A Caribbean Hero

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 01, 2019

“Me think he do something for the people. Me think he think back and he see the cries of the people them and he do that.”

—Mona, East Canje, Berbice, Stabroek News

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt was an ordinary political moment. The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of Guyana moved a routine non-confidence motion against David Granger-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU+AFC) when back-bencher Charrandas Persaud (AFC) surprised every member of Guyana’s National Assembly by supporting the motion.

Panic struck when Persaud announced his vote. Jermaine Figueira, Persaud’s colleague, lashed out in outrage: “What the f–k you doing?” Raw animal emotions trumped parliamentary dignity robbing the Assembly of “the protective layer of civility which makes political discourse possible” (Robert Darnton, New York Times, December 27). A moment of truth had arrived in the chamber.

Persuad was resolute in his refusal to support a government in which he had lost confidence. Ignoring Figueira’s insult and shouts by other members of the coalition, Persaud “calmly sipping from a glass of water, softly said, ‘Yes,'” (Newsday, December 25) thereby reiterating his support for the PPP’s motion.

Although he was a faithful member of the coalition government, the other members ignored him for much of his time in parliament. He was uncomfortable with the actions of a government that came into power asserting that it would fight rigorously against corruption but did not.

At the beginning of its term, the government raised the salary of its members twofold. Later, it displaced seven thousand sugarcane workers who it had promised to protect. Many of these displaced workers were Persaud’s constituents.

While his vote surprised his government colleagues, his constituents welcomed his political stance. Trilock Naresh, an East Canje Berbice resident supports Persaud’s action. He explained: “For what was going on in the past three and a half years, I feel good that he (Persaud) do something about it. This government was pressuring the people, the working class people, especially the sugar workers and I think he come to realize [this] because he living in an area where people are suffering” (Stabroek News, December 25).

Persaud remained unapologetic about how he voted. After casting his vote on Friday 21 December, he told the media that he was at peace with what he had done. He said: “If I die now because people may not be happy with what I have done I will die a happy person. I have a clear conscience.”

The ruling coalition felt betrayed by Persaud’s vote. Last Sunday, APNU supporters met at the Paradise Primary School to lick their wounds. Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams did not have kind words for Persuad’s action. He said: “Our government did not fall or collapse, our government was betrayed! But Judas’ betrayal of Christ did not destroy Christ’s work; rather, it enforced his disciples and followers to continue his teachings, making Christianity one, if not the world’s biggest religion” (Guyana Chronicle, December 24.)

These words wounded Persuad deeply. He said: “They called me a traitor. A sellout. [They say] You should die. I heard that. Well, I will die. It is not my ambition to live forever. I am a Hindu. I believe in Karma” (Stabroek News).

Members of each party turned to their religious beliefs for comfort. Persaud explained that his belief in karma (or reincarnation) dictated his action. In following his conscience, he was sure that even if he were killed for his actions (and the threats against his life were real), he would return to this earth in a higher form of life.

Genevieve Allen, chairman of Region Four, also interpreted events from her Christian perspective. She said: “When it happened, I’ll tell you what comforted me. I went to the Bible with Joseph’s story after he was stoned by his brothers where he was dumped into a pit; where he was dumped into prison and out of that prison he became a prince. When his brothers came to him and they begged forgiveness, he said: ‘Man meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”

In the end, what began as a political matter ended up as a religious matter, an epic struggle between two different belief systems. Members of each party believed that s/he was acting out of deep religious principles that guided their political practices.

Dr. Karen Cummings, Minister with the Ministry of Public Health, also took comfort in her religious beliefs. She affirmed: “Though we cannot understand because our minds are finite, we give way to infinite wisdom above. So, it might be a blessing in disguise. For some who were complacent, maybe it’s a wake-up call. But aluta continua, the struggle continues!” (Guyana Chronicle).

