felt comfortable to work together both in committees and in communities. It is a fiction that the inspiration was executed along with Rodney. The myth they want to make is that Rodney left no tradition, no legacy. I have not spoken in these terms before, but that judgment is a form of self-serving denial and historic ingratitude of which only cowards are capable. But they are entitled to their opinion and their status.

I have seen an effort by a celebrated and controversial columnist to expose Mr Rohee's profession of Peace. He cited the PPP's opposition to the toll gates on the Corentyne and the murder of a constable which led to the indictment of Arnold Rampersaud, whom I met and talked with in prison, of course in breach of the law. On my release I and others joined the Arnold Rampersaud Defence Committee. I personally worked closely with his defence lawyers. Cross examination revealed that the prosecution's case was irrational.

But although the PPP has claimed that his acquittal was due to "international solidarity', it was largely due to the work of the legal team, and of Walter Rodney, Tacuma Ogunseye and other men and women speaking and writing, and to an ultimate test of common sense.

What came to light was that a high official in the PPP with access to the then Prime Minster, in an effort to end the trial, told him that Rampersaud was innocent and offered the name of the alleged guilty party. The then Prime Minister advised the high official, "Tell the Police." The PPP official stopped short of doing that. Rohee is right in saying that the two parties were "miles apart" in tactics. The WPA had and has no guilty knowledge of a homicide. Nor has it sought to negotiate court cases, or university positions, with oppressor officials, in secret or at all.

The Working People's Alliance members on the Defence Committee were defending a man presumed innocent, not a political party, which benefited indirectly. No one thought that the toll gate shooting was a crime of passion. Mr Dev may want to suggest that there was no evidence that it was a political crime. I hope a certain high official will read this. He tried to tell me after the case ended that "they had to bribe one juror." He was not then an official of the PPP. He spoke out of contempt for the mainly urban jury and I told him so.

To me responsibility for communal (racial) violence is a serious matter. If we study the sixties there is no innocent party. Even Dr Jagan who tried to represent himself and the PPP as being above race and mere victims of attack has written about the GAWU strike in 1964 that "in any other country it would have been a struggle between strikers and scabs in an industrial dispute," but that in Guyana, "because the strikes were mainly Indian and the scabs mainly African an industrial dispute turned into a racial war." I avoid further gory details. Each side has its own griefs to recall. We should think of one another's griefs. "Racial war" is not how we describe a situation in which one side is victim.

Mr. Rohee might also wish to jog his memory and recall that soon after the 1997 elections the Stabroek News reported that the Cove and John Police had discovered a cache of arms at the home of a PPP activist known as Salim called Beast. I mention this because it was the act not of an opposition party but of a party in power. It was a frightening "accumulation". After waiting on the law to take its course a WPA member began to investigate and finally filed a private prosecution against the householder for illegal possession of arms and ammunition. The cache included SLRs and high-powered shotguns. The trial was a high scandal. The Stabroek News sent a woman reporter and reported on most of the trial as it unfolded.

Of course the WPA member had to move by court process in my name. As anticipated the page on the left side of the large ledger of the Property Book recording the weapons found, was removed. Incriminating notes on the right hand side were carelessly left. . After this was revealed in court, by next court day the whole Property Book had disappeared. The accused was an intimate of Freedom House and other high offices. Caught, not a single official of the PPP said one word. Today Mr Rohee feels competent to write, as an individual, on the subject of arms! Were those arms accumulated at that man's home in that East Coast village intended for an act of non violence as Mr Rohee wants the world to believe? What rule of what law allowed them to be there with no charges laid by the State ? In what way was the accumulation in the home of a ruing party activist not unlawful?

The magistrate in question was a well trained lawyer, but the trial was a cowboy trial. The effort to remake the People's Progressive Party as a non -violent force has been very focused and has come from various helpers, some with short memories. Can all of this undo what has been confirmed to the hilt in the courts of the USA, not only on evidence which might be questionable, or even bought. but on the basis of a confession by the celebrated Guyanese drug lord?

The effort also possesses some glaring contradictions of which I mention one which even a faulty memory like Mr. Rohee's should not need reminding about. He accuses the WPA of being guilty of "serious transgressions in the security sector, thus compromising the security of the state." Such extremist acts deserve punishment and that is why Mr Rohee condemns them. But when the PNC government in 1973 acted from its own viewpoint to prevent the "security of the State" being compromised, that act led to the killing by the army of two PPP activists.

Mr Rohee would perhaps see his comrades who lost their lives defending the ballot boxes as "extremist." For me , and I wish to proclaim this in my own name, when a political party gets into power by "other means" that violate the constitution the question of " subversion" has been abolished. The new considerations are discretion, the human rights of persons, fairness, the refusal to use fiction for the cause, and the right to life.

I should like to add that I cannot in fairness question Mr Rohee's competence to speak for the PPP on this issue without also questioning Dr. Roopnaraine's competence in anticipating the appointment of the impartial tribunals on race and violence for which he has long fought. Such tribunals are more urgent for others than for the WPA which has not been guilty, or even accused or suspected of killing.