Preserve our records, or a valuable part of our history would be lost forever
I commend the Indian Arrival Committee, the Dharmic Saba, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana and other religious groups in their concerted endeavours to address some of the debilitating social ills affecting our community not only among the East Indians but the wider Guyanese populace and in particular to congratulate them on their efforts to keep alive many customs, values and festivals in Guyana.
At the same time, I would urge these organisations to do more in the safeguarding of Indian history including the preservation of various records of births, marriages, deaths, and Indian Indentureship certificates that are decaying at the Guyana Post Office (GPO) and the National Archives.
Having Diwali parades, Melas and Mamlilas, while these are all good, they are not enough to ‘school’ the younger generations, especially Indo-Guyanese who are not familiar, with the history of indentureship, Hinduism and Islam. These youths today face an evangelical war and ‘preachers’ who regard them as heathens are looking to change the religious demographic of Guyana once more in the same approach they took more than 100 years ago with the conversion of Afro-Guyanese.
I was made aware that the IAC made some efforts to digitize the indentureship records, and just like others who also tried, they were faced with resistance from the government to save the records. They have also republished several books and are in possession of some of the records. Individuals such as Mr. Deo Singh, Didco’s CEO must also be commended for his attempts to preserve these records many of which just disintegrate as soon as one open the pages. I do not know why organisations such as the IAC and people like Mr. Singh or other individuals who have expressed an earnest interest and dedication to undertake such noble tasks need Cabinet’s approval, after all these records have always been available to the public for their perusal.
Much more can be done and we can look at Suriname setting a trail which today Trinidad, Fiji, Mauritius and South Africa are following. A poor country such as Guyana with very limited resources very much wants to dictate unreasonable terms and arrogantly refuse help from countries like the Netherlands that has expressed an interest and willingness to translate records at the Guyana National Archives from Dutch to English. Over half the records in the Guyana Archives are in Dutch and the Netherlands offered to have them digitize, and translated, however, the government refused the offer several years ago.
Today, when information is readily accessible with just a mouse click away, I am amazed that the Government of Guyana would not want to take steps to make use of the technology available. Not to mention that Google has embarked on a project to digitize historical records which they have already many of the British Parliamentary records which included accounts of the British presence in Guyana; I hope that this administration would rethink its approach to have the records (as mentioned above) preserved or else a valuable part of our history would be lost forever.