Sunday, April 27, 2008

Evidence of marginalization

Evidence of marginalization
Kaieteur News, 27 April 2008
Letter to the Editor.

Dear Editor,
This is my last letter on marginalisation, a topic Prem Misir has written about every two months since I returned to Guyana in 2005. It is as if he is trying to convince his delusional self there is no African marginalisation in Guyana. He has therefore chosen to become the statistical and intellectual author of this piece of fiction.
There are two types of death squads in Guyana. One uses the mighty gun, kidnappings, torture, corruption and blackmail to achieve its goals. The other uses the mighty pen to do the same.
The second type of death squad is the army of ghost writers in the Chronicle.
Misir claims that there is no proof from any African that marginalisation exists. He laboriously quotes statistics about the number of Africans in the army, Police Force and Public Sector. He uses these statistics to state that Africans are doing just fine.
In reality, Prem Misir has become a master ventriloquist and statistical contortionist.
Perhaps Mr. Misir should be reminded that, during slavery, Africans were 99% of the workforce. According to him, therefore, they could not be, and were not, marginalised because they dominated the workforce.
Prem Misir is hard at work today because the Government has been caught with its pants down. The Venezuelan donation of US$500 of food to the people of Buxton has gained worldwide attention as to the meanness of the PPP and the Jagdeo Administration, because it highlighted the plight of innocent African Guyanese farmers whose complete livelihoods have been destroyed. Imagine, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that giving each of 80 farmers US$7.50 in food has jeopardised the Joint Services’ operations.
I imagine Guyana is the laughing stock at the United Nations in New York and in major capitals of the world.
Prem Misir has three reasons why he keeps repeating in his sleep that Africans are not marginalised.
The Government is totally embarrassed globally, and he is trying his utmost best to dispel the majority view that Africans are marginalised in Guyana. Among the arguments put forth is that Samuel Hinds is African and so is Dr Luncheon, the Head of the Presidential Secretariat. After all, with these two Africans in prominent positions, surely there can be no credibility to African marginalisation.
Prem Misir, obsession with unreality and marginalisation in Guyana, is to continue to use psychological warfare to say that there is no marginalisation and that it’s a figment of Africans’ imagination. After all, you are better of now that under Burnham.
In his last fictional piece, he incredibly states: “Marginalisation is a process, not a condition; the condition itself is not marginalisation”.
This statement of Prem Misir’s convinced me he is living in outer space. This is, therefore, my last response to him on this topic.
In essence, Prem is stating with the great intellectual authority of a PhD that: “if Africans in Guyana are marginalised, Africans are not marginalised because marginalisation is a process and Africans are not a process.”
With this logic, he can easily explain to Jews that the holocaust was a process and therefore they did not die in large numbers because they are not a process.
Prem has stated in his letter that Africans are delusionary about marginalisation because there is no proof. Since Prem wants proof of marginalisation, then let me share with him my own personal experiences over the last three years in Guyana. Indeed, thousands of Guyanese farmers, teachers, contractors, businessmen and women, young people seeking jobs, vendors seeking credit, Buxtonians etc. can give you their own horror stories.
Prem Misir defines three types of marginalisation in his last letter: (1) cultural, (2) social, and (3) political.
However, he has left out the one type of marginalisation Africans complain the most about: economic marginalisation, namely jobs, contracts, donor grants, access to capital, control of institutions that determine business success, business networks in and out of Guyana cemented by race and culture (e.g. international business franchises operating in Guyana) and access to business information, among many other issues.
First, however, let me deal with my own economic marginalisation because of Prem’s omission of the most critical element of marginalisation: economic marginalisation.
Prem, do you know that during the first year of returning to Guyana since May 2005, I applied for nine different jobs for which I am eminently qualified and, given my career performance, was the most qualified person to do the job? Prem, do you know that, not only did I not receive an interview, I never heard from any of them? Ask Prime Minister Hinds. I wrote him a letter detailing each of these situations and this gross personal marginalisation.
