Sep 03, 2022 Letters
In a divided society like ours, the pursuit of equity demands that all voices are heard, and no community is taken for granted. When VP Jagdeo queried about possible mismanagement of subventions provided to IDPADA-G, the response was swift. No one even bothered to ask if any Indian organisation benefitted similarly from government subventions.
For the record, from 2009 to 2022, no Indian organisation received any public funds. Yet, African leaders are now pushing the false narrative of an “emerging apartheid” (“economic apartheid” according to Norton). This belief, however, is not simply held by “fringe elements”, as Ralph Ramkarran intimated in his 8/28/22 column. It is a mindset embraced by mainstream African leaders.
Henry Jeffrey, former UG lecturer who served in four ministerial portfolios with the PPP government for 17 consecutive years, says the foundations of the “apartheid” state were established since 2013 (presumably the Granger years are exempted!). On August 23, Jeffrey, perhaps, in a Freudian slip, alluded to Kean Gibson’s “nancy story” about racism inspired by Hindu casteism. “It might be that Hinduism can cause them to be more racist”, he told Dr. Hinds. It’s difficult to fathom exactly what political values Ralph Ramkarran, Beni Sankar, and Timothy Jonas shared in common with Jeffrey when they conceived of the ANUG in 2019.
Nigel Hughes recently delivered an emotionally uplifting emancipation sermon to Buxtonians. But when Nigel inferred that “Africans were here for four hundred plus years, the others are guests”, his legitimate argument for “sharing the corn” equally (he probably meant equitably) evoked a type of bigotry associated with the prior arrival theory – more than 480,000 Africans moved 100 million tons of “dutty” to humanise the rugged Guyanese landscape, and cleared a slavery-free state for the arrival of the interloping Indians. Nigel’s presentation on KAMS TV has apparently since been scrubbed from the internet. Vincent Alexander referred to “an analogous” and “metaphorical apartheid” akin to the South African experience. Vincent spoke of the “national liberation struggle” and “resistance” initiated by Kofi (Cuffy), which Africans must continue today.
Indeed. Social media extremism has produced political entrepreneurs of all stripes. Lincoln Lewis can now brazenly object to a more inclusive GECOM, despite what former commissioner Robeson Benn identified as a legitimate concern. Ogunseye supports data-driven assessment for the allocation of Guyana’s natural resources, but then proceeded to abuse “Indian activists” for suggesting that data analysis be utilised to assess claims of discrimination by any community. Science has been reduced to a mere perception. A dangerous myth that Indians control the economy took on a life of its own when in March 1997, Dr. Clive Thomas, using questionable data, made a similar claim at an ACDA conference. Professor Tarron Khemraj and Dr. Ramesh Gampat have argued that existing data points to a different Guyanese reality – more Indians and Amerindians live in poverty. Yet, the entire panel of speakers appearing on the “emerging apartheid” programme on Sunday placed all their problems squarely at the feet of Indians.
David Hinds has declared that only Africans can genuinely speak on their behalf. Fair enough. But Indians have a right to remind black leaders that when they make vulgar appeals to primordial instincts through false narratives, Indians ultimately become the victim of ethnic violence. On August 20, Attorney General Nandlall enumerated a cluster of epithets in the Constitution (Article 149 and Article 160A (1), for example) that allow citizens to challenge government policies and protect them against discrimination. Yet, those constitutional provisions have not protected Indians against racially targeted violence. The GIHA and GIFT reports, documenting violence against Indians, become meaningless. It remains to be seen if the proposed COI on the 2020 election will include an examination of the events that took place in West Berbice. The memory warriors conveniently forget that coalition politics, tempered political rhetoric and eschewing of street protests, not the drumbeats of war, contributed to David Granger’s electoral victory in 2015. Yet, Jeffrey continues to peddle the “winner take all” falsity, ignoring the fact that the Indian population has been reduced under the Burnham dictatorship from a majority of 51% (1980) to 39% (2012).
No one can argue that the excesses of the current government should be excused. They must be confronted. But, if, as Aubrey Norton claims, that the government exists solely for the promotion of Indian interests, how does he explain the government’s failure: a) To ensure that the Atlantic Reader Series be revised to fairly represent the cultures of Amerindians and Indians as suggested by activist Ravi Dev and novelist Ryhaan Shah; b) To respond to calls for digitizing the indentured labour route immigration documents housed in the Rodney Archive; c) To acknowledge the history of Indians by officially attaching “Indian” in front of Arrival Day; d) To ensure ethnic balance in all state institutions.
Public funds designated for the palpable upliftment of Africans should never be withheld from any organisation, provided that an annual audit is submitted to the Ministry of Finance. But the current issue raises a basic question: Which Amerindian or Indian organization will receive this amount of public funds, which, for IDPADA-G, will continue until 2024? Our problem is clear. Beyond the senseless screaming of political leaders, both major parties are guilty of not confronting the ethnic dilemma frontally. There has been an absence of genuine national dialogue. Indians are being asked by the Irfaan Ali government to unfairly bear the burden of sacrificing for the greater political good. “One Guyana” is meaningless to the memory warriors who continue to make a mockery of the initiative.
Today, there is practically no organisation that articulates and speaks to the problems of Indians. IGPADA-G can boast at least 68 such African organisations. Any Indian who dares to discuss ethnic issues is dismissed with the familiar phrase “alyou talking race.” Yet, Indian leaders will not emulate Mark Phillips, who, admirably so, can proudly express his “Afro-centricity” during a visit to Buxton. That some leaders believe that Africans will return to the PPP’s corner, as in pre-1955, is a delusion. Given our divisive politics, Amerindians and Indians, irrespective of their current political allegiance, should lay out an agenda that situate their interests at the bargaining table. Equity demands no less.
I will eat a piece of Exxon Christmas Cake with your ingredients inside.
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