Race Relations: Genuine talk or open conflict – GHK Lall

Race Relations: Genuine talk or open conflict

volcano-ghklallG.H.K. Lall holds a copy of ‘Sitting on a Racial Volcano (Guyana Uncensored).

The House Speaker and a prominent Roman Catholic clergyman have endorsed a new book on race on Guyana that calls for an open and frontal discourse on the issue or the country could erupt into open conflict.

Titled ‘Sitting on a Racial Volcano (Guyana Uncensored)’ by G.H.K. Lall was launched Friday evening at Marian Academy.

Monsignor Terrence Montrose urged that the dialogue begin and continue among youths, children about the meaning of being Guyanese. “If we don’t start now, if we don’t dare ourselves; frightening though it may be, terrifying though it may be, if we don’t start now, all of us are doomed,” he said.   

The third-in-command of the local RC Diocese appealed to Guyanese to immediately make decision about “stemming the storm of race in this country.”

While House Speaker, Raphael Trotman said he did not agree with the entire 166-page book, the publication was “startling,” “chilling” and “it was actually quite scary.” “While I don’t share and subscribe to all the issues and the views raised by Gabriel Lall, I have to concede that he has set us thinking and we must ask ourselves a series of pertinent questions,” he said. Those included whether Guyanese should allow the drift to “a place of no return.”

Trotman “wholeheartedly and unreservedly” recommended that ‘Sitting on a Racial Volcano (Guyana Uncensored)’ be used as part of the national discourse to explore the way forward including a better governance system that might executive power sharing or federalism. “This book and its contents must be added to the all important conversation that must take place and must, I believe, be driven by the people mostly and less by the politicians,” said Trotman, a former member of the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR). He has since gone on to co-found the Alliance For Change (AFC) which has seven seats in the House.

The Speaker described the author as Guyanese, patriotic and honest whose latest work has opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box that would not earn him friends but respect.

The book focuses largely on relations between Black and East Indian Guyanese at almost all levels of the Guyanese society, an approach that did not find favour with the Speaker of the 65-seat National Assembly. “If there is one deficiency that this book has I have to say, it would be it does not adequately address the shared concerns, fears, the anguish and the plight of those who do not strictly belong to either of the major ethnic groups,” he said. They include the Indigenous Peoples and Guyanese of mixed ancestry.

He chided politicians across the divide for continuing racial and political rivalry that had been the work of the British and Americans prior to Independence in May 1966.

The author told the audience said the almost incendiary issue of race relations was now in full public view rather than avoiding and pretending that it does not exist. “Let this be the most recent national conversation on the issue of race. Let it start now… let it be the first of many conversations, long hard gruelling conversations,” he said.

Citing President Donald Ramotar’s refusal to assent several pieces of opposition-sponsored laws that have been passed by the House and two months later the Guyanese leader’s invitation to the opposition leaders to talks on improving governance, Lall questioned the sincerity of such gestures. “This outreach, this avoidance of conflict- will it last? Can it last? It can if it’s genuine, if it’s intended to be enduring to lift up and to move forward beyond the racial divide,” he said.

Justifying that Guyana is sitting on a racial volcano, Lall pointed to perceived inequities in the distribution of wealth, marginalization, death squads, proliferation of guns and hopelessness. “This country is divided, that there is anger, that there is burning resentment in large blocks of this country but nobody is listening, nobody in charge is listening,” he said.

As an alternative to guns being the final arbiter in a racial cataclysm that he said threatens, Lall issued a stirring appeal to leaders to find “new and different ways” to inculcate hope and a rebirth of dreams.

Attendees at the launch included the Chief Executive Officer of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Michael Khan; Governor of the Bank of Guyana, Lawrence Williams; United Kingdom-based poets John Agard and Grace Nichols and Commissioner of the Ethnic Relations Commission, John Willems.

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Volcano GHKLall“Sitting on a Racial Volcano (Guyana Uncensored)” is an unflinching and unsettling look at chronic racial anxieties and smoldering anger, as lived by the two major racial groups in Guyana.

It covers the subtle and sometimes not so artful manipulations of the PPP and PNC of its racial constituents for purposes of power and control; and the well-developed psychology of racial expectations and convictions.

Then there is recognition of the absence of any meaningful buffer capable of influencing change for the better; or of mediating first the distinction, then transition from raw, dirty politics in the trenches to the responsibility inherent in governing a nation.

This book further focuses on the significance of the proliferation of sophisticated weaponry, as well as the invisible hand of foreigners in the national money flow; linkage is then made to the political and power equation, which by extension translates to racial ascendancy and racial despair in the different camps.

