As part of the change needed in Guyana the new title of this paper should be:
"A Memorandum for Jump Starting Change in Guyana"
Don’t let the original title below turn you off. Read and check the comments
within the document and the general comments at the end!
A SUGGESTED MANIFESTO FOR THE PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS / REFORM
A. AN OPEN APPROACH TO REVITALISING THE PNCR
Those influenced by the Westminster approach to improving governance in Guyana recommend that the People’s
National Congress Reform (PNCR) change its leadership to attract East Indian votes. That approach is flawed for two reasons.
The first is that East Indians crossing over to the PNCR may be fewer than Africans crossing over to the PPP . A friend of
mine recently saw Africans in classes at Freedom House, suggesting that the PPP is not asleep in the matter of seeking African
votes while the PNCR, at present, has no capability to hold classes for any one.
The second and more important reason is that improving governance in Guyana is a task for all Guyanese and
not only for the PNCR. The situation in Guyana warrants a public conversation on race and on governance such as was suggested
by Mr. Oliver Hinckson and endorsed by Father Malcolm Rodrigues and Brother Eusi Kwayana.
We need to diagnose what has gone so seriously wrong, in the PNCR and in the society as a whole. In pursuing
a diagnosis, it is useful to combine both history and the contemporary situation. In the social sciences, the historical is
referred to as diachronic and the contemporary as synchronic.
In respect of the historical, Guyana has had 400 years of imperialism that has left us with a society that
is largely colonial. Colonialism in Guyana functioned around the cruel authoritarianism of the plantation that gives effect
to this day to cycles of dictatorship.
The plantation subordinated the interests of the different groups on the plantation to the aims and objectives
of the plantation. House slaves, for example, were given preferences so that they could be co-opted to inflict brutal punishment
to their brothers and sisters who were field slaves.
When slavery was legally ended, the British paid compensation to plantation owners. The previously enslaved,
by contrast, were robbed of what little savings they accumulated during the so-called Apprenticeship period by the exorbitant
amounts that they were required to pay for the villages that they bought.
When indentured labourers were brought in to work on the sugar estates, they were the beneficiaries of preferences—efforts
to continue their culture; encouragement to strengthen their families as compared with deliberate efforts to weaken African
families; provision of access to bank loans, a facility denied to Africans. In the context of the limitations imposed on Africans,
the men sought employment in the hinterland, mining gold and diamond and bleeding balata. This often resulted in additional
family liaisons that further weakened African families.
It is argued that the exploitation of the enslaved and the indentured were roughly equivalent. In some respects,
the exploitation of all workers was severe. But in respect of the cultural deprivation of Africans, the weaknesses of family
ties and the sidelining of African entrepreneurship, there was no equivalence. Both races were dependent on the plantation
with subsidiary activities to maintain their livelihood. As it turned out, however, the major distinction between the preferences
given ,was in the potential of the East Indian land settlement schemes to produce rice for export. Rice became a staple in
the diet of all Guyanese and ,during the Second World War, rice became a major tripod of the three legged economy of sugar,
bauxite and rice.
Sugar and bauxite were foreign owned. Rice rested on domestic entrepreneurship that was East Indian. The
important point about that domestic entrepreneurship was its basis for collective self-determination. East Indian rice farmers
formed economic networks that planted and reaped rice by informal co-operatives that were based largely on non cash exchange
The combination of economic self-determination, cultural homogeneity that the plantocracy had fostered and
political homogeneity that was occasioned by the split in the PPP after 1955, amounted to a movement that has become a racial
behemoth. This represents a force that is larger than the numbers on which it is based. Western individualistic assumptions
of political behaviour do not apply to the East Indian phenomenon in Guyana. This is a racial bloc that does not perceive
any advantage in political alliances. It is sustainable as a bottom-up phenomenon. When the clash between the two major races
occurred first in 1953 and second in 1955, none of the African grass roots homogeneity factors were given their proper emphasis.
