November 27, 2015

Indian Advocates are not “self ascribed Intellectuals”

Dear Editor,
I am very disturbed with the contempt shown for Indian intellectuals by Abu Bakr. I urge him to inculcate and show respect for those with whom he engages or seeks an intellectual discourse.
The media has made a one-sided affair by not publishing all the responses to his attacks on Indian advocates. In focusing on Indians who advocate “the Indian cause”, Bakr unwittingly gives them credit for their work unlike say the PPP that deliberately ignores the significant contributions made by these altruistic figures. However, Bakr misses the importance of their intellectual work as well as their (grass roots) activism in focusing on problems facing Indians. Indians don’t live in isolation; Indian problems are national and affect others as well. So when Indian intellectuals address issues affecting Indians, (except in some cases,) they are in all likelihood addressing national matters. They are interested in the welfare of the entire nation. There is no definition of an African intellectual. So why must there be one for Indians or for other ethnicities.
One may or may not be considered an intellectual by others. The honour is ascribed by others who hold regard for the person as being “bright” or has consistently laid out an argument based on logic and evidence; it is not a self-ascribed honour like what Freddie Kissoon gives himself; Freddie lacks the characteristic of an intellectual and he frequently misunderstands what he reads.  I consider Bakr, David Hinds, Kwayana, etc as intellectuals. Generally speaking, an intellectual is someone who has distinguished himself or herself in some field(s) of endeavour (academic or otherwise) and/or has consistently propounded on public issues or national discourse as Tacuma Ogunseye has done.
The Indo-Guyanese Diaspora would not agree with Bakr’s description of eminent personalities who advocate for Indian interests as “self-defined intellectuals”. Indian intellectual thought emerged a few decades after indentureship. Peter Ruhoman, JB Singh, etc were some of the early intellects.
Dr Ramharack’s book “Centenary Celebration of the Arrival of Indians in Guyana” gave some glimpses of the work of earlier intellectuals.
Dr Jagan came later. But he did not celebrate his Indianness or focused on Indian issues. He focused politics of race, national unity, and development.
Vassan Ramracha, Baytoram Ramharack, Rhyaan Shah, Ravi Dev,  Swami Aksharananda, Annan Boodram, Harry Hergash, etc are emerging as outstanding contemporary intellectuals who are held in increasingly higher esteem. They advocate and respond on behalf of Indians when none of their kind (not even those in the PPP) ever historically did so.
Bakr’s acidic response serves notice of the contempt Africans have of these intellectuals. At the grass-roots level, the ideas of these individuals are finding stronger resonance and people view them as more than intellectuals.
In the US, Canada, UK, Trinidad, and India, these names are highly respected for their writings, activism, advocacy, altruism, social thought, etc. Their views on various issues are highly sought after. They are invited as keynote speakers and presenters at various conferences, seminars, banquets, and other public functions. Their prominence and recognition as intellectuals are felt at Indian Diaspora conferences. They have been the vanguard speaking up (fighting on behalf) of Indians which the PPP and Indian groups failed to do when Indians were under attack. These Indian intellects (unlike their de facto party leaders) elevate the voices and perspectives of discriminated (and disenfranchised) Indians to build a just, better and inclusive society.
Bakr made reference to “inferiority of creole (African) culture and the superiority of a millennial Indian culture” (apparently stated a decade ago) and warned “they have another think coming” if it is repeated.  But none of the Indian intellectuals ever put down Black culture.  So what is Bakr’s pique? To be identified as a proponent of Indian or Amerindian rights is not socially or politically correct?  Indians get attacked even from some totally disconnected Indians who don’t even know who they are.
The socio-politico views and “ethnic ideology” expounded by Ramracha, Dev, Ramharack and other intellectuals I have worked with over the last few decades come nowhere near the idea of a superiority of any culture or ethnic group.
For as long as I have known Ramracha when we originally commenced university studies at CCNY in 1977 and  later met Dev around 1984, we have advocated for justice for all. The fight for justice is something Bakr should applaud the Indian rights activists for; few stood up like them for equality and freedom.  The Indian rights thinkers (in ROAR or other organisations) have never sought special or exclusive privileges for Indo-Guyanese. They have devoted themselves to the upliftment of all groups.

