During their rule over the empire on which “the sun never sets”, the British insisted that, unlike the “settler colonies” such as Australia and Canada, the ones populated by non-European “natives” had to undergo a period of “tutelage” before they would be ready for independence.
This policy was greatly resented by the new leaders of the latter colonies, including then British Guiana, who insisted they were in no way inferior to the British in matters political. In fact, they revelled in one account that described them as politically “precocious”.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, after the PNC’s rule for 28 long years after independence and their latest 4 years at the helm, one has to ruefully concede that maybe the colonial power had a point on “tutelage”.
Obviously, the leaders could “read and write”, and therefore understand the tomes on politics and government; and, like Forbes Burnham, the British-trained lawyer, could regurgitate their ideas with great aplomb and eloquence.
The problem came from the question as to whether they and their societies could put those ideas into practice, so as to appreciate not just the words, but the spirit that gave life to the words. In a word, whether they had developed a tradition of governing for the welfare of the people. The British, after all, had developed their traditions from the time of their Magna Carta in 1215, and their habits of independence had percolated into all their institutions, not just at Westminster.
This is well illustrated in the famous remark by the Duke of Wellington: that the epoch-shaping Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon had been won “on the playing fields of Eton”.
He said this a decade after the battle, while looking at a game of cricket at Eton, the elite Grammar School on which our Queen’s College was modelled. He meant, of course, the games inculcated values that could guide one in all aspects of life. It was rather ironic that Burnham did in fact attend Queen’s, but, sadly, was not noted for his activities on the playing fields. He was to later mock Walter Rodney, who had to scale fences after being chased by his goons, for being a champion high jumper at Queen’s.
In cricket, for instance, there is the tradition of “walking” if the batsman knows he nicked the ball, even when it might not have been evident to the opposing side or umpire. This was illustrated in the 2011 World Cup, when a delivery from West Indies pacer Ravi Rampaul hit Tendulkar’s glove and carried through to the keeper. The umpire was stuck in two minds, but his predicament was resolved by the great man himself, as he decided to walk.
Even if one were inclined to give Burnham the benefit of the doubt for his acquiescence with the US/British ouster of the PPP in 1964, because his choice was, in the words of Tyrone Ferguson, “to survive sensibly or to court heroic death”, there is no gainsaying that he drove a stake into democratic practice in our land when he not only did not accept the notion of “walking” at the 1968 elections, but actually conspired to rig the elections and to do so until he died. While it is to his eternal credit that Desmond Hoyte decided to “walk” in 1992, we have to note that it was bitterly opposed by his then Prime Minister, Hamilton Green.
Green has continued to insist that Hoyte was “naïve” to accept the results of the elections, even though technically he was not actually walking, but accepting the decision of the voters. It is therefore not coincidental that Granger, the present leader of the PNC, who has boasted about fulfilling the legacy of Burnham and has honoured Green with the “Order of Roraima”, is adamant on his control over GECOM via his unilaterally appointed Chairman.
Whatever else may be said of the PPP, they accepted the “tie” in 2011, and “walked” in 2015. They have never betrayed our independence.