It is not unusual for ethnic identity organisations to highlight achievements
Freddie Kissoon is a champion for ordinary Guyanese. His courage and moral certitude in addressing injustice in the Guyanese society are unquestionable. His humanist approach to analysis of social and political events is encouraging.
Freddie Kissoon’s role in the media fill the void that is in current opposition politics, and as such, Guyanese ought to be grateful for his relentless exposure of political malfeasance and socio economic injustices in the society.
However, I must disagree with an article in the April 30, edition of Kaieteur news by Mr. Kissoon, titled, “An appeal to Shivnarine Chanderpaul: Don’t accept that gift”; which concerns a proposed award by the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) to outstanding cricketer Shivnarine Chandrapaul.
In Guyana it is important that ethnic identity organisations be allowed to represent ethnic interests.
Those organisations are normally established for the preservation of ethnic history and heritage, in addition to promoting cohesiveness and addressing concerns affecting the group. It is not unusual for ethnic identity organisations to highlight achievements by outstanding individuals within that ethnic community in the field of sports, academia, science etc, and encourage them to stand as role models within their respective communities.
This does not preclude the individuals from also being national role models and heroes. Such gesture does not signal racial domination or hegemony.
Chandapaul is first an Indian Guyanese before he is a cricketer. He is nonetheless a Guyanese. There is a history that defines Indians in Guyana that is not in conflict with Guyanese history.
Likewise there is a history that defines Africans in Guyanese that is not in conflict with Guyanese history. Therefore ethnic identity organisations have a role to play in highlighting that history and the individuals that contribute to the making of that history.
In the United States and many other societies, ethnic identity organisations honour individuals who belong to their ethnic groups. Some of these organisations are apolitical while others are politically aligned.
The NAACP has an annual award show that honour Africans Americans in various fields of achievements. The NAACP is one of the oldest civil rights organisations in the United States that promote African American interests.
Its political support most often goes to the Democratic Party.
In the sixties and seventies ASCRIA with Eusi Kwayana as one of its founders was important in promoting African Guyanese culture and history. It was largely apolitical but later annex to form the Working People’s Alliance. ACDA in the nineties and now, serves the same purpose. If ACDA seeks to honour an outstanding African Guyanese in the field of sports, why should ACDA be deemed a racist organisation for doing so? Likewise IAC.
Mr. Kissoon likens Chandrapaul to an economic entity such as Banks DIH, GBTI and other such entities indigenous to the Guyanese society. This comparison was loss upon me, since Chandrapaul is not an economic entity he is an individual, who was obviously born into an ethnic group, which he identifies with. The fact that his talents led him to outstanding accomplishment and the fact that he represents Guyana and the West Indies does not end his ethno-cultural identity. I do not believe this fact has been lost upon African Guyanese nor should it. Why should they disprove of Chandrapaul as a national hero if he affirms his ethnic identify and or accepts an award from an organisation that honours him for his achievements as an Indian Guyanese.
We should expect no less from an African Guyanese of the same or similar standing, and with it no disproval from the Indian Guyanese community.
Why should one’s association with one’s community be grounds for disqualification from national obligation and representation?
African Guyanese grievances are with the PPP led government, which has neglected its constitutional obligation to govern in the interest of all Guyanese. Whose deliberate policy of marginalisation and discrimination is injurious to African Guyanese economic and social wellbeing?
The IAC can perhaps be criticised for its continued silence on corruption, discrimination, extrajudicial killings, torture and the many malfeasances associated with the PPP rule for the past 17 years. But the IAC cannot and should not be criticised for acknowledging the outstanding achievement of someone who belongs to its cultural and ethnic community.
One of the ways to promote good ethnic relations is to be tolerant of individual’s freedom of association.