They have not negated Africans or others. They are not seeking the elevation of Indians or Amerindians or others at the expense of the rights and freedoms of anyone else. They have initiated the idea of power-sharing. They have consistently advocated for a system of governance in which power and resources are shared among the diverse ethnic groups and no group will be superior to another group. They have also articulated for the devolution of power away from the centre and towards the local communities so that all the groups will exercise power at the local level and not feel alienated as currently obtains or as obtained under the previous regime. They have not negated Africans.
A report last week pointed out that some 50 years after independence, Indians are still required to say Christian prayers in government schools. An Indian girl was banned from her church because she danced an Indian classical dance at a Hindu function. Should intellectuals not raise these and similar matters?  Aren’t these enough proofs that (up to now) Indian culture is considered to be inferior, despite what Bakr may feel about some Indians say about superiority of Indian culture?
Bakr stated he was critical of his own when they “violently attacked and robbed Indians”. Indian rights exponents have also been critical of their own; they have critiqued the politics of the PPP on racial tokenism and of neglect of its own supporters. They have condemned the appointment of someone from another racial group to be the representative of that group. Africans won’t accept them as their reps even if they advocate African interests as they in fact did in the PPP cabinet. That is the reality of Guyana’s politics.
Ethnic groups have to choose their own leaders to advocate for and represent them. No party should appoint representatives of groups. Such racial manipulation is bound to fail as experience in Guyana and other multi-ethnic societies have shown.
The Indian intellectuals are saying that members of all groups should be free to articulate their concerns – ethnic and otherwise. There should be no marginalisation of any group.
Right now, Indians, Amerindians, and Chinese complain that members of the dominant group view others as outliers. Also, one ethnic group’s culture is considered as the norm for others. For example, the government has introduced pan and calypso in the school’s curriculum. Is this not discriminatory? What about the music and culture of Indians, Chinese, Amerindians and Portuguese? Should they not be treated with respect and equity and given the same prominence as the norm?
The Indian opinion writers in the mass media have become leading advocates for racial equality. They have worked to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons regardless of ethnicity. But there is still a long way to go and much work to be done to combat all forms of racial discrimination. We must applaud the Indian intellectuals for their honesty and courage to address controversial ethnic issues.  While others (politicians) have evaded the issues, the Indian intellects confront them head on just like how Prof Cornell West does in America in fighting for the Black cause. Bakr and other Afro intellects (and Indians as well) have to be honest to themselves – how many Afro intellects have advocated an Indian concern or vice versa?
We must all work together (regardless of ethnicity) to eliminate racism and to advance racial equality. The Indian intellects have been calling on African leaders or intellects for all of us to work together in finding an acceptable response to ethnic issues. We cannot bury our heads under the carpet and pretend there are no ethnic problems.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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Continuous power outages tormentful

Dear Editor,
Out of frustration I’ve decided to write this letter to highlight GPL’s apparent new mandate. Almost daily there are power outages, sometimes more than once a day, not to mention the voltage fluctuations.
At 4am on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, I was awoken by a power outage. I quickly realised that it was actually ‘low voltage’ and so, I had to get up to take off all appliances and lights. Leaving for work at 6:35 it still had ‘low voltage’. These voltage fluctuations can damage people’s appliances but GPL doesn’t seem to care. Power outages are becoming too frequent and needs addressing immediately. Consumers actually burn more electricity because of these outages.
I’m hoping whoever is in authority or is responsible for the functioning of GPL, will do what’s necessary to ensure the power company functions effectively.

