The State was invented to stand between man and the law of the jungle. But one of its early conceptualisers called it a “Leviathan”, a very large animal that could literally devour men. For the present generation, the most startling revelation coming out of the Rodney CoI has to be the subversion by the PNC regime of the State as an entity that did start to devour our people, Rodney being only the most famous, at the behest of the “Comrade Leader”, Forbes Burnham.
The subversion began when the 1968 elections were rigged. In June, according to US declassified files, “Burnham stated unequivocally that he plans to conduct the registration and voting in such a manner that the PNC will emerge with an absolute majority in the Guyana National Assembly. Burnham said that he will never again allow the life of his government to depend upon his coalition partner Peter D’Aguiar and that if the voting should turn out in such a manner that he could not form a government without the help of D’Aguiar, he would refuse to form a government. Burnham said that he plans to register 17, 18, 19 and 20-year-old PNC adherents (minimum voting age is 21 years) to make up part of the vote he needs and will direct his campaign in such a way as to attract enough additional East Indian voters to put the PNC approximately on a par with the PPP in Guyana. The additional votes he would need to give the PNC an absolute majority would come from the overseas Guyanese.”
After he had granted himself a majority and had no need to placate his UF coalition partner, he rigged the 1973 elections, using the GDF to transport all ballots to Camp Ayanganna, where ballots were switched to give the PNC an unassailable two-thirds majority. The following year, Burnham issued the grandiosely named “Declaration of Sophia”: “the (PNC) should assume unapologetically its paramountcy over the Government which is merely one of its executive arms.”
The policy defined in the Declaration of Sophia rested on three main pillars. In 1975, the party and the State were fused in a creation known as ‘Office of the General Secretary of the PNC and Ministry of National Development’. This new body was effectively the administrative arm of the paramountcy doctrine. Public funds were officially channelled into the hands of the ruling party.
The Ministry’s main work involved the mobilisation of public servants and schoolchildren to ensure their presence at rallies addressed by Forbes Burnham. The Ministry also organised ‘developers courses’ for senior public servants at which cooperative socialism and the paramountcy doctrine were the principal subjects for analysis. These live-in courses which have been described as party indoctrination were compulsory. David Granger ran comparable courses in the Army.
“A further expression of paramountcy was the shifting of institutional loyalties of the armed forces and the police to party leaders and away from the titular Head of State. Symbolic of the fact that the aims of the ruling party were the first consideration in the dispensing of justice, the party flag was flown over the Court of Appeal. Public directives were given to judges which were later followed by the passage of the Administration of Justice Act.”
The second pillar on which the PNC built its paramountcy doctrine was the extension of the armed forces from 1974 with the creation of the Guyana National Service (GNS) followed in 1976 by the formation of the People’s Militia and a sixfold increase in defence allocation.
The third pillar illustrates the direct political control of State sector workers. This has proved to be the most effective method of keeping the labour force submissive. Publicity surrounding dismissal of workers for political reasons served to produce an atmosphere of caution and fear which was reinforced by the statement of Burnham “If I fire you, you remain fired.”
Guyana must guard against a repetition of history.