Opinion…Race and politics: Guyana’s two disastrous hurricanes

Opinion…Race and politics: Guyana’s two disastrous hurricanes

For decades now, once there was a destructive hurricane heading for the Caricom islands, a satirical wind would blow all over Guyana, whether in the rum shop, municipal market, at home at the lunch table or anyway where Guyanese are gathered. And it would go like this; “We don’t get natural disasters, only man-made ones.”

That would be followed up with the words: “Those people will recover, but our man-made hurricane won’t go away.”    

It has been the same with Hurricane Irma. A colleague at Kaieteur News said that the phones will get fixed in a couple of weeks in the affected islands, but if any hurricane brings down our telephone and electricity poles, it will take decades to fix them. This is the permanent satire about our man-made disaster. It takes the form of race and politics. You cannot separate the two; they are permanently intertwined.

For the past week, friends have been joking about Guyana missing Hurricane Irma but we have to deal with our two hurricanes that come not from the oceans and seas, but from the womb of the country. One journalist, in discussing the destruction caused by Irma said to me that Guyana is a blessed country that never gets hurricanes, but look at how race and politics are destroying us.

Once there are hurricanes in the Caribbean islands the cynicism, satire and humour among Guyanese is about our unnatural hurricanes. They say that Guyana is stuck with its man-made disaster. After the performance of the two year old APNU+AFC regime, the problematic of race and politics takes center stage in any discussion on the future of this country. The closure of the majority of sugar estates and the decision to sell Skeldon factory, coupled with change of personnel in both the civil service, the public sector and the parastatals have further aggravated the endemic race/politics tensions.

It is outside the scope of a newspaper column to trace the evolution of our racial/political complexities, but they began long before the nationalist movement in the fifties split between a faction led by a Black lawyer, Forbes Burnham and the other group led by an East Indian dentist, Cheddi Jagan. Anyone who has read Alan Adamson’s, SUGAR WITHOUT SLAVES and Walter Rodney’s A HISTORY OF THE GUYANESE WORKING PEOPLE, 1881-1905 would know that the colonial machinery’s use of race manipulation was the cornerstone of its divide and rule policy. Sadly, the nationalist movement that brought Burnham and Jagan together couldn’t hold the multi-racial bandwagon to together. It has been a man-made hurricane since then.

Dr. Cheddi Jagan

Linden Forbes Burnham

The contours since then have been one of a poison chalice where a deadly brew of race and politics has created a sarcoma, whose destruction to Guyana may be more enduring than any Caribbean hurricane since the fifties, right up to September 2017. The Cheddi Jagan Government, 1957-1964, was never supported by the African peasantry, the African security forces and the African proletariat. Their rejection of Jagan cost him to be out of power for twenty eight years.

The PNC Government, 1964-1985 birthed a deadly anti-Burnham and by extension an anti-African feeling among East Indians in and out of Guyana. This psychic mistrust of the PNC and Black Guyanese runs very deeply. There are egregious, unpopular things the Burnham Government did that have left a permanent feeling of dislike among local and diaspora Indians, three of which stand out most infamously- the sudden imposition of compulsory National Service for UG students, the banning of certain foods that Indians considered a part of their religious and cultural heritage, the construction of the National Cultural Centre with money from the indenture fund. Now important to note is not whether these three policies could be justified. Maybe they can. The fact is that they caused deep, psychic resentment among Indians.

The intertwining of politics with race did not help the Desmond Hoyte presidency. Breaking with the past and wanting to reach out to the Indian capitalist class, President Hoyte appeared to have pursued a serious multi-racial agenda. But Indians rejected him at the 1992 poll where they gave the Indian PPP a majority. The multi-racial platform of the WPA of the great Walter Rodney also took a beating at the 1992 elections. Indians and Africans stayed with their own ethnic organizations, virtually devastating the WPA’s presence on the political landscape.

