Indian Racism Against Afro Guyanese In Guyana
From time to time Barbados Underground (BU) will highlight comments which we feel will further the debate in a particular topic. From our inception, we have attempted to deal with the hard issues arising from the impact of immigration on small countries like Barbados. In the process, we have had to deal with the abuse from people who have misunderstood our position, in the case of some we have no doubt it is deliberate. We did not make the decision to tackle controversial issues like immigration, homosexuality, a passive Fourth Estate, corruption in politics, obsolete government systems and others without expecting to attract criticism. We remain committed to bring these issues out of the closet so that all sides of the arguments can be exposed for public comment. It is the only way to demystify and educate the PEOPLE if we are to progress as a society.
In Barbados we have perfected the art of avoiding certain issues in the hope that they will fade away. We thank the commenter who submitted the note below.
This was copied from The Caribbean Impact – Jan 2008
Racism and the degeneration of Guyana
By Dr. KEAN GIBSON
I am on a one-year sabbatical from my job at The University of the West Indies, Barbados so most of my time is spent in Guyana which is my research area. I have done research on the Creole language, African-Guyanese culture (Comfa and Kwe-Kwe), but more recently I have been interested in the racism in the society and the political, social and economic consequences of a racial power structure. In the past I would spend my summer vacations and have occasional short visits to the country.
Whenever I return to Barbados it takes me a couple of days to recover from the trauma of the society. Now that I am in Guyana on a more or less continuous basis, I feel that I am living in a pressure cooker, and like many Guyanese, I just want some relief from the tensions in society. The problem in the country is inequality and the consequences of it with respect to differential distribution, rights and duties (which is what racism is about).
I was particularly concerned with a report in the Stabroek News (”Five ERC reports presented to Parliament,” October 19, 2007) where it was stated that studies conducted by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) show that discrimination against African-Guyanese was a ‘perception’:
“The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) says studies on five important areas of concern in the country found no real evidence of discrimination but a perception that certain ethnic groups are discriminated against.”
A subsequent notice appeared in Stabroek News (October 28, 2007) where the ERC was inviting African-Guyanese to a forum to discuss their “perceived needs.” The use of the term “perception” implies that nothing needs to be done since discrimination is just a figment of the imagination of African-Guyanese. The discrimination must be a perception because no laws are broken. In South Africa during the apartheid era, and in the Southern United States in the pre-Martin Luther King, Jr. era, laws were passed prohibiting people from living or sitting in certain areas; and if these laws were broken, punishment could then be inflicted. Also, it is in the laws of Guyana that Guyanese cannot own lands in Amerindian areas, but Amerindians can own lands in other areas. So if members of other ethnic groups seek to purchase lands in Amerindian designated areas the discrimination would be very clear since a law would be broken.
There are no such laws with respect to Africans, East Indians and other ethnic groups in the society. Since no laws can be said to be broken with respect to jobs, land distribution and development opportunities in Guyana, the implication is that all is well in the society for racism is nothing more than a perception.
But all is not well. If the word “discrimination” is a poor choice for the experiences of African-Guyanese since racism is not legal in Guyana, then a more apt word is “victimization” where a group of people are singled out for cruel and unjust treatment. There is an informal system (racism is a formal or informal power structure) of privileges and rights operating in the society. When East Indians are accused of racism, they are quick to point out that they lived and worked among Africans and have or had close African friends.
So there is nothing that one can point at to say they are racists – so the racism in nothing more than a perception. But Africans are victims of what is in the hearts of East Indians, and as I have pointed out in The Cycle of Racial Oppression (2003) and Sacred Duty: Hinduism and violence in Guyana (2005), what is written in the Hindu sacred texts. The violent reactions by some East Indians to Cycle (there has been silence on Sacred Duty since I really got to the core of the issue in that book), is that I had the audacity to discuss the formal system of racism that informs their hearts. The racism, and thus inequality, that is promoted in the Hindu sacred texts is a valuable resource which bestows benefits, rights and duties to a group of people and thus must be maintained at all costs and by any means necessary.
One area in which Africans are victimized is in development allocations and thus depriving Africans of the means of earning a living and driving them into poverty thereby injuring their life prospects. If you cannot work, you cannot live. Since the PPP came to power in 1992 a myth was formulated that Africans do not repay loans. That myth became the justification for banks denying loans to Africans, but loans are readily made available to East Indians. The result is that Africans do not apply to banks for loans, and this is then the reason for the ERC in their report concluding that there is no discrimination against Africans in receiving bank loans since Africans do not apply.
