A Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed before the truth gets too distorted

Dear Editor,

I write to thank M. Bushan for his letter captioned “Mr Phillips’ statement attacking the Indians for indifference is astonishing” (07.10.25) setting the record straight for Eric Phillips on who is to blame for the criminal race hate attacks on Indians over the past 50 years.

In the same issue of Stabroek News, the blatant distortions, omissions and rewriting of history to suit the attackers continued in the form of written “history” by Cecilia McAlmont, who I believe is a lecturer at UG. In her article “Reflections on Six Decades of General Elections in Guyana: Part Two” she writes of the racial violence of the 60s and glibly notes that the “violence was to continue well into 1964 with the horrible tragedy of the ‘Son Chapman’ disaster among the most traumatic.”

If the “Son Chapman” was among the most traumatic it would be interesting to know how McAlmont would describe the Wismar Massacre on May 24 and May 25 of 1964. The massacre left five dead, Indian homes and businesses destroyed, and led to the largest internal displacement of Indian people in Guyana. The term now used for this kind of horror is ethnic cleansing.

The displaced Indians resettled mainly on the East Coast of Demerara only to be further terrorized during the 70’s and 80s’ and after the post elections troubles of 1998 until now.

There is a habit in Guyana of speaking of racial and ethnic violence without stating clearly who are the attackers and who are the victims as if everyone is equally to blame. McAlmont and Phillips are comfortable with this evasive tactic. The historian McAlmont never states who was doing the riots, the protests and the looting in the 1960s. She knows, I know, we all know, but will she make it a matter of record? No? So much for UG academia!

The Wismar Massacre was investigated by a Commission of Inquiry established by the then colonial government. Their report lays bare the horrors that Africans did to Indians during their two-day bloody spree. Burnham came to office and ducked the report, never tabling it in Parliament to make it official. Since attaining office, the PPP Government has done the same.

There is a lack of any proper research or analysis of our history. In the void comes popular opinion, one being that the “Son Chapman” was retaliation by Indians for the Wismar Massacre. Maybe it was. Others have tried, unsuccessfully, to place the “Son Chapman” bombing before the Wismar Massacre and say that the massacre was retaliation for the “Son Chapman”!

Many before me have called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is sorely needed before the truth gets so distorted that a letter will no longer be enough to undo the lies.

Yours faithfully,

Ramesh Persaud

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