Lincoln Lewis is accurate on Critchlow. Response is made to Vishnu Bisram’s letter “Lewis not accurate on Critchlow” (KN, May 31). First, let Bisram provide the evidence to this nation that I said, “Dr. Cheddi Jagan was not instrumental in the battle for the franchise which [I] maintained was all the work of Critchlow [and] Indians and the PPP do not give recognition to Critchlow.” He needs to disabuse himself that this is one of his devious polls/bigoted articles and he will pit races against each other and get away with it – not when Lewis’ name is inserted!
The beauty about history is that it happens in timeline and the hands of time cannot be turned back. Whomever Bisram seeks alliance with or quotes from on Critchlow’s role or timeline in the fight for universal franchise, they are all wrong. They are advised Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow’s legacy will be truthfully recorded and accurately contextualised, because it is a legacy the trade union community zealously guards and will not let it be tarnished or coveted as seen happen to some political leaders.
The trade union in Guyana predates the mass based political parties -PPP, PNC- that started in the 1950s. The fight for one man one vote (universal franchise) for the colonised started with Critchlow and other Caribbean leaders in 1926 at the first Regional Labour Leaders Conference (RLLC), held at Parliament Buildings, Georgetown, Guyana. This fact is not only known to the trade union community but also by historian Professor James Rose and Attorney-at-law Ashton Chase.
In October 2006, the Caribbean Congress of Labour marked the RLLC’s 80th Anniversary in Georgetown, Guyana. Professor James Rose in his presentation titled, “The Impact of the Labour Movement on the Cultural Life of the Caribbean” had this to say, under the subhead ‘Demands of the Labour Movement ’- “Socio-economic: Immunity for trade unions from claims for damages resulting from strikes; Immunity from charges of conspiracy; The right to picket peacefully; Minimum wage legislation; The forty-four hour week; Old age pension; National health insurance and sickness benefits. [And] Political demands: Federation; Universal adult suffrage; Limited powers of the colonial governors; Free compulsory primary education; Limitation on the size of a plantation; Nationalisation; State ownership of public utilities; Cooperative marketing of agriculture produce.”
Ashton Chase in his presentation titled, “The Vision, Struggles and Victories of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow” had this to say: “To recall some of the matters dealt with at that Conference will give a pointer to the vision of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow. They included 1) The passage of a resolution of the formation of a Labour Federation between Guianese and West Indians to be called “The Guianese and West Indian Federation of Trade Unions and Labour Parties; 2) A Federation of our respective Territories; 3)Compulsory education throughout the West Indies; 4) An urging on the respective Governments to introduce Workmen’s Compensation; a standard 8 hour working day, the abolition of child labour, minimum wages, non-contributory old age pensions and National Health Insurance; 5) Prison reform, peremptory challenge to jury and the abolition of the Special Jury; and 6) Universal adult suffrage.”
It is hoped Bisram and his cohorts would not now seek to besmirch Rose and Chase for acknowledging what is evidently an irritant and inconvenient truth for them. Rose and Chase are known PPP supporters and it is hoped what they said will end the fabrication of history and not be seen as ‘opportunity’ to malign them for making such acknowledgments. In 1926 Cheddi Jagan was eight years old and those Bisram named in his May 18 letter were not at the Conference or are known to make any contribution to universal suffrage prior to 1926. Bisram has to deliver credible evidence to make the case. Saying it is so does not make it so, especially given the credibility deficit he carries around.
At the rate some are going it is only a matter of time before this nation is told that Jagan or Indians led the struggle for emancipation and Jagan led the struggle to end indenturedship. What is happening in this society – Africans are not only fighting to have their rights respected as enshrined in the Constitution, they also have to fight for the most basic of right, i.e. to name their reality and have their contributions/achievements honestly recorded and credited. Those who seek to deny these fundamentals have no modicum of decency and are primitive in their outlook to life, because no self respecting person will engage in these type of behaviours.
True to form Bisram couldn’t suppress his bigotry that “Critchlow was a hero to the African working class.” He is wrong again. Critchlow’s passionate representation for the Indian indentured workers caused them to nickname him “Black Crosby” after a famous Immigration Agent General.
All Guyanese should be proud of Critchlow because of what he did and made possible for us and he should be honoured in spite of his race. Critchlow is Guyana’s second national hero. He is also the hero for trade unionism in the former British Commonwealth. His legacy spreads far and wide and continues to impact the life of every citizen. And if with this superb track record Bisram thinks he “was a hero to the African working class,” I’d say he is worthy of continued acclamation!
This society is being fed daily distorted diet of “28 years” and is told African leaders did nothing good for this country and the citizens. And for the last 20 years Africans are projected and being treated as undeserving, unequal, incapable of leading, and should be on the fringe of society. Roger Luncheon under oath in a court of law confessed the PPP could not find any suitable African to be ambassador. In this environment, Critchlow is just what the doctor would order! For his track record speaks for itself and can motivate, inspire and heal the wounds of a people and remind them of their capabilities and contributions to this society. Most importantly it empowers them to confront the bigots, pursue their dreams, and stand up for what is just and fair.
In closing Bisram is advised that I am within my right to be angry at his bigotry and fabrication of history. And as for a civil discourse, he will never understand civility even if it stares him in the face or drops on his head, for civility starts with respect for self and the other, none of which he possesses, given the nonsense he spews!
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