In my letter to the Stabroek News some time ago captioned ‘What if Amerindians could unite and form their own political party?’ I would like to say that the ideas expressed there came from a conversation I had with a friend during one of my usual ‘gaffs’ about politics and the experience of the Amerindians in that reality. Belonging to a new generation of Guyanese, the thought came from perceiving the practice of race-based voting during times of national elections over the years.
This prompted me to reflect on our Amerindians or hinterland people and their relationship to politics in the country, especially the two traditional rival parties: the governing PPP and the main opposition.
These two political mammoths in Guyana which plague the nation with their race rivalry and competition for power have created a static and deadlocked political situation in the country. Being brought up in such an environment I am sure the awareness of this will always prompt thinkers to ask questions and ponder the future of the political situation. It will also challenge persons to search for alternatives by thinking out of the box and looking for ways to be protagonists for their own political independence in the country.
Would this be right or wrong? Well for me the idea could be provocative, but the writer could be innocent and not in any way trying to promote separatism, etc, especially if they hold a neutral stand and are independent thinkers in regard to politics in Guyana. In this context I wish to say that the content of my letter didn’t arise out of a racial or separatist mentality, but out of a desire to hear people’s views on same. It was good to read the comments on the letter, and I am happy it provoked and prompted a discussion among those who entertained it.
I was also happy to read other commentators dismissing the idea which I endorsed as something wise, because in this modern age racism and separatism should not be promoted in a country like this, rather we should be striving to promote peace and unity in a multiethnic and diverse society. As the quotation says, ‘United we stand; divided we fall,’ and to move towards that utopia of a united country, we need to put aside differences, and live in harmony as one people one nation and one destiny in profound way.
My thought towards fellow Amerindians and hinterland people and politics in Guyana is as follows: I think that even if Amerindians were to govern Guyana, I believe that we would also trample on our own people, because we would be power drunk and arrogant like the modern politicians, despite the fact the grassroots population voted for them as leaders. They would not escape the culture of material gain, nepotism, individualism, corruption and obsession with securing a comfortable retirement after their political careers are over.
With such a reality in most poor nations, trust me, it will be difficult to get a leader to govern the country in a ‘good way’ where they can be leaders with genuine motives from the heart for the people.
Owing to our vulnerable social situation we Amerindians have been caught up in this dilemma which the two rival political parties designed from the inception of independence. This makes us go in different directions under the umbrella of one or the other of the two main political parties; it is an experience for Amerindians in Guyana to have that freedom of choice to choose which political party to support and vote for.
Is this something good or bad? Well in a democratic country, we are free to choose the party we will support.
That is the party which we feel helps us, materially, etc, but it is for us to exercise our critical thinking to analyze the ‘help’ they give us and work out their motives. My take on this is that Amerindians should not be used by the two political entities too much. We must be aware of their actions in relation to us always, and not just accept handouts for petty things, but make sure government fulfils its promises in providing quality education for our people in order to have a career and decent job, etc.
Credit must be given to the government for what they are doing, but we must be aware that these services are basic rights to be fulfilled by any government and should not be considered favours they are doing us.
Now here is the thing: whichever political party Amerindian people vote for in this coming election, we must make sure the promises materialize. Some of the things we should be asking for from the politicians who will be promising us things in exchange for our votes are to decentralize some the coastally based institutions like the Government Technical Institute, the Guyana School of Agriculture and even the University of Guyana and other key institutions to the hinterland regions.
We should ask for the teaching of Amerindian languages in primary schools to be introduced, and lobby to set up radio stations in some Indigenous communities to sustain and promote the indigenous language and culture as is already happening in other Latin American countries. We should also set up strong and efficient internet service centres that can provide essay access to the internet for our young people from the hinterland to pursue online courses in their field of interest from foreign educational institutions in various main locations in the hinterland. We also need to have more Amerindians as lawyers, magistrates and judges, and also in academia as lecturers at the University of Guyana, such as political scientists, philosophers – and the list can go on.
Whichever government gets into power they should also try to encourage other stakeholders and private entities to set up educational institutions like church run schools in the interior, of course with the permission of the people. In the interior there are a lot of Christian churches, for if these set up schools they would offer a sound and quality all-round education to the residents where moral values would be taught. The government could assist in funding these schools, but allow them to have their own curriculum.
Finally, Indigenous people in Latin America represent the overwhelming majority of the poor. These people have since been in the forefront of political activism in Latin America, and we too should be proactive to lobby for our land rights, and to have government provide better access to health and education.
We in Guyana although divided by politics, etc, should try to promote and encourage our people to be aligned with other Indigenous movements in the Americas, whereby we can mobilize to form a Pan-Amerindian Move-ment with our brethren so they can be in solidarity with us and assist should serious situations affecting our rights and survival arise.