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I have already commented on the futility and deceptive nature of this renewed call for Constitutional Reform.
Rather than merely tinkering with what phrases should constitute a reform constitution, we should concentrate on dealing with the deeper issues which remain a humbug.
In my earlier letter, I refer to retuning our educational system in order to produce men and women who are morally erect.
A subsidiary issue is dealing with elements of racism and prejudice, which still characterize our post-colonial racially polarized society.
We ignore this to our peril.
The existing Ethnic Relations Committee as was the case of its predecessor is unlikely to create this sort of harmony we all desire.
In Guyana, we must be unafraid to grapple with all forms of racism whether subtle or blatant.
Second, to confront an arrogant ‘nouveau riche,’ who feel they are now ‘pon top.’
Guyana is not unique, but being a sparsely populated country, with no history of deep tribalism, we can learn from the unhappy events in places like Brazil and the recent contortions in the United States.
This latter is no more than the emergence of an aggressive white evangelical movement basking in the past glory of slavery and Jim Crowism.
In India, Muslims are still claiming injustice at the hands of a Hindu Prime Minister.
In Russia, I have spoken with young Russians, who still accuse Mikhail Gorbachev of dismantling a Soviet Union, where the white Russians reigned supreme.
The old wisdom which says when the big countries like the US sneeze, we the small ones can die from pneumonia.
Thanks to a number of Guyanese living in the US and the fact that every family unit in Guyana can identify some relative resident in the US; we in Guyana maintain a keen interest and are influenced by events in the US.
Events in that country, since the turn of the 20th century has influenced attitudes and beliefs of most Guyanese.
An extract from an article in the Stabroek News of January 26, 2021 titled ‘Liberation,’’ the final paragraph sums up a situation that Guyanese at home and abroad ought to pay attention to.
It began this way, “In celebrating the liberation from Donald Trump’s misrule, we must not forget that Trump’s presidency embodied the raw politics of US white supremacy. He often spoke like a segregationist Southern governor of the 1960s, and, after losing the 2020 election, like a secessionist senator on the eve of the Civil War. To sustain the victory over Trump’s destructive politics, we must overcome the racism that brought him to power. That urgent challenge faces not only the United States, but many multiethnic societies around the world,” and concluded “Yet there is also good news. Trump’s defeat, and the overwhelming US public opprobrium that met the Capitol insurrectionists, holds the lesson that we can move beyond our worst instincts, fears, and biases. White racists in America are losing their grip on power, and they know it. The times really are changing. The American people voted Trump out of power. The day before the insurrection, Georgia’s voters elected an African-American and a Jew as US senators – both firsts for the state that came at the expense of two pro-Trump incumbents.
Trump’s departure is therefore an opportunity for a new beginning, not only in the deeply wounded US society, but in multiethnic divided societies everywhere. There is no excuse anywhere to govern by racial hatred and ethnic chauvinism. In the post-Trump era, governments everywhere should expel the hatemongers.
The world should also look back in history to help us move forward. In 1948, in the shadow of the atrocities of World War II, all member states of the new United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This magnificent declaration is based on the principle of universal human dignity, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.”
The Universal Declaration must be our lodestar. Its 75th anniversary in 2023 is approaching, and we have the means to say no to the haters, the demagogues, and the dividers. Trump left America in a shambles, with 400,000 dead from COVID-19. Now that we have dispensed with Trump, we can get on with the task of ending the pandemic and healing our deeply divided societies.”
As one who has lived through the privations of early childhood of World War II, more correctly deemed a major European civil war, the dislocation, as a result of that conflict and worst of all, the stress and strain of that all-consuming Cold War, the challenges of the oil crisis, the realignment of powerful militarism, the challenges of independence and the difficulty of making the Caribbean a single unit, I plead with our leaders of the major political parties to sit and talk as truly civilized people should, before venturing out on the time and energy-consuming project of Constitutional Reform simplicious.
At the end of the day, we have seen disorder, we have seen disappointment even when there were well crafted phrases in a Constitution, all because of human foibles and a proclivity to subordinate the ‘other people.’
Let us get down to brass tacks to save our country and to ensure that our young people are the main beneficiaries of God’s grace and bounty.
Instead of the present pursuit for Constitutional Reform, which will yield very little, I plead again for our leaders to sit and have a civilized conversation recognizing that Guyana today is the product of a post-colonial racially polarized society and the time has come for good sense to prevail and avoid high sounding rhetoric, and deal with what the old people would say are the ‘true facts.’
Let me make it abundantly clear to avoid being misunderstood that the hallmark and vital requirement in a modern state should be a written Constitution, which takes account of our history, extant circumstances and hopes and aspirations of the incoming generation.