May 03, 2021 Letters
Permit me to comment on Vishnu Bisram‘s letter of May 1, 2021, in which he engages in his usual fetish of castigating the PNC. On this occasion, he also castigated David Hinds for not admonishing Amanza Walton-Desir for what he, Bisram, describes as racist remarks that she uttered on a social media programme. Bisram is the least of persons of moral standing to take such a position against Hinds. While, he accuses Hinds for not admonishing Desir for her “racist” opinion, he, Bisram, sat through an entire Infinity Foundation social media programme and silently gave credence to the utterances of one Kirk Meighoo, who in reference to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago said: ‘these were new countries, we built these countries, we were foundational people’. After slaving, from the sixteenth century through to the nineteenth century, to humanise the “Wild Coast” (Guyana) the enslaved Africans are referred to as if they made no contribution to the transformation of the “Wild Coast” while the indentured labourers of nineteenth century vintage are referred to as the “foundational people”. Truth and more so Reconciliation, in Guyana, has to start with the acceptance of those fundamental facts. Posturing by Meighoo and Bisram will only cement the divide, which I dare say predates the fifties, the period that Bisram and others identify as its genesis.
Much of Bisram‘s letter is based on false premises and as a consequence misrepresents the true Guyana story. Here are some illustrations.
1. The ethnic problem in Guyana does not have its genesis in 1957 as Bisram seeks to establish. Guyana‘s evolution, from the coming of the Dutch through to the coming of the last set of indentures, the Indians, had at its core exploitation, contrived conflict between and among the various ethnic groups, and the consequential rivalry. It may have remained controlled and latent with the moments that many describe as it beginnings being just moments like those of the eruption of a volcano (the manifestation of a festering phenomenon/problem). At the time of the formation of the PPP in 1950, when a special effort was made to bring together the Indian and African leadership of the country, it was but recognition of the inherent socio-organic asymmetry of our society; and an attempt to find or establish the basis for symmetry/cohesion/unity.
2. Even before the split of the PPP in 1955, Jagan in his letter to the Communist party of Czechoslovakia, seeking assistance, stated that the left wing of the PPP was in the ascendency. The split did not take an ethnic form or result in ethnic division among the leadership. Clearly, the left-inclined stayed with Jagan and the moderates left with Burnham. Hence, both emergent parties, at that point in time, had multi-ethnic leadership. It may however be contended that that was a volcanic moment among the people that saw an eventual alignment of the people, which reflected the asymmetry that was extant but submerged.
3. Ms. Walton may be cited for bad use of language in her reference to the Indians being “mentally lazy”. She may of her own accord come to that conclusion but the political environment, as I know it to be, is not conducive to public confessions or public chastisement. It is an environment of cheap politicking and the scoring of cheap political points, as is the case with Bisram’s letter. As a professed academic, he did not see her as trying to identify a problem worthy of examination. He when straight to the jugular of Walton and the PNC for the usual kill. However, in doing so, he averted to the “herd mentality” which might have been the better articulation of Walton`s thoughts, albeit even that moment might have been seized to launch the attack on her.
4. Bisram showed his real colours when he went on to accuse the PNC of ‘institutionalising a situation between 1965 and 1992 to marginalise and denigrate Indians and their culture’. First of all, he failed to periodise PNC rule, a thing which most genuine academics have done. The 1964-68 and Hoyte era were quite different to the early 70s unto the mid-80s. But even during the mid-70s to the mid-80s, the country was affected by the economic problems and each group was affected based on the space, which they occupied on the socio-economic landscape. When the importation of food items was affected, there is Bisram`s cry that it was policies targeted against the Indians. That begs the question as to when there was retrenchment and mostly Africans were affected if that too was not but a manifestation of another group being affected by the crisis based on their position on the socio-economic landscape. It should also be noted that the scarcity of food items, such as flour and split peas affected all Guyanese and nails the contention that Indians/Hindus were targeted. Bisram also refuses to recognise the manner in which religion and education were treated under the Burnham regime. Religious holidays were granted and religious observations encouraged. Schools became accessible to all when the State took control. There was no longer a need to assume an Anglo-Saxon name to access some quarters of the education sector.
5. What has not been acknowledged is that prior to independence, the State was under British control hence the call for liberation would have been directed to the British. The inter-ethnic issues where exploited and moderated by the British and our institutions were fashioned to facilitate that operation. Once we became independent, it was no longer us against them. All internal issues arose amongst ourselves and that which was latent became more active. We have failed to fully acknowledge the problem and as a consequence, no real overt attempt has been made to correct it, even as we perpetuate it by denial and misdiagnosis, all of which are manifest in the tirades of Bisram et al.
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