The cultural renaissance (ASCRIA) was virtually crushed because it was conceived as divisive. Collective economic self-determination
was not developed. The informal social contract with the state placed too great a responsibility on the state for finding
employment, and the nascent self governing institutions (city and village councils) were sacrificed to a superficial racial
harmony that never undermined East Indian racial solidarity but that shattered African community relations.
The undue dependence on the state has destroyed the PNCR. The PPP has seized on this weakness to subordinate
Africans while not affecting the economic and cultural and political independence that provides the basis for East Indian
superiority. To the extent that the PNCR wishes to perpetuate the subordinate outlook in its membership, it is continuing
to play into Jagdeo’s hands.
There is, now, an apathy among Africans that expresses itself in low productivity and in weak responses to
opportunities for joint social action. Africans are less confident now than they were at independence largely because of the
mis-steps of the PNCR. It is therefore irresponsible for the PNCR to wash its hands like Pontius Pilate and claim that it
has no racial responsibility for the restoration of the fortunes of African people.
C. THE IMPORTANCE OF IDEOLOGY
In addition to the weaknesses associated with the shift to an imbalance in the dependence on the state, the
biggest weakness of the PNCR is the absence of an ideology. The PNC has drifted from declaring itself libertarian in 1968
to being communist in the early 1970s. In 1969, Mr. Burnham declared his dissatisfaction with the free enterprise system and
his willingness to embrace Marxism/Leninism. The nationalisations followed and the Sophia declaration was pronounced in 1974.
State ownership of productive assets did provide opportunities for the development of a managerial class but the technological
grasp was weak. Moreover, the Western capitalist powers were in no mood to encourage socialism in America’s backyard
during the Cold War and the financial pressure to return to capitalism was intense.
Mr. Hoyte had never embraced Mr. Burnham’s experiments and made the switch back to capitalism when
he instituted the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) after Mr. Burnham died. Mr. Hoyte did not give much consideration to the
differences in expectations that East Indians and Africans had developed in relation to the state. For Africans, the ERP was
Both Bharrat Jagdeo and Robert Corbin pronounce their faith in the free enterprise system. Those pronouncements
are the consequence of a refusal to consider seriously the implications of the free enterprise ideology. By 1995 January,
Mr. Hoyte had seen the need for an ameliorating ideology. He was inclined to adopting social democracy. He had seen that naked
capitalism was a cruel system. As Lenin had said, "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." One
core principle in capitalism is its reliance on bankruptcies to weed out inefficient companies.
Alas, at the present time, in the U.S.A, that core principle is being modified. The U.S. Government has taken
shares in several U.S. financial institutions and is in the process of making substantial loans to motor car manufacturers.
The U.S. Government is in no position to tell us that the Government should not intervene to support Globe Trust, for example.
The PNCR should ask the Guyana Government to salvage Globe Trust in the very same way that the U.S. Government is saving the
financial giant AIG, American International Group.
In effect, the Americans can intervene to save companies because their ideology was always a mixture of private
enterprise and state intervention. That mixture is, in effect, a form of social democracy. Marxists have been critical of
social democracy because of its imprecision.
But it is possible to be more precise in Guyana by considering four elements of a political ideology for
the PNCR. The elements are as follows:
- There must be equality of opportunity for each individual in the society.
2. In the context of Guyana, where racial groups are important, equality of opportunity for each individual
will be realised only if there is racial equality.
- A social contract, largely unwritten, must evolve in which each person,
in assuming personal responsibility for realising her or his potential, will be supported by the efforts
of the state.
- Local authorities should be empowered to strengthen community relations for individual and community production and for
The first element is basic to this whole document. It derives from the ideological objective that each person
should be free in the wide society "to enquire and create." When the Party attempts to suppress that freedom in the political
confines of the Party, it is infringing a basic human right. No individual should transgress the human right of another individual.
By the same token, no Party boss, no Party official, can infringe the basic human right of an individual member.
