Sugar, Arrival and `Indianness

A consultative democracy? Prior consent?

-Free education very expensive!

Expectedly, all the pronouncements from political and trade union leaders, the commentaries from Rights Activists, the “sensitivities” aroused, conspired to stimulate almost national debate about the May fifth “arrival” of Indentured Immigrants from the Indian sub-continent.

Even the “preliminaries” added spice – chutney and achar – to the annual conversation this year. For example, the May 01 – Labour Day had to highlight the plight of the sugar workers made redundant as the government superintended some Sugar Corporation to reduce the Sugar Sector to its right relevant, sustainable size.

Then there was the belated launch of postage stamps to honour Guyana’s Pre-eminent Indo- Guyanese, Cheddi Jagan- some six weeks after its scheduled date and three days before the annual Arrival Anniversary. His Excellency’s wishes had to be served. And personally, Frankly Speaking, I can find nothing wrong with saying, writing and naming May fifth as Indian Arrival Day. Dropping “Indian” does absolutely no harm for the cohesion sought by the Coalition’s sociology, ethno-centric, history and inclusivity experts.

I suppose it could be healthy  to engage in these conversations examining the rights and the wrongs related to the latter-day descendants of the coolies who “arrived” here, having been brought across the Kala Pani to be contracted to European plantation owners. The  thing is, certain sensitive historical facts could be  weapons of divisiveness when rendered to revive – and sustain – painful strategies and memories of antagonisms between our two major groups which were originally fashioned by those  who stood to benefit from such exploitation of differences.

****

Indian values, status – as Guyanese

My two favourite Indian Rights Commentators, Ryhaan and Ravi, did not disappoint (me) at the beginning of this week.

They each continued prosecution of their cases to reveal historical evidence that the “African”- controlled institutions of State and government used economic, political and cultural mechanisms to marginalise the descendants of Indian Asians in the Caribbean and Guyana.

Ryhaan and Ravi are possessers of well-qualified and finely-tuned minds. They (each) are passionate and proud of their Indianness, achievements and legacy. They use the words and actions- even theories- of CLR James, Burnham and Federation protagonists to explain how Indians were and are victims of either execution or forced absorption and integration into a more Western/African society. (Poor me, I’m just a creole.)

I am saddened on two fronts by their cases every May. On the one hand I am persuaded by some of the arguments of the two Rights Protagonists- not about Mashramani, Carnival, the colours of our flag or those invited by Burnham to his Writers and Artists conferences in ’66 and ’70. (These latter are “low blows”.) On the other hand, their not so subtle attacks on Burnham, Hoyte? Granger? are over- emphasized to mislead that Indian Marginalisation is still some work in progress. Naughty!

Every government since Independence recognized and encouraged the brains and abilities of the sons and daughters of the Indentured. In Guyana “Indians” rose to the summits of its government, parliament, judiciary, police, army, and national service, commercial, industrial and manufacturing enterprises. In sport, culture, the arts, entertainment “Indian” identity and contributions are self-evident to the Guyanese fabric.

Of course when Indo-Guyanese constituted the significant majority of the population, I argued that there were more poor Indian Guyanese than others- except Amerindians perhaps. Indo- Guyanese, Frankly Speaking, mastered sacrifice and self-help, creativity and innovation to succeed. They loved the land before the (urban) professions.

I wish Ryhaan and Ravi would sometimes return to  the “history” of Dr Jagdeo who “enriched” a few “Indians” as their working- class majority joined other groups in the level below the poverty-line. I recall their valid tirades through the GIFT and the ROAR. Still I value their contributions as they’ll keep their eyes on how His Excellency seeks to empower his own more-supportive communities yes, May fifth still “rocks!”

*****

Prior consent, a necessity?

I am appealing to some younger, brighter journalist- or an older, knowledgeable commentator- to assist me to understand the concept of “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC). I recall in my early days at the then Information Ministry there was Development Support Communication (DSC). Information/Public Relations folks and economic development planners dwelt amongst communities earmarked for some project. They consulted to forecast and understand impact and consequences for those who would be beneficiaries.

Consultative Democracy, I suppose, attracts meaningful consultations- for planning and implementing anything significant. But FPIC? Does it mean that a community has to agree, to consent, prior to getting things done? What is “Informed”? Assist me, please

*****

Parents and “free” education

I don’t appreciate what material things are truly free of any cost. Anyhow the taxi-driver who picked up his daughter from the Middle Street secondary school was quietly, decisively adamant: the five hours daily his daughter spent at that Public School could not prepare her adequately for her upcoming exams. Extra lessons were therefore an unavoidable cost on his monthly budgeting.

The popular Private School is also adamant: it needs to raise its fees. And last August single-parent mothers besieged me for assistance to access books. My senior years give me one “comfort” – I have neither children nor grands to enjoy our “free education.”

*****

Please ponder well…

Interesting observation by the Kaieteur columnist: “…the State does not have to find billions to maintain those who will always vote PPP”. True but it’s so much more than politics. It’s sustainable survival

1b) So how many additional sympathy votes do you think the published images of the handcuffed two in court would accrue to the PPP?

The Communities Ministry, the new Local Government Commission- how  much local authority, really?

How is Commissioner of Information Ramson getting along these days?

When will the old Stabroek Co-op Bank Building be pulled down

When will Paul Williams become Commissioner of Police? (Or David???)

Til next week!

(allanafenty@yahoo.com)