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Fifty- five years ago Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham and Dr. Cheddi Berret Jagan worked towards independence. Even after the split that formed the Burnham PPP (later the PNC) and The Jagan PPP, they continued to engage each other in meetings to determine the best way to move this country forward. In spite of what we may perceive Jagan and Burnham were not bitter enemies. They found the time to discuss the best way for unity as they both understood that it was needed. On several occasions they attempted to reduce the animosity. Dr. Walter Rodney came on the scene later and attempted to help the different segments of the society understand each other while proposing unity based on shared class issues.
Too many of us today long for an end to the character assassinations, petty personality politics and hope that we would focus on the issues. The myriad of issues that are of concern to most Guyanese.
The reality is many of us of every ethnicity are fighting to survive in a land with gold, diamond, bauxite, rice, sugar, timber and now oil. But our ethnic insecurities and ethnic fears drive us to respond to situations in ways which often go against our own economic and social interests.
As a people we must begin to acknowledge the truth. To move forward united we must shed the untruths. We must recognize that there is a problem that needs to be fixed.
The people of Guyana need to take the lead on this. Just voting on elections day does not a democracy make. It requires consistent, active participation to help those at the helm understand when they are moving away from the task at hand. There are many cries for politicians to do more. I agree, but the citizens of this dear country have the power collectively to declare that they want a Guyana united and free, free from ethnic conflict and ethnic insecurities, free from ethnic fears, negative stereotypes, and prejudices. It is the people that must help the leaders understand that on this point they can no longer have the upper hand.
It is the people that must demand that the politicians come together and solve this racial tension because if we do not, while we are busy fighting, our patrimony will be lost to us and our future generations. Some may want the tensions to persist, to what end we do not know; however, the end would not be harmonious unless we commit to making it so.
How do we do this when our fears of each other exist because of the ethnic sufferings that we have all endured and the ethnic division that we choose to embrace? Maybe first we can recognize that both Cheddi and Burnham are the fathers of this great land. They both played significant roles in ensuring our independence. It does not have to be one or the other, no one is superior. They played different roles but they both wanted and fought for our independence.
I do not believe it was their desire that 55 years later we would still be in this place, still afraid of each other and fighting to dominate. A nation united must be our legacy.