The word ‘Pharaoh’ and other abuse reverberated around downtown Georgetown a week and a half ago, directed to an embarrassed Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo. He was doing a ‘walkabout’ in support of vendors who had been displaced from around the Stabroek Market area. He may not have expected the vendors’ hostility because the last time he would have walked around Georgetown while President, with head in the air, chest puffed up and a phalanx of bodyguards, vendors would have given him a polite response, partly out of curiosity, partly out of respect and partly out of fear of the gun-toting bodyguards. Having fallen from grace, and not yet realizing it, the master practitioner of the politics of abuse expected applause but was instead on the receiving end of what he regularly dishes out to others.
The vending industry in downtown Georgetown has grown to massive proportions. For 23 years PPP/C governments did little to slow the growth of vending. No additional accommodation, save in Water Street, was provided. No rules to protect vendors, customers and the general public, were promulgated. Vending had become chaotic and posed serious environmental, health, traffic and other hazards. The inconvenience to the public and other business people was massive and growing.
The PPP/C governments’ permanent war with the City Council resulted in the gross deterioration of the city leading to an uncertain fate of flooding, debris, rubbish heaps, stench and dilapidation of City Council buildings, including the Kitty Market and City Hall. The citizens of Georgetown demonstrated their abhorrence of the neglect by reducing the number of PPP/C councilors from 8 in 1994 to 2 in 2016. On the occasion of the ‘walkabout’ they gave actual voice to their feelings when one in particular repeatedly shouted ‘Pharaoh’ as he passed by.
‘Pharaoh’ is the Georgetown slang used to denigrate habitual purchasers of certain favours, usually after dark. Even though during his presidency Mr. Jagdeo was a regular patron of several city’s nightclubs, no credible evidence has emerged that he is or was a purchaser. The vendor who shouted must therefore have been referring to the Egyptian Pharaoh who ruled until death and dictated their succession. Unlike Presidents Burnham and Jagan, who died in office, Mr. Jagdeo became a victim of the two-term limit but chose his successor. Now that the two-term limit has been thrown out as unconstitutional by former Chief Justice Ian Chang, if the appeals are unsuccessful, Mr. Jagdeo could become Guyana’s Pharaoh, choosing his successor again. What a horrifying thought! That explains the vendor’s visible and pronounced agitation.
At Mr. Jagdeo’s recent press conference, significantly, he departed from his usual expression of total disinterest in the presidency. This is what SN reported on 21/5/2016: “Questioned about his own ambitions for the 2020 presidency, Jagdeo, an already two-term president, said: “2020? I am yet to decide on that. It’s a long time away.” Mr. Jagdeo implies that the decision is his, not the Party’s. Already the (self) chosen one, the public can therefore understand the origin of the pejorative use of ‘Pharaoh’ in reference to Mr. Jagdeo by the vendor.
The press conference also dealt with the Party Congress. This is what the Party’s Constitution says: “Congress shall be the supreme authority of the Party and shall be convened by the Central Committee once every three years…..The main functions of the Congress shall be: to receive the report of the Central Committee and other Party Bodies and decide whether to accept or reject them; to review, amend and endorse the Constitution and Programme of the Party if necessary; to determine the general tactics and policy of the Party in relation to national and international issues; and to elect by secret ballot a Central Committee.”
As against those fundamental functions, which go to the core of the Party’s being, this is how Mr. Jagdeo responded: “Frankly speaking, if it’s held tomorrow or next week, I don’t care. It does not make a difference to me….it’s not a big deal for me.” (SN 21/5/16). Clearly Mr. Jagdeo is saying that he has no interest in the highest policy making body of the PPP. He has no interest in when it meets. He has no interest in what it decides. In other words, what Congress does has nothing to do with him. The public needed no other indication for its belief, as reflected in the abuse hurled at him, that Mr. Jadgeo sees himself as Pharaoh, the representative on earth of Horus, the God of Egypt, who was bound by no constraints.
Space permits only one observation of Pharaoh’s lifestyle. Stephanie Pappas writing on August 11, 2014, in Live Science Contributor said: “The leaders of ancient Egypt lived in glorious opulence.” The vendor who shouted ‘Pharaoh’ repeatedly as Mr. Jagdeo was passing, obviously believed that he lived in ‘glorious opulence.’ She would have seen photographs of his mansion in the press. She would have read reports of his pension benefits which include security guards, gardener(s), domestic assistants, free car, free gasoline, free medical outside Guyana if not available in Guyana, free airline passages for vacation and perhaps more. Pharaoh also obtained comparable services and more at the expense of his (or her–Hatshepsut, a woman, was Pharaoh) subjects.
Well written Mr. Ramkarran, despite having opportunistically snatched the word from the Vendor’s abuse towards the Opulent one, I dare say it is quite fitting.
Mr Ramkarran piece is always worth reading.
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