September 30, 2016

Dr Ramharack has much to contribute to Guyana

Dear Editor,
Reference is made to Sultan Mohammed’s retort to Dr Ramharack’s commentary (Guyana Times, March 4) on “Jagan’s legacy has led to a politically dysfunctional society”.  I do agree with Brother Sultan Mohammed that Dr Ramharack needs to come to Guyana to muddy his feet in the politics to help guide change.
Dr Ramharack is a scholar par excellence. He is well-grounded in Guyanese politics and the Guyanese community in the greater New York area, playing a very critical role in the protest movement for the restoration of democracy in Guyana. Dr Ramharack was always an objective political analyst as I found in my relationship, and as our friend Vassan Ramracha would attest, when we were undergraduate students at City College and graduate students at NYU.
I have known Dr Ramharack since September 1977 when we were freshmen at CCNY and founded student clubs (and later political organisations) along with Vassan Ramracha and several other students to advocate for free and fair elections in Guyana. Prior to that, he was a participant in the student protest movement on the Corentyne in February and March 1977 when my teachers at Corentyne High School were politically victimised by the PNC dictatorship even though they were not involved in any political movement; Walter Rodney, Eusi Kwayana, Omowale, Rupert Roopnaraine, Fr Malcolm Rodrigues, Nigel Westmaas, etc, supported that protest movement in the name of justice.
Dr Ramharack’s struggle for free and fair elections continued after undergraduate studies when we both enrolled as graduate students in political science at New York University. And we both wrote countless essays on Guyana’s politics since 1977 as well as met Dr Jagan on several occasions, interviewing him for articles in community newspapers and for our research as part of our (MA) theses and (PhD) dissertations. Jagan spent long hours with us at the global conference of People of Indian Origin held at the Sheraton in July 1989 discussing Guyana’s politics. I also spent hours interviewing him in July 1988 at the Fourth Academic Conference of Indians in the Diaspora that I helped organise at Columbia University.
As a Marxist, Jagan naively felt he could solve Guyana’s ethnic conflict with appeasement and economic development. Obviously, he failed as has everyone else who tried to find a solution to ethnic conflict around the globe. Even the great Karl Marx and all the other Communists including Lenin, Stalin, Bukharain, Luxembourg, Trotsky, etc. have failed in their theses on resolving ethnic conflict.
Jagan attacked the Western powers as imperialists and destroyed Indian leaders (BS Rai, JB Singh, Latchman Singh, etc) who took a different position from him resulting in loss of support and the Government in 1964. Had Jagan approached the racial conflict head on (rather than hoping it would disappear over time as most Marxists felt), Guyana would have been a different society today.
After the restoration of democracy in 1992, the PPP alienated and isolated prominent Indian leaders including Paul Nehru Tennassee (DLM leader). And over the last decade, others were also marginalised including Yesu Persaud, Ralph Ramkarran, Moses Nagamootoo, Ravi Dev, Rhyaan Shah, Malcolm Harripaul, etc). This chiselled away at support for the Party resulting in it losing support. The Party should learn from those blunders and reach out to others.
Contrary to what the leadership of the PPP feels, the Party cannot win an election in the current atmosphere of fear and allegations of rigging. Therefore, PPP has to approach politics from a pragmatic perspective – relieve itself of the dead wood and work with other political and civic organisations to expand its base to guard against rigging. More importantly, it must be willing to transform its leadership towards youths, reconcile with those who it alienated, and reach out to new players including other parties. Dr Ramharack can provide guidance in this direction as Sultan pleads. Dr Ramharack has much to contribute on the ground in addition to political thought.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram

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