• 23 May, 2024

PPP in Government in Guyana, but Afro Opposition PNC holds academic power

PPP in Government in Guyana, but Afro Opposition PNC holds academic power

PPP in Government in Guyana, but Afro Opposition PNC holds academic power

The Guyana Institute for Historical Research (GIHR) hosts annual conferences dedicated to the study and preservation of Guyana's rich historical heritage. However, it focuses, almost solely, on African aspects of Guyanese history and heritage when the majority ethnic group in Guyana is Indo-Guyanese. Indo presenters, topics and history are neglected, and if included, only as a token show of inclusion as illustrated by this year’s conference from June 22 to 24, 2023.

The GIHR farcically prides itself on diversity and inclusion, and the exploration of all facets of Guyanese history. Noteworthy, the man appointed to chair the conference is Eric Philips who has consistently faced allegations of racism. In response to the Dutch Government’s apology for slavery, his statement to CARICOM clearly shows his Afro-centric thoughts. As Chairman of the Guyana Reparations Committee, Philips champions the black cause only and purposefully neglects the deservedness of descendants of indentured Chinese, Portuguese and East Indians as well as the native Amerindian communities.

Philips has also been accused of inciting racial violence against the now-governing People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C). In a 2017 Facebook post, he wrote, “Jagdeo needs to be careful because if anyone in my family or SOCU or SARA's families are killed or attacked or placed at risk because of his purposeful racism ... he needs to understand that he, his cabinet and their families (bar none) will be at the same risk ... the only difference is that the response will be significantly disproportionate and very cruel.” After months of back and forth, one editorial in the Guyana Chronicle (15/09/17) said, “Philips … uses charges of racism as a weapon to get out of it. Labeling those who disagree with [him] as racists with the hope of silencing them.”

Of the 12 people featured in the opening proceedings on Day 1 of this year’s GIHR conference, no one has an Indo name. To add insult to injury, there is drumming, spoken word and a presentation by the Pan African Movement - nothing resembling Indo-Guyanese cultural performances. With about 30 contributors, only five have Indian surnames. None of the topics for discussion relates to Indian history or heritage. It focuses heavily on slavery, the axis of the organizers’ existence. For the GIHR, their worldview, outlook and perspective hinge on slavery, not progressively, but consistently stuck in the past. Also included as a panel chair is politician David Hinds, a man who, on record in 2021, encouraged supporters to undermine East Indian businesses. He is a rabble-rouser spewing, screaming, foaming and shouting ethnic poison at every street corner until he becomes hoarse.

One of the conference’s main advisors is former University of Guyana’s (UG’s) registrar, Vincent Alexander. He is the chairman of the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G). He is an Afro-centrist who champions the cause of African supremacy. As a contributor to the Stabroek News (23/09/20), Ravi Dev wrote: “ He has now become a ‘memory warrior’, zealously seeking to impose a single, foundational, historical African “TRUTH” (in caps) while delegitimizing the views of all other ethnic views, especially Indian’s and Indigenous People’s’”.

It is essential to foster an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect in the field of historical research. Recognizing the importance of all Guyanese ethnic groups and their contributions to the nation's history is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the country's past. As an organization dedicated to historical research, GIHR should play a vital role in promoting inclusion and advancing knowledge about all aspects of Guyana's diverse history and heritage. With Philips as chair of this conference, will there be any academic integrity if there is no personal integrity? It is clear that these conferences are being used to consolidate ethnic power in Guyana. Although the Indo-based PPP party is in power, it does nothing to complement or balance this show of Afro dominance in academia.