This first of its kind effort for Guyana has been described by those familiar with its contents as “powerful,” “chilling” and “explosive.”  They include ranking men from the realm of politics and religion.  The Guyanese reading public will soon be afforded the opportunity to agree or disagree on the treatment of this most combustible of domestic issues.

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Comments

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 06/02/2013 at 8:00 pm

    Look forward to reading Mr. Lall’s book.

  • Gigi  On 06/03/2013 at 1:09 am

    I think that it is time that the Guyanese people petition to have their flag redesign to reflect its South American geography rather than a distinct African affiliation. I really detest the Guyanese flag. It is hideously ugly. And I feel it does not represent Guyana’s racial and ethnic diversity.

    • Thinker  On 06/05/2013 at 12:53 am

      This is by far the most ridiculous statement I have seen on this site. The flag was designed by an American who considered it his best work. Wiki states “The flag of Guyana, known as The Golden Arrow, has been the national flag of Guyana since May 1966 when the country became independent from the United Kingdom. It was designed by Whitney Smith, an American vexillologist (though originally without the black and white fimbriations, which were later additions suggested by the College of Arms in the United Kingdom).”

      The concatention of colours might seem more Indian than African to some. The level of racial hate e xpressedover trivial issues never ceases to amaze.

  • de castro  On 06/03/2013 at 1:59 am

    Will comment after reading Mr Lalls book…

    Kamptan

  • francis jackson  On 06/03/2013 at 9:37 am

    Gigi – we have other issues of importance other than the flag to deal with, just leave the flag where it belong,

  • de castro  On 06/03/2013 at 11:41 am

    Maybe a black white or grey coloured flag is what Gigi wants….
    or even a pink one….at my cynical best….
    Or one with all the colours of the rainbow…..
    Nationalist flag waving in sport is acceptable.
    Nationalistic flag waving for political motivation is detestable.

    Politicians use this to win votes. Wake up Guyana there is enough
    Flag waving on the planet for political reasons.

    Sorry if I offend as it is not my style to remain silent on political issues.

    Kamptan

    • Thinker  On 06/05/2013 at 1:07 am

      Gigi’s statement is just plain ridiculous. According to him the rainbow would be particularly and distinctively African and something to be shunned. In a Science lab he would not put white light through a prism for fear of the colours he would see. Interesting to see how sick people are.

  • de castro  On 06/05/2013 at 3:33 am

    Indeed

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/27/2013 at 9:09 am

    I declare that I try to stay away from matters pertaining to “race” and “politics” as it relates to Guyana; but this time is an exception – only because I have never heard nor read anyone voice an opinion that is quite to my way of thinking.

    My disclaimer that I try to stay away from “race” and “politics” in Guyana would ring hollow with those familiar with my comments and opinions in this blog. Therefore, if you checked, you will discover that I find it more comforting to say my piece on this subject matter relating to other countries and communities rather than, say, Guyana.

    I say with conviction that I have no interest in obtaining or reading a copy of the book, “Sitting on a Racial Volcano” by GHK Lall. Given the review, I am of the opinion that it is missing the mark by a wide margin. So, here is my take:

    I believe if we had kept the Honourable Peter D’Aguiar on-board as a Minister in the government of Guyana in the formative years of our newly independent country, Guyana would have been light-years ahead of where it is today – economically, at least.

    Every white person [backra man], which includes the Portuguese, that I have spoken to over the years, have declared that they could not stand the racial stigma and disrespect which flowed from being a part of the Guyanese community during those early years. So the solution was to make a quick exit at the borders of Guyana – with that, they took away a neutralizing factor within the borders, in my opinion.

    It was a radical change in our cultural and psychological make-up, in general – a culture-shock, I say, during our formative years as a country! In other words, it was a major change from seeing the backra man who benefitted from our status as a colony, suddenly exiting the Guyana borders en masse and non-whites suddenly in charge – I may add, with no mentors in place to groom the new leaders to manage real power and control of the economy; including the cultural morass, which resulted in domestically polarizing the non-whites, or at least, exacerbating the racial tensions between them that were planted by the backra man using the divide-and-rule strategy while we were a colony.

    Some 47-years later, we appear to be digging ourselves out of a mismanaged economy, mismanaged culture, racial intolerance and so on. I believe in some ways we went backwards after independence – almost to the point of self-destruction, in my opinion. But, as I look around at the rebuilding of the infrastructure and improvements in the economy and improvements in cultural and racial relations, I believe that there is a better future in the offing for Guyana!! Oh! And that neutralizing factor is coming back – re-asserting itself!!

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