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By GHK Lall
To meet or not to meet, that is the question. Well, the PPP Government has made its choice. There will be no meeting with the fact-finding group seeking to look into claims of discrimination against Black people in Guyana. Since the claims, allegations, and contentions have been repeatedly leveled at the PPP Government itself, I would have thought that the pending visit offered a great opportunity for things to shake, and clear the air once and for all on this ugly, piercing, and damaging issue. If the claims of discrimination are groundless, then there is none that stands to benefit more from the hovering visit than the PPP Government itself. The top dogs in its leadership cadre, who have all manner of question marks wrapped around their necks, like curved daggers, would be cleansed of all suspicions about discrimination. Cleansed of practicing an insidious culture of discrimination in various forms. Exonerated of employing many channels to inflict subtle or brazen discriminatory practices against Black Guyanese.
But the word from the PPP brass is short, swift, sour: no meeting. So, the issue is left hanging: claims and counterclaims (Burnham), followed by more claims. There are no takers, no defenders, no listeners on the government’s side. I think that is a mistake, a serious one. It is better to have matters on the table, where they can be sifted through to find any merit or demerit in what has been represented before many forums. I am one of those who shared positions on discriminatory practices against people of African descent in Guyana. It is not something done casually, identified with lightly. It is not to serve any party; but what is a painful reality. This is about what is being done right under the eyes, what injures and incites, and what must be corrected quickly.
According to the spokespeople of those in charge, there is a problem with who is believed to be the driving force being the US fact-finding mission. Another mistake, I think. My follow-up reaction is simple: to hell with the source, and all the rest, for the opening is presented for the government and its leadership to get their side of this obscenity of a story that insists that discrimination is at work in Guyana. Have it fully ventilated on the table. I would think that the unmatched PPP public relations (propaganda) machinery would be enthusiastic for the world to see, analyze, and decide for itself. That is, decide who is the fabricator and exaggerator versus those whose actions pass any smell test, and taste test, too.
A muted position of the PPP Government is that there is some uneasiness (a euphemism) with some of the people in the discrimination fact-finding mission. Where was this type of interest before (Burnham again)? I think that what has unfolded is that the government and leadership have become so immersed in witch hunts [which have been their ongoing practices], that suspicions of a foreign witch hunt are gathering strength; something that must be feared, stopped in its tracks. A fact of life is that witches do not function well in the daytime when blazing sunlight is plentiful. I speak from experience having had more than one PPP Government initiated and powered witch hunt sent my way. What I did then in response to the government’s witch hunts, I urge it to put to work on its own behalf. When there is no fear, then another four-letter word is thrown in the face, with a ‘you’, or ‘off’, added to ensure there is no mistake about the stance. Be ready for knockdown, drag-out, bare-knuckle combat.
It is a clumsy retreat, one that reveals much, when there is this crippling fear of a lone, incendiary activist operating out of Brooklyn. If a conversation (or a confrontation) is part of the fact-finding mission on discrimination, then let it be, I urge. Let the chips in hand be shown, and let them speak to their strengths and values. I think that this matter involving insistent claims of a structured pattern of discrimination against Black Guyanese cannot be allowed to fester in its present condition. Local waters will only get more poisoned, the longer that this stays unaddressed, unchallenged, unresolved. True, whether One Guyana or many Guyana(s). The same for Venezuela overhead, or Venezuela underground. Claims of discrimination have been a long-running boil in the eyes of Guyanese. Long-running is about the passage of time, plus the ooze that trickles and infects all of us.
In essence, this issue of discrimination has been a long time for it to be put on exhibition before the world. An exhibition of the harsh and harrowing experiences, as lived by Black people in Guyana. Or, as an exhibition that speaks to what has no traction and, thus, crumples into a heap. It is my belief that the PPP Government’s retreat into anxious hiding is indicative that it has much to fear. Discrimination is a dirty business practiced by dirtier people. Fawning protectors and shady analyzers aside, the world knows that there are many chronically dirty people inside the PPP, be they deep within the party, or high in government. It is now accepted in Guyanese life that the virus of discrimination has stricken the vindictive in high places. Denials notwithstanding, the fullest expressions of discrimination that overpower is the ordeal and tragedy of Black Guyanese. It is astonishing to the point of the unbelievable that when the moment presented itself to face and banish all accusers, local and foreign, there were those in an alarmed PPP Government, who slammed the door shut.
The defenses tendered are flimsy and porous. All they succeed in doing is cast more doubt on the government’s position that it does not discriminate. In the next instance, the assertions and contentions about discrimination against Black Guyanese just got stronger, were given more muscle, and made to look more credible. Distancing from the fact-finding mission by the PPP Government and leadership is self-accusing and self-exposing. It embeds the self-destructive also.