Fate is a fickle thing. We may use extravagant philosophizing and political science discourses to explain what led to Persaud’s vote. To this observer there is a simple explanation. A woman who sells chickens a few house lots away from Persaud’s residence provided a partial answer when she said: “It really makes me feel that he think back for he people. We proud of he.”

Persaud must be respected for the action he took. He listened to his conscience and his constituents and shook up the political world around him. That, to me, is the true measure of a statesman.

15 thoughts on “A Caribbean Hero”

  1. A man of the people by voting to his conscience rather than towing party line. Amazing; the Gandhian philosophy i.e., politics and religion are inseparable manifesting itself after the outrage in parliament. The backbencher does have power and must use it fairly and justly when it matters especially for the people he represents.

  2. Coalition governments rarely reaches its full term in office. The reason is quite simple, the dominant party within the group tends to do what they feel is right. Charandass was subjected to this miserable marriage as he had to tow party line and vote according to PNC policies!

    He did well and displayed great courage in voting according to conscience. It is rarely demonstrated in the sphere of politics.

    When Kamla became Prime Minister, the forces within the party worked assiduously to dethrone her. MSJ lead by figure head David Abdullah and pro PNMite Ancil Roget sought to influence and pressure the COP into a grand well staged walkout!. They failed but like termite in a house they took to the streets wearing bandanas etc in a form of determine resistance. Roget is on record as saying he will be greatly pleased to see Kamla handcuff and carted off to jail. As things turn out Roget voice has been silence confined to the dustbins of history.

    If the COP had enough political power to created an imbalance the PP they would have used it. That is the dangerous nature of coalitions…

  3. Charrandas Persaud is not a hero, he is a zero. Selwyn Cudjoe is just a political opportunist and political entrepreneur. He has no consistent view of things; he is all over the place. Saying this to please one political group, saying that to please the other. He is like Humpty Dumpty after the fall, pieces of this, pieces of that. The situation in Guyana has nothing to do with “thinking back for he people” (and who is “he people”? – it is the crux of the matter). If he was “thinking back for he people”, he could have done it a long time ago, when sugar workers were “displaced”, (displaced by what or whom?). No he did it at a time when huge, rich oil fields were discovered. Guyana has a fortune to be inherited from the black gold, and who inherits it is the issue. Will it be the ethnic PPP, under Bharrat Jagdeo, whose gansterism is well known, or the coalition AFC/APNU? The present parliamentary crisis is a matter of deciding to whom go the spoils of the fortune to be inherited from oil. Cudjoe’s article is just an obscurantist covering up of the real issue. Is Selwyn Cudjoe now turning his eyes to Guyana to market his political commentaries, curry favoring with one ethnic group although it means selling out “he people”? How opportunism destroys the soul.

  4. Mr Birdie McClean, i could not have said it better. Mr Cujoe in his advance age, seems to be all over the place, the term hero is accredited to any thing. Mr Persaud position is what Aphanjat is all about, a cell placed in the coalition Gov’t by the PPP. presently, Mr Persaud , the traitor that he is, is lecturing to his people in New york and Canada , on why they should vote PPP. Oil is what this whole scenario is being played out to be, From praising and writing about pass Slavers to hero worshipping Indentured TRAITORS is what Mr Cujoe is all about while playing both sides. Mr Cujoe seems to have forgotten the reasons the Indentures was taken from India , and that was to be a Bunker between the Africans and their march for better wages, SCAB LABOR. That viene have continued in every aspect of the present society.As we speak, Mr Persaud is being investigated for receiving renumerations from the PPP for his Gov’t busting vote , is this what one should call a Caribbean HERO ?

    1. Indentured Laborers were brought from India to the Caribbean to work in the sugarcane fields because Lazyass Negroes did not want to work anymore. They will only work under a whip. Slavery was created by Lazy Negroes.