The highhandedness with which the Party has trampled on the basic human right of individuals is a practice
that should be stopped. Demanding sexual favours for promotion in the Party infringes the human right of the member. It is
There is a notion that political leaders are superior to ordinary members. As in all organisations, high
office requires acceptance from the general membership of the priority that has to be accorded to leaders. That ,however,
does not make the leader a superior being. In the parlance of the American Constitution , all men are created equal. It is
a principle that should be cherished, in our existing state, and in our right to be elevated.
In respect of the second principle, none of us is an island. It is in the bonding with others that we seek
equality of opportunity. In a highly developed capitalist system that is racially homogeneous, bonding for equality of opportunity
is pursued in capitalist classes. In undeveloped multi-racial societies, bonding for equality of opportunity is pursued in
racial associations. Let us not fool ourselves. East Indian business networks, have no intention, ZERO intention, of admitting
Africans in their commercial networks, in the rice field operations, in the fishing co-operatives, in the farming associations,
in the chambers of commerce, in the manufacturing associations, in the commercial banks’ lending operations. In the
spirit of the racial equality principle, these various associations should be open to admitting members of all racial groups.
But the reality is that, in these informal relationships, there will be little or no inclusivity. The state,
in respect of this second ideological principle of racial equality, should make it its business to strengthen associations
of the weaker racial networks and weaker racial groups to achieve racial parity. This is an ideological commitment that the
PNCR should demand from the Government. [Why the PNCR: the emphasis needs to be on affirmative
action type approaches and outlawing of racism, and a mechanism to enforce these measures. Back to changing the govt as the
first priority to change the governance structure of the country]
The third principle of a social contract to permit the discharge of the activities of the state to assist
individuals, co-operatives, companies and racial groups who are doing their best to be personally responsible is one which
requires a state that has the information, the analyses and the resources to intervene efficiently in the private sector.
It was observed in the Diagnosis how important it is to achieve balance in pursuing the social contract. The discharge of
the social contract will rely heavily on power sharing of the central executive, on a well developed public service and on
an empowered local authority.
The fourth principle of empowering local authorities will permit the participation of the communities, the
villages, and the neighbourhoods in the cities in efforts to increase incomes and improve the environments where they live.
In multi-racial Guyana, no hard and fast predictions can be made about racial interactions. As indicated
throughout, differences in culture make simplistic views about racial harmony unlikely. The preference ought to be to strengthen
weak racial bonds, as suggested in the second ideological principle, especially as these are likely to be non-threatening.
This means restoring village councils, strengthening East Indian and Amerindian communities and putting the property tax authority
in the village and community councils. [I agree with measures like this to see more revenues collected
and spent at the local level] This will be spelt out fully later.
Taken to its logical conclusion, this approach leads to the ELIMINATION OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD DEMOCRATIC COUNCILS,
a major change in local governance. It is a change that can bring about greater harmony in race relations since it can be
associated with the ELIMINATION OF THE ARMED VIGILANTE GROUPS and with GETTING GUNS OUT OF THE HANDS OF CIVILIANS AND RESTORING
LAW AND ORDER BY RE-EMPOWERING THE POLICE.
This set of principles constitutes a suggested national ideology. They are critical in ending the low grade
racial war that is tearing the society apart. Oliver Hinckson’s national discourse is centred on these four principles.
Taken together, they represent a sea change in the ideology of governance.
Implementation of a new PNCR requires an abandonment of the ZERO-SUM outlook that has characterised political
thinking since 1955. Proposals for the future are always conditioned by " What is in it for us ( for our Party)?" and not
by " How will this benefit all parties?". The PPP, at present, is biasing development objectives towards Skeldon and away
from Linden and Georgetown. The PNCR should battle this negativity in preference for a POSITIVE-SUM approach that brings the
maximum returns wherever the investment is made.