Yours faithfully,
Anthea Spencer

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Let’s look at the Celina’s issue closer

Dear Editor,
The article (in another section of the press) on Sunday, November 22, 2015, headlined; “Celina ignores government to halt works” is deceptive.
Mention is made in the article that; “Workers said that a ‘Mr Larry was in charge but was not there’ ”.
Kaieteur News must come clean and tell its readers what they knew long ago: that the person in charge is a close friend and associate of certain Ministers of Government and the Police. He usually tenders for the procurement of arms and ammunition. The quiet and strong backing the known APNU/AFC supporter receives from Government gives him the confidence to proceed with the works at the seawall sites.
It is noteworthy to see that a known APNU spokesperson is the spokesperson for the new proprietor of Celina’s.
The known APNU spokesperson is a close associate of the APNU+AFC administration; he was one of the key organisers at the Presidential swearing in at Parliament Buildings and at the Inauguration Ceremony at the National Stadium.
The known APNU spokesperson is also on the National Preparatory Committee to plan for Guyana’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebration. The known APNU spokesperson has to be one of the “blue eyes” boys to be in that circle.
Nowadays, in Guyana we don’t know who or what to believe. Why should Patterson be believed? Are these people to be believed when they say that “at least three Court orders have been issued and ignored?”
The known APNU/AFC supporter must have powerful backers indeed.

Yours sincerely,
Majeed Hussain

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Indian intellectuals advocate for racial equality

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to Abu Bakr’s query “Who is the Indian intellectual” (SN November 19). I am disturbed with the tone of the language and the contempt shown for Indian intellectuals by Bakr’s recent retorts on Indian intellectuals. I cannot make sense of “the scorn heaped” on outstanding Indian intellectuals, none of whom have shown disrespect to Bakr or to the African community. There is so much angst against Indians not characteristic of his previous writings that had made Indian and African intellects self-reflect on their advocacy.

His latest letter is interpreted as promoting division between Indo and Afro Guyanese. He misunderstands the objective and role of the Indian intellectuals with whom he engaged – Indian intellectuals have been promoting racial healing and a common destiny based on mutual respect and shared space. The Indian intellectuals are not shunning the issue as Bakr claims. They want it to be fleshed out and a resolution be sought for racial equity for all groups.

Is Abu Bakr’s insistence on fleshing out the character and role of the Indian intellectual premised on some sort of guiding principle to define all intellectuals? Is he suggesting (expecting) that there must be a sort of homogeneity for (as regards) Indian intellectuals? He cannot expect (or is he actually expecting) that the term ‘Indian’ in front of intellectual creates connotations that would be different from intellectuals from ‘African’ and all other ethnic groups. Is not the Indian intellectual simply someone who’s Indian and who is an intellectual but whose intellectualism is not necessarily confined within the boundaries of his/her ethnicity? Does Bakr apply his yardsticks to other ethnic groups?

In any case, since Bakr claims to speak from a religious (‘black’ Muslim) perspective, one cannot fathom why this sudden obsession with the Indian intellectual?

Bakr lives in France which has been facing issues with Muslims of varied ethnicities. Bakr says he follows Hadith. Why this sudden (black and or French) Muslim perspective focusing on (issues of) race in Guyana? And why is his commentaries spiced with such venom?

What is eating Bakr’s obsessions with Indians and Indian intellectuals or Indian advocates?

Bakr keeps harping on “10 things that Indians are particularly deprived of” in a discussion that started off simply as an appeal by an Indian intellectual for other intellectuals to express themselves on issues impacting the Indian community. By what leap of logic has this become an issue exclusively on Indian deprivation (by the forte of a Bakrian logic)? That was not what the intent of Professor Ramharack’s appeal.

The problem with Bakr’s exchanges is that he infuses into the debate started by Dr Ramharack issues that were not the intent of the writer. And then Bakr keeps insisting that his interpretations and ‘run off’ questions must be answered as if he is some supreme overlord on matters impacting Indians. Bakr will determine whether the Indian grievance is legitimate. Can an Indian or White or Chinese or Amerindian intellectual decide whether an African grievance has merit? Prime Minister David Cameron said the demand for reparation for black slavery has no merit. Should that be accepted by black intellectuals?