Prem, do you know that I and the leadership at ACDA applied for an European Union Guyana Micro Projects Programme grant to build a Drum Museum for Carifesta X that would have housed locally made Guyanese drums as well as three drums and three books from every African country? The project was based on the building of a Community Centre in which there would have been a Drum Museum and a Business Learning Centre. The Centre would have been used for providing a wide range of social, business and cultural courses. The central goal was to reach out to create hope and pride in the African community by helping to create jobs, nurture creativity and leadership development, provide mentorship, encourage volunteerism, provide courses in life skills, small business management and peer counselling for HIV/AIDS.
In addition, there will be such activities as drumming, drama, theatre, chess, culture, karate, soccer, cricket and dancing classes.
Prem, do you know the GMPP Board, headed by Mrs. Yvonne Hinds, approved this project after it passed the concept note and detailed proposal phases, only to have it denied by the Ministry of Finance? This denial of a worthwhile cultural project that would have resuscitated drum making and drumming in African villages is cultural marginalisation. Don’t you think this is cultural marginalisation, Prem?
Another personal example has to do with Buxton. The Buxton Community Centre for Toucan 11 Multi-Purpose Club, an 11-year-old institution for Buxton youth, was the first proposal turned in at the phase two ‘request for proposal’ stage of the GMPP process, in March 2007. The Centre was awarded on June 17, but no monies were received until late December, after I wrote the President and detailed the incredible conflicts of interest and pure corruption of the grant process. A large number of proposals, including one I wrote for another youth club in BV three months after the Buxton proposal wase turned in, were funded before the Buxton proposal received its grant in December. This is and was cultural and social marginalisation and an attempt to deny Buxton and its residents.
Currently, the Commemoration Committee comprised of prominent African Guyanese were told by Minister Nadir that, unless they sent in their photographs to him, he would not sign their Friendly Society registration certificate because many individuals are using fake names in their applications. There is no legal requirement for this request. This is regardless of the fact that the Minister knows most of these people; their signatures, home addresses and telephone numbers are all provided in duplicate. The seven names on the application are Christobel Hughes, mother of Nigel Hughes, Andaiye, Magda Pollard, Tom Dalgety, Sam London, Charles Conway and Eric Phillips. Other members of the Committee include Tommy Payne and Cecil Josiah, and the Committee is supported by ACDA and PANAF, the two premiere African cultural organisations in Guyana.
This refusal is cultural marginalisation, as this group held four presentations during the 200th Anniversary of the Commemoration of the Trade in Captive Africans last year, and has held several exhibitions in Georgetown, New Amsterdam and Corriverton. The group currently holds events at the Museum; these events are advertised in the daily papers and on TV, and the group is also currently in partnership with the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport to revitalise the Museum of African Heritage in Bel Air Park for Carifesta X.
Dance Alive, which is the edutainment HIV/AIDS Youth Lifestyle NGO I founded when I returned from South Africa in 2005, was purposefully marginalised from 2005 to 2006, a period of over 15 months. Its proposal was turned into the Government in August 2005. The Government was aware that it would be launched on 18 December 2005 at the National Cultural Centre under the title “Footprint of Hope’. Much work was done, including the spending of $8 million of my own money to prepare for the launch. Many companies and business friends were contacted for support, as it would be free to the public. In early December 2005, the Ministry of Health, after passing World Health Day on December 1, deliberately launched “Don’t Dis Me” on 17 December 2005, the day before Dance Alive was to be launched. Most of the advertisers I had contacted, and who were predisposed to support Dance Alive, dropped out or gave minimal financial support. The sad reality was that “Don’t Dis Me” was copied from Dance Alive, and was deliberately launched to destroy Dance Alive.
Prem, here we have one of the most dangerous epidemics facing Guyana and a show that could have benefited the public in 2005. Dance Alive was marginalised because I was the Founder of the NGO.
Prem Misir should not ask about African political marginalisation. The Westminster system is a system of marginalisation; and in Guyana, where there is entrenched ethnic voting, Africans are marginalised. The PNC, AFC or GAP/ROAR cannot change a single line in the national budget. President Jagdeo has 11 unanimously approved bills from his PPP-controlled Parliament and yet has he not only not signed them, but has ignored the Constitution and refused to send them back to the Parliament with an explanation within 10 days. This is political marginalisation.
Guyana is a constitutional dictatorship. Prem knows this better than most people, yet he argues to the hundreds of thousands of functional illiterates in Guyana that Africans are not marginalised. Hence many will believe him.
I leave these words from Dr Martin Luther King for Prem Misir:
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true”.
Eric Phillips

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