Bharrat Jagdeo

Walter Rodney

“Play it again Sam,” the African Guyanese cynically sang when the PPP came back to power in 1992. From 1992 until it lost power in 2015, the PPP virtually reduced African Guyanese to second class citizens in their own country.

Now since 2015 with the return to power of the PNC, some unnerving signs of racial tinkering are appearing.

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  • hinduindianvoice  On September 12, 2017 at 2:31 am

    Freddie Kissoon’s analysis of Guyana’s man made hurricanes of race and politics has a very familiar ring to it. We have heard versions of this many times before.
    But like previous versions, it is long on analysis and short on solutions.

    Everybody knows the problem, Freddie. But nobody has an answer. Nobody has even a hint of a realistic solution. Perhaps in his next article Freddie will venture a hint or two.

    Don’t come with the multi racial party idea, Freddie. Tried and failed.
    Same with the non racial party.
    Same with the Marxist socialist party.
    Same with the anarchist party.
    Same with the Trotskyite party- you know, small armed group triggers an insurrection and the angry masses rise up and overthrow the state.
    Same with the emigration party- just up and leave the country. That has been tried and also failed. Leaving the problem behind to hang out in Queens or Toronto is NOT a solution.

    Maybe the solution is that there is no solution! No shame in admitting that.
    I don’t have a clue either about an approach to the twin hurricanes that will please most people or any people. And I have been thinking about this issue for over 40 years!

    What about taking a stiff drink of El Dorado Gold 20 year old? I could go for that! But the most I can get where I am is the 12 year old!
    No solution coming up! Over to Freddie.

    • Ric Hinds  On September 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      This problem has permeated both Queens and Toronto :”Indians ” teach their offspring – both by example and precept – not to associate with “blacks”; what “blacks” teach their kids is of no consequence.
      Until Guyana becomes one integrated ethnic identity, there is no hope. One group considers itself genetically superior than the other and destined to rule; the other group contiues to appease whenever it aspires to leafership, and hopes for brighter, more tolerant days /ways.
      It’s deeper and more insidious than racism and requires (the) Death (of some) to set us irrevocably free of the baggage we carry into perpetuity.

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 30, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I got some sparring partners on a small blog – Here is a recent exchange:

    Now that the 2017 hurricanes have demolished the Windward Islands it might be time to revisit the concept of a West Indian Federation. They can start with harmonisation of hurricane resistant building codes, flood mitigation, emergency power supplies, emergency shelters, fund raising, etc. These videos talk about CARICOM, a single market economy, climate change, etc. may be of interest. – Les

    LES ..YOU talking UTOPIA

    Take St KITTS and NEVIS..

    1) 0ne LITTLE kiss-me-ass Nation which SELLS CITIZENSHIP…..
    Invest $750,000 in a business or property and you get CITIZENSHIP.

    2) Believe it or not …NEVIS wants to separate from St Kitts …

    WHY ?

    Some little prince in NEVIS wants to be KING

    ONLY a BLEEDING HEART would believe that one can…EVER ..EVER ..EVER get the Caribbean nations to become one…yu RASS don’t UNDERSTAND HUMAN NATURE – RUPERT

    I agree with Rupert this time. There are too many tin-pot politicians who want to be King or Monarch of their own domain.

    Unfortunately, small countries cannot exist by themselves, but that simple detail escapes the minds of Power-hungry tin-pot politicians.

    As a li’l boy growing up in Nabaclis and Golden Grove [B.G.], we used to play a game in the backyard. There was this little mound of dirt looking like a brick heap, over which my siblings and I fought to gain control and be King. King of a piece of dirt, but King nevertheless.

    It is buried within the psyche of some people, this desire to be boss, or king. That quality is prevalent among politicians, wanting to be King Shit. – Greg

    Britain and all the European Colonial Masters have brain-washed us to the point of no return

    They created us in their image and likeness; they told us how to dress; what language to speak and read and write; how to conduct ourselves; which side of the road to drive on, and so on ….

