True self

Dear Editor,

In their latest missive ‘Bisram should reveal his true self‘ (SN, Nov 9), Messrs Asquith Rose and Harish S Singh made serious accusations against me, none of which are factual or substantiated with evidence.  Either they have mistaken me for someone else or they have quite vivid imaginations. I have never lived a lie and I am my true self. Their writings cross the line of good taste and dignity.  I don’t know them and never lied about them.

I am surprised that the editor allowed them to level allegations against me and did not ask them to provide supporting evidence (citations of where I made the offending statements they claim I made). I recall the late David de Caires did not entertain attacks unless they were supported with solid evidence.

Contrary to what they penned, I do not depend on the PPP for anything, certainly not “for relevance” (of what?). What I do for society makes me very relevant. I don’t need to announce to the world my generosity and kindness and other relevant activities.  I have been very critical of the PPP. In fact, President Ramotar chided me for my perennial critical remarks about himself and the PPP when he was in NY in September.

Contrary to what they wrote, I never claimed that I was a friend of the PPP or of Mr Jagdeo.  I never associated or socialized with Mr Jagdeo. I see Guyanese political parties in a much more nuanced manner. I have both criticised as well as complimented all parties – as the circumstances warrant. I am a Guyanese nationalist.

In terms of my identity, like everyone else it is multilayered. In my case, I am simultaneously a Caribbean person, Guyanese, Indian, South Asian, Hindu, Indo-Caribbean, etc. I am a human rights activist – fighting for the human dignity for all.  As a student leader at CCNY, I participated in the struggle in Harlem for equality for Black Americans, against the closure of Sydenham Hospital in Harlem, an end to apartheid in South Africa, and ending minority white rule in Zimbabwe.  I also protested against discrimination, beatings and robberies carried out against Orientals (Chinese, Koreans, etc, and South Asians (Indians, Indo-Guyanese) in minority neighbourhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and South Jamaica. I advocated for Indian rights in Richmond Hill and the Caribbean (including Guyana and Trinidad).  I fought against racial discrimination in my community in Queens. I am an advocate and activist for various communities in Queens. What I have noticed is that fighting every group’s rights is laudatory but in the Caribbean the moment one talks about Indian rights that is not ok.

The two men attacked my polling credentials which have nothing to do with their main complaint against me. For the record, I am a pollster (though I do not earn a living from it).  I started polling activities in Guyana through Prof Baytoram Ramharack, Ravi Dev and Vassan

Ramracha with the launching of TRPI around 1990. Contrary to what the men penned, I have never claimed to be President of any shell organization.

If the men are referring to NACTA, it was founded by Dr Latchman Narain and Vassan Ramracha.  In terms of organizational position, I was elected President of the Graduate Student Council at CCNY at a time when Barack Obama, then a student activist, visited CCNY and organized with us against Ronald Reagan’s cuts in student aid in the mid 1980s.

I also served in other executive posts including VP, Treasurer, Secretary in the graduate government as well as a Vice President in undergraduate student government.

Contrary to what Messrs Rose and Singh wrote, I do not now and never have played to the gallery. I write facts and opinions supported with evidence.  I do not attack anyone except maybe in defence such as when I am attacked.  The allegation that I play “to the gallery of a select group of Indian rights comrades on closed blogs” is outright false. I do not contribute to blogs. I penned a piece on the beating of Indians in Agricola that was not carried in the media in Guyana. An individual who reviewed the missive suggested that it be submitted to the Hindu blog

(I think – I am not sure where it appeared because I did not read it). I subsequently learned from a blogger that Mr Singh and Mr Rose responded to the commentary and launched a scathing attack on me, not about the contents of what I wrote. I penned a retort to their response. I recollect writing “I am Indian Rights Activist and a defender of Indian rights and …  will not sit by silently and allow people to be  beaten and not make an effort to assist them.” What is the crime committed in that statement? Should we not condemn those who beat, rob and molest people?  Should we not stand for what is right?

It is true that I assisted Basdeo Panday’s party (UNC) in Trinidad and have been involved in the Indian rights struggle in Trinidad (as I have been in Suriname, Fiji, Malaysia, etc, and for African rights in South Africa and Zimbabwe). Bas and I have had an association going back to the 1981 election and I contributed to his political outfit; I was among the earliest to donate to the formation of the UNC as well as the launching of the party’s organ. I conducted polls that showed that he would win the 1995 and 2000 election and he did.  I also conducted polls showing he would lose in 2001, 2002, 2007 and he did, leading to a cold relationship between us.

Even if “I entertained the likes of Basdeo Panday,” what is the win?

I never stated that the victims of Linden don’t deserve compensation. I made a case for the victims to seek compensation from the opposition because they organized the protests and as such are responsible for the victims. I wrote several pieces from July till now condemning the violence in Linden.

I did call for compensation for the victims of Agricola, as I did for Linden, from the opposition.   And what do Agricola and Linden have to do with polls? I never claimed I conducted polls on the violence. And I did not conduct any polls in NY. I never wrote that the PPP was defrauded and they should challenge the results.

I did not attack their characters.  It was they who attacked me prompting a response in kind.

In light of the fact that all of the allegations (save one) levelled against me have been shown to be fabrications and the exception relates to my condemnation of anti-Indian violence, the same position taken by the AFC and PNC and all respected organizations and individuals, this missive should never have been authored, much less published by a respected media entity like SN. While I support freedom of the press, writing must be objective, fair, balanced and based on facts. Messrs Rose and Singh have written bunkum, to use their own word. They unsuccessfully sought to discredit me.

Yours faithfully
Vishnu Bisram



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