We African-Guyanese must free and em­power our­selves

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

Dear Ed­i­tor, My at­ten­tion was caught by var­i­ous re­ports in the me­dia about a re­cent ACDA press re­lease ahead of the 2017 oc­ca­sion of their planned African Holo­caust/Maafa com­mem­o­ra­tion and no doubt with an eye to the vis­it­ing UN Work­ing Group of Ex­perts on Peo­ple of African De­scent. I re­fer specif­i­cally to the ar­ti­cle in the Guyana Chron­i­cle of Fri­day Oc­to­ber 6, en­ti­tled, ‘ACDA says there’s a vi­cious cam­paign against em­pow­er­ment of AfroGuyanese’.

I be­lieve the prob­lems and the res­o­lu­tions lie not with oth­ers but mainly with us, Afro- Guyanese, in­di­vid­u­ally and all to­gether. It is firstly we Afro-Guyanese who must free and em­power our­selves, mak­ing our­selves as use­ful and con­tribut­ing as oth­ers. Oth­ers can help, and are ready and will­ing to help, but we seem prone to throw up and sup­port lead­ers and lead­er­ship which fo­cus on the truly in­con­testable hor­rors of slav­ery, in a way which I think in­hibits us or makes us overly ag­gres­sive, per­haps not much but enough to no­tice­ably re­duce our suc­cess rate in so­cial in­ter­course. And yet, slav­ery has been one of the most com­mon in­sti­tu­tions amongst hu­mans; we, all Afro-Guyanese grew up on the story of Joseph be­ing sold into slav­ery into Egypt, and so on. We should not let the pe­riod of African slav­ery be a for­ever cause or ex­cuse for not be­ing the best hu­mans that we could be, and then no di­rected or ac­ci­den­tal cam­paign against us would get far.

Re­view­ing our coun­try’s his­tory, one may won­der whether many of our Afro-lead­ers have not been con­sciously or un­con­sciously ex­ploiters of us the Afro-Guyanese group. There would have been some aware­ness of such a con­sid­er­a­tion in that of­ten re­ferred to re­mark in the 1960s, ‘Who calls off the dog owns the dog’. And there has been much mis­lead­ing of the or­di­nary AfroGuyanese. In the run-ups to In­de­pen­dence and the sub­se­quent na­tion­al­i­sa­tions, work­ers (for a great part union­ized and Afro-Guyanese) found that they re­ceived sup­port and even en­cour­age­ment for be­hav­iour that would have been un­ac­cept­able oth­er­wise. Re­call even re­cently, the dis­tur­bances of 2012 in Lin­den, when the then MP and Re­gional Chair­man seemed to be ap­plauded for their ac­tions, but they were dropped at the sub­se­quent 2015 na­tional elec­tions. Drop­ping them in 2015 says loudly that they may have been use­ful but mis­led in 2012, and they mis­lead many oth­ers then.

A big part of the con­fu­sion and frus­tra­tion of or­di­nary AfroGuyanese would be the his­tor­i­cal seem­ing prefer­ment of AfroGuyanese in the pub­lic ser­vice and na­tion­al­ized in­dus­tries in the ear­lier years of that 28-year pe­riod, which backfired when that ad­min­is­tra­tion had to ac­cept the ERP pro­gramme with its medicine of re­trench­ments, shrink­ings and clo­sures in the pub­lic ser­vice and na­tion­al­ized com­pa­nies, and fu­ture work be­ing con­tracted out to the pri­vate sec­tor. It was dur­ing that 28-year pe­riod that AfroGuyanese were steered away from pri­vate busi­ness and into the gov­ern­ment sec­tor, then, later, be­ing largely salary and wage earn­ers, pau­per­ized by an ef­fec­tive de­val­u­a­tion of about 1,000% over that pe­riod.

Para­dox­i­cally, it was dur­ing those 28 years that many Indo-Guyanese re­ceiv­ing less than a full wel­come in the then ex­ten­sive gov­ern­ment sec­tor had to find niches in which to make a liv­ing. In the engi­neer­ing sec­tor, old­sters like me may re­call the big ‘R’, one of our early engi­neer­ing con­tract­ing firms, formed by an

Indo-Guyanese en­gi­neer who did not find a great wel­come in the gov­ern­ment sec­tor. It was thus that oth­ers may have had a head start and found them­selves bet­ter po­si­tioned for the ERP; truly, cases of the stones that were re­jected be­com­ing the cor­ner­stones.

I to­tally re­ject the view that dur­ing our PPP/C 23 years in of­fice, Afro-Guyanese were “struc­turally and pur­pose­fully ex­cluded from the Guyanese econ­omy”. The dam­age had been al­ready done. Afro-Guyanese had to be in a re­cov­ery mode, but the procla­ma­tion that the PPP/C would not last six months, then two years had the ef­fect of hold­ing back many Afro-Guyanese and their com­mu­ni­ties lest their ac­tiv­i­ties helped to make the PPP/C look good and sur­vive. Afro-Guyanese had the need to change from at­ti­tudes taught and learnt through the 28 years and change over to and ac­cept the new lead­ing role of the pri­vate sec­tor. And although it took some time, many or­di­nary AfroGuyanese did so. I am cer­tain that there were many thou­sands of Afro-Guyanese start-ups dur­ing our 23 years, amongst which would be some large Guyanese en­ter­prises of the not too dis­tant fu­ture. Start­ing late, the top league would not be at­tained by sud­den flight but through the toil of a few decades.

I have main­tained a num­ber of times be­fore and ar­gue again that a study of new home-own­er­ship and new ve­hi­cle-own­er­ship over our PPP/C 23 years in of­fice would show Afro-Guyanese be­com­ing bet­ter off at about the same rates as other eth­nic groups. We, PPP/C, were handed an ex­cuse on a plat­ter if that was our de­sire, to shut down the baux­ite op­er­a­tions when the In­ter­na­tional Con­sul­tant, MINPROC, as­serted that it saw no way to make Lin­mine prof­itable and when Al­coa which had bought Reynolds said that it had no long-term need for the ABC/AMC op­er­a­tions. Ac­cord­ing to the covenants en­tered into by the pre­ced­ing PNC ad­min­is­tra­tion with the Sup­port­ing Group, no more money from our (Guyana) Trea­sury (Con­sol­i­dated Fund) was to be spent on the baux­ite com­pa­nies, but we con­tin­ued to sub­si­dize them, so that our fel­low ci­ti­zens in the baux­ite com­mu­ni­ties should not be plunged into great trauma.

We, PPP/C were and will con­tinue to be bi­ased in favour of those who have less, ir­re­spec­tive of race, re­li­gion or re­gion of Guyana; both pro­vid­ing fish for the present time and teach­ing to fish for the fu­ture. We also favour pro­grammes which meet larger num­bers rather than fewer. I do be­lieve that in our Guyanese cir­cum­stances, we, PPP/C, cre­ate the most favourable cir­cum­stances

Let­ters con­tin­ued on page 9

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