A letter written by Associate Professor Lomarsh Roopnarine in the Thursday, 22nd of May edition of SN on the unclaimed remittances of indentured Indians caught my eye and upon perusal of same I ask your co-operation in publishing my letter which provides some information that may help to in the Professor’s quest.
According to Dwarka Nath (A History of Indians in Guyana) a Committee was formed by the then Government in 1966 (year of Independence) to decide on how these funds would be utilized. It is understood that the Committee recommended that three cultural centres for the benefit of Indians be established in the three counties.
In December 1969 representatives of the five main Indian Organizations were invited to hear of the then Forbes Burnham Government’s proposals. They were told by the Minister of Health whose Ministry was responsible for the funds of the intention to establish a National Cultural Centre for all races and not East Indians alone. This did not find favour with the Organizations represented.
Among those Organizations “consulted” were the Mahatma Gandhi Organization/Gandhi Youth Organization whose President was Shri Raghunandan Misir but the General Secretary, the late Dr. Balawant Singh Snr. was given the task of representing the MGO/GYO.
The Organization instructed Dr. Singh to convey its vehement objection to the government’s proposal and Dr. Balwant Singh Sr began an energetic lobby and campaign against this injudicious use of the funds and called for East Indians to voice their opposition to the construction of the National Cultural Centre. The Burnham Government proceeded with their plan notwithstanding the vigorous opposition of a majority of East Indians. Even after the construction and opening of the NCC, Dr. Singh and the GYO continued to advise East Indians to boycott it with a fair degree of success.
I am not aware of how much of the funds was actually used in this construction but I would like to ask the Professor to request the precise information he seeks from the Government through the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport from the National Archives as I am not hopeful that the Indian High Commission in Guyana can assist with any useful information.
As we observe our 48th Independence Anniversary this letter may serve as a reminder to our younger citizens as to a sordid chapter in our history
(Former Senior Vice President
Gandhi Youth Organization)