A couple days ago a group of young people agreed that being silent at this moment in Guyana’s history is not an option. We wrote a joint open letter to the President and Leader of the Opposition calling for them to work together. I am extremely proud of Ferlin Pedro, Diana Cruickshank, Avinand Rampersaud, Fabrice Williams, Mellissa Bacchus and Athar Khan. Their willingness to speak up will be a lasting source of inspiration for me.
August 16, 2019
Dear President Granger and Former President Jagdeo,
Both of you have been praised for achieving many great national accomplishments during your respective tenure in government. Guyana owes much gratitude to each of you for demonstrating your unwavering patriotism and dedication to serving the public good. However, over the years both of you have also been blamed for much of the ongoing strife plaguing our nation. Sometimes we are guilty of forgetting our history, where we came from, and how we got to the point we’re at as a people. Although both of you have helped to shape the Guyana we know of today, neither of you single-handedly made Guyana what it is. Our Guyana has gone through tough times, but it was a series of collective struggle and determination which allowed our nation to become a republic and to thrive independently. If it weren’t for our Guyanese ancestors who believed relentlessly in liberty and justice, an independent and free Guyana would not have been possible.
Unfortunately, both of you began to govern our country at a time when there is a stockpile of post-colonial problems inherited from our past. Despite making significant social and political strides, Guyana remains divided among its people by ethnicity or race and suffers because of this segregation. And so, we ask ourselves, what is the likelihood that both of you will pass these prevailing problems on to the next generation? We, the people, know that both of you possess the political power necessary to change Guyana’s politics for the better, eliminating the hate, fear, and scourge of ethnic and racial discrimination—though what’s lacking is the will to commit.
Political leaders must keep in mind that they too are Guyanese, and when they demit from office, they are left with the conditions they’ve either overlooked or created while in office, or simply failed to remedy. But we do not wish for two proficient Guyanese leaders to be remembered as not doing much to safeguard our nation from the ills of hate and prejudice. Together, you both hold the hope of every Guyanese, a hope that desires prosperity and equality for not just some of us but all of us. We are part of this generation, this century, this moment in all of history, so we implore you both to work together to secure a better future for everyone. We are confident this much is mutually understood.
Of course, in each of your own way, you both want what’s best for Guyana. So why aren’t you protecting us from the ills of our past? Why aren’t you teaching us important values to progress as a nation under unity? What we ask of you, our elected leaders, is to show us that it is possible to live beyond the script of hate that history has handed to us. This is the very least you can do for the people of Guyana before retiring from your respected political careers.
A couple years ago we kept dreaming of the day when you two would shake hands, smile at each other, embrace your kinship and put history behind you, not that we ask to forget history, but to learn from history to create a better and more unified society. Just imagine what could happen if our most powerful Afro-Guyanese leader and our most powerful Indo-Guyanese leader could find a way to demonstrate forgiveness, brotherhood, and unity. The idea is to show that we are truly one family, and that our differences can strengthen us to appreciate each other for who we are as individuals, and more importantly, who we are as a people.
Were such demonstrations to happen, Guyana would be one of the most outstanding examples of transcending a historically divided nation into a more unified one because of bold political leadership. Such a reality would permanently lay both of you down in history as true statesmen with tales to tell for centuries to come. What could be more worthwhile in politics than to be remembered for accomplishing what was said to be inconceivable?
Fortunately, we have seen many pictures of you both shaking hands, smiling, walking together, talking. We waited to see if it would take us towards a path we’ve longed for. So far, none of the friendly encounters have done so. We felt betrayed. Somehow, your willingness to speak to each other has only divided this nation further. And worse than the division is the hopelessness it has stirred in the hearts of our people. So, we ask, is this how you want history to remember you? As the brothers who continued a family feud spanning decades and ripping apart a nation on the verge of greatness?
We know that what we’re suggesting isn’t so easy to do. We understand the complexities and the fear. But the leadership we seek entails the power to influence necessary change to guide us forward as one indivisible people who stand together across differences. Do both of you not feel what is happening across the nation—the strife, the angst, the intolerance? We live through it every day. The people are concerned about what is happening and they are even more concerned about what might happen. Many feel hopeless, frustrated, and even confused by current events, but helpless at the same time because they don’t know what to do or what they can do as citizens.
We know that both of you have the power to create a national atmosphere different from what we’ve grown accustomed to throughout our Guyanese experience. We believe that together we can accomplish so much more. Without mutual understanding and political maturity, we are afraid that tensions would escalate further among our people, thereby resulting in social instability. So, we the people ask our leaders what kind of Guyana do you want to leave behind? Are you truly willing to sacrifice your political ambitions to deliver what’s in the broader interest of the Guyanese people? How far will you go to ensure lasting peace and prosperity for all Guyanese?
Choose wisely because your decisions matter now more than ever before. Let’s give our future a chance and not continue to float in uncertainty because of our current actions. Let’s remind ourselves that we are all in this together, just like our ancestors who suffered together to give us the privilege of liberation. Regardless of ethnicity, race, religion or creed, we are—first and foremost – Guyanese. All else is secondary.
Sincerely and with much hope,
Featured Image: Stabroek News
This letter contains the views of the authors and is in no way connected with any institution or group with which they may be affiliated.
This letter has also be published in the August 17, 2019 edition of the Kaieteur News. Click here to access.