Jan 06, 2021 Letters
I refer to that awful, nasty, repugnant, reprehensible, abhorrent, outrageous letter from Lincoln Lewis which appeared in the Kaieteur News of December 30th, 2020 abusing columnist Freddie Kissoon.
I cannot and will not try to speak for Mr. Lewis, but it appears to me that the events from our NCM of December 21st, 2018 through to our Election Day of March 2nd, 2020 and onto the Declaration Day of August 2nd, 2020 have moved many of us, pro PPP/C like me, pro PNC/R/APNU, AFC, pro “Shared Government” to points of explosive outburst. Many of us have been on edge.
They say that our social media has been awash with nasty things and our Ethnic Relations Commission after warnings has moved to prosecute a few who crossed its red lines.
Mr. Lewis says that he is a proud African. I too am a proud Afro-Guyanese, and proudly PPP/C.
Like many Afro-Guyanese teenagers of the 1950s, I was going along with the common view amongst us, Afro-Guyanese, that we were the ones prepared and knowing how, to step into the shoes of the departing English Governor and his team, at the time of our Independence. Cheddi and his supporters, largely Indo-Guyanese, were still immigrants becoming but not yet Guyanese, but who by their larger numbers and population distribution were “wrongly” winning our then Constituency based elections. We, Afro- Guyanese, were prepared to accept them as brothers and sisters, but they were younger brothers and sisters, they were not yet ready, this was not their time, they must wait; their time would come. Cheddi and his PPP must await their turn. In addition to that, we were the honest Christian people and would be the ones who would rule fairly and even handedly for the benefit of all – us and them.
I would admit that most likely because of my particular life story that view did not sit very strongly with me, and looking back I can see that I began to consciously depart from it in early 1962, as an 18 yrs plus living at the back of Hadfield St. Lodge (the area of Sheriff and Mandela Streets then being bush) preparing for my A levels, hearing about the fires, the burning and the looting in the city, some Afro-Guyanese beating Indo-Guyanese they came upon, and seeing some of my fellow Afro-Guyanese people of Lodge hurrying by on their bicycles with a fridge or stove on the handle.
I felt strongly: this is not us Afro-Guyanese; this should not be us Afro-Guyanese. I silently disagreed with our rejection of Cheddi’s and the PPP’s budget that sought to start a fund for our own development from small taxes on better-off persons. I could not go along with the argument that Cheddi and his PPP wanted us to make savings and investments which should be for our children and grandchildren, and worse so, the proffering that this budget was not the cause of the war but the occasion for the war; the occasion to derail the prospect of Cheddi and the PPP receiving the keys of our Independence which for many of us Afro-Guyanese would have been a great travesty.
I was spared living through our gravest period of 1964, studying abroad at a University over 1963 – 1967.
As an Afro-Guyanese, I understand but regret how vulnerable we were to the so persuasive arguments to do a little wrong to compensate for and forestall greater wrongs being done to us, but for me as an Afro-Guyanese the resort to rigging from the 1968 election was our Afro-Guyanese greatest undoing. I know that many Afro-Guyanese earnestly sought to make good of that prevailing view I put earlier, of us being good for our newly Independent Guyana, and by the elections of 1973 many of us Afro-Guyanese had begun not going out to vote, and embarrassed with the rigging of elections.
The Leadership of the PNC inevitably took themselves, us Afro-Guyanese and all Guyanese and our Guyana, into a world of make-believe. As I heard Walter Rodney admonishing in Linden in the late 1970s, too many of us Afro-Guyanese found ourselves feeling obliged to say we never had it so good when we may have had nothing but water to put into our pots. Many of us Afro-Guyanese found ourselves in a dilemma of which the only way out for many, was to be out of Guyana.
For me as an Afro-Guyanese this has been a poignant period for us and my hope is that when the history is written there would be some research and writing on the life of someone who was of great assistance to my family and me, a benefactor of me and a number of others, who I think typifies the poignancy of that period – Mr. Frank Denbow husband of the recently departed Dr. Enid Denbow – an Afro-Guyanese, a T & HD Trade Unionist of the 1948 Col. Tare Strike, colleague of Joseph Pollydore and Boysie Ramkarran, Lionel Luckhoo, Balwant Singh, Edward Beharry, Ashton Chase, Eusi Kwayana, Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. Frank, in the early 1980s was openly lamenting that Guyana had been taken to the dogs and that he had helped take Guyana there, he himself preparing at his dining table 5000 votes for our 1973 elections – and who by all appearances was silenced on the eve of Republic Day, 1983.
Our road from the 1950s has been a difficult, bitter, tormented one for us Afro-Guyanese. I know that the majority of us meant well: but we did much wrong and suffered much; paid quite a price, as is often the case when one succumbs to doing a little wrong to avoid a bigger wrong. When one reflects on the actions of the RO of Region Four, Mr. Clairmont Mingo, the Chief Elections Officer, Deputy Chief Elections Officer and a number of others in GECOM one can only think that they were acting as prisoners of that Country-view of many Afro-Guyanese of the 1950s. My hope is that their actions as the undeniable visible tip of sentiments that have beguiled and misled many of us Afro-Guyanese since the 1950s, may well lead to the catharsis that rids us all, of all of it.
For the good of our country, the good of us all – PPP/C, PNC/R/APNU + AFC, the good of our Nation, those errant GECOM officers must be brought to account for their so public doings. It is good that fellow Afro-Caribbean persons, the late Owen Arthur, Bruce Golding, and the persistent Chairpersons of CARICOM – Mia Mottley followed by Ralph Gonsalves denounced those actions and took the strong positions they took. We Afro-Guyanese could and should learn from them and I am so entreating Mr Lincoln Lewis. They were not against us. They were and are for us, for all Guyanese and for Guyana.
Reflecting once more on the actions of RO Mingo, CEO Lowenfield, Deputy CEO Myers and others, they seemed seized with a perverse conviction that it was their honour and duty to do as they did, to save the day. Elections 2020 demonstrated that many Afro-Guyanese taking leadership of us Afro-Guyanese were still holding to the page of our 1950s and 60s. For me, the criminal case is minimum, minimalist. It is much less a question of what was done, (are their lawyers going to argue that what so many saw done, was not done), but more a question of why they did what they did – what country-view was motivating them and the other silent, hidden and not so silent and hidden protagonists. My hope is that this criminal case would lead somehow to a process of Truths and Reconciliation, and all of us old and young and not so young Guyanese, including Mr Lewis, turning to a new page.
Samuel A.A. Hinds
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