Oct 16, 2020 Letters
In his riposte to Ravi Dev, Tacuma Ogunseye makes the highly refutable claim that since 1992 “African dominance in the coercive arms of the state” was “ineffectual” in guaranteeing African security (SN, October 14,2020). Tacuma seems to forget that while the disciplined forces remain the almost exclusive preserve of Africans, as he conceded, it was former President Granger who reintroduced the 1500 man People Militia, of primarily African recruits, while rebuilding the other services to full capacity and stacking key positions in his government with former “squaddies”.
Until fundamental changes are made in the disciplined forces, Indian (and all Guyanese) security will remain a concern because with the option of using them always available in or out of power, the PNC cannot be counted on to renounce its penchant for violence as a means to maintain political power, even before Dr. Walter Rodney was assassinated by them. Ogunseye is no stranger to the issue of security. He has been implicated by Freddie Kissoon in the role of the Buxton “freedom fighters” at a time when we saw the security forces being challenged beyond its capabilities and he called upon his “kith and kin” in 2011.
Ogunseye is rightly concerned about the security of Africans. But we are left to wonder, why did the Granger government, of which Ogunseye was a consistent apologist, not take steps to address the security concerns of Africans? The fact remains that there is a real concern among Guyanese regarding the disciplined forces. The army, despite its limited success in protecting our national sovereignty, has a checkered legacy in domestic politics (seizing ballot boxes, kick down the door banditry, swearing loyalty to the Burnham dictatorship, Rodney killing, etc) even though we appreciate the fact that to date they have not intervened directly and independently into the political process.
In 1965, when then President David Granger enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant, the British Government had commissioned an ICJ study that recommended that the disciplined forces should reflect the composition of the population for obvious reasons. Burnham shelved their recommendations. Professor George Danns, who gave public support to Granger days before the election, had previously documented the role of an expanding, and abusive disciplined force used to ensure PNC’s power and domination in Guyana. In 2004, a Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission submitted to Parliament, of which Granger was a commissioner, recommended “streamlining”, “professionalizing”, “decentralizing” and “balancing” the forces. Guyanese remember all too well Desmond Hoyte’s references to “slow fiah, mo fiah” and his “kith and kin” comments at the Square of the Revolution. We have witnessed more recently, during the West Berbice protests, several incidents where police and army officers stood by as innocent victims were robbed and beaten.
It is even more egregious for Ogunseye to argue that “the coercive arms of the Guyanese state” were “neutralized” by “the influence of the US and Western powers, the United Nations, and international and regional treaties and conventions”. This is conjecture. The coalition leaders were confident that they had the full support of the disciplined forces up to the 11th hour when plans were being made to swear in David Granger during the 2020 elections. Had there been street protests against the flagrant rigging, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger would have leaned on the disciplined forces for support.
The coalition gambled, and squandered a real opportunity to repeat their 2015 electoral victory in 2020. They miscalculated, hoping that the US and the international community would have backed an illegal coalition regime, whose leaders were emboldened by the fact that they could rely on kit and kin support while holding 70% of the population at bay.
If there is one thing that Tacuma should support it is the fact that it is unfair for Africans to disproportionately and unfairly bear the brunt of defending the citizens of Guyana from both foreign and local enemies. There is a greater role for Indians and Amerindians and others to play in defending our nation, given all the challenges Guyana may face in the future. Balance in the disciplined forces implies that a “targeted-outcome” should be established rather than a quota system to identify our best and brightest servicemen.
If the two major political parties had genuinely confronted the Ethnic Security Dilemma, Guyanese would have been exposed to a more honest and democratic political culture. Aside from the creation of a more professional, decentralized and balanced disciplined forces, the government should establish an assessment of its policies through Ethnic Impact Statements to promote equity, diversity and fairness in all state institutions and initiatives.
In our multiethnic society, the Amerindians and Indians must play an integral and inclusive role in our national defense.
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