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As I read Vishnu Bisram Letter of August 7, 2020 in Guyana Times captioned: “Effects of Burnham ban on Pitri Paksh” my memory was jolted back to 1979. In 1979, I was among the first batch of PNC students (not government students) who enrolled at the Peoples` Friendship University, Moscow. By then, the PPP students had been attending for decades. Our presence occasioned the rivalry, tension and dirty tricks politics by some, in the quest for political ascendency, as was the norm at home. What my jolted memory recalls is the similarity propaganda of some PPP students, who related to the students from Africa, Asia and Latin America that the PNC was a fascist Government and that we were in the habit of ‘chopping off the hands of sugar workers at the Blairmont Sugar Estate’ because they were opposed to the PNC fascist Government. I view the Bisram letter in the same vile propagandist and divisive tones, and insensitive to the ongoing trauma and ethnic confrontation accentuated by the recent heinous murder of the Henry boys, in West Berbice, albeit during the period of Pitri Paksh.
What did Bisram have to say in his letter?
- He claims that Indo-Guyanese observe Pitri
- Paksh. I might be wrong in saying that Pitri Paaksh is a Hindu observation. What implicitly Bisram is doing is pitting the PNC against all Indo-Guyanese. Fostering clear ethnic division on a false premise. Not all Indo-Guyanese are Hindus.
- Secondly, he describes the Indo-Guyanese
- as indentured slaves. A clear oxymoron. Indentureship and slavery were both exploitative systems. However, indentureship was the ‘exploitation of man by man’ and slavery the ‘appropriation of man by man’. The Africans were treated as chattel with no Human
- He claims that Indo-Guyanese under the
- Burnham and Hoyte regimes were unable to practice their culture and that even the Europeans treated them better. This is the largest portion of hog wash that I have come across in a long time. Firstly, Bisram himself called the Indo-Guyanese indentured slaves,
- albeit falsely so, then implies that that status was better than that under a regime where Indo-Guyanese were granted religious holidays; no longer had to change their names and pretend to be Christians to be enrolled in Anglo-Saxon schools; enjoyed marriage
- rites in keeping with their religious practices etc. None of which they enjoyed under the colonizers.
- Fourthly, he reduced a national problem
- to an imposition on Indo-Guyanese. He clearly ignores the fact that the unavailability of certain goods affected all Guyanese and could not have been a policy aimed to prevent the Indo-Guyanese from practicing their culture. For example, all Guyanese consume
- flour on a daily basis, and use split peas as a staple. The Anglican and Catholic churches use incense as routine and as much as any other group, not to mention that some of the inputs referred to by Bisram are not sacrosanct and substitutes were available.
- In the case of criminalizing the smuggling of the restricted imports, it could hardly be argued that one ethnic group was targeted. All were involved. All were consumed and I would not ventured to speculate as to which group was the main beneficiary of the
- illicit trade.
- Finally, what Bisram failed to appreciate
- was Guyana push for self-sufficiency as was the case in most of the countries emerging from colonization and that the very persons whose interest he claims to be defending were also able to enhance their economic, social and cultural well-being, as a consequence
- of the self-sufficiency policy.
Bisram diatribe is reminiscent of the recent Infinity Foundation Programme, out of India, where it was argued that Afro-Guyanese made no contribution to the development of Guyana, not even their dominance in manning of the Education system from which all Guyanese have benefitted.
Bisram`s revisionism can only contribute to deepening the wounds that have been inflicted on the Guyanese society starting with the arrival of the Europeans and perpetuated by them until the attainment of Independence. Now is the time when reconciliation is needed more than ever. The perpetuation of the current state will not benefit the Guyanese society. We need to wake up and take the blinders off, if only for selfish reasons
According to two of our Sages: Martin Carter- “All are involved, all are consumed”; Eusi Kwayanna- “No Guilty Race”.
Chairperson, Forbes Burnham Foundation