Guyana: The ethnic dilemma at election time – Adam Harris

March 17, 2019  Features / ColumnistsMy ColumnAdam Harris

Politics sometimes force people into some corners and make them do things they would not normally do. I have seen this over the years and I am seeing this again. Friends are less cordial and gradually people graduate to groups of like-minded people.

It is not that people have changed, but their attitudes sure have undergone change. In offices where people have been working and even socializing, this segregation is becoming more and more noticeable.

What is worse is that many are even afraid to voice opinions for fear of offending someone who would normally have listened and rebutted.   

Indeed people would have different political views; they would be of different political persuasions, but this never interrupts relations in the off   season. What is unfortunate is that a different political persuasion often translates into racial or ethnic displays.

Just recently, I happened to be discussing the cricket situation in the country with some former players who still happen to be involved in the game. They concluded that the best players are often not being selected to represent the country because of ethnic considerations.

I wanted to know how this is possible. They said that the selectors are for the greater part of an ethnic persuasion and they tend to go for their own, sometimes selecting people who would be hard pressed to make some club first divisions.

I pointed to the reports coming from the clubs. Surely, the scorebooks would indicate the leading performers. Then there are the trial matches. The former players said that the better players are not even called for trials.

I remember when certain clubs ensured that their players got selected. In fact, that was said to be the case of the Georgetown Cricket Club, the Demerara Cricket Club and the leading clubs in Berbice. The result was that players from rural Guyana rushed to join these clubs.

Perhaps, it was not by accident that the late Stephen Camacho was selected to represent the West Indies ahead of fellow opener, Horton Dolphin. Camacho played for the Georgetown Cricket Club; Dolphin played for Queen’s College and Guyana Colts.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul left Mahaica to play cricket in the city. He first played for Demerara Cricket Club then transferred to Georgetown Cricket Club, where he got his break to play for West Indies.

There are other issues that seem to be raising their heads at this time. The Bertram College for Public Servants recently came under the spotlight. It has been there for just over two years and has churned out more than 100 qualified public servants.

As fate would have it, most of them are of African ancestry, giving rise to talk that the college is discriminating against people of Indian ancestry.
Kaieteur News decided to investigate the allegations and found that overwhelmingly, people of African ancestry apply for entry into the college. The reporter asked about applications from Indo-Guyanese, and was told that race has never played a role in the selection process.

Columnist Freddie Kissoon wrote that the government may wish to consider something similar to the affirmative action that once prevailed in the United States. This allowed certain Black people to be guaranteed places in certain institutions.

The South Africa Cricket Board also adopted a similar course of action. Apartheid had been dismantled, but the team was overwhelmingly White. The decision was taken that space be provided for at least two Black players.

Today Black players make the team on merit but, along the way, White players felt discriminated against. I remember one player voiced the opinion that he was left out to allow for a less qualified Black player to make the team. I could not say whether this was the case, but the view was expressed.

I know that the race issue is never far away. Back in 1992, Dr. Cheddi Jagan saw that the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force were heavily skewed in favour of Black people. He decided to do something about it. He set up recruiting centres in Indian-dominated areas.

To this day, more than twenty-five years later, the composition of these entities remains skewed and heavily so, in favour of Black members. And there is a reason for this. Most people of Indian ancestry are in no hurry to join either the police or the army. But those who do enter, distinguish themselves, even reaching to the highest echelons.

It was the same with the University of Guyana. Again, most of the students happen to be Black. The Jagdeo Government established a campus at Tain, Corentyne. The population of that campus is also predominantly Black.

The fact is that people of various ethnicities gravitate to certain opportunities. The business community is predominantly Indo and now Chinese. Racism has nothing to do with this. But at this time, people tend to see racial overtones in everything.

In the market place, there is a preponderance of Indo Guyanese, but the shopper does not make distinctions. He or she spends money where he or she gets the best bargain. I see the interaction and I wonder about this talk about racism. If it is there, it is cleverly disguised.

The nursing profession and the teaching profession also reveal a certain trend. I suppose people would want to claim that there is also selection based on ethnic preference, although this is certainly not the case.

And nurses and teachers do not discriminate on the job. They see people rather than ethnicities.
When the elections come and go, life would be back to what it should be. The tension would be out of people and life would go on as it should. Until then, I suppose people must tread carefully.

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  • Trevor  On 03/18/2019 at 10:39 am

    The business community is predominantly Indo and now Chinese. Racism has nothing to do with this. But at this time, people tend to see racial overtones in everything.

    Yuh mad?!

    You see police breaking down vendor stalls of mostly our people, while the elite Indo class and Chinese investors could block off the parking space of Regent, Camp and Robb Sts to construct high rise buildings.

    We end up serving years in prison for smoking ganja or even walking with a “smoking utensil”, but a Chinese investor could rape a baby and get released within a year. Or for a proven case, could beat up a girl at their store, and end up being protected by the law when Mark Benschop demands accountability.

    If it isn’t discrimination, then what is?

  • Trevor  On 03/18/2019 at 10:58 am

    If Indo supremacy doesn’t exist, hear this story which happened a decade ago at School of the Nations.

    The story was that Buddy’s daughter used to study in a Business class. The teacher was Afro-Guyanese.

    One day, the teacher lamented of corruption at Providence Stadium and the faults of Buddy Hotel.

    Buddy’s daughter, hearing this criticism, was shocked at hearing this, but she wasn’t as arrogant as other PPP elites.

    She peacefully cried out “that’s my father you’re talking about”, and was only embarrassed.

    The teacher acted as if she was facing death, and immediately apologised and some students observed this fear, though the teacher was only parroting a story that was published in every newspaper.

  • Alan Mandal  On 03/18/2019 at 11:40 am

    What you say is mainly true. But there is still racial discrimination in Guyana. When the govt is of African descent it is against Indians and when the govt is of Indian descent it is against Afro Guyanese. Maybe we need a mixed race candidate who is also a woman to be head of Govt. for things to change

  • Trevor  On 03/18/2019 at 4:08 pm

    Janet (Rosenberg) Jagan was part Caucasian and Jewish, and also not only Guyana’s first woman President, but also the first Jewish woman in the entire world to hold Presidency.

    But what did she do?

    She helped turn Guyana into a narco state, and stepping down for Jagdeo to take the blame, and also continue the drug export operations.

    How can any one believe that a random man who used to walk barefoot would have the connections to export illegal drugs to the USA if not for Janet Jagan and her connections in the USA?

  • Trevor  On 03/18/2019 at 7:00 pm

    Future of GT once the racist AmeriKKKans invade for the oil:

    A racist white woman ain’t gonna tell me to go back to where I came from in GT! She should go back in a cave in the Caucus mountains!

    • Trevor  On 03/18/2019 at 7:04 pm

      Canada has racists too!:

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