The African Cultural Development Association (ACDA) has reported that it applied to the European Union (EU) for funds for a Drum Museum and other social needs. The money was approved by the EU but the disbursement has been stymied by the government and so ACDA has not received the money. There is another instance in which the EU gave money to a Co-op comprising of Africans to assist in developing their farming methods. No sooner was the grant made that an East Indian wrote the EU protesting about the grant and at the same time informing the Minister of Agriculture of his actions. This was done without informing the Co-op members, and only the generosity of the EU facilitated the information reaching the members of the Co-op. Then too, there has been the systematic killing of young African men. There has been no systematic killings of the other ethnic groups. Whether it is by starvation or systematic murder, the PPP has been portraying a sustained and purposeful attempt to destroy Africans. This is genocide.
Guyanese frequently tell me that they are “confused.” The confusion is not surprising for there is evidence of double standards and “double talk.” The President tells the nation that acting positions are not good in that persons needed to be confirmed in their positions to give them security of tenure and to give them the confidence to shield them from the Executive, but he creates acting positions. There are several acting positions in important arms of the state. There is an Acting Police Commissioner, Acting Judges, Acting DPP, Acting Auditor General, Acting Chief Justice and Acting Chancellor. We see images in the newspapers and on television of young men who have been tortured, but the state tells us that torture is not a part of its modus operandi and the wounds may be self-inflicted.
We see that one set of laws and behaviors that apply to a particular group, do not apply to another. Young African men and the poor in the society are summarily executed while surrendering, or killed without firing at the police, or are jailed for committing violent crimes, or committing a robbery. But the white collar crimes that are primarily connected to the narcotics trade, money laundering, trafficking in persons and weapons, and corruption are operations that are above the law, and the culprits are very often not prosecuted. In fact, in a series of articles in Stabroek News (beginning on September 16, 2007), Clive Y. Thomas explains how the state has been reconstituted to become a criminal enterprise.
Despite their criminality, he explains, the state expresses concerns about law and order in the society. However, these are concerns which apply to the ordinary citizens and not to the cabal who do not want their operations stymied. For example, the Minister of Human Services proclaimed a war on sexual violence, but no actions were taken when a Senior Minister in her government allegedly raped a young woman. Ordinary citizens are jailed for assault, but the President took no action against his Minister of Local government who assaulted a young man with a gun, knocked him down with his vehicle and then fired shots in the air. Young African men are criminalized and murdered for resisting their oppression; but as Clive Y. Thomas pointed out (”Above and beyond the law: The ruling elite in the criminal state,” = Stabroek News, September 16, 2007), the state is the same criminal gang which organizes the infamous “phantom force.” The people have all right to be confused by this double standard and double talk – it is a deliberate confusion aimed at making the people think that a moderate position will be taken, but it never happens. It is a confusion which also means that the agenda is to subordinate a group of people.
A major confusion at the moment concerns the Judiciary where the President is attempting to govern the country in contradicting the rules of the Constitution. Due to the President’s intransigence in nominating no one other than Justice Carl Singh for the post of Chancellor, the Constitutional requirement that there be agreement between the President and the Leader of the Opposition has been unfruitful. The President blamed the Constitution for the impasse and went so far as to assert:
“It was not the intention of the constitution reform commission for anything like this to happen and so we will have to find ways to set a precedent or make the necessary change to deal with this.”
There is nothing wrong with the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution knew that Guyana has a racial problem and sought to heal the divisions by making provisions for consensual decisions. The “new precedent” that the President has decided on is to step outside of the Constitution and create the posts of Acting Chief Justice and Acting Chancellor. There are no such posts in the Constitution. The problem began in 2005 with the failure of an agreement between the President and the Leader of the Opposition on who should be the new Chancellor. The President named Justice Carl Singh who is/was the Chief Justice as an Acting Chancellor. In November 2007, Justice Ramlall ruled that one person cannot hold two posts at the same time. The Constitution has set up two courts and a head of each. There is no provision for one person to hold both positions, or for one person to act for another. The government has now decided to deflect the order in another way by creating two acting appointments which are outside of the Constitution. The disobeying of the Supreme Law has been going on for some time which indicates that the President would like to rule by fiat.
Carl Singh with President Jagdeo
What the government has never told the people is whether Justice Carl Singh was in receipt of two salaries – one for Chief Justice and another for Acting Chancellor. It is also known that he advises the government which means he has to be paid. So he is like Popeye – bowling and batting. The obtaining of several salaries is not only an aspect of the white collar crime that is destroying the country, but it reinforces the point made by Clive Y. Thomas (”Above and beyond the law: The ruling elite in the criminal state,” Stabroek News, September 16, 2007) that several persons in the cabal operate in several categories simultaneously.
In Part 11, I will look at the response of the people to the violence that is being inflicted on them by the state