Last Friday night, after Charrandas Persaud voted his conscience on the PPP’s no-confidence motion, I fully expected that there would be a replay of “Black Friday 1962” as described in Martin Carter’s poem “when the sun and the streets exploded/and a city of clerks/turned a city of men”. I had always been troubled by this line which described in Fanonesque terms, a “catharsis” arising out of the violence and arson unleashed by PNC and UF supporters against the body and property of PPP supporters.
Fanon had been writing about the colonial subject, freeing themselves of colonialism through violence. “Decolonisation is the veritable creation of new men. But this creation owes nothing of its legitimacy to any supernatural power; the “thing” which has been colonised becomes man during the same process by which it frees itself.” On Black Friday 1962 in Guyana, the supporters of the PNC had been convinced by their leaders that it was the PPP and their supporters who were to bear the brunt of their anger against oppression for them to become “men”. In “Black Skin, White Masks”, Fanon had introduced the idea of ‘collective catharsis’: ‘[i]n every society, in every collectivity, exists – must exist – a channel, an outlet through which the forces accumulated in the forms of aggression can be released’.
And it has been so ever since with the PNC and its supporters. The PPP has been transmuted as the colonial oppressor with its racialized rule and who therefore must not be allowed to govern Guyana. The violent cathartic reaction against the PPP and its putative supporters continue to this day. In 1992, when the first “free and fair” elections in 28 years ended with a victory for the PPP, Hamilton Green of the PNC called out their supporters to attack the GECOM HQ in a cathartic frenzy and demanded that President Hoyte not accept the result. It took a call from the President of the US to Hoyte to ensure that democratic norms were followed.
But in 1997, Hoyte reverted to PNC form and their supporters launched massive protests that involved arson and violence against Indians in Georgetown. More catharsis. The PPP’s term of office was truncated by two years and massive constitutional changes introduced to include the Opposition in governance. However, after elections were held in 2001 and the PPP won once again, more violence and arson were unleashed. The need for catharsis is evidently insatiable once the PPP was in office.
This violence escalated exponentially after five escaped convicts holed up in Buxton and launched a frontal attack on the Government of Guyana – augmented, for good measure with terroristic attacks on presumed PPP Indian supporters in surrounding villages. More catharsis. The lassitude of the Security Forces, which had been described a “kith and kin” by PNC leader Desmond Hoyte, led to private squads being formed to take on and take out the forces of anarchy.
Against allegations that Government was involved in sponsoring one of these “Phantom Squads”, as the MP for ROAR, I joined in calls for an inquiry into the violence “with its epicentre in Buxton”. But at a “Rule of Law March”, which culminated at the Square of the Revolution with all the Opposition parties in attendance, I learnt a lesson that haunts me to this day. At the beginning of the event, there was a roll call of the “victims” of the violence – but not a single name of the dozens of Indians killed by the bandits and “Freedom Fighters” was mentioned. I pointed this out when my turn to speak came – but it was clear that Indian lives were incidental in the drive for “catharsis” by PNC supporters.
And we return from wherein I started: my apprehensions two Friday nights ago of another “cathartic” Black Friday. I was relieved with the immediate reaction of the PNC and AFC leadership in the National Assembly and with President Granger’s statement the following day, all supporting the verdict of Article 106 (6 and 7) that the Cabinet resign and a caretaker regime of the Government continue until the results of elections to be held in three months determine the members of the new Government.
However, the press conference held by Aubrey Norton last Friday was redolent of the attitude of the PNC which sees it as their God-given right to rule Guyana and would be willing to use violence to secure that right. Is more catharsis in the offing?