    And they implemented the Divide and Rule Strategy.

    We all aspire to be WHITE – the British and European Masters got us where they want us – Thinking we are all little Kings of our own Empire … we got islands larger than most of them in the Essequibo River … this is about White Supremacy.

    Guyana did not want to join the Federation because Jagan and the East Indians thought they were too many Blacks [Africans] in the Caribbean islands and they would be outnumbered …

    The islanders believe there are too many East Indians in B.G. and they would be outnumbered …. So the Divide and Rule Colonial Mentality is STUCK right deh. If we cannot get a mental enema to their heads …. This mess will continue.

    One hero with a PhD just wrote how Black he is and criticising the other who is identifying himself about how Brown he is. ‘When you start seeing yourself as Black ….’, he wrote – and further down the thread he mentions he is multi-cultural.
    I interpret that to mean he was denying his black-self.

    I think that Black man is mimicking the White Man who already decided who is Black and who is Brown.

    The Black man came to Guyana and the Caribbean in bondage of slavery.
    The Brown one came in bondage of indentured servitude.

    The Brown one wants to be identified as Brown – Accept it!

    Make Integration of the Caribbean Community a Reality?
    A few more hurricane seasons like this year’s should resolve this mess.

    As I see it. – clyde

    Then I posted this:

    These quotes from Mugabe are simply hilarious and true; will put a broad smile on your face and laughter in your heart. For some, NOT Really!

    1) “When your clothes are made of cassava leaves, you don’t take a goat as a friend.”

    2) “If you are ugly, you are ugly. Stop talking about inner beauty because men don’t walk around with X-ray machines to see inner beauty”

    3) “When one’s goat gets missing, the aroma of a neighbour’s soup gets suspicious.”

    4) “Treat every part of your towel nicely because the part that wipes your buttocks today will wipe your face tomorrow”

    5) “Sometimes you look back at girls you spent money on rather than send it to your mum and you realise witchcraft is real”

    6) “If President Barack Obama wants me to allow marriage for same-sex couples in my country (Zimbabwe), he must come here so that I marry him first.”

    7) “What is the problem with deporting white men from Africa? We now have aeroplanes which can take them back quicker than the ships used by their ancestors.”

    8) “Cigarette is a pinch of tobacco rolled in a piece of paper with fire on one end and a fool on the other end.

    9) Interviewer: “Mr President, when are you bidding the people of Zimbabwe farewell?”

    a) Robert Mugabe: “Where are they going?”

    10) “if I am given chance to travel through time, I will go back to 1946 and find Donald Trump’s father and give him a condom”

    Who tell me fo’ do duh?

    HEY Clyde

    You are the quoting the BIGGEST THIEF IN AFRICA who the CHINESE made a WEALTHY MAN with their bribes; who lives in a 25 ROOM MANSION while his people are starving

    I won’t even wipe MY ass with a photograph of his face

    HE and others like him have held back development of the people of Africa
    leaving most in poverty while he lives the GOOD LIFE. He is TYPICAL of a post BRITISH RULE Leader ..just for HIMSELF AND HIS CRONIES ..and YOU quote HIM ..What does THAT tell US ..about YOU ?

    You ought to be ASHAMED !

    that is how I see it ! – Rupert

    So, I took the bait:

    Rupert: I posted this so you could look in the mirror at your man-child …
    You know the printing on the side-view mirror on your car …??


    Your man-child Trump is just like Mugabe!! – clyde

    Oooh, It did not stop there:

    HEY CLYDE ..

    To suggest that MUGABE, a THIEF who had NOTHING when he started and ends up with a 25 BEDROOM (YES BEDROOMS not just rooms) Mansion because he sold out HIS OWN PEOPLE TO THE CHINESE



    but MUGABE ?? Come on man ..do not be BLINDED BY HATE. – RUPERT

    I am very sure this is NOT the end, that’s why I am posting it here:

    Rupert: Here is what you do NOT get …..

