The WPA had an in­flated es­ti­ma­tion of their sup­port

Stabroek News Sunday - - EDITORIAL -

Dear Ed­i­tor,

I re­fer to the rather star­tling claim in Mr Tacuma Ogun­s­eye’s let­ter, ‘I con­cen­trate on the African com­mu­nity so it can develop pro­gres­sive politics based on power-shar­ing’ (SN, April 4):

“I re­call in the run-up to the his­toric 1992 gen­eral and re­gional elec­tions with the ar­rival of Mr Ravi Dev and his ROAR party, Dev in­tro­duced the doc­trine (sic) that Africans can­not speak for In­di­ans and that the WPA was pro­mot­ing po­lit­i­cal de­cep­tion by mak­ing the claim that it is a multi-racial party… The 1992 elec­tions re­sulted in vic­tory for the PPPC and demon­strated that the Dev doc­trine worked to the ad­van­tage of that party.”

I re­call the facts quite dif­fer­ently. Firstly, Rise, Or­gan­ise And Rally (ROAR) ‒ against crime ‒ was not even formed un­til Jan 17, 1999 fol­low­ing the bru­tal at­tacks on In­di­ans in Ge­orge­town on Jan 12th 1998. Se­condly, Mr Ogun­s­eye is con­fus­ing the point we made to the po­lit­i­cal par­ties then about “what is” and what they thought “ought to be” on vot­ing pref­er­ences which came al­most a decade be­fore.

Since re­turn­ing in 1989, I found the po­lit­i­cal par­ties mak­ing all sorts of claims about their po­lit­i­cal sup­port. The WPA had an in­flated es­ti­ma­tion of their sup­port and this played a great part in the breakup of the ‘Pa­tri­otic Coali­tion for Democ­racy’ (PCD). This had been formed by op­po­si­tion par­ties op­pos­ing the il­le­gal PNC regime, and which most had hoped would con­test the elec­tions on a sin­gle slate.

In Aug 1991, some in­di­vid­u­als, ,in­clud­ing Bay­toram Ramharack, who was com­plet­ing his PhD dis­ser­ta­tion from NYU, and my­self, con­ducted what we be­lieve to be the first poll check­ing po­lit­i­cal pref­er­ences in Guyana. The poll, con­ducted un­der the name ‘Turkeyen Re­search and Polling In­sti­tute’ (TRPI) was pub­lished in the SN. Ex­pressed as a % of the to­tal elec­torate of 384,000, and com­par­ing the re­sults to the 1992 elec­tions shows:

1991 35.6

1992 42.5

% chg + 7.1 PNC WPA TUF DLM URP To­tal Not Vot­ing 33.3 1.6 0.8 0.4 0.3 78.9 78.9 +6.2 -2.6 -1.3 -3.3 -2.6


The WPA, how­ever, were still con­vinced they could win the elec­tions with their “real” multi-racial sup­port. A month af­ter the poll, in an in­terview of Septem­ber 15 1991, the WPA’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Dr Clive Thomas de­clared, “I re­ally do feel that the WPA will do ex­cep­tion­ally well in this elec­tion…even me who is con­sid­ered the most pes­simistic of the lead­er­ship in the party about our prospects.” In a De­cem­ber 1991 ar­ti­cle, a WPA ex­ec­u­tive on the PCD ve­he­mently re­jected the TRPI num­bers. Spec­u­lat­ing on the in­flu­ence of race (de­clin­ing), the youth fac­tor (in­creas­ing), new Indian lead­ers, crowd at­ten­dance, etc, he de­clared con­clu­sively: “I would put the PNC a con­sid­er­able dis­tance be­hind the WPA…Frankly I be­lieve it [PNC sup­port] to be around 10-12%.”

On Sept 30th 1992, five days be­fore the elec­tions I re­peated this point in a let­ter to and said, “Oct 5th will test our hy­poth­e­sis” (not “doc­trine”) about vot­ing pref­er­ences. The hy­poth­e­sis was vin­di­cated.

What brought about the col­lo­quy be­tween the WPA and my­self and Bay­toram Ramharack was the pub­li­ca­tion of an re­port on a Sept 15 WPA Kitty launch of its man­i­festo cap­tioned, ‘WPA says PPP is pre­dom­i­nantly an Indian racial party’ where Clive Thomas was quoted as say­ing those words. I said (SN, Sept 19, 1992) that “The WPA was play­ing a dan­ger­ous game” since, as the party claim­ing own­er­ship of the “multi-racial” space, it chose to only at­tack the PPP for its Indian sup­port base and not the PNC for its African sup­port base.

I pointed out, “In their con­stant drum­beat of an “Indian party” win­ning po­lit­i­cal power; of In­di­ans con­trol­ling eco­nomic power and hav­ing strong cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions and Africans los­ing it all…they are re­peat­ing the cam­paign of New Na­tion 1960-61 which cre­ated a mind­set in African Guyanese lead­ing di­rectly to the ri­ots of 1962.”

Yours faith­fully, Ravi Dev 27.1 4.2 2.1 3.7 2.9 75.6 75.6

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