I wish to make a correction to Mr Eric Phillips’ letter that was carried in your issue of December 6 (‘The British Guiana colonization scheme is little known’).
It is commendable that Mr Phillips and the Guyana Reparations Committee noticed the significance of December 5 as ninety-five years since the offer of Guiana for a colonisation scheme by immigration to the then Indian colonial government. The issue of immigration, especially but not only Indian immigration, was a very contentious one in the social history of Guyana from the end of physical enslavement in 1838 to well after 1919. The European planters and the colonial state they erected and dominated in Guiana used immigration as one means to stifle Afrikan Guyanese development as well as to promote hostility between Afrikan and Indian Guyanese workers. (They also employed other means of achieving both aims). The resulting mutual hostilities, while not attributable only to this policy, still blight this nation today. This is without doubt a very important issue.
However, it is not true that “none of our historians and none of our history books have made this public knowledge” as Mr Phillips claims in the letter referred to above. To my knowledge the most detailed examination of this particular scheme is undertaken by Clem Seecharan in his book entitled Mother India’s Shadow over El Dorado: Indo-Guyanese Politics and Identity, 1890s-1930s (Ian Randle Publishers, 2011). It’s in Part 3: ‘The British Guiana Colonisation Scheme, 1919-29: an “Indian Colony” Aborted?’ p 109-204.
While it is good that the Reparations Committee encourage Guyanese to read relevant historical documents such as the Combined Court Proceedings No. 14/1923, it is also important that Guyanese be familiar with all the relevant information, for it is only then that they will be in the best position to make the best decisions about this matter – or any other matter.
Mr Phillips’ statement regarding historians and history books is therefore in need of correction.
Kimani S K Nehusi