If there is one thing we can learn from the Rodney Commission of Inquiry that is certain, it is that many Guyanese know little of their post-independence history. It is a tragedy of national proportions because it sets up our society for a relapse to a time those who do know was, as eloquently defined by Guyana’s late poet Martin Carter, “a dark time” for Guyanese.
This lack of awareness has developed with the full knowledge of the Government of the day because it suited a political agenda. Keeping the populace in ignorance makes them easier to lead. It creates a group in society that supports in blind faith, concerned only with the present and with no desire to understand the past.
The fact that some persons can suggest the CoI is of little consequence today or that it is a meaningless, time- and money-wasting exercise demonstrates a dangerous illiteracy that needs immediate correction. For anyone to suggest it was not worth investigating demonstrates a dangerous political scheme.
Every society needs to come to terms with its past. There are examples worldwide: the most well-known is that of Germany’s role in the World Wars of the 20th Century. Every German schoolchild learns of Hitler and their country’s atrocious acts of the time. They have never been hidden, glossed over, or a subject of political bias and controversy, or denied; they have not made up excuses either.
This is perhaps why many Guyanese know little of the independence fight of the post-World War era, and more significantly, the 70s and 80s under the PNC-Burnham regime.
On the former, there is little awareness of those who led the fight for independence, while some seek to rewrite and dilute the story for political gain. On the latter, there has been a deliberate decision to rewrite as well as deny our history so as to avoid publicly acknowledging roles played in the degradation and destabilisation of Guyana that remain a plague upon Guyanese in the 21st Century.
Embroiled in political interference and deception, a true history of several decades of Guyana’s past may never be satisfactorily written, and future generations would continue to grow up with a lack of understanding, awareness and knowledge of what is in fact a very important part of our history that has directly led us to the kind of society we live in today.
It is a history that led many on a mass exodus for a better life abroad and, for those who remained, a history that left a society bitterly divided along racial and party lines.
The Rodney CoI reveals a part of a history that needs to be known by all Guyanese. The CoI needs to be released to the public and it needs to be accurately explained to those who have no knowledge of its context in relation to their history. This means people need to understand an unbiased history that has led to the necessity of convening the CoI.
We are a nation ignorant of the very events that may help unite us: by understanding the role the then PNC played in that volatile era, we may be more aware of its political history. Instead, by denying and disregarding the CoI, those events will today end up being more tools used to divide.
With the public already establishing uninformed and opposing opinions on the validity of the CoI whose report they haven’t even read, the division has already begun.