Non Afro-Guyanese should desist from directing Africans’ behaviour

Dear Editor,

Sunday Stabroek’s May 18, 2008 editorial, ‘Normality?’ provoked many responses. Afro-Guyanese generally viewed the editorial as biased, unfair and racist. Messrs Tacuma Ogunseye, Oscar Clarke and Rickford Burke’s letters in Stabroek News reflected the views of many.

This editorial continues to receive vigorous circulation and discussions. Those skeptical of SN saw the editorial as vindication of their views SN never objectively represents Afro-Guyanese causes and the support given during the advertisements withdrawal would have been discarded once those advertisements were returned. Others questioned the Afro-Guyanese penchant for generosity even to their adversaries. The bottom line was that editorial forced Afro-Guyanese to re-examine their relationship with and support for SN. No one I spoke with saw SN’s motive as uplifting or respectful and pondered on the motive of the highly educated publisher and Sunday Editor. The Sunday Editor is no stranger to world events and history and would be aware of actions, legal and otherwise, used by the discriminated over the ages to effect changes.
On the other hand there were those who felt the SN editorial was not biased, unfair or racist. Notable among them was syndicated journalist Rickey Singh in his letter (27.5.08) titled ‘Such a bitter, racist attack should offend all Guyanese.’ Singh launched into one of the most vitriolic attacks on Rickford Burke and ignored his message. This choice was both shocking and disappointing ftom a man who prides himself as a journalist of repute.

Mr Singh knows of a basic principle that advises, “Before you tell a man of his condition walk a mile in his shoes.” This gentleman left Guyana in the 1970s crying discrimination by the Burnham administration. His claim was not questioned. He pleaded his case and found a home in Barbados, an African dominated, governed, and economically successful nation.

Since 1992 Afro-Guyanese have been consistently discriminated against by the PPP government, and yes, at times SN ignored or denied it. Mr Singh always ignored and denied it. The withdrawal of SN ads was the first time Mr Singh spoke out against the PPP and there may be motive behind it since Mr Singh’s columns are published in Caribbean newspapers that own shares in SN.

Non Afro-Guyanese and the beneficiaries of government largesse should desist from directing Africans’ behaviour and telling them what is their reality. If you respect Afro-Guyanese rights, get into their communities, talk to them and listen to their concerns, and if you desire to speak, tell the stories the way these were told. It is highly disrespectful and an infringement of Afro-Guyanese rights to do otherwise.

Yours faithfully,
Humphrey Charles

Editor’s note
1. It should be noted that the entire Caribbean media fraternity came out in opposition to the Government of Guyana over the SN advertisements issue, and not simply those which have shares in this newspaper.
2. The editorial was not about the Afro-Guyanese “stories” or their “rights”; it was primarily about the appropriateness of PNCR tactics which have removed the focus of attention from a government under pressure to their actions on the streets. Political commentary comes well within the purview of any newspaper, and we would not be discharging our function if we shrank from expressing our views in editorials because we might offend one group or another. The governing party has equally accused us of an anti-PPP/C and pro-PNCR bias.
3. The Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper has been targeted by Mr Burke because of the May 18 editorial. As we have said before in an editor’s note, the leader in question was written by Sunday Editor Anna Benjamin.

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