Jun 15, 2021 Letters
I read the reply to my letter, commemorating the centenary this month of the Tulsa race massacre and riots. The burdens of my reminder of this event was a plea that all of us, leaders and the led, should learn the lessons from Tulsa and avoid sparks that can lead to explosions in a polarised environment such as what exist in Guyana.
I refer to a letter titled “Hamilton Green failed to exhort us on lessons from his own history,” written by Ryaan Shah and published on Friday’s edition of Kaieteur News. This letter is a combination of bile and distortions and runs counter to my intention for caution and peace. Shah refers to what she calls the Wismar massacre, where according to her, “Indian Guyanese homes and businesses were razed to the ground and Indian and Guyanese women were brutally raped and murdered.”
I do not wish to open old wounds, however, since Shah has determined that I have personal knowledge of events of that period, I give below just a few, I repeat, just a few to expose the absurdity of Shah’s statement. First, in the 1960s, my parent’s home at 58 Howes Street, Charlestown, where I lived had firebombs thrown through the front window. Fortunately, it was about 2:00 am and I was up and because I had a tank of water, sand and other materials, the house suffered only minor damage.
Second, I recall the horrors of the Ishmael family (Afro-Guyanese) whose home was raised to the ground and the mother raped and murdered at Tain Village on the Corentyne. Shah, these were not Indian homes.
Third, on June 12, 1964, Arthur Abraham and his family of eight had their home in Hadfield Street torched and he and seven children were burnt to death. His wife and one child miraculously escaped. Abraham was the Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office. In certain quarters, he was suspected to have passed sensitive information to Peter D’Aguiar. Official release from the then Government stated that he was promoted to serve as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works. No further comment, but, Ms. Shah, Arthur Abraham was not Indo-Guyanese
Fourth, on July 6, 1964, a launch that plied the Georgetown-Wismar, Mc Kenzie route and owned by a known PNC supporter, Mr. Norman Yacoob Chapman, exploded at Hurudaia, in the Demerara River and fifty-three persons were killed.
Ms. Shah, all fifty-three were Afro-Guyanese. A subsequent inquest showed that a gentleman called by the name Mohan or Paddy-man, had earlier loaded a bag, which the launch operator assumed to contain paddy but he left and did not travel that morning.
Inquest also showed that he had been in contact with very high officials at the Robb Street Headquarters of a certain political party. The floating bodies in the Wismar-Christianburg-Mc Kenzie areas was a spark ignited and turned against the Indo-Guyanese brothers who lived in that area.
It was not the first such incident, when news earlier reached the Wismar community that their fathers, uncles and sons were being killed and tossed in the Mahaicony Creek; this again was a spark. Shah talks about the assault of Indians on the West Coast Berbice, but conveniently ignores the sparks. The spark was the torture of the Henry’s cousins, at the back of Cotton Three Village, West Coast Berbice.
I have vivid memories of being a spectator, looking down Hadfield Street from Camp Street, seeing the smothering flames of the Abraham’s house and the gruesome discovery of the charred bodies of Arthur Abraham and his loved ones. I chose not to write about that anniversary last week but to refer to Tulsa, wanting to create neither animosity nor discomfort amongst those who were responsible for this arson and murder.
However, I seem obliged to make reference to the above in response to Shah’s damning letter. But Editor, hers was not the only effort at twisting our history and looking at incidents is a strange myopia.
They say, every story has at least three sides, your side, my side and the side often not told the whole real story. With that wisdom, let us learn from our missteps, our preconceived beliefs, our deep implanted prejudices. Let us also stop this nonsense and propaganda, which makes one set of us as Saints and the others as Sinners. The truth is as found in one of the Holy Books, let us be reminded of the word found in the New Testament, Romans 3 verse 23, “We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
If we are serious about cohesion and the philosophy underlying a One Guyana, our Hindu brothers should be reminded from the Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8 (Hinduism), “One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.” In the Holy Bible in Leviticus Chapter 19 verse 18, “Ye shall love thy neighbour as yourself.” In the Holy Koran, Forty Hadith of an-Nawasi 13 (Islam) – “Not one of you is a believer until he loves his brother what he loves for himself.”
I am an optimist and a patriot, and hope that we can rid ourselves of the one-sided views and therefore, open the window of opportunities for progress, which can only come about if we seek to heal and not peel. Finally, if the writer wishes to be informed of events during that period, I can make available, free of cost, a copy of my publication ‘Pain to Peace (1953 – 1964).’
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