Guyana Politics: Political rejection of Africa entitlement under the guise of scholarship

Mar 04, 2019  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon 

The lava spewing from the no-confidence volcano is engulfing the society where masks are falling off like mangoes on a tree in a yard of one of the managers’ home on a sugar estate. Some want to see the PNC retain in power because of ethnic loyalty.

Some want to see an Indian government return to rule Guyana. Some want to see Jagdeo ride the waves again. Some are so annoyed with the failures of the AFC that they want to see the PPP return so they can laugh at the humiliation of Nagamootoo and Ramjattan. Some feel the APNU+AFC’s time was an abject failure and the no-confidence vote (NCV) offers a new pathway.

Since the NCV on December 12, 2018, Ravi Dev’s popularization of the Indian Ethnic security dilemma (IESD) has risen from the dead and the resurrection has been done by Indian intellectuals. Now mind you; Dev was a little barefaced guy. He dramatized the IESD when the PNC regime under Burnham was in power. The sermon was Indians were denied electoral, political and economic power.

The IESD preachers (Dev and his political party, ROAR) cut off one of the fulcrums of the IESD when President Desmond Hoyte implemented the neo-liberal economic platform known as the ERP, (economic recovery programme).

For an excellent adumbration of the ERP see the work of one of the men who was responsible for seeing its success, “Structural Adjustment and Good Governance: The Case of Guyana,” Tyrone Ferguson.

That fulcrum was the economic pillar. Extensive privatization accompanied the ERP and almost 90 percent of state companies were bought up by Indians. The opening up of the economy saw a nascent nouveau riche class dominated by Indians. By the time the PPP settled down to rule Guyana after its victory in the 1992 elections, the Indian presence in the economy was deep and extensive.

As the PPP settled into power under the aegis of Jagdeo and Ramotar, a new class appeared in Guyana’s sociology – the criminalized nexus. This was an interrelationship between drug traffickers and state actors. It is best epitomized in the Roger Khan saga.

So what Dev, ROAR and Indian intellectuals did was to maintain the other pillars of the IESD. The pulpit still preached about the Indian fear of a state sector and security apparatus dominated by Africans. They wanted ethnic balance in the public service and the wider and state sector and the army and police.

Dev and ROAR went out of fashion. ROAR died but Dev moved on to Guyana Times where he found a weak (the Times’ circulation is pathetically poor) but useful avenue to fan the ISED flame. The ISED has risen from the grave since the lady shouted in Parliament on December 12, 2018; “no Charran, no Charran, no Charran.”

Dev is doing his ISED thing over at the Times and has been joined by a school of Indian intellectuals that include Drs. Ramesh Ganpat, Lomarsh Roopnaraine, Baytoram Ramharack and Tarron Khemraj. Here is the argument especially of Ramharack and Khemraj. The Indians are still living in fear of domination and there are serious intentions of transferring wealth to African Guyanese by the PNC leaders.

For a reply to Ramharack, see my column of Friday, February 22, 2019, captioned, “My problem with Indian academics writing about African Guyanese.” In yesterday’s Stabroek News, Tarron Khemraj reproduced the identical ISED argument of Ramharack. But there is one new element. He disputes the basic contention of Carl Greenidge’s book, “Empowering a Peasantry in a Caribbean Context: The Case of Land Settlement Schemes in Guyana, 1865 -1985.

That contention is that the freed slaves were terribly treated by the plantocracy in relation to land entitlements and the Indians and Portuguese were highly favoured and wide concessions given to them. Today the shape of wealth in Guyana is directly related to that era.

This was what my research for my M.A. degree at MacMaster University in Canada was based on. For me it is downright intellectual dishonesty for any scholar to deny the land discrimination against the freed slaves by the plutocracy.

Greenidge’ book offers more details and more convincing arguments that one published 48 years ago that centered on the same argument. Greenidge’s book came out in 2010.

In 1972, one of the most authoritative works on how the emancipated slaves were denied land entitlement in Guyana was published by a white American historian, Alan Adamson. See his brilliant book, “Sugar Without Slaves.”

Finally, Ganpat, Ramharack and Khemraj think they are successful in arguing that Indians do not own a large chunk of the Guyanese economy because they keep asserting that there are poor Indo-Guyanese as poor African Guyanese. Credible statistics are not offered.

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  • Trevor  On 03/05/2019 at 6:30 pm

    East Indians, Portuguese, Chinese and recently, European Jews disproportionately own most of the wealth in Guyana.

    In fact, most of the prime real estate in Guyana are owned by wealthy East Indian families, Chinese money launderers, and a few Europeans.

    The so-called European Jew controls most of the oil industries in Guyana. They have last names ending with -z, -vich, -man,-off, -berg.

    They also have adopted names of precious metals like Diamond, Gold, Copper, Silver, but surprisingly didn’t adopt Bauxite or Manganese as last names.

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