Fears of Indo-Guyanese success as early as the 1920s
Guyana is the richest country in CARICOM and with massive oil resources, we can all live ever happily after, if we unite as a nation, and realize our motto of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.” Regrettably, we are a perpetually nation divided, and while the major parties and their associates fight each other, the rapacious oil imperialists ship away the bulk of our wealth, and we live in never-ending persistent poverty. Every race suffers. The poorer class suffers most. The so-called leaders look out for their own aggrandisement, and use us as political fodder. Our politics which seeps into everything has been a poisoned chalice. Instead of fighting together for a bigger pie, we fight about which group seems to be getting most of the crumbs that fall from the oil masters’ tables. Invoking race and racism is self-destructive and hurts us all. Getting millions of dollars from the Government for your cause and turning around and cussing them out as “apartheid” is ungrateful and not very smart.
The recent letter by Attorney-General Nandlall, “Forum on ‘emerging apartheid’ is a travesty, breach of the constitution,” (SN, August 20, 2022) has roundly crticised the apparent pro-PNC Cuffy 250 group, a member organization of the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G ). The AG said the conference framed as “Resisting the Emerging Apartheid State,’’ is unfounded “racist brew,” which may be encouraging racial hostility and violating the Constitution and other laws. Until the VP mentioned that race-based groups were getting hundreds of millions in special grants, we did not know such grants were available to all Guyanese race-focused groups. Truth be told, the PPP Government makes a valiant effort to ensure its programs serve diverse populations. They have visited communities across the political spectrum. GOAL scholarships, house lots and homes, the various cash grants to all, hampers, etc. are fairly distributed across all communities. To use the term “emerging apartheid” is not only malicious, vexatious and mischievous, it is outright dishonest, and fails to recognize any good efforts and areas of progress of the PPP Government. This victimhood approach by Cuffy 250 does not serve their communities well.
The PPP’s biggest, unpardonable sin – a huge one – is its failure to keep its promise to renegotiate the bad PNC oil contracts, but is instead defending them. They have also refused to add “Indian” to “Arrival Day,” which the PNC supports. But to accuse them of “emerging apartheid” is plainly wicked. When new Election Commissioner Mr. Rohee said he wants GECOM to look like the rest of Guyana in diversity, he was pounced upon by Mr. Tacuma who seems to think that’s a bad thing. Do we not want to heal Guyana ? Remember GECOM had bypassed the most qualified candidate for the CEO job which was given to another. Would you say the civil service/state agencies/commissions, security forces lack diversity and is a kind of apartheid – a problem the PPP never fixed although being in Government for 25 of the past 30 years? The existence of the Ethnic Relations Commission cited by the AG has been a total waste of time, and the $210 million they gobble up annually could be better spent paving our streets at Whim that have been neglected by this Government.
Instead of concocting a “Nancy story” of “Apartheid,” the same way the PNC tells its supporters that the PPP is not a validly elected Government, Cuffy 250 would have done better to discuss the real, meaningful, most urgent topic in the nation - “Renegotiation of the Oil Steal,” and strategise how the African Community/PNC/unions can push this struggle forward. This would help us to get a bigger pie that benefits all communities, including our Afro communities. Creating a myth that the country is moving to apartheid does great disservice to the international reputation of the country. We shoot ourselves in the foot when we do that. That is anti-nationalist, not simply anti-PPP. Cuffy 250 and its associates that use the same playbook, must abandon such a losing strategy. A hole in the boat is a hole in the whole boat. If the boat leaks, we all go down. Does Cuffy 250 want Guyana to fail? When the PPP is in Government the PNC wants them to fail. When the PNC is in Government, the PPP wants them to fail. Both parties use scorched earth tactics. The national interest does not matter. That’s why despite being the richest country in CARICOM, we remain a “s…hole country,” as President Trump described countries like ours.
Perhaps, Mr. Floyd Haynes who was slated to be a speaker at the Conference should attend and explain that he got a huge oil auditing contract (US$751,000) and a license to set up a Merchant Bank in Guyana. He could have shaped the discussion in positive ways, and move the mentality from one of perpetual victimhood to one of strategizing to take advantage of emerging opportunities, versus this nonsense of an “apartheid.” But Mr. Haynes apparently could not get past the framing of the conference as “emerging apartheid” - a phrase he says he completely rejects.
Previous conferences by Cuffy 250, some addressed by President Granger, were titled: “African Guyanese Revitalization: Restoring the African Guyanese communities as spaces of Education, Culture and Economic Vitality (2014);”“Repositioning African Guyanese for Justice, Recognition and Sustainable Development (2017);” “Positioning African Guyanese villages and communities for the green state economy (2018);” “State of the African Guyanese Villages Forum;” “The Way Forward (2020).” With the PPP now in power, the theme is “Emerging Apartheid.” So, is Cuffy 250 saying under the 33 years of the PNC when the PNC took control of the “commanding heights of the economy” under cooperative socialism, our Afro communities made no progress and now suddenly we are into apartheid?
IDPADA-G and associates involved in the Conference must consider whether it is a smart strategy to invoke racism, as that mostly favours the PPP. Any time our Afro groups frame issues as racial issues, it sends those crossover voters who made them win in 2015 back to their base, and helps the PPP the most. To say that Guyana is an emerging apartheid state is lower than low. Shame on the Cuffy 250 and their allies for choosing such a divisive theme!
Dr. Jerry Jailall