The great betrayal: W. Rodney and R. Ramkarran – Freddie Kissoon

The great betrayal: W. Rodney and R. Ramkarran


During the days of the Forbes Burnham regime when the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) bore the brunt of Burnham’s anger, the consensus among academics and political observers was that there was a mindset inside the Burnham Government that felt Walter Rodney was extremely impertinent to attack an African-led Government, therefore more attention should be paid to undermining the WPA than the overtly Indian adversary, the PPP.

Political activists and analysts argued that Burnham was implacably opposed to Rodney, Clive Thomas, Eusi Kwayana, Andaiye, Bonita Bone, Dr. Omawale, Tacuma Ogunseye and David Hinds, among others in the WPA, because he felt that they were betraying their race in trying to weaken a government whose fulcrum rested upon the embrace of African Guyanese.  

As the confrontation between the Burnham regime and the WPA escalated, the PPP was a forgotten footnote in the minds of the PNC leadership, even though that party’s activists were perpetuating arson on the sugar estates. In the midst of this ongoing battle, African Guyanese from the WPA were victimized, while virtually not one Indian leader from the PPP was touched.

The analysis of this phenomenon in the seventies concluded that African detractors of the PNC Government had to be repressed, because at stake was a competition for African consciousness. And it appeared that Walter Rodney was winning the race on that count. The more African activists that came on the scene fighting Burnham, the weaker the fulcrum became. Burnham’s battle with Rodney had to be a zero sum encounter because Rodney had penetrated the army, Buxton, Linden and other African constituencies.

An identical situation exists at the present juncture with an Indian regime, but in the reverse way. This time the ethnic virus afflicts the Indian party in power. It first started with Moses Nagamootoo, and it has headed in the direction of Ralph Ramkarran. The Nagamootoo “betrayal” has made it impossible for Ramkarran to remain untouched, especially after Nagamootoo’s phenomenal energy in reducing the Indian party to a minority entity after the 2011 general elections.

The present vilification of Ralph Ramkarran evokes strong memories of the venom that greeted Walter Rodney by the Burnham administration. The researcher can juxtapose the different treatment for Dr. Henry Jeffrey and Ralph Ramkarran. Dr. Jeffrey spent seventeen years in the PPP Government since 1992. In 2011, he publicly endorsed APNU in the election campaign. Then in 2012 he became a columnist with a newspaper that the ruling junta has dismissed as pro-opposition. In many of his columns, Dr. Jeffrey points to deadly political perversities in the PPP Government.

To date, the PPP leadership has virtually ignored Dr. Jeffrey who holds a post-retirement lecturership at UG. In contrast, the knives which once visited Nagamootoo have been turned on Ramkarran. Why? Because we are seeing the Walter Rodney syndrome in reverse. A top Georgetown lawyer whose father Cheddi Jagan revered, Ramkarran is a high profile Indian politician. His words hardly matter to African villagers where he has no niches. But his words will resonate with Indian people.

Like Nagamootoo, Ramkarran is now seen as the great betrayer. According to his inflexible critics in the PPP leadership, he has betrayed his race in the face of political wars with the PNC. Ramkarran then must be astute enough to recognize the inevitability – that as his Stabroek News columns grow, so will the anger of his former colleagues in the PPP, as will the attacks on him. Jeffrey’s Stabroek News critiques do not matter to the PPP because he is not Indian; Ramkarran is.

This is what can be referred to as the ethnic tragedy of Guyana. Ethnocentric parties in Guyana feel that they must be protected by their ethnic base. Once assured of this racial consolidation, the party loses perspective, vision, humility and a sense of good governance. In the midst of this disarray, decent leaders from within the ethnocentric organization will demand responsible government and a commitment to moral and decent exercise of power.

Such humane power did not occur with the PNC under Burnham, and African intellectuals no longer could have tolerated Burnham’s autocracy. The same happened in Trinidad under Basdeo Panday and three strategically placed Indian politicians within Panday’s organization toppled him. The same is occurring inside the PPP. First there was Ramjattan. Next came Nagamootoo. Now Ramkarran has taken the stage. It didn’t matter to Rodney if Burnham was Black, brown or white. The deciding factor was his autocracy.

The identical thinking permeated Ramjattan, Nagamootoo and Ramkarran. Someone once said that the human being is essentially a decent creature. Once human decency exists, humans will choose that over racial identity.

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  • Deen  On 07/31/2013 at 1:16 pm

    This is an impressive article by Freddie Kissoon. He appears to have matured in his writing with less ranting. It is said a pen is mightier than the sword, but it takes a lot of skill and refinement.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 07/31/2013 at 3:42 pm

    Let us hope that the human decency within the PPP will triumph and break free from the ethnocentric politics that has dominated Guyana since its birth as a nation.

  • Thinker  On 08/01/2013 at 9:24 am

    Can someone ask the PPP General-Secretary if the PPP is still a Marxist-Leninist party?

  • Nrman Tewarie  On 06/20/2015 at 6:34 am

    Sorry Rosaline, it shows after 23 years in office, the human decency within the PPP has seeped out; If they still have adhered to their Marxist-Leninist leanings then they are doomed. God help us all! The PPP was only concerned about power, they have no love for their own followers, how can they govern the rest of Guyana? Thanks to this outstanding journalist who is not afraid to call a spade a spade. Freddie Kissoon should be given the highest Medal of Honor- The Cacique.

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