Guyana’s Tragedy: Race is the tool, Oppression the result

[5 mins read]

There is no doubt that we have produced many brilliant politicians. The problem is that they have misused their intelligence. The following is an adaptation of a speech delivered decades ago by a politician who used his intelligence to serve (in so far as I am aware).

After decades of hurt and suffering too many of us have still not had enough of this foolishness of race. Allocating blame one way or another will serve no productive purpose. More than one political party has been responsible for the crisis of race relations which continues to plague this country. Our leadership has continued to fail us on that score. History shows us that external intervention was important in bringing races against each other in the 50s and particularly in the 60s. We must also acknowledge that this pitting of one race against another has served our political parties well. Race has been a key factor in gaining votes since the 60s. But I am concerned with the present. Ordinary Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese have been misled about the myth of race repeatedly. And though we could not afford it today, race has yet again been our undoing.

Do these words sound familiar? They are an adaptation of a street speech delivered by the late Dr Walter Rodney more than 30 years ago. Not much has changed. It’s almost as if Guyana is stuck in a time loop and doomed to repeat history. Does it have anything to do with race that families can barely put food on the table because of a pandemic? Does it have anything to do with race that businesses are closed and many jobless? Does it have anything to do with race that the weaknesses within the Constitution and electoral laws continue to be exploited by politicians? Does it have anything to do with race that young people cannot access government scholarships without the appropriate connection to the party in power? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This story about race is not in the interest of the common Afro-Guyanese or Indo-Guyanese. It is meant to divide the People. Those who are attempting to manipulate the current electoral process are not the ones who will suffer when all is settled. If the upcoming ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice does indeed bring an end to the 2020 elections, the politicians will not be the losers or suffers in all of this. The losers will be those who participated in the sharing and receiving of blows. Because when all is said and done, the politicians will share the spoils, settle into their fancy positions and collect their salaries and allowances funded by your taxes, your sweat and blood. This is what the racial discrimination does, feed power to the wealthy at the expense of the ordinary man.

Will this race hate keep your children safe and alive? Will this race hate ensure that food is on your table after the elections is settled? Will this race hate keep you safe from the pandemic and ensure that the public health system can provide the best care possible? Will this race hate fix the weaknesses in the Constitution and electoral laws? What will it do for you? You see, it will not end with just racial discrimination. You know this story very well. It starts with one thing and then leads to another thing that is worse for every man, woman and child. This was and still is a system of class oppression that disguises itself under a racial cover. There is the class of fat pigeons who handle the sharing of the corn and then there are the half-starved yard fowls waiting for them to shit so they can eat. Those who have and continue to manipulate the electoral system are doing it for the corn, not for you and your children.

I am sure that by now many of you know that it doesn’t matter if you are a member of one party or the other today. It does not guarantee your safety or security and will not protect you from the injustices of tomorrow. The political machinery is only concerned with its own interests and will move against anyone regardless of the colour of their skin. It will move even against its own. Because when a bad thing is allowed to grow, it grows out of control and it will eat up even those who created it. Today, the right of the matter happens to coincide with the interests of one party, but that does not mean tomorrow they will not take advantage of the same systemic weaknesses which have been used against them. Every politician with half a brain knows this. Someday, I hope that more of us will understand this too.

 

❤ Sara

 

Disclaimer:

This article contains the personal views of the author and is in no way connected with any institution or group with which she may be affiliated.

 

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, June 27, 2020

Surviving Guyana’s Political Madness

[8 mins read]

Be warned, the following contains mature language and could produce volatile emotions if you suffer from blind loyalty.

For some people, it’s been a fucking nightmare waking up every day in a country which seems to have gone politically mad. Many Guyanese of African and Indian ancestry spew their hate for each other daily by any means possible. Any African or Indian who dares to openly oppose their respective tribe is othered in a vile manner. As for Guyanese of “minor” ethnicities, the black and brown tribes don’t really give a shit about them. But the worst attacks are directed at those who attempt to provide a voice of reason, to analyze the propaganda and offer some clarity amidst the seemingly endless manipulation of the People.

