Some people have condemned me for raising the issue of ethnic control of decision making in Guyana’s cricket. Not for the first time I seem to have touched a raw nerve. Many people have stopped me in the streets or written to inquire about my response to the interview given by the secretary of the Guyana Cricket Board. The fact is that I did respond, but only one of the daily newspapers carried it.
I argued in that response that cricket is our national sport—it is part of our shared heritage. It is played by all ethnic groups in Guyana. It is one of the few areas of life that our competing ethnic groups have found some common purpose and joint nationalism. It follows that its management should not be dominated by one ethnic group. The management institutions should not be monopolized by one ethnic group. Stakeholders, representative of the broad spectrum of the game’s participants, should not be systematically marginalized or excluded from management of the game.
I contended that a group of Indian Guyanese men, selected by Indian Guyanese clubs and stakeholders cannot effectively represent the interests of African Guyanese stakeholders and players, and other ethnic groups. I further contended that what we have had for the last decade is a reproduction of ethnic control, with the same group of individuals rotating the top positions among themselves.
I also observed that those associations representing areas of the country where African Guyanese players and clubs abound are not part of decision making in Guyanese cricket. They do not benefit from the funds and resources the GCB receives from the West Indies Cricket Board. Only players and clubs which submit to the control of the so-called GCB can benefit—patronage at its best.
I called on the GCB to agree to fair and open elections in which all member-boards and associations participate, and to agree to a neutral cricket ombudsman to mediate between the factions.
African Guyanese have a right to be part of management of a sport in which they have contributed beyond the call of duty. Their contribution to Guyanese, West Indian and global cricket has helped in no small way to humanize the sport and transform it into a source of empowerment, pride and culture for all Guyanese and West Indians. I want African Guyanese boys and girls to once again aspire to be President and Secretary and Treasurer of the GCB. Cricket in Guyana is better when it is a source of ethno-racial harmony rather than ethno-racial dominance.
My decision to tackle the cricket question was not to stir up trouble, but to draw the country’s attention to the ethnic imbalance in our society, and to urge that something be done about it. Such imbalance is a clear and present danger to Guyana. No society survives for long under such conditions. I am arguing that that ethnic imbalance is at the heart of the volatility in our society.
Ethnically divided societies such as Guyana have proven to be very difficult to manage politically, economically and culturally. Guyana is especially difficult because two of the groups are large enough to induce fear in each other when they hold the levers of political power.
During the PNC’s reign, its ability to totally dominate the state and society was always hampered by Indian Guyanese control of the private commercial sector and its dominance of both the public and private agricultural sectors which were key to the country’s economic survival. This gave the PPP a serious political weapon, which it used both as leverage and as a tool of economic sabotage.
The PNC’s resort to electoral malpractice, militarization of the state and public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy were rationalized as a form of ethnic counterbalance to the Indian Guyanese control referenced above. The problem with the PNC’s strategy was that it was premised on overt anti-democratic foundations and could only be sustained by an authoritarian regime.
That that regime eventually crumbled was due in part to its inevitable assault on the civil liberties and rights of all Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity. African Guyanese had to make a choice between ethnic loyalty and democracy—the dilemma which Africanist leaders in the WPA such as Kwayana and Rodney faced.
When the PPP assumed political power in 1992, its decision to pursue an agenda of dominance is critical to understanding where Guyana is today as far as ethnic power is concerned. The party was able to merge its newly acquired political power with the existing Indian Guyanese grip on key sectors of the economy to completely tilt the balance of power in the society in favour of one ethnic group. Unlike the PNC, the PPP did not have to resort to overt anti-democratic methods. It won successive certified elections and avoided the authoritarian tag, even though it governed in the most anti-democratic manner.
What the PPP also did was that it used state patronage and ethnic engineering to neutralize African Guyanese-dominated state institutions such as the military, police and public service. Soon the leadership of these institutions were no longer loyal to the PNC and to African Guyanese ethnicity—Desmond Hoyte’s “kith and kin” had vanished.
The PPP simultaneously cultivated a small African Guyanese group within the commercial sector and at the top echelons of the public service. Finally, they facilitated the formation of para-military militias comprising mainly African Guyanese ex-military men and unemployed youth.
In the meantime, the party used the government to transfer economic wealth to mostly Indian Guyanese elites and party supporters, mainly through government contracts and other questionable methods, worth an estimated 500 to 700 billion dollars. The granting of land, scholarships, grants and special contract employment in the government sectors were also part of this grand agenda of ethnic domination.
The deliberate strategic placement of party supporters and ethnic “kith and kin” in key institutions of government and state. including the police and the military. ensured control of the decision making even in institutions over-populated by African Guyanese.
This lopsided transfer of economic resources and institutional power has had dire consequences for all areas of the society. Today African Guyanese, for example, perform substantially worse than their ethnic counterparts in an education environment that is driven by money—the wealthier the parents are, the more likely the child will do well at exams. These performances in turn determine how the various groups view education as a tool of upward mobility.
Just look at the private economic sector and you see the great ethnic disparity in ownership of businesses. It is no secret that access to capital is indispensable to getting loans from banks to start businesses. Those with established businesses and access to capital are in better positions to bid on contracts. Wealth reproduces wealth and poverty reproduces poverty.
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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