May 05, 2009 Letters
Today (Tuesday 5 May 2009) marks the 171st Anniversary of Indians arriving in Guyana in the year 1838. May all Guyanese celebrate this important milestone in our rich racial heritage.
May all Guyanese use this day to reflect on who we are, what we are as a Nation state in 2009 and where have we arrived in our history?
To our Indian brothers and sisters, you have indeed made mighty contributions to the making of our Nation. With icons such as Doctor Yesu Persaud, entrepreneur par excellence, social activist, humanitarian and cultural leader, who only this weekend gave the welcome remarks for the 26th consecutive year for the show Nrityageet 30 at the National Cultural Centre, there is much to be proud of.
Some Guyanese will become involved in the spurious debate that Tuesday is Arrival Day and not Indian Arrival Day. Yes indeed. Chinese, Portuguese and others were brought to Guyana and history bears a distinct date for their arrival, although these two groups have decided not to commemorate their arrival dates.
As Guyanese, we need to move beyond the politics of the day and use Arrival Day to understand we are a nation of many cultures and races. Our Motto of “One People, One Nation, One destiny” is a dream deferred for all of us and a nightmare for many Guyanese citizens. Perhaps, we should have had a motto that stated “Out of Many, One Nation”.
Many African Guyanese do not pay much attention to the significance of Arrival day. Perhaps it is because captured Africans were savagely brought to Guyana 180 years before Indians. African Guyanese tend to more celebrate August 1 as Emancipation Day and October 12 as African Arrival Day or African Holocaust Day because slavery was a nuclear bomb that destroyed Africa and its advanced civilizations.
African Holocaust Day is commemorated on 12 October because it was on this day in 1492; Columbus arrived in the region, signaling the unbridled decimation of indigenous cultures and peoples throughout the world. So where have we as Guyanese ‘arrived” on this 171st Anniversary?
Today, as over the last decades, we are a divided Nation.
The most telling paragraph in the United Nations Expert Gay McDougall’s Report has been completely ignored by all. This paragraph in her report tells us all we need to know about the state of the Nation in 2009.
“Ethnically based divisions and politics have created two separate and conflicting narratives and perceptions of reality in Guyana. On the part of the Afro-Guyanese, there is a widely held belief that they are discriminated against by an Indian-dominated and supported government that puts Indian interests to the fore, particularly in resource allocation, government contracts and employment. On the part of the Indian-Guyanese, there is a belief that an Afro-Centric political opposition, if in power, would settle political scores and work solely in the interests of Afro-Guyanese.”
As recorded, Indian Guyanese believe that the PNC, if in power, would settle political scores and work solely in the interests of Afro-Guyanese.
This observation indicates Indo Guyanese believe the current government is still settling political scores and is working primarily in the interests of Indians in Guyana.
Can we as Guyanese overcome our ethnic insecurities and heal our historic wounds of race hate and oppression.
This is the fundamental question Guyanese should use Arrival Day to reflect on. Today, we are a divided Nation, both internally and externally as we are also a Nation of nomads with half its population outside of our borders. Many Guyanese live in economic or self imposed political exile in many foreign countries
It is becoming clearer by the day that Executive lawlessness and monopoly power are elements of our political decay. It is clearer by the day that Constitutional Reform is critical to the survival of our Nation.
Without Constitutional Reform, nothing else is viable. We need to employ our best minds to neutrally change the constitution. I say neutrally because politicians will not do what is in the best interest of the Nation.
We need to aggressively pursue good governance practices not only by strengthening the capacity of the State but by renewing the spirit of civil engagement in all aspects of public affairs.
Without good governance, without strict adherence to the rule of law, without a morally driven administration, without the legitimate use of power and without responsible regulation; we are heading to become a failed state. No amount of investment will place Guyana on the path of prosperity.
On the 171st anniversary we need to ask ourselves whether it is possible for Guyana to become a peaceful multi-racial, multi-party, multi-cultural, multi-religious plural democracy.
If this is what we want, then many changes need to be made, starting today. First, we must change our attitudes of indifference to each other’s pain. The crimes against Guyanese: extra-judicial killings, corruption, racism and defiance of the rule of law…must be opposed by all races. History has shown us that these types of evil do not last forever.
Second, we must insist all political parties contesting the next elections sign a legally binding pre-election pact that will ensure constitutional reform, the pursuit of good governance, economic revitalization and racial harmony as national priorities.
Third we need a Cabinet based on meritocracy and one that reflects the fundamental cultural dimensions of our society. Cabinet members should reflect the will of the people as recognised by their votes. The Cabinet should reflect competence. Gender and race must be balanced to ensure equity.
Fourth, Parliamentarians should represent specific geographical areas in which they are resident. Any person born in Guyana should be eligible for any political office. Fifth, local government should be constructed on a basis that encourages local decision-making as this is fundamental to any well functioning democracy.
An inclusive society based on merit is a necessary perquisite for racial and political peace.
On the 171th anniversary of Indian Arrival and African Emancipation, all races in Guyana need to feel equal and be equal.
Racial insecurity is a cancer in our society. Each racial group in Guyana must receive equal access and equal treatment, constitutionally, legally, politically, morally, religiously, culturally and economically.
Guyana is a country forged out of a mixture of many races, cultures, religions and ideas.
For our country to flourish, we need the talents of all our people. We have already lost most of our skilled people to foreign lands and this must be reversed before it is too late. All segments of Guyanese society need to participate in the country’s development.
All citizens, including politicians, need to be committed to the fundamental principle of a democratic, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, free enterprise society in which every Guyanese regardless of age, race, religion or creed has an equal opportunity to realize his or her potential Finally, a critical need for all Guyanese is economic prosperity and not the debilitating poverty that consumes us. In Guyana, there is “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”.
Poverty is an overwhelming reality in Guyana. As the UNICEF web sites describes:
“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not being able to go to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom. Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. More often, poverty is a situation people want to escape”.
Guyana needs new and better leadership. We need to move from “serve the leadership” to “servant leadership”. The former is about racism, corruption, constitutional illegalities and human rights abuses such as torture, extra-judicial killings, drugs. The latter is about visionary, courageous, healing, knowledgeable and compassionate leadership.
On the 171st anniversary of Arrival Day we need to commit to forging a spirit of spiritual and emotional nationalism. If not, we will continue to disintegrate politically, morally, socially and culturally.
This year’s theme for Nrityageet is “unity in diversity through dance”. This year’s theme for Arrival Day should be “unity in diversity through justice for all”.
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