Jan 19, 2021 Letters
I refer to a number of letters recently in our various newspapers: “Let Sam Hinds show this Nation what he has done for the African community”, In Kaieteur News of January 7, 2021 by Mr. Lincoln Lewis, and “Mr. Hinds should say what he really did to lift up Afro-Guyanese” in Stabroek News of January 9, 2021 by Mr. Hamilton Green. This letter responds to those topical questions.
Firstly, I refer (as Dr. Vishnu Bisram has also) to the tremendous material improvement our PPP/C Administration, with myself as a valued and valuable member, brought to our people and country over 1992 to 2015. Through our sequence of thoughtful budgets and programmes, we Guyanese of all races, of all religions and from all regions of our country, were enabled to increase our average GDP tenfold; from an average of US$ 300 per person in 1992 to about US$ 3,000 in 2015, even in the presence of a long period of persistent attempts aimed at fomenting ethnic strife amongst us.
All our peoples and communities were much better off in 2015 than they were in 1992. Household vehicle ownership is often taken as a rough indicator of improvements in general material standard of living and uplift. There were large increases in vehicle ownership all across our Guyana in which communities with majority Afro-Guyanese shared – South Georgetown, all of Georgetown, Linden and wherever else.
Recall the extensive squatting that was ongoing around and within Georgetown, by families that were overwhelmingly Afro-Guyanese and on whom that outgoing PNC regime had set policemen with their dogs (the PNC leadership had had in mind high level housing developments for better off persons, for those “Sophia” areas). We PPP/C got our “Sophia” squatters (largely Afro-Guyanese) going quickly, granting them their house lots, bringing them within the law quickly – motivating them to make savings, to utilise their free time gainfully, to gain experience in choosing and contracting with those amongst them who were carpenters, masons, plumbers, furniture makers – everyone gaining and learning from some new experience: this was/is the substance of growing/developing/empowering people, largely Afro-Guyanese.
I led in improving our country’s electricity supply from about 75,000 households receiving electricity an uncontrolled average of about 40% of the time to 175,000 households in 2015 receiving electricity about 95% of the time. About 70,000 Afro-Guyanese, households would have benefitted. And similarly, I led in the arrangements that saw the tremendous growth in our telephone services, in which Afro-Guyanese benefitted. Our minibus runs to Mahdia and Lethem emerged on our completion of nearly all-weather roads, to the benefit of many Afro-Guyanese and Guyanese of all ancestries: lifting the spirits of all Guyanese in seeing long held aspirations realised. We, Guyanese, could and were getting things done. 24×7 electricity services were established in Lethem, Mahdia and Port Kaituma, which had hitherto, more than likely given more votes to the PNC/R – that did not deter us.
Secondly, I have heard at times in those questionings– What would you Sam Hinds as an African have demanded and gotten for Afro-Guyanese, exclusively? Afro-Guyanese and all other Guyanese of our various ancestries should guard against the view that they should not count as boons, any benefits and opportunities that were available to others also.
Thirdly, notwithstanding (2) above, a very large area of our work and attention which could have, did attract some comment as particularly, if not exclusively, benefitting Afro-Guyanese. I refer to our collapsed bauxite industry, almost synonymous with Region 10 and Linden. According to the Covenant, which the outgoing PNC Administration had entered into with the financing Institutions and Governments supporting the Economic Recovery Programme, when in 1994 Minproc proclaimed that they could not see any way to make Linmine profitable, we, PPP/C, ought to have shut down Linmine forthwith. But, we did not. We kept Linmine going, finding monies from wherever to resume subsidizing Linmine and also to fund the liabilities – outstanding amounts for the ‘workers saving scheme’, the company’s pension scheme, NIS and PAYE/GRA, prompt payment of employment termination benefits and also the steadily increasing costs of the ongoing 90% subsidization of the electricity consumed by the whole of the growing Linden community. Billions of dollars for workers and a community that for us were firstly Guyanese and only secondly, Afro. We blew no trumpets.
