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Permit response to “Open letter to Mr. Lincoln Lewis” (KN: 7th May, 2021). Contrary to the writer’s interjection, there was no “simple error” or “unconscious faux pas” in President Irfaan Ali’s misrepresentation about the presence of enslaved Africans in Guyana.
Every child at Common Entrance and early high school was and is taught about the horrors of chattel slavery. Children are educated about the difference between chattel slavery and indentured servants. That education has enlightened them about those came for a life of betterment (i.e indentured servants), who were paid wages, able to keep their culture-religion, language, clothing and names- and at the end of their indentureship received free lands to settle; and those who were brought here but not for a life of betterment (i.e. slaves).
There is “no unconscious faux pas” in attributing to Africans, who were captured and brought here as slaves, treated as property not human beings; their men, women and children violated in the worst way as a result of white depravity and greed; they who laboured on the plantations from dawn to dust without wages and proper clothing, their backs lacerated with whips; they who survived poor living conditions and denied basic health care, that they came for a life of “improvement” and “improved living conditions.”
Ali subsequently acknowledged the horrors the enslaved lived through in his attempt at an apology. He said: “In my statement on Arrival Day, I sought to put forward a message of common values, of common struggles, and ultimately what I hope would lead to reconciliation among our people. In that message, I stated that every group that came here did so for a better life for themselves and their descendants.
I was not and could not ever have been referring to our African ancestors, who did not come here of their own volition but were captured, brought to our country in chains, and brutally enslaved. Indeed, it is their sacrifice and struggle for freedom and against oppression that should inspire us to continuously secure our freedoms and democracy for a better Guyana.”
But for Dennis Balgobin because the grave misrepresentation came from his superior he allowed his mind to fall into laziness, settling for the mental safe space of blocking out, not questioning but content to accept this as “simple error” when exposed. For me, and those who value the importance of getting our history correct, it was not.
At the same time it is noted even as he seeks to accept it was a “simple error” in recounting African history he uses the opportunity to present a wicked and dishonest argument that Africans would even entertain the thought that Indians are responsible for their enslavement and suffering. What idiocy! But this is a type of public mischief and mental laziness that stalks the minds of some. With this mindset enlightenment and peaceful co-existence would not be able to thrive and this nation will lurch from one ethnic discord after another.
I also note his attempt to draw similarities with chattel slavery and indentureship. In a demonstration of greed even if the misery of the African man, the worst and longest tragedy that could happen to any collective human being on the face of the earth he seeks to want to take away by equating it with indentureship. Chattel slavery was not indenturesship; not in shape, form or treatment for those who came for betterment or were forcefully brought here to labour on the plantations.