I refer to the Stabroek News report (April 13) of Mr Jagdeo speaking at the funeral service (appallingly held at the Convention Centre, making it two weddings, one birthday, a government-sponsored Phagwah celebration, and now a funeral service) of Reepu Daman Persaud. SN reported former President Jagdeo as making to my mind some unnerving statements. Sadly, for the younger generation, the opposition and our academics will just ignore it, and that generation will miss a chance to understand why this country is in such a mess
Mr Jagdeo made subtle references to the libel case he brought against me. The matter is sub judice so I will not insult the court by discussing the merit of the evidence as Mr Jagdeo did at the funeral service.
Mr Jagdeo went on to paint a picture of the traditional victimization of East Indians in Guyana going back to colonial days. Not only was he pandering to the East Indians who were in the majority in the audience but he displayed great limitations in understanding Guyanese history.
The book that is generally regarded as the best on this country was written by a white American scholar with no attachment to Guyana. In Sugar Without Slaves, Alan Adamson documented the policy of colonial officials of discriminating against the freed African slaves. It is from reading this book one gets the knowledge of how East Indians came to have extensive land holdings. This book makes for emotional reading. I doubt Mr Jagdeo ever touched a page from this excellent publication.
Secondly, Mr Jagdeo made the observation that East Indians are being criticized for their inclusion in the public service and belaboured the point that all Guyanese are entitled to equal opportunity. But my research into Mr Jagdeo’s presidency (recorded in a 75-pge monograph titled, ‘Ethnic Power and Ideological Racism: Comparing presidencies in Guyana.’) revealed widespread discrimination against African Guyanese. This was not based on hearsay but documented the evidence of bias against African Guyanese. Briefly, one piece of evidence. When a researcher was inquiring (as a consultancy from the ERC) if there was an ethnic preponderance in the distribution of government scholarships, President Jagdeo’s office and the Ministry of the Public Service refused to release data to her. Obviously, they had something to hide.
If as Guyanese citizens we are entitled to equal opportunity then can Mr Jagdeo explain why under his presidency his office awarded a great preponderance of contracts to people of East Indian ethnicity.
Thirdly, I never credited Mr Jagdeo, while he was President with any intellectual talent. I once compared him in a column to two other unremarkable Caricom heads, Bernard St John of Barbados after the death of Tom Adams and George Chambers after the demise of Eric Williams. Both St John and Chambers were without any deep ideas. For me, Mr Jagdeo’s limitations exceeded those of certainly Chambers (St John was a better leader by far than Jagdeo). I hold the opinion that intellectually he was the poorest of Caricom heads to date. I make this point after what he blurted out at the funeral service and that he said there is resurgence of anti-East Indian sentiment in Guyana.
If there is a resurgence of anti-East Indian sentiment it simply means that in the past African Guyanese didn’t like Indians and if the syndrome is returning then he is pointing to African Guyanese again. The fact that Mr Jagdeo mentioned nothing at all about people in Guyana resenting Africans means that he thinks only Africans are ethnically biased and not the other communities.
African Guyanese should now ask Mr Jagdeo if in the past there has been and is there at present, any anti-African sentiment? This question should be asked especially in the context that Mr Jagdeo is generally regarded as the person who controls the levers of power. I end with a sincere hope that the Guyanese society will not let Mr Jagdeo get away with this pandering to race.