The New Nation or some equivalent publication should motivate all Guyanese by a MACRO VISION of expansion
and by a widespread participation of all Guyanese in that expanded MACRO VISION. Local government empowerment should be developed
to ensure participation by all Guyanese in the exclusive enclaves of activity that are being taken over by associates aligned
with Jagdeo and by Brazilians and Colombians who are taking away the birth right of Africans and Amerindians. Those peoples
who were first to arrive in Guyana have prior claims to ownership of Guyana. That the PNCR has no strategy for the reclaim
by Africans of their birthright is a disgrace.[don’t forget that person of south Asian heritage
born in Guyana also have birthrights as Guyanese. People are not born racist!]
A MACRO VISION of expansion must be based on the comparative advantages of the country. There are three major
comparative advantages that Guyana has. The first is that of an advantageous LOCATION which facilitates entry through Guyana
to the North of Brazil. The second is the abundance of agricultural land and of minerals that the Brazilians are digging out
and transporting to Brazil. The third is the vast potential for agro-processing and manufacture of the raw materials that
are being dug out of the earth and filling the pockets of foreigners and a few Guyanese.
Stanley Ming and Eric Phillips and Kadz Khan must be given praise for their proposals to take advantage of
our favourable international location. Cheddi Jagan killed their Guyana 21 project for none other than political reasons.
Bharrat Jagdeo is continuing in that same tradition.
Although the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has made money available for a road parallel to the East
Bank road form Mandela Avenue to Timehri, Jagdeo has refused to draw that money down for much the same reason that Cheddi
Jagan threw cold water on the whole Guyana 21 Project. A revitalised PNCR must advance the road project by approaching the
IDB for the draw down of the funds.
Jagdeo, in his vicious ZERO-SUM approach, is pushing the limited options for development of the airport at
TIMEHRI even though the Guyana 21 project has made it clear that the extensive plateau on the left bank of the Demerara River
opposite Timehri will receive large aircraft that Timehri will never accommodate.
It is really unthinkable that the PNCR is allowing a very limited small minded leader of the PPP to constrain
the country’s macro-economic vision to his Berbice Zero Sum outlook. The substitute of limited eco-tourism projects
is not a satisfactory alternative. To pursue with the Berbice zero-sum approach, Jagdeo is attempting to force the entrepôt
advantage through Berbice. A revitalized PNCR should fight this Berbice bias every inch of the way. Jagdeo and the PPP wish
to make Berbice the capital of the country, wasting resources in the process of doing so. [a revitalized
combination of progressive forces is what is needed to counter zerosum politics. Earlier you had alluded to the fact of the
need for all to work together to advance Guyana. You have to stay consistent on that theme]
The second aspect of the MACRO VISION is the development of agricultural land and the exploitation of the
abundant mineral resources that the Brazilians and the Colombians are extracting with Jagdeo’s complicity.
At first, the PPP decided on returning to office in 1992 that every Burnham project must be ignored. The
PPP has now awakened to the stupidity of that policy and has returned to the MMA Scheme which it had abandoned. In typical
dictatorial fashion, the PPP has placed a czar in charge of MMA with the intention of evicting Africans from their ancestral
lands in Western Berbice. The PNCR has not responded to the czar’s behaviour even though he is using a Burnham project
to disinherit Burnham’s followers. Africans in West Berbice have not helped their cause by allowing apathy to govern
their responses. [Is this true? Does the AFC know of this??]
Jagdeo is now proceeding to develop the development of his and the PPP’s Little India dream by turning
his attention to the Canje Reservoir Scheme. The Scheme has a vast potential that should first be allocated to Guyanese and
then to West Indians, primarily Haitians. The PNCR should not shy away from the Haitian idea since Haiti is a post-slave society
that is struggling and that needs the assistance of other post-slave societies, like Guyana, for its development. The cultural
difficulty of absorbing people who speak a different language must not be under-estimated though that cultural difficulty
will be a lot greater in respect of the absorption of migrants from India and from Brazil and Colombia. The South American
migrants have already occupied considerable space in a situation where there has been no policy to guide their residence in
Guyana. The ad-hoc arrangements that apply to the South Americans have reduced African Guyanese to inferiority in their own
country. [the south Americans bring investments. Their activities have a multiplier effect on
all Guyanese. We should not be bewailing foreign investment but rather striving to develop a robust framework to ensure that
foreign investments have maximum impact on Guyana’s sustainable development]
The problem with the development of agricultural land is the absence of a land and crop development strategy.