Editor, while the media is free to continue to entertain Bakr’s meanderings, Indian writers have better things to do than to engage with the likes of a Bakr whose sole aim seems to exhibit racial prejudice that perpetuates acrimony and racial division. Bakr misunderstands the role of Indian intellectuals who identify (some) problems facing the society and are simply interested in finding solutions, promoting racial healing and equity as consistently advocated. Bakr should join, not oppose, them in this endeavour.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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Concepts must be pragmatically relevant

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to Mr Sase Singh’s letter in November 25, 2015 edition of the Kaieteur News. There is no disagreement that change in the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is necessary and urgently so. However, we must beware that the metaphoric speedy “skating on thin ice” in a cold country might be a non-starter in hot Guyana and more so in boiling GuySuCo!

As I indicated before, the constraints of my being in the Commission of Inquiry into GuySuCo does not facilitate a more comprehensive retort to Mr Singh’s formula at this time. Nevertheless, I wish to remind him and our readers about the wisdom of considering contextual and situational factors before ‘importing’ solutions that may not be relevant or timely, given the ground realities. A case in point is the well-known fact that our Field Foremen are actually in the same union as the workers they supervise and the Field Supervisors & Factory Foremen are virtually in the same boat.

Mr Singh needs to reflect on these specific contextual realities which militate against any indiscriminate and untimely application of practices which might be more germane to other situations. Hence, my plea for caution and pragmatism.


Nowrang Persaud

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A case to hold off the celebrations for LGEs in 2016

Dear Editor,

Local Government Elections are far more important than the General and Regional Election, especially as it related to the impact on the daily lives of citizens.

The main point is the inability of the regions to collect taxes and then forward a portion of taxes collected to the national Government based on a formula that includes population size, production, sales and income, etc. I suggest 30 per cent maximum of the region’s Gross Domestic Product. The remaining 70 per cent would be used to benefit the local citizens of the respective regions. The local representatives would have control of how they spend the monies based on the specific needs of its people. For example, if a region is more agriculture based, then emphasis would be on farming and related activities. Another example is a region that is more involved in manufacturing and services and so on.

Regions would be able to trade with each other as a result of comparative advantage. Sales taxes would be collected for both local and national Governments. Regions should be allowed to offer businesses their own tax-free programme as an incentive to invest.

The people of each region would have the power to determine their future, that is, they would vote for leaders that are accountable to them. These leaders would be visionaries who surround themselves with experienced and skilled professionals. Regions would become self sufficient and to the point; managing whether its citizens are productive or lazy. Moreover, the ruling Government would be unable to use the threat of reduce funding or increase funding depending on the particular region’ s leadership independence or dependence.

The Government’s responsibilities would be to provide national defence, health care, legal oversight, sea defence, own major highways and waterways, national forest and parks. Regions, as they become richer as a result of increase productivity, should take over more responsibilities (ownership), such as owning and operating their own utilities (electricity, water and sewer etc); meanwhile they could purchase these services from the ruling Administration or Private Sector.

Having Local Government Elections (LGE) is only a small step towards individual and community responsibilities with regard to improving their own lives. For too long it has been about handouts, and in some instances, threats. For this reason, citizens should reap the benefits of their hard work and sense of community.

LGE should be set when the tax laws and the Constitution change to allow the citizens of the regions to have self determination with regard to their current and future living standards.


Keith Bernard

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Produce and suffer – the sugar workers’ plight

Dear Editor,

The Government’s and GuySuCo’s response to the sugar workers’ strike for pay increases and a reasonable annual production bonus shows their insensitiveness to these issues.

The coalition Government has made it clear that ‘sugar workers are screwed’ (Nagamootoo’s words at Canje in November 2011) and even though the ‘Champion for Sugar Workers’ is now the Prime Minister of this Government, his resounding silence speaks volumes of his powerful impotence.