Recall that when about 2005 the then privatized Bauxite Company, suddenly announced a two month suspension, our PPP/C Administration with Dr. Bharat Jagdeo then President, without any hesitation offered to provide a minimum 40 hr. per week pay for all employees, on the condition that everyone spend one day a week attending some computer class. We could not escape the obvious criticism that whilst we were pointing bauxite workers (overwhelmingly Afro-Guyanese) to the modern, digital future we seemed to be bent on trying to keep the largely Indo-Guyanese sugar workers tied to a dying industry. We let that ride – our collective conscience was clear.
It is with such a clear conscience that, we proposed in 2012, a reform of integrating the electricity supply of Region 10, into the National Electricity Company, GPL. (Then Prime Minister Burnham had stated that that integration was to be implemented since 1976) The tariff subsidy would have been phased out over about five years and the reductions in subsidies would have been available for special development projects in Linden/Region 10. It would have been obvious from the context of our Administration’s budget review with the then main Opposition Party, APNU, my public review in Parliament of my draft announcement with the then Leader of The Opposition, David Granger MP together with Dr. Rupert Roopnarine MP sitting beside him, and there being no dissent when I read the announcement that there was concurrence. The leadership of APNU should have found more responsible ways to withdraw their initial concurrence and avoid the regretted events, which followed.
Fourthly, the question, “What has Sam Hinds done for Afro-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese communities” is purposely put to propagate and perpetuate the view that Afro-Guyanese must put “proppa” Afro-Guyanese in Office for Afro-Guyanese to be protected and to receive things from the Government largesse – a mindset which has disposed too many of us, Afro-Guyanese, to live with exploitation and abuse from a number of our Afro-Guyanese leaders. Such leaders find every excuse to harp continually about the dehumanizing and brutal horror that was the slavery of Africans, to keep present-day Africans enslaved to them. African slavery in all its brutal horror certainly happened. However, that slavery ended over 150 years ago. We must turn the page and go forward taking our place alongside all the peoples of our country and of the World.
Fifthly, allow me to address the related, frequent referrals to me and other Afro-Guyanese leaders in the PPP and PPP/C as “window dressing”, “can’t do nothing”. We, Guyanese people and country, Guyana, are a work in early progress; emerging from fragments of the six populations from around the world – Europeans, Portuguese islanders, Chinese, Amerindians, Africans and Indians – thrown together by fate in this land. Cheddi, early recognised us as a microcosm of the world. The task of growing, developing and knitting together our people of our various ancestries is a challenging task, which demands a long-haul commitment.
When one recalls the individuals of the founding members and soon emerging leadership of the PAC (1946) and subsequently the PPP (1950), one can see conscious and conscientious striving and contriving to have a broad representation and involvement of Guyanese of all races and religions and from all parts of Guyana. The then young lawyer, recently returned from England, an Afro-Guyanese, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, was brought into the founding membership of the PPP as Chairman, the even younger Afro-Guyanese, Ashton Chase, standing aside.
And after the split of 1955, our troubled period of the early 60s, the unfair treatment of Cheddi and the PPP on the outcome of our 1964 elections; and our insulting, rigged referendum and elections over 68 to 85; and when it appeared in the late 1980s that a fair and free elections was likely, and that the hitherto abandoned and spurned PPP could win on its own, Cheddi nonetheless persisting in his commitment to the knitting of our people together reached out once again, inviting any, who was not at the time hostile to the PPP, to join the PPP’s Civic Group, in an embrace of which I have been the greatest beneficiary.
Don’t think window-dressing, but think necessary and essential affirmative action.
Sixthly, allow me to address directly the concomitant insinuation that the PPP together with its PPP/C is not the political party that Afro-Guyanese should join, not a party that wants them in. Since about ten years ago, our then President and now General Secretary and Vice President, Dr. Bharat Jagdeo, has been regularly asserting that we must attract more Afro-Guyanese to our party. Furthermore, in every election, at every level, since 1992, we have called on our party members to reach out and find citizens of worth, many of them Afro-Guyanese, with whom we could work, to fill one-third to one-half of our slate.
Words of Assurance. We, the PPP and PPP/C, remain hopeful in spite of our troubles over the last century (inclusive of the recent events of Dec 2018 to Aug 2020), and the evident remaining gaps between our peoples: rather we are heartened by the progress, which we have made closing the distances between us and developing our land.
Samuel A. A. Hinds
Former President and Former Prime Minister.
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