    We ALL – including you – aspire to be European and White

    Whether you were born in a Dutch – a French – a Portuguese or a British colony.

    We have – including your despicable man-child Trump – been brain-washed;
    conditioned and created in his [the White man – the European Man] image and likeness

    Mugabe is doing what – exactly what Donald Trump the Scamp is doing – no more – no less

    Mugabe and Trump are despicable sub-human species of the human race!

    You love Trump and Hate Mugabe because Trump has White skin and you cannot see beyond dat!


    • De castro  On October 1, 2017 at 12:21 am

      Inciting racial differences as a colour
      rather than cultural thing.
      Consider myself a colourful person
      culturally international.
      Colour is only skin deep
      culture depends on where
      we began life and where we
      wish to finish it. Our soul.

      Race is becoming less an
      issue as clas replaces it.
      Rich v poor
      Upper middle lower class

      We are all one race different class
      depending on where we live.

      My take

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 1, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Why re-invent the wheel? It is all posted on Guyanese Online, already:

    ‘A Treacherous President Stood in the Way’ – Frederick Douglass | The Atlantic

    Here are a few paragraphs that come to mind …

    Slavery, like all other great systems of wrong, founded in the depths of human selfishness, and existing for ages, has not neglected its own conservation.

    It has steadily exerted an influence upon all around it favorable to its own continuance. And today it is so strong that it could exist, not only without law, but even against law.

    Custom, manners, morals, religion, are all on its side everywhere in the South; and when you add the ignorance and servility of the ex-slave to the intelligence and accustomed authority of the master, you have the conditions, not out of which slavery will again grow, but under which it is impossible for the Federal government to wholly destroy it, unless the Federal government be armed with despotic power, to blot out State authority, and to station a Federal officer at every cross-road.

    And this part about a teacher:

    There is cause to be thankful even for rebellion. It is an impressive teacher, though a stern and terrible one. In both characters it has come to us, and it was perhaps needed in both.

    It is an instructor never a day before its time, for it comes only when all other means of progress and enlightenment have failed.

    Whether the oppressed and despairing bondman, no longer able to repress his deep yearnings for manhood, or the tyrant, in his pride and impatience, takes the initiative, and strikes the blow for a firmer hold and a longer lease of oppression, the result is the same, — society is instructed, or may be.

    Such are the limitations of the common mind, and so thoroughly engrossing are the cares of common life, that only the few among men can discern through the glitter and dazzle of present prosperity the dark outlines of approaching disasters, even though they may have come up to our very gates, and are already within striking distance.

    ‘A Treacherous President Stood in the Way’

    If you can’t hear – You going to feel !!

  • Albert  On October 1, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Hi Compton, where were you. Was wondering whether you had ended up in some old folks home and they took away your computer.

    Race in Guyana was not really a complex issue but the politicians made it so for political reasons.. Now its very complex. I grew up in GT but spent most of my working years in Berbice…..particularly on the sugar estate areas of Port-Mourant, Albion and Blairmont.

    There are things I dont want to write on this open board but it was needed then to educate the races about each other. One becomes more tolerant and accepting if he understands the cultural reasons behind the actions of another race. Politicians and many so-called leaders have other objectives than the good of the country, hence Guyana will suffer.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 1, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Phil wrote: Nice one. The acid test of intelligence is your actions in dealing with the ignorant. I think the West Indies population has proven this – time and time again. The sooner we move away from Afro and Indo West Indians the better off the Region as a whole will be.

    And for those folks who think it’s the Caribbean, what is the name of the Cricket Team again?

  • tata  On October 4, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Ric Hinds, They are people today, who seem to still have their heads buried in the sand and would rather not discuss the topic of race and the hatred of Black people. Even those with Black Blood running through their veins

    But I wonder WHY!

    ———–Because Black people have been around since the beginning of time. Still, we have RACIST questioning the validity of nature’s creation.