But where else was Guyana headed if not to this familiar chaotic state? By now, it should be a truth universally accepted that Guyana’s political system is polarized and the political class gains and maintains power by using race-based strategies. Did we really expect the same political system which created the violence of the 1960s to give birth to anything other than the chaotic electoral mess we find ourselves in today? We have had decades to get our shit together and yet, political leaders have been less focused on nation building and have pursued power by any means necessary. This is the “gamesmanship” to which Caribbean Community Chair Mia Motley referred in her statement today. It is a constant part of our past and present.

Many people are frustrated that almost half the nation seems to have their heads buried deeply in their anal cavities. Even as some of these people see the truth and speak in favour of it, this does not necessarily mean that they suddenly support any of the major political parties. In fact, those of us with a sound mind and functioning memory are fucking terrified of having either major party in power. I have coped with the madness by viewing it as a necessary part of Guyana’s political evolution and growth. While most people are focused on the issues before us right now, I am more concerned with the shit we’ll have to deal with after the elections.

The way I see it, the political war taking place within the Court is out of my control. Eventually, Guyana will have a government and will have to move forward from the current standstill. When we do, we’ll find the familiar myriad of political, environmental, social and economic problems waiting for us. Public confidence in the Guyana Elections Commission is at an all-time low and we’ve seen firsthand the weaknesses of our electoral legislation. I hope that by now we understand that depending on the integrity of elected leaders is a poor game plan. Reforming the political system is the only way to ensure a positive outcome in future elections.

What do I think of the ongoing electoral issues? Well, my perception is completely irrelevant. There are only two perceptions which are very relevant to Guyana’s future right now:

  1. A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) supporters believe that the Opposition (East Indian Party) has attempted to rig the elections.
  2. Peoples’ Progressive Party/Civic supporters believe that the APNU+ AFC (African Party) has attempted to rig the elections.

This is the perfect recipe for far more chaos and disaster than we’ve experienced to date. The 2020 election has been well observed and documented in and out of the courts and there is enough information available to anyone who truly wishes to pursue the truth of the matter. As a result, answering “who is the rigger” is one of the easier questions. A more important question to our growth as a nation is – what could motivate a group of people to risk their reputations and careers by repeatedly attempting to alter the results of an election? Greed has been the most popular answer to this, but I believe it goes much deeper.

What scares the hell out of Indian and African Guyanese? Each other. Generally, Indians are afraid of an African led government and Africans are afraid of an Indian led government. Each tribe believes that if the other gets into power then they will be oppressed, abused and denied opportunities. These fears are not unfounded and make it very easy for politicians to manipulate their supporters. It is this fear which the riggers have likely used to justify having the moral grounds for such actions and of course, the rest of their motivation comes from the unwillingness to release power in a time of oil wealth (greed). Prepare yourselves for more nastiness and absurd theatrics. The gamesmanship is far from the end. Also, try to remember that growth is a painful thing.

❤ Sara

PS – I encourage you to be highly creative in your assassination of my character. I refuse to be the victim of sloppy bad talk.

Disclaimer:

This article contains the personal views of the author and is in no way connected with any institution or group with which she may be affiliated.

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, June 24, 2020

Colour

When I am an old lady with spotted skin and bones tired of carrying life, I will still remember 2020 as the year leaders of my youth ripped open deep wounds filled with the rankness of racism. I will never forget because the memory of the pain will be buried deep in my cells. Even if they don’t know it yet, the people of my time are destined to carry the wounds of today until their very last breath.

I will remember the angry cries – that were really screams of agony – from the black human and the brown human who were both reduced to nothing more than the colour of their skin. Their cries tell a story of an ancestral inability to truly love themselves. If they loved themselves then they would see that what makes them beautiful is so much more. If they loved themselves then no one could use the colour of their skin to manipulate them.

The blood pumping through their veins is full of memory. Some of these memories carry the sting of the whip, the humiliation of poverty, the loss of home and love and the heaviness of fear. But in the same blood, there is a song of home, of love, of hope, of courage and of a time when there was pride and joy. In the end, we choose which songs we hear more loudly. We choose.

