Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y., Weds. Sept. 28, 2005: Two top Guyanese-born, U.S.-based professors are adamant that there will be no change in race relations in Guyana’s election next year and that the “ugly” issue will continue to play a significant role in politics there. Their comments come as the country’s Ethnic Relations Commission and the United Nations Development Program host a meeting today, aimed at improving race relations in the South American nation today.
In a country where elections usually pits Indo against Afro-Guyanese, well-known professor, Arizona-based Dr. Festus L. Brotherson, Jr., says he feels the racial politics will not only be played out in Guyana but in the Guyanese Diaspora in the months and weeks ahead, leading up to general elections, set constitutionally for August 2006.
“Judging from the past behