Oct 24, 2020 Letters
Like Freddie Kisoon (KN Oct 21), I am also troubled by Mr. Eusi Kwayana’s duplicitous position during the attempt to rig the election. Mr. Kwayana should have come out clearly and un-ambivalently on the side of free and fair elections as he did during the 1970s to 1992. People who have long considered Eusi as their hero and an icon are disappointed in the position he took after the March 2 election that essentially condoned rigging.
Many who were defenders of Eusi during the dictatorship, who were colleagues of his in and supporters of WPA, now see him in a different light with his behavior being defined by ‘racial solidarity’ that trumps long held principles of integrity and democracy. In fact, people have now dug up aspects of the past of Kwayana, formerly Sydney King, reminiscing about unpleasant activities of his personal. Freddie, after being a cheerleader of Eusi for decades, himself has also gone back to Eusi’s past. Chris Ram also assailed Eusi for his position on rigging.
Many appalling aspects of Eusi’s political past from the late 1950s and 1960s are being brought to the fore. People, including myself, had opted to deliberately forget these incidents against Indians in order to move on to build a better nation with the hope of improving race relations. I was not aware of some revelations now brought to my attention. In one case, it is alleged that during the 1960s Sydney King had all fruit trees chopped down in front of homes on both sides of the public road from BV to Buxton. People in the area who had their fruit trees felled claimed that King wanted a clear vision of his village of Buxton from miles afar. They claimed he got his way and their trees were chopped down without compensation. Rural people are accustomed to growing fruit trees in front and at the back of their home; they never forgave King for this act that they described as bullying.
As Freddie himself aptly noted, Eusi’s position on the March 2020 fraud brings back memories of the past of a younger Sydney King on race relations. He is regrettably being redefined as “Sydney King”, image of an activist that was reviled and long replaced by the one who championed peace, harmonious inter-ethnic relations, democracy, shared governance, and free and fair elections. Several individuals phoned me to query why I have not taken Eusi to task on the rigged election matter given my consistent praiseworthy writings on him. Kwayana indeed has been held in high esteem. I have had enormous respect for him especially for publicly condemning the banning of goods that impacted heavily on the cultural and religious lifestyle of Indians, kick down door robberies, the anti-Indian violence and policy of the Burnham and Hoyte regimes, among other commendable positions.
I first met Eusi during the 1980s in New York and interacted with him countless times thereafter in Guyana through and sometimes with activist and scholar Ravi Dev. Eusi, as did several other Guyanese and other Caribbean leaders, visited New York several times speaking at City College and at public forums on Guyana; his wife (Tchaiko) also spoke there several times including in classes of courses I took on Black and Latin American Studies. They were regular visitors at Prof. Samad Margarita Mathias classes. Chuck Mohan, a Jaganite, patriot and freedom fighter, was often an organizer of the lectures as he worked closely with Prof. Margarita. The student government, of which I was an elected officer, hosted and or funded some of these lectures. Separately, Ravi Dev organized and I promoted in the media several talks for Eusi in NY. I also reported on his NY visits for several media outlets. He pulled good turnouts at his lectures. Indians turned out in numbers in Queens. I interviewed him in NY and in Guyana for several articles I published during the 1980s and 1990s. I found him to be courteous, pleasant, and a man of principle until APNU came to power in 2015. He was a straight, honest politician who meant what he said and said what he meant. He was careful of being correctly quoted.
His position on the rigged election, claiming ignorance or lack of knowledge, was most shocking. One cannot be on the fence when democracy was being violated. Eusi does not need government’s handouts like some others that would have silenced him to condemn electoral fraud. He acted nobly in opposing fraud during the Burnham/Hoyte era excoriating the regime for oppressing the nation. His position on 2020 election erased that positive aspect of his contributions to Guyana’s freedom against the dictatorship. It also came across as providing “racial solidarity” to a government hell bent on violating the basic tenet of democracy and that was widely seen as discriminating against people in account of race. Eusi erred on his position on fraud as well as on the anti-Indian violence in West Berbice; he condemned such racial violence from 1970s onwards. He should have come forcefully against the violet. Excellent. He should set an example for younger politicians. It may not be of consequence to him personally by virtue of his age, but his position is highly destructive to the moral fabric of society. He disappointed many who considered him their hero. Kwayana should rethink his position. It is not too late to condemn fraud and violence.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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