The People’s Progressive Party (PPP)’s time in opposition was notably characterized by an aggressive dismantling of nearly every policy position held by the APNU+AFC Government—a coalition now divorced but still serving as the joint opposition.
Drawing the battle lines on a weekly basis was the PPP’s chief chessman of political warfare, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. Back then, he used his press conferences to either level allegations of corruption and gross mismanagement against the APNU+AFC regime or explain how their policies for the oil and gas sector reflected an all-time low of incompetence.
Many would think that after assuming office, those political war drums would have been put to rest. Yet, the percussive sounds of the PPP that remind the opposition’s track record still reverberate throughout the nation.
Specifically, in the months leading up to Local Government Elections, Jagdeo resurrected his weekly press briefings at Freedom House, which he now uses to crush policy positions presented by Norton and his advisors.
At last week’s engagement, for example, the Vice President expended almost an hour discussing Norton’s viewpoints on housing, oil, and other national issues, all of which he believed proved the APNU to be a “wishy-washy” party.
The consequence of such an approach on a weekly basis is that the Vice President often finds himself in a repetitive lamentation of previous positions. Though this can be a painstaking exercise, it is a price he is willing to pay as the alternative, which is to leave “potentially dangerous rhetoric” for Guyanese to discern and/or ignore, is a risk he is not willing to take.
“For many years, we thought that if you work hard, you work in a conscientious way, you address people’s concerns, that they will see this and you don’t need to do much more. But often, you can have a counter-narrative that is pushed by a group that has no basis in fact because it’s emotive and that can distort every single thing you do,” the former Head of State said.
The Vice President also explained at his press briefing that the PPP learned, perhaps the hard way, that the electorate can be impressionable.
In earlier governments, he said that the PPP indeed played the demure card by ignoring a range of racially inciting claims that were espoused by the APNU+AFC faction, such as the allegation that it was responsible for over 400 young Afro-Guyanese being killed. “We said people will know that it’s nonsense,” Jagdeo. Unfortunately, he alluded, such a claim took root in the fertile minds of many citizens.
That particular narrative was one that many Guyanese believed to be true, but an extensive analysis by Stabroek News and other subsequent reports later proved this to be false.
In this new era, particularly where Guyana is expected to undergo an oil-inspired transformation, the Vice President believes there can be no room for allowing certain criticisms or perspectives to sit in the public domain without rebuttal.
“We’ll robustly take on any attempt to disparage or distort the record of the PPP, whether it comes from a political party, no matter how useless they are, whether it comes from an individual or an NGO, no matter how hypocritical they are, we will take on what they say because we recognize that in this world, people often need to be reminded of things,” the Vice President said.
He concluded: “My job is to dislodge the barnacles before they catch hold and destroy this country…That is the role I must play as The General Secretary of the party.”