There is no effort to allocate crops to the most suitable land. Economies of scale are not given adequate consideration. Landless
Guyanese are not educated about the options. The whole process is a Wild West operation of greedy land grabbers who are not
trained farmers and are, in effect, land grabbing speculators.
This development of agricultural land should be brought under national control of [a
ministry of agriculture staffed with professionals] all the political parties. The process can be made transparent.
The various Regional Democratic Offices should be given the task of computerising the availability of land and its ownership.
It does not require rocket science to achieve this knowledge. The Guyana Government has received an IDB grant for this specific
purpose. What is now required is the training of land surveyors and computer data base operators to put together the information.
If this is not done, Wild West land grabbing will lead to the dispossessing of Guyanese, particularly African Guyanese, of
The PNCR does not have to wait for a power sharing government to achieve this data base. In every region,
there is a PNCR representation that can insist, with the support of the AFC, on this data preparation. Land use studies at
the regional level can follow. There is no need to rely on a CONTROL FREAK from on high to dictate development in every part
of the country.
The crop determination can be a continuous process as more information unfolds. The central feature must
be its decentralisation and the participation of the regional citizens in its determination.
Mineral development is the accompanying feature to crop development. Every Guyanese has heard from birth
about the mineral wealth of Guyana and about the potential prosperity for Guyanese. Alas, instead of wealth, Guyanese are
among the poorest people in South America, escaping their homeland to subjugate themselves to unbecoming treatment and insults
in the Caribbean while the land and the mineral wealth of the country is handed out by Jagdeo to wealthy land speculators.
DOES THE PNCR EXIST IN GUYANA WHILE THIS IS TAKING PLACE? [the real question is whether there exists in
Guyana and the Diaspora LEADERSHIP for changed governance in Guyana]
The answer to occupying the hinterland by Guyanese is in the upgrading of mining skills of Guyanese. This
will take time, given the miserable levels of education of the vast majority of Guyanese. [necessary
for broader economic activity in the so-called hinterland is the development of the transport infrastructure to facilitate
diversifying economic development from the huge trench that is the real description of Guyana’s coast]
The process of education, however, should begin. There are vast swaths of illiteracy in Georgetown. An education
programme to upgrade reading skills should be started in Georgetown, particularly in South Georgetown. [all
Guyana]Instead of pursuing the objectives of dictatorial control by the Leader, the PNCR should seek the assistance
of UNDP, UNICEF and the European Union to undertake mass literacy programmes. There are small efforts in this regard that
are being attempted but a mass education approach is the best means for addressing the disgraceful illiteracy situation that
Africans find themselves in at the present time. Much of this present disgraceful situation is the result of the undue bias
towards dependency on the state that the PNC fostered and that the PNCR wishes to perpetuate. All hands on board are required
to uplift African Guyanese from their state of ignorance. Expelling Party leaders and excluding Party leaders from taking
a lead in educating illiterate members is the utmost stupidity.
At the same time as the literacy skills are being developed, the PNCR should approach Brazil and Venezuela
to secure places in the institutions of higher learning to upgrade mining technology skills in Guyana. Much of the mining
that takes place at present is environmentally disastrous and wasteful in terms of the minerals lost. The Mining Faculty at
the University of Guyana should be twinned with appropriate faculties in Brazil and Venezuela to upgrade mining technology
in Guyana. The PNCR should be in the vanguard of this process. The manufacture of equipment, of engines and of river craft
in Guyana will take development several notches higher and eliminate the backwardness on which the narcotics traders feed.
