Monday, April 6, 2009

McDougall Report is an exceptionally good analysis of the social situation in Guyana

Kaieteur News Letter to the editor, Monday 06 April 2009

McDougall Report is an exceptionally good analysis of the social situation
in Guyana

Dear Editor,
The McDougall Report on Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil,
Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to
Development, presents us with an exceptionally good analysis of the social
situation in Guyana. It is a report that should be seized upon by a
Government interested in racial harmony. It accepts the institutional
framework and the premises under which it operates as appropriate for social
justice if improvements are made in the functioning of the institutions.
That approach favours East Indian dominance (as distinct from East Indian
domination) and ought to have been gleefully accepted by President Jagdeo.
Instead, Jagdeo has lambasted the report in almost every aspect and has
referred to the UN Expert as lacking in experience. His response reveals an
in-bred racism. Dr. Jagan, before him, had rejected African UNDP
Representatives and had made it clear that he preferred white
Representatives. That prejudice is evident in Jagdeo's rejection of the
McDougall analysis.
Jagdeo's fundamental objection is that the Government's policies towards
Amerindians were ignored in the report even though they are the true
minority in Guyana. The Report states quite clearly that Amerindians were
regarded as indigenous people and that policies relating to Amerindians were
dealt with exclusively in another report. With excessive childishness, the
President rejects the separate treatment of Amerindians and crudely asserts
that the Government has no policy related to minorities since East Indians
can be equally regarded as a minority because they number less than half of
the total population. This argument is easily dismissed later in this
The President is worried about the influence of Guyanese living in the
U.S.A. whom he regards as political extremists. Ordinarily we would be
referred to as the Guyanese Diaspora that remits huge amounts of remittances
to impoverished Guyanese and that contributes to the maintenance of social
peace. The Diaspora does, however, have the potential to express dissent
more strongly than Guyanese at home largely because Guyanese overseas are
further removed from bounty killings. Death stalks the land in Guyana and
silences dissent. Mr. Sharma, the owner of a TV broadcasting station has
been physically brutalised in an effort to silence him. Extra judicial
killings in the several hundreds, torture in the disciplined services,
bulldozing of farmlands are among the methods used to suppress opposition.
The Report highlights these brutalities and is accordingly regarded with
Brutalities cannot be easily extended to the Diaspora. The silencing of
dissent in Guyana, when combined with the numerical and financial
superiority of the Government's supporters, provides the basis for
perpetuating a PPP majority into the foreseeable future. The dynamic of the
flow of money, with the skilful and brutal manipulation of political power
is enough to overcome the shortfall in the ethnic proportion to win
elections forever. It is a delusion to think that some combination of
political forces can overcome the fear, which people have and secure an
electoral victory over the PPP.
But there is a sense in which Jagdeo is correct in having misgivings about
the Diaspora. Africans in the Diaspora are awakening to the need to end the
confusion about African culture that Jagdeo smirks about. Led by Dr. Kimani
Nehusi, Africans, particularly those in the Diaspora, now realise that the
most devastating aspect of enslavement is the loss of African culture. We,
Africans, intend to stress this cultural deprivation in our
self-determination by focus on who we are, on our identity.
Jagdeo fears this African assertiveness like the plague because it does not
end at individual self-determination but extends into collective
self-determination. It is in respect of the assertiveness of African
collective self-determination that the McDougall report is deficient.
It must be noted that Ms. McDougall had no mandate for considering African
collective self-determination. And the Africans whom she met were
preoccupied with individual self-determination and did not extend their
horizons further. East Indians have, since the early 20th century, embarked
on collective self-determination. Mr. Nandalall spelt this out fully at an
Indian Arrival Day Celebration when he boasted
about how, "We (note the collective concept) came as indentured labourers
and now dominate the commercial and political and professional scene."
African collective self-determination demands changes to the institutional
framework that Ms. McDougall found satisfying. Collective self-determination
demands an equivalent space for Africans in commerce in Regent Street, in
Water Street, in Lombard Street, in Bourda Market, in Stabroek Market, in
Sussex Street Market. Collective self-determination demands an equivalent
space for Africans in fishing co-operatives, in pharmaceutical manufacture,
in stock feed manufacture, in rice cultivation, in rice milling, in the
construction industry (where the large contracts are awarded), in the legal
profession, in the medical profession and in academia.
It is presented here as a zero-sum approach. It should not be zero-sum. It
should be positive sum. To achieve positive sum, the economy has to be
expanded substantially. This expansion of the economy for positive sum
outcomes is what amounts to a minority policy. For Jagdeo to state that the
Government has no minority policy demonstrates a blank mind and a bankrupt
development policy. The statement ignores the reality that equal opportunity
for Africans requires an investment policy and a training policy that pays
special attention to the reduction of inequalities between East Indians and
Africans and, between East Indians and East Indians, by rapid expansion of
the economy.
It is for this reason that Jagdeo considers us in the Diaspora to be wild
extremists. We upgrade the debate to the level of greater equity in the
economy. This is a level that Jagdeo seems unable to appreciate. But if he
hopes to work in an international institution in a manner as Ms. McDougall,
it would be necessary for him to be less superficial. Ms. McDougall is a
deep thinker. She did not embrace our collective self-determination concept
because her institutions have not thought in those terms. At the level that
she was mandated to report, she did an excellent job.
Are we going to take advantage of this report? The PNCR and the AFC should
get together and set out their own comments, thanking Ms. McDougall for her
work and putting forward her recommendations for consideration at the
Hemispheric Summit to be held in Trinidad later this month. Time is of the
essence. Jagdeo will attend the Summit. He will not dare criticise Ms.
McDougall if the Opposition champions her.
Clarence F. Ellis

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