Apr 21, 2021 Letters
I write to thank N. Sahadeo (KN Apr. 20) making reference to my name for my writings and in the appeal for politicians and the public to stop burying their head in the sand and to confront head on the ugly history of governance, public policy, and ethnic relations.
Sahadeo identified some critical issues that need commissions of inquiry being national service, Wismar Massacre, and the Indian Immigration (Cultural) Fund. There are many others. African and Indigenous issues must also be addressed. Successive governments since the restoration of democracy in October 1992 have not touched on these issues apparently viewing them as hot powder keg or just hoping they would go away. They have not gone and will not go away. The sooner these troubling grievances are tackled, the sooner there would be reconciliation and healing, and the sooner we can address national development challenges. Not addressing them is a powder keg in the face of politicians.
KN and other media should be applauded for allowing the public freedom to express their views on these critical issues that have been obstacles to improved ethnic relations and rapid development. KN is about the only media that provides absolute freedom of speech on very important subjects.
The issue of Indian Immigration Fund that was used without widespread consent and approval to build Burnham National Culture Centre has been repeatedly raised by Indian cultural organisations and rights activists. But there has not been much action on the debate with successive governments preferring to ignore the past in order to move — let the past be!
Sahadeo used very strong language penning that Burnham ‘stole the Indian cultural fund’ to build his cultural centre for his supporters. Burnham coerced the few Indians allied with him to redirect the private Indian Immigration fund for the construction of the national cultural centre. Every Indian cultural and religious organisation, save one, and almost every prominent Indian political leader, including Dr. Jagan, opposed the move. Many felt the money should have been used to construct mini Indian cultural centres in villages around the country that would directly serve the needs of communities. A national cultural centre in Georgetown would exclude communities that live away from town; over 90 percent of Indians have lived far distances from Georgetown and could not or would not access the national centre. There was and is no way that communities in Essequibo or Berbice or miles from Georgetown like West Coast or West Bank or Timehri would benefit from a cultural centre in the capital city. It was, therefore, unjust and unwise to use the Indian immigration cultural fund for construction of a national centre that would not benefit Indian communities whose inherited fund built that edifice.
The issue before the Indian community is whether to seek compensation from the government for the use and depletion of their national fund, especially that which was used without their voluntary consent and approval. Of course, any compensation would have to be in equivalent current dollar value which would probably amount to hundreds of millions if not billions in current dollars when interests are added to it.
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