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Dr. Henry Jeffery’s Presentation to the Cuffy250 Forum (Pt I)
Part I: Thinking of Guyana as an emerging apartheid state in Guyana is troubling
By any criterion, your thinking of Guyana as an emerging apartheid state in Guyana is troubling.
I am not known for hyperbole, but in 2015 I put together some articles I had been writing in Stabroek News in a book titled ‘Political and Ethnic Dominance in Guyana’.
It was intended as an historical record that someone had identified the dangerous trend towards ethnic dominance upon which the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was and is set upon, and here I will borrow wholesale from the book.
In truth, allowed to develop, this approach can lead to conditions not too dissimilar from apartheid, and is precisely why Israeli-type ethnic dominance is said by some to constitute an ‘ethnic democracy’, but by others to be apartheid, both of these being only legalized forms of ethnic dominance.
It is not possible to legalise ethnic dominance in the Caribbean but an ethnically bifurcated, majoritarian, winner-takes-all state such as Guyana allows its furtive existence.
An article in the book, ‘The furtive establishment of political dominance’ (SN:17/04/2013) argued that the drive towards dominance had been successful largely because it had been sly.
To try and understand what was taking place, we heard about the racial propensities of Hinduism, the criminalisation of the state, ideological racism, the existence of racial apartheid, etc. I don’t understand this.
The PPP claims that since persons of all races can join the party it is not an ethnic one.
Although this appears a reasonable claim, it only serves as another cover for its establishment of dominance.
First of all, who holds power in an organisation is much more important than who can join.
Secondly, the desire to place greater African membership under the existing PPP leadership explains why there is not a single area in African social life that the PPP has not sought to dominate or suppress.
Just look around: Linden, the Georgetown City Council, the TUC and Public Service Union, and even the University Guyana.
Nothing has changed. Last week, a letter in the Stabroek News discerned that ‘In Guyana there is a coordinated effort to control sports, culture and the arts’ (SN: 23/08/ 2022).
And just consider what is legally taking place as the PPP, an ethnic party, paternalistically hands out Guyana’s national wealth!
Africans who wish to progress must join the PPP and a few have gone to the extreme and felt compelled to photograph how they voted at the elections as proof of allegiance.
The idea then is to corral disadvantaged Africans and herd them into the PPP.
Guyana has not fulfilled the dreams of those who struggled for independence, nor has it met the aspirations of succeeding generations.
Guyanese have for some time been aware that their basic problem is the negative intermingling of race and politics.
But for a people who pride themselves upon being intellectually well-endowed, they have not so far been able to design and implement a political system that will allow the country to fulfill its enormous potential.
Part of the reason for this is because Guyana is a bicommunal society, and until recently, the pervasive implications of this condition were not properly appreciated by the political elite, who were socialised in a British Westminster-type political culture, which is not suited to the management of deeply divided societies.
Forbes Burnham’s impassioned presentation about race/ethnicity in Guyana in his address to the nation just after he won the 1964 elections is a good example of this faulty manner of thinking. He referred to the ‘apparent’ ethnic cleavage that existed in Guyana that had been brought about by the dishonest, deceitful, opportunistic, racist propaganda and policies of the PPP that had been able to convince a large section of the population to vote against his party.
He said that all the peoples of Guyana – the Chinese, Amerindians, Portuguese, Indians, whites and Africans – are equally important and would be treated as such by the PNC. … beginning immediately his government would behave fairly and demonstrate to PPP supporters that there was nothing to fear but all to celebrate.’
Burnham may be excused, but nearly six decades later our present attorney general, referring to this forum, expressed the same ideological position in a letter in the Stabroek News two Saturdays ago.
‘The truth’, we are told ‘is that many of those scheduled to speak rely on the racial mantra for their sustenance.
However, with greater opportunities being created and resultant advances being progressively made by Afro Guyanese, this racist brew is correspondingly losing its potency, emancipating thousands (of Africans) from the mental servitude to which they were once shackled.
It is a recognition of this reality that has driven an irreverent few to the extremity expressed in the thematic title of the proposed discussion.
In the years to come and with it, the definite continued upliftment of every Guyanese, including Afro Guyanese, history will footnote them in (shame) ignominy!’
Shameful indeed: this half a century after Burnham?
I truly wonder who is really in ‘mental servitude’ or is it self-interested bewilderment?
Not surprisingly then, President Irfaan Ali, using this same utopian dogma, is imploring us to build ‘One Guyana’!
Another aspect of the problem is that given the human capacity to change and change its whose? Context, there are those who fail to give proper weight to the nature of context.
From this standpoint the fault lies in the immoral and self-interested nature of Guyanese politicians.
This position has been debunked time and again but is still quite prevalent because as just suggested where? it contains a grain of truth.
To be continued…