  5. “Mr Persaud position is what Aphanjat is all about, a cell placed in the coalition Gov’t by the PPP. presently, Mr Persaud , the traitor that he is, is lecturing to his people in New york and Canada , on why they should vote PPP “

    That is a ridiculous assumption. Dr.Cudjoe got it right this time. Perhaps you did not read the article. Race triumphs over all because for some people, that is all they got to hold on to. There are many other Indians in the coalition, the lady who moan for about 2 two minutes…no,no,no, no Charan change that, change it now, no no no….no Charan.. is an indian lady. The gentleman who vote before Charandass was an indian man. So I don’t see the plausibility of your argument.

    Charandass vote along conscience line when it was his opportunity. He saw his supporters placed on the bread line by PNC policies. Every time he met his supporters he was reminded of the PNC policies! It was a lot to deal with. Finally he mustered the courage to stand for his supporters…..

  6. cooper’s..”a bunker between the africans and their march for better wages”(ie higher wages), well that didn’t work out.couple of a hundred years later demand for higher wages in the oil sector got what?, a close refinery and bp took their oil rig somewhere else. yup keep shooting yourself in the foot.

  7. When Dr. Cudjoe wrote articles on the exploitation of Africans in the Caribbean, he was hailed as a hero and spokesperson of the African Diaspora. He was also branded as a racist by his political detractors and accused of spreading hate and division.
    When he released his latest historical book on Burnley, he was accused by some as incorrectly focussing on the history of slave masters. He was lectured by some to dedicate his energies on the history of slaves rather than their owners. This work is deserving of praise rather than ridicule.
    Now many are objecting to his description of Persaud as a Caribbean hero. I am not familiar enough with Guyana’s politics to discern whether Persaud is a hero, but I do know that it’s about time that we stop uttering the old, tired rhetoric characterizing Indentured Indians and Slavery. We have advanced way beyond these ancient, historical, stereotypical platitudes.
    Burnley’s history is my history as a national of T&T. The history of slavery is also my history as a citizen of T&T. We are all part of each other’s history regardless of race or religion. We can only grow and evolve as a nation if we begin thinking as people of one nation and retire some of these prejudices and suspicions which are hindering our progress.

  8. People sometimes twist logic into all types of pretzels to justify an argument. Let’s look at this argument by our good friend Mamoo, who has written two comments so far on Selwyn Cudjoe’s assertion that Charrandas Persaud is a hero. In the first comment his argument is that the dominant party do “what they feel is right”. Coalition parties are dangerous because they can be undermined by minor parties in the coalition. In the case of the UNC, Kamla was undermined by termites like Abdullah (and Roget). That was bad. In the case of the AFC/APNU, the PNC (which Mamoo asserts is the dominant party) was brought down by Persaud. That was a good thing. In his second comment, he amplifies the goodness of Persaud’s action. So coalition parties can lead to bad consequences if they are the UNC coalition, except if they are the AFC/APNU coalition. In the case of the UNC coalition, the danger of coalition parties arises, they lead to bad behavior on the part of Abdullah and Roget who it would seem had no reason to go against Kamla, except their inner wickedness, they being termites and all. In the case of the AFC/APNU miraculously it leads to good things, Persaud led by his inner goodness to rejecting the PNC policies. So coalition parties can be good and bad; good if the termites bring down the house, it being a PNC house. Bad if the termites bring down the house, it being a UNC house. The real implication is that the UNC is good, the PNC is bad. It is a tribal, ethnic, essentialist assertion and really proves my assertion that the whole crisis in Guyana is caused by an ethnic conflict, and that conflict is about to whom goes the spoils of the huge oil deposits that were recently found.