It is clear that this Government is not interested in the welfare of the sugar workers since they are now producing, yet they are perishing! Why is it that when there is a clear indication that the efficiency of the estates is improving that workers are made the scapegoats? How can the sugar workers digest this ‘bitter pill’ when sectors which are not productive are demanding huge increases and getting them? The workers at the Mayor and City Council are demanding 14 per cent wage increases even though the Government is pouring hundreds of millions to do their jobs, while our Ministers and other Government officials are getting between 50 and 100 per cent. The sugar industry is improving and sugar workers must be adequately compensated.

Then the management of GuySuCo, instead of showing some concern for the sugar workers’ welfare, issued two letters, which firstly tried to deem the strike as ‘political’ and wrong.

I would like to ask Estate Managers, why they never wrote such a letter when AFC parliamentarian Dr Ramayya and others were inciting workers at Port Mourant and other locations to strike for even the ficklest of reasons? It seems that these top management people are just trying to save their jobs at the expense of the poor sugar workers. These top Managers should be man enough to write open letters to the Coalition Government and demand their financial input instead of accusing and lambasting workers and their Union! How could estate management deem this strike to be ‘political’ when the sugar workers’ Union is aggressively negotiating on their behalf? Is it amnesia on their part that estate management is unaware of the numerous strikes called by GAWU during the PPP’s 23 years in Government?

It is time to accept the fact that the PPP/C Government offered financial assistance to the sugar industry in excess of eight years and that the positive results that GuySuCo is now enjoying are as a direct result of the capital investments made during those years, and, of course, sound management in some cases. This coalition is in Government for just 24 weeks. Not even enough time to plant and harvest a crop of sugar canes which will take approximately 44 weeks, so it cannot claim the accolades.

The coalition promised a COI whose findings are stillborn, and a 20 per cent wage increase to sugar workers which has not even been conceived but aborted!

The current strike by them is strongly justified!

Yours sincerely,

Haseef Yusuf

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Terrorism: democratic, unprejudiced resolutions must be sought

Dear Editor,
Once again, terrorists have struck in Paris, France. Almost 160 innocent civilians enjoying a Friday night out died in a bloody carnage at several locations in Paris.
This is a great tragedy.
In response to this, France has launched a huge bombing campaign against the ISIS forces in Syria. This is understandable as the nation and the world grieves.
However, we must ask ourselves: will that solve the problem? Will that eliminate the terrorists? Highly unlikely.
It is clear that the world is only dealing with the symptoms and not the real cause of this relatively new phenomenon.
This latest brutal attack where so many innocent lives were lost must push the world to look for lasting solutions. It must push world leaders to ask the hard and honest questions and judge whether the actions taken thus far have been helpful.
The root cause of the problem lies in the loss of hope in many countries of the Middle East. It stems from a deep, deep frustration in people that they have no control of what is happening in their own country and the region.
When bureaucrats sitting thousands of miles away in the comfort of posh offices, homes and cocktail bars are making decisions about regime change that is a recipe for the kind of disaster we are facing in the world today.
What right does any country have to call for regime change? That is what created the disaster in Syria. Clearly, those who were emboldened by the regime change in Iraq and Libya are not worried about, or better put, do not care about the mess they have created by their actions. They decided it was Asad’s time to go.
They financed terrorist groups, including those linked to Al Qaeda -the same group that attacked the US in 2001.
They miscalculated. It is clear that with all the pressure, they have put on Asad, he should have fallen a long time ago. It is clear that they have not succeeded largely because of the popular support Asad has.
That is why one of the conditions being put by NATO countries is that Asad must go. They do not want to leave that for the Syrian people to decide.
The principle that the UN adopted decades ago on the Right of Nations to Self Determination has gone overboard and usurped by a handful of powerful countries motivated by their own interest to decide on regime change.
These are the same forces that pay much lip service to words like democracy, freedom, etc.
That attitude has led them to work with and support persons and forces that are committing some of the worst human rights violations.
The forces from outside cannot use their own self interest above the interest and desires of the people of their own countries. Regime change must come from internal developments and interested persons must play the leading role. It is hoped that the lives of the innocent victim of terrorism must not be in vain.
Serious and honest discussions and negotiations must start now. The overriding interest must be that of the people in the country and the region. It must be based on democracy and justice.
Any other route will only spawn more terrorists and more acts of terrorism.
Let us work to remove the real cause of terrorism so that the lives of the victims would not be in vain.

