18 Jan

The “troubles”…

first_img…of Jan 12, 1998Today is “Chinese Arrival Day” – as declared by President Granger last year. Guyana, of course, is a land of immigrants; brought here to join the Indigenous Peoples – but more specifically, to work on the sugar plantations after the abolition of slavery in 1834. The first batch of Chinese were dropped off on January 12, 1853, and because they were all male, soon they developed liaisons with freed Africans. By that time, the Portuguese (1835), West Indian freed Africans (1835); intercepted slave ships Africans (1835) and Indians (1838) had already formed a “polyglot society”.The Portuguese quickly decamped the plantations and within a couple of decades, established themselves as the premier immigrant entrepreneurs. That led to tensions between them and the freed slaves and there were at least two riots in which Africans assaulted them and torched their shops. The Chinese never precipitated that kind of hostility – most likely because of their high rate of intermarriage.By and large, there were no major outbreaks of violence between Indians and Africans – and most folks figure this might be due to the former remaining stubbornly rural and the latter, gravitating to the towns. This, of course, also led them into different non-competitive occupations. The beginning of the modern period saw the equation change dramatically – and more dangerously – ironically, with the spread of democracy and the universal franchise.Now, the question wasn’t only who pushed ahead economically, but also who’d take over the Government when the British departed. This was now a question of “when”, not “if”. Democracy means counting noses and the leaders with the most noses become the head honchos of the state. With the descendants of African slaves and Indian indentureds being the two largest groups, their noses counted the most (pun intended!) and set the seeds of political competition.That competition lead to ethnic/racial disturbances in the 1960’s – with more than a little help from the anti-communist USA and their CIA – and with the genie out of the bottle, relations were never quite the same again. Politics literally became “war by other means”. And we arrive at the period of “troubles” (as labelled by President Granger) following ethnic riots on January 12, 1998 in Georgetown. Then, hundreds of Indian-Guyanese were beaten and assaulted by fellow African-Guyanese citizens, following PNC protests over the 1997 elections.The following decade can be described as nothing less than political madness as armed gunmen challenged the State by attacking Policemen and Indian-Guyanese, and “vigilante” squads became judge, jury and executioners  of “bandits” – generally African-Guyanese youths.There have been several calls to investigate our political violence. Let’s begin with January 12, 1998.…being incitedImran Khan, the Director of Public Information (DPI) is Prime Minister Nagamootoo’s “shill” and “water boy”. As a creature of the PM, he doesn’t even purr, much less bark unless he gets Nagamootoo’s instruction. Not “permission” – instruction. And it’s against this background, you, dear reader, have to evaluate Khan’s petulant and incendiary incitement against the Indian High Commissioner.Khan (really Nagamootoo) is peeved the Indian Government only invited MP’s – but no Minister of Government on their all-expense paid trip to India. Nagamootoo knows how extravagantly the Indians pamper their guests – he’s been there at least six times before! And he’s upset the delegation’s packed with PPP MPs. His “mouth water” is leaking copiously for some Indian pampering!But he could have changed all that. Since he was given absolutely no PM’s responsibilities – as was promised by the Cummingsburg Accord,  why didn’t  he revert to what he really is? Just another MP. And fly off to India – all expenses paid!!But then he would lose that pension! Decisions, Decisions!!…for sugar workersAfter sugar workers marched in silence – Police permission for loudspeakers was denied – they’re going to be paid HALF of their severance.Imagine if they’d blocked a bridge and stopped trucks from crossing – like in Linden – what they’d have gotten!!last_img

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