Foreign governments should be mindful of Guyana’s race sensitivities

Dear Editor,

I do not normally get involved in matters of race and politics in a direct way, I prefer to address these issues in the context of good governance. However, I would like to add my few words to the issues on the parliamentarians from Guyana who attended the conference in India.

In an attempt to understand this issue, I asked myself, if an African government, had invited parliamentarians of African descent from Guyana to attend a ‘Conference for the People of African Origin Members of Parliament’ in an African country, would that be a problem for me? My initial reaction was no, not really. So I thought, why then is it an issue for 17 PPP parliamentarians of Indian descent to attend a Conference for the People of Indian Origin Members of Parliament in India? I would not discuss the three parliamentarians of Indian descent who attended from the coalition government, because for me, that is a non-issue; if there is an event for Indians or Africans or for people of other ethnic origins, then there should be no issue with that.

However, having examined this matter further, the lines got blurred somewhat, along with the fact the invitation came from the Indian government. Had the conference been organized by civil society or the private sector and the same persons invited, the entire scenario would have been different.

Maybe it was an oversight on the part of the Indian government. Guyana’s sensitivities, as they relate to race and power, particularly between Africans (Blacks) and Indians, are very complicated and intricate, and many outsiders, while understanding some aspects, may not understand the true dynamics. The dynamics of the Guyanese race relations situation could be overlooked, particularly for persons with a background from countries with predominantly one race.

However, it is imperative that outsiders understand that as a Black citizen living in Guyana, I see Mr Bharrat Jagdeo as my Opposition Leader, and President Granger is seen as the President of the Indian, African, Amerindian and other races. What is important to me is to be assured as a Black citizen, that Mr Jagdeo as my Opposition Leader, even though he does not look like me, understands my issues as a human being and as far as possible understands my issues as a Black person. As such, as it relates to issues of race, I am a little more sensitive about how Mr Jagdeo treats with those matters and likewise, the Indian Guyanese would be more sensitive about how President Granger treats with matters relating to Indian Guyanese.

It is expected that governments, any government, would be mindful of these sensitivities, particularly in the Guyana context, and that they would at all times maintain balance in their relationships, though difficult at times.

On the point of the response from the Indian High Commissioner to Mr Imran Khan’s comments on his Facebook page on the matter, I sincerely hope that this would not become the new normal in Guyana: diplomats should not engage with citizens in this way. A friend once told me that you are as good as your first compromise. Our society has established systems and structures to adequately address matters of this nature, and they must be utilized.

Yours faithfully,

Audreyanna Thomas

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