The third macro-economic aspect, namely the processing of food and the manufacture of raw materials can be
developed by similar leads taken by an aggressive PNCR. In respect of food manufacture, Brazil is very advanced. Why is Guyana,
a next door neighbour to Brazil, unable to can water coconut juice? Why is the production and export of jams and jellies limited
to picayune operations? The answer. The ZERO SUM outlook, the closeting of networks to a selected group, the monopoly of pharmaceutical
and food processing operations in the hands of a clique, the monopoly of stock feed manufacture in a similar fashion.
In these circumstances, the PNCR whines each week, in press statements, begging for miniscule non-strategic
benefits. Big Daddy, in response, condescends to grant a concession or two. The PNCR, in exemplification of its ingrained
dependency syndrome, gloats at achieving a miniscule triumph or two. It is the worst example of the mentality of enslaved
minds. It is a disgrace.
Upgrades of reading skills are available. Upgrades of food processing know how are available. Upgrades of
mining technology are available. Diamond cutting skills, such as Dr. Grantley Waldron would like to employ, are available
in India. Manufacture of mining equipment can be undertaken. Small engine manufacture is a possibility. Small river craft
manufacture can be undertaken. But the VISION is not there in the agenda of the PNCR.
Lee Kwan Yew (who is an autocrat and whose approach should be corrected for its authoritarianism) does point
to leadership attributes that we will do well to embrace. Leadership attributes, Lee says are: (1) VISION (2)
COMPETENCE (3) MANAGERIAL ABILITY (4) HONESTY (5) HUMILITY (6) ACCOUNTABILITY.
None, not one, of these attributes is evident in the PNCR leadership. Most important in the list of six attributes
is that of VISION. Without VISION, leadership is not possible. Is VISION present in our leadership? The answer is NO. So the
followership is VISION LESS also.
E. THE ROLE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
While the PNC made huge mistakes in the design of the local government system, the division of the country
into ten regions provides the basis for people participation in the management of the country. Georgetown and Region Four
provide the examples on which the system can function.
Both Georgetown and Region Four have witnessed huge housing developments from questionable sources of finance.
In Region Four, there is the spectacular achievement of SPLASHMINS and the extensive housing estates of Buddy Shivraj and
of Roger Khan. These are sitting ducks of sources of finance for development.
The PNCR has the most seats in the Region Four Democratic Council. In a decision of unimaginable stupidity,
the PNCR joined with the PPP to achieve majority control of the Council. The obvious alliance that the PNCR should have sought
was that of joining with the AFC.
With the majority control of the PNCR and the AFC, property taxation should have been pursued that would
have made Region Four wealthy.
This is a somewhat complicated matter. It is complicated because Guyana has, in its laws, a wealth tax that
was passed with the advice of Nicholas Kaldor by the first Jagan Government of 1957 to 1964. The property tax is obsolete
and should be taken off the law books. [property tax is obsolete? Property taxes are what pay
for a lot of services, including education at the local level all throughout the US!! One of the reasons for the disparity
in services from community to community. Property taxes should be kept, with lower income communities subsidized by the central
govt to ensure a minimum level of services to all Guyanese. On further reading what was really meant was that property tax
in Guyana needs modernization]
The second complication is that of evaluating properties for taxation. The backwardness of the country is evident in
the fact that all wealth taxation was evaluated by an old man who is now dead. What is required is a system of up-to-date
market values of properties that can be achieved by the valuation experts of the fire insurance companies. Fire insurance
companies value houses all the time for the purpose of insuring houses against loss by fire. These values can be obtained
from the valuation experts and used as a basis for property taxation. The Government would be opposed to the approach because
it would be obliged to pay property tax on Government buildings and on embassy buildings and on the buildings of legations.
But Jagdeo’s larger objection would be the fact that his supporters would be required to pay substantial taxes.
If the PNCR, with the AFC, has the majority in Region Four, it can battle with the Government on both the
valuation of the properties and on the rate of taxation.
The rate of taxation is the more contentious area. The extra ordinarily large properties of SPLASHMINS, BUDDY
SHIVRAJ, ROGER KHAN and similarly huge holders of wealth should be required to pay a progressive property tax, that is, the
property tax rate would be higher for more valuable properties.