Henry Jeffrey’s litany of errors must not stand

Dear Editor,
Please permit me to respond to Dr. Henry Jeffrey’s letter titled “Randolph Persaud exposes the PPP”. Rather than dealing with the genuine issues I raised in my critique of Dr. Jeffrey’s missive, the former PPP/C cabinet member-turned-sour offered only the most predictable of unsubstantiated innuendos, combined with a litany of elementary errors. These errors cannot stand without a response.
The careful reader would, no doubt, have already seen the misleading title of Jeffrey’s letter (above), because the only things I “exposed” were his inflammatory rhetoric. Letters like the one under consideration here are increasingly being fomented in what I see as a form of racial populism. Regrettably, instead of the informed and progressive ‘Black Nationalism’ of Walter Rodney, today we have the regressive, conflict-provoking, anti-democratic, and anti-patriotic deposits of those bent on disruption, disturbance, and destruction.
How sad it is that a former PPP/C cabinet minister has become a disciple of those who advocate authoritarianism in the name of freedom.
Editor, allow me to respond to some specific errors, distortions, and willful provocations informed by racial populism, which are evident in the letter under review here.
Firstly, Jeffrey states that “even the colonialists sought to hide their buying of votes, but today, the PPP is attempting to make of a virtue of purchasing political allegiance and votes.” This bit was in Jeffrey’s original piece, but was repeated in his reply to me. My response is to ask Jeffrey if he recognizes any of the names below, and if so, which ones he thinks are PPP/C candidates due to “purchasing political allegiance.”
Here is only a short list, Sir – Odayson Audwin Ashby, Jeremy Garrett, Quincy Anderson, Patricia Chase-Green, Wilburn Lashley, Alana Persaud, Terry Albert Marques, Caeron Andrew Harte, Andre Dmitri Jackman, Arsenio Javon Beaton, Coleen A. Sampson, Alfonso Fidel De Armas-Archbold, Stephen Anthony Jacobs, Asha Wallace, Jewula Angela Cesar, Dion Yonge, Faye Andrea Matthews, Ronetta A. Small, Delroy N. Williams, Malcolm Ferreira, Trichria Richards, (Georgetown) Forbes Moore, Ava Smith, Paul Tyndell, Rawlin Teitch, Shurdon Murray, Dwayne Charles, Oneika Williams, Ryan Richards, Audwin Rutherford, Erol Roethof, Melinda Fredericks, Renna Fredericks, Sharmella Solomon, Candacy Allicock, Keith Ferrier, Nathoya Benn, Reycia Nedd Sherry Fyffe-James, Sancha Halley, Kenisha Dey-Venture, Nikita Roberts, Rufina Allicock, Akeba Richmond, Tanella Croal, Trevon Yaw, Warren Wintz, and Lorna Hall.
Jeffrey makes the following wild claim – “The PPP intention is to impoverish and degrade African individuals and institutions to force them into its ranks…” I challenge Dr. Henry Jeffrey to provide even the most minimum evidence that any former APNU (or Afro-Guyanese) supporter of the PPP/C has been “forced” into switching. Jeffrey, and others within the racial populist mindset, quarrel that Afro-Guyanese do not get contracts. Yet, the ones who do are accused of either becoming house slaves or being subjected to some form of coercion.
Dr. Jeffrey holds a doctorate in political science, and he should therefore be quite familiar with the work of Stuart Hall. I would especially like to commend Hall’s brilliant lecture titled “Race – the Floating Signifier”, in which Hall calls for a politics without guarantees. This means you cannot, and should not, derive people’s politics from the appearance, or based on generic allusions to the past. Moreover, as a social scientist, Jeffrey already knows, or should know, that ‘intention’ is the methodological graveyard of scholars who generalize about the social and the political.
Jeffrey sought refuge in the overused ‘chant’ “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” I agree, and this is why we should not forget the 2020 attempt at Electoral Grand Theft by the APNU-AFC and those attached to authoritarian social forces in this country. We should not forget party paramountcy of the PNC; we should not forget the Ministry of National Development which was an instrument for policing the Public Service to the last detail; we should not forget the staggering incompetence in the management of the Guyanese economy, so much so that Guyana was the only country in the world with a lower per capita GDP at the end of the 1980s compared to the beginning of that decade; we should not forget maximum coercion exerted on young men, and especially women, to go to the bush to do National Service in order to get into UG; we should not forget senior officials having to do gardening chores at Hope Estate; we should not forget Walter Rodney, Father Darke, Vincent Teekah; and we should certainly not forget the rice-roti days of near starvation. Yes, Dr. Jeffrey, we won’t forget.
Dr Jeffrey has every right to factor slavery into his analysis. In fact, not doing so would constitute historical and epistemological negligence. All Guyanese should look carefully at our historical structures configured through conquest, colonization and foreign interference. These developments should inform a politics of solidarity, rather than one of using the past as a ‘political alibi’ for violent rhetoric.
Political differences should be just that – differences based on ideology and policy preferences. What we should not do is to make emotional appeals that give succor to ethno-racial divisions, disturbance and violence.

Dr Randolph Persaud