Colour is a building block of the glorious beauty in this world and I am grateful for this gift. When I look at the people I love, I see them in all their glorious colour and I celebrate it for what it is – beauty. I have been blessed to witness the ebony glory, the golden glow, the bronze hue, the pearly softness and the pink undertones. They are all a sign of the wondrous gift we call life.

And we have corrupted the beauty of colour. We have twisted it into a tool to enslave. We use it to belittle, demean, hurt and hate. And many of us don’t even know why we do it. The truth is that the many rob themselves to satisfy the greed of the few.

❤ Sara

From Rice and Sugar to Oil – How will this change us?

I grew up in Craig, a small village on the eastern bank of the Demerara River, where rice and sugar are an important part of many family stories. Rice provided for our village and then sugar came and changed the drainage and irrigation system in our village’s backlands. And when the land changed, so did the people and their village. Today, oil is the new plantation and it is already sweeping across the land and transforming us.

In the early to mid-90s, I remember walking along Craig Old Road in the evenings with my Nana (maternal grandfather) to hang lanterns which lit the way to our village shop. It’s been ten years since he died and I still walk this same path almost every morning but our village is not the same. And now I wonder if one day, Nana also looked around him and thought the same thing – Guyana is changing.

Nana was a farmer for most of his life. He threw paddy on acres of our family land behind the village and he was a top producer at the Diamond Sugar Estate (which is no more). Tonight, Nani (maternal grandmother) told me that the village looks and feels much different than it was when she and Nana were a young couple with nine children. I don’t know if Nani realizes that she is witnessing history writing itself across the land again.

Knottie and James Bacchus sold their land along Craig Public Road to the great grandfather of my family pandit (Gopi). He opened a rice mill where farmers brought their paddy every crop. There were also rice mills in Buzz-bee Dam and New Hope. These were closer than Bel Air where farmers had to take their produce before. But the Diamond Estate changed everything and the rice farmers became sugar-cane farmers. Now, the rice mills are only memories for old folks in these parts.

When sugar-cane started declining, many farmers including those in my family switched to planting ground provisions, cash crops, fruits or running poultry farms. In the 70s, my family moved to the Public Road (now Craig Old Road) and opened a village shop. Back then it was a vibrant place with pools tables where many a village wife came in search of her husband. By night my uncles gave life to the shop and at the crack of dawn they farmed our land.

The last of the farmers in my family died a few years ago. My mamoo (maternal uncle) Seepaul farmed until he died and Beebee (my younger mamoo) stopped farming when he got sick. Bee left land to his sons, but they sold it because farming does not provide the instant economic gratification that my generation seems to crave. The rich history of farming in my family is now ashes mixed into the soil feeding some other kind of life.

These days with all the in-fighting going on in our country I am not sure what will happen to us. Not knowing is very frightening. Are the changes brought by oil already turning us into ashes which will feed other kinds of life around the world?

Oil is changing us; it is no longer a choice. Our response to this change is the important thing now and for this we need united leadership. While I accept that leading a country this young and with our complex history is no easy task, it does not mean that we cannot shape our own transformation. We need a clear vision and leaders committed to serving and respecting the nation and freedom our ancestors delivered to us.

Without Wax,

Sara

 

Featured Image: Ace Raima

 

Disclaimer:

This article contains the personal views of the author and is in no way connected with any institution or group with which she may be affiliated.

 

A note from the Author:

Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, August 31, 2019

Do you have a story you’d like to share? You can email me at sarabharrat@gmail.com

A Joint Open Letter to the President and Opposition Leader

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,

Sara Bharrat

Ferlin Pedro

Fabrice Williams

Avinand Rampersaud

Diana Cruickshank

Mellissa Bacchus

Athar Khan

 

 

Featured Image: Stabroek News

 

Disclaimer:

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.

 

Other sources:

This letter has also be published in the August 17, 2019 edition of the Kaieteur News. Click here to access.