    ———– Or Is It the willingness of Black People to forgive!
    Or is it the confidence Black people exude in spite of ADVERSITY!

    —————-AncestryDNA is the answer.

    —————-Maya Angelou

  • Albert  On October 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Many people hate Jews but they don’t let that stop them from getting ahead. They place emphasis on getting ahead: education, wealth, associating and influencing leaders, sticking together, helping those on their side….and thinking wisely. There is your answer

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 4, 2017 at 3:45 pm

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 9, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Just Before Columbus Day, Journal Pulls Controversial Article Defending Colonialism

    Travis M Andrews | The Washington Post

    A scholarly journal pulled a controversial article that defended colonialism just before Columbus Day, a federal holiday that some cities see as insensitive and are instead marking as “Indigenous People Day”.

    “The Case for Colonialism”, written by a political-science professor at Portland State University, drew immediate outcries from scholars when it was published last month by Third World Quarterly.

    Fifteen members of the journal’s 34-member board resigned in protest, and two petitions demanding that the journal retract the piece.

    Bruce Gilley’s essay argued that countries colonized by Western powers “did better” than those that were not.” He also said that colonialism was generally “beneficial” and “subjectively legitimate.”

    The essay’s abstract said: “For the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name. It is high time to question this orthodoxy.”

    Some scholars immediately decried the article as racist and others disliked it because they said it was based on faulty data.

    “A full-throated defense of colonialism would stand out almost anywhere; it was especially surprising at Third World Quarterly,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

    “How did the paper find a home in a journal described by some of the scholars closest to it as ‘anti-colonialist’ …?”

    The article recently disappeared from the journal’s website with an explanation that it was withdrawn “at the request of the academic journal editor, and in agreement with the author of the essay, Bruce Gilley.” The journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, cited “credible threats of personal violence” against the journal’s editor as the reason for the removal.

    “Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay,” the statement said. The publisher acknowledged that during the peer review process, at least one reviewer recommended rejecting the article.

    Gilley made waves in academic circles before the article published for leaving the American Political Science Association on the grounds that it didn’t accept right-wing viewpoints.

    He explained his decision in an August essay on Minding the Campus: “APSA has become barely distinguishable from the Democratic Party and its far-left wing. Its web page runs a constant stream of anti-Trump or anti-Republican news.”

    After Gilley’s colonialism essay appeared, University of Winnipeg English professor Jenny Heijun Wills, who began one of the petitions on Change.org, called the article “appalling” and “racist.” Wills said it contained “white supremacist and Eurocentric” viewpoints.

    Brandon Kendhammer, the director of the International Development Studies program at Ohio University, said that Gilley’s argument for the benefits of colonialism ignores “a vast body of research and analysis that demonstrates just the opposite,” in a commentary for The Washington Post.

    Others argued it was a public relations stunt. Swati Parashar, a senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said the article for Gilley was “a perfect career move to generate publicity” and to “draw attention to himself as the academic provocateur.”

    The article’s publication also led to turmoil within the journal itself. Fifteen editorial board members offered a joint letter of resignation on Sept. 19, claiming they were “deeply disappointed by the unacceptable process around the publication” of the article.

    The letter said the essay was published without consultation from the editorial board. It added that the journal previously rejected the piece from a special issue.
    Even Gilley himself asked for the piece to be withdrawn, writing “I regret the pain and anger that it has caused for many people,” on his website, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    But some remaining members of the board argued against retraction.

    Noam Chomsky, an MIT professor of linguistics emeritus who serves on the editorial board, argues vehemently against colonialism.

    But he told Inside Higher Education that while the journal might not have followed the proper procedures, “retraction is a mistake – and also opens very dangerous doors. … Rebuttal offers a great opportunity for education, not only in this case.”
    “I’m sure that what I publish offends many people, including editors and funders of journals in which they appear,” he added.

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