Official business in Guyana today has ceased. If foreigners inquire, they will be told that it is a public holiday in support of the observance of the anniversary of the end of slavery. When we talk emancipation in Guyana, we are talking about the other half of the population of this potentially rich Third World country, the African Guyanese. When we talk about African Guyanese today, we refer to a sociological trend that every decent Guyanese must reflect on – the diminishing presence of the political economy and the sociological/social presence of the African Guyanese. This I can tell you; it is breaking my heart. This I will go further and say; as a Guyanese citizen who loves the people of this country, I am not prepared to be silent on the present state of African Guyanese in today’s Guyana.
Before we develop our theme, here is a little funny clip but has relevance to the argument. At the dinner last Saturday evening to commemorate the 25 anniversary of the birth of the accountancy firm Ram and Mc Rae, Raymond Gaskin was directly behind me at the buffet table. The host, Christopher Ram, with a huge smile on his face, momentarily taunted Gaskin. He came up to me and said; “Freddie, Raymond was reluctant to criticize Jagdeo.” I didn’t know what the private joke between Chris and Raymond was about. So I asked and was told that Raymond was Chris’s guest on Plain Talk to be shown the next evening. I looked around at Gaskin and inquired if Chris was serious. Gaskin told me he was joking and I should see the programme for myself.
As we went back to our tables with plates in hand (he sat next to me), Raymond Gaskin, in his usual style told me what he said in the interview. He took the position that African Guyanese were being discriminated against and Guyana may soon be in trouble as early as next year. I then warned Gaskin that President Jagdeo has a libel suit against me for an accusation of racism. With his funny gesticulations, Gaskin exclaimed: “I don’t care, I said it.” There is a court injunction against me writing on this particular aspect of the exercise of power so I will have to thread carefully here.
I spoke to several lawyers on what the injunction means and the consensus is I am prevented from repeating the contents of that article that caused Mr. Jagdeo to seek legal action against me, the paper and its editors. I don’t intend to do that and will be extremely cautious and careful in the paragraphs below. After completion of this article, I will e-mail it to three lawyers for their comments. I have been told by dozens and dozens of well-educated Guyanese, a majority of whom are legal minds that I am entitled to say and write in any place or time in Guyana that it is my belief that Africans Guyanese are being discriminated against. I will leave it at that and now go into my sociological analysis of ethnic prejudice as policy in my homeland.
One of the bizarre things to have occurred after 1992 was the persistence of racial discrimination. It was a primitive instinct that all Guyanese thought had come to its death after the PNC was defeated in the 1992 elections. No one from the entire population of this land could ever have imagined that life under a new government would have seen the persistence of one ethnic community being favoured over another. For many African Guyanese, particularly in the WPA, who fought against the Burnham regime, this macabre nightmare has left deep, psychic scars. African Guyanese fought against an overt African dominated administration in the seventies and eighties that practiced ethnic bias against East Indians.
It defies imagination to think how these people feel when they see the plight of African Guyanese today. We have gone in a horrible direction recently. One cannot now speak and write about the practice of racism in Guyana. You could end up in court. This is a frightening extension of the authoritarian instinct. Put yourself in the place of an African Guyanese who feel that the exercise of power is designed to diminish the African presence but harbours fears of being hounded down legally if they should voice such an opinion. And what is my position? It hasn’t changed. The PNC Government favoured Africans when it was in power. Since 1992, the Indian administration of the PPP has shaped its policies to cater for the needs of its own constituencies. The blind and the dead can see this in today’s Guyana.
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