Donald Ramotar

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20th anniversary of Help & Shelter

Dear Editor,
November 25, 2015 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – will mark Help & Shelter’s 20th anniversary.
Our mission when we began providing services to the victims of violence is as relevant now as it was then: to contribute to bringing about a society where attitudes to the use of violence and practices of violence have been transformed.
Over the past two decades, we have provided counselling services to thousands of victims of violence (including 367 women and 78 men between 1 January and 31 October 2015), the vast majority of them women and girl victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse, have provided a place of safety for hundreds of female victims of violence and their children, and have reached tens of thousands of people through our public education work.
But violence against women remains “a pandemic of global proportions. Unlike an illness, however, perpetrators and even entire societies choose to commit violence—and can choose to stop. Violence is not inevitable. It can be prevented” (
Hence prevention is the theme of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and of the UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign’s 16 days call for action.
As UN Women say, “prevention strategies should be holistic, with multiple interventions undertaken in parallel in order to have long-lasting and permanent effects. Many sectors, actors and stakeholders need to be engaged. More evidence is emerging on what interventions work to prevent violence—from community mobilization to change social norms, to comprehensive school interventions targeting staff and pupils, to economic empowerment and income supplements coupled with gender equality training”.
If prevention strategies are to be effective, they must be adequately and sustainably resourced. Throughout our existence, the right words have largely been spoken by those in power but the resources to convert words into action have been sadly lacking.
For example, implementation of the 1998 National Policy on Domestic Violence was sketchy at best and the multisectoral Domestic Violence Oversight Committee (the body tasked with overseeing and monitoring implementation of the policy) has not been convened for years.
And the Task Force for the Prevention of Sexual Violence which is supposed to promote implementation of the Sexual Offences Act, has not met more than a handful of times.
We call on the government to urgently convene the committee and the task force to continue their work for the elimination and reduction of escalating domestic and sexual violence in Guyana.
How many more women will be killed, maimed and traumatised and have to leave their homes and take their children to a place of safety through no fault of their own, and by how many more millions of dollars does the cost to individuals, families, businesses, communities and the country have to escalate before effective and preventive strategies are implemented and sustained?
How long before one/third of our women do not have their fundamental human rights violated?
Every day that passes without concerted action being taken is one day too long.
We at Help & Shelter hope to be able to continue to work towards the realisation of our mission and take this opportunity to again thank all those who have assisted us in any way over the past 20 years.
We desperately need continuing support as we begin our third decade of work against violence against women.

Yours faithfully,
Gaitrie Shivsankar
Danuta Radzik
Denise Dias
Isha Husain-Singh
Linda Hustler-Gray
Niveta Shivjatan
Josephine Whitehead
For Help & Shelter

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Hughes must now follow suit

Dear Editor,
Minister of Tourism and APNU/AFC Member of Parliament (MP) Cathy Hughes applauded PPP/C MP Indra Chandarpal “for publicly calling out a former (PPP/C) minister for disrespecting a woman and pointed out that the incident had highlighted the social and political victimisation that discourages women from becoming involved in politics”.
The AFC Tourism Minister’s applause to the PPP/C MP was made on Friday at a UN Women’s consultation on women’s participation in politics in the Parliament Chamber, Public Buildings, as reported in SN November 23, 2015.
The AFC Minister must likewise now practise what she preaches and condemn the threat of violence and other insults directed by her own AFC MP Charandass Persaud to Dr Vindhya Persaud MP, who heads the Dharmic Sabha.
Until the coalition’s double standards can be corrected it will remain most unsettling. It would seem that what is noble is only forthcoming from the Chandarpal PPP/C types. Are those APNU-AFC MPs lesser? Change has indeed come to Guyana but back to the basics where things work is becoming most preferable.

Sultan Mohamed

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