  9. “…it’s about time that we stop uttering the old, tired rhetoric characterizing Indentured Indians and Slavery. We have advanced way beyond these ancient, historical, stereotypical platitudes.” “The history of slavery is also my history as a citizen of T&T.” Tman.
    What is this “old, tired rhetoric characterizing … Slavery”? Is the history of slavery also everybody’s history as a citizen of T&T? The Jewish people lost six million of their own kind in the holocaust. Out of that tribulation came the response – Never Again. Never again the conditions and circumstances that would lead to another holocaust. To accomplish this, they knew that they should never forget the holocaust, print it in their minds what could happen if they forgot. I totally agree with this position. Slavery was a holocaust of greater magnitude than the Jewish holocaust. More than 30 to 60 million Africans were estimated to have died in that African holocaust. Africans also should never forget. Print it in your minds what could happen if you forget. There are more than 300 million people of African descent in the Americas. We can see the rising racism against people of African descent in the America. In January, Jair Bolsonaro became President of Brazil, there are approximately 100 million people of African descent in Brazil. Bolsonaro’s racist comments and objectives are well known. Remember the African holocaust, print it in your minds what could happen if you forget. Slavery is not an academic fact for people of African descent that they could think about as any other academic historical fact. They are still living the consequences of slavery. In Trinidad, after working the plantations for centuries, Africans were “emancipated”. Slave owners were compensated for losing their slaves; slaves were financially punished for being emancipated. The period following “emancipation” was one in which Africans were discouraged from owning land, they wanted Africans to offer their labour for survival rather than working the land, while newly arrived indentures were granted land in return for staying in Trinidad. The consequence of this was that Africans were cooped up in places like Laventille, etc. No land, no bank loans to build up themselves. The right wing interprets this as Africans are lazy, they can’t move on. In fact, they were victims of colonial policies arising from slavery. So the history of slavery is not the same for all groups in Trinidad, some suffered the consequences, others obtained largesse. We are in a moment of time in the Americas where danger signals are in the air. The racist right wing is on the rise. People of African descent are, as usual the main targets of this racism. The objective of this new racism is to seize the wealth and resources of the various countries. The right wing in Brazil means to exploit the wealth of the country, to institute a trickle up economics; people of African descent will be the primary victims of these new policies. As wealth trickles up, poverty trickles down. In Guyana, it is another attempt to seize the wealth expected from oil finds. People of African descent should say – Never Again. Do what it takes so that it really becomes Never Again.

  10. Implicit in your lengthy posturing is the fact that you would prefer the African Party to “seize the wealth expected from oil finds.”

    1. The AFC/APNU is a coalition party, and you imply you would prefer the Indian Party, because it’s either A or B.

      1. The resources of any nation are owned by all of its citizens of every generation.
        It seems that many Afro-Caribbean expats are negatively influenced and affected by the racism which they experience when living overseas.
        Very often Caribbean racial cohesion suffers as a result even though the same conditions are not applicable here.

  11. I never thought I could bring myself to agree with Dr Cudjoe but he is right on the money. Notwithstanding all racist views expressed above there are a few observations I would like to make:

    1. In a Parliamentary Democracy whenever a Government loses a non-confidence vote in Parliament it is required to resign.
    2. The natural resources of any country does not belong exclusively to any one group, whether black white, coolie, 2 % or otherwise. Rather it is owned collectively by the “public” to be managed in trust by the elected Gov’t.
    3. In Guyana, it appears the Granger Gov’t is clutching at every straw to hand on in power for another 2 years. If they are so sure of their support of the public at large then they can renew their mandate with new elections. Seems they are afraid to do this.
    4. We had a parallel situation here in the last T&T elections where the Opposition (now the Gov’t) fooled the electorate with a number of lies and false information (emailgate, ganjagate, corruption etc) none of which has been proven 3 years later despite the vast resources of the Gov’t in power.
    5.When are you f***s in T&T going to stop looking at everything form a racist viewpoint. For over 50 years you have followed the same path which got you to where you are now. For once put aside your differences and petty grievances and work together for your future and your children future.

    1. Again the disguised racism, you are really not fooling anyone with your platitudes, the racism shines through. Try to keep the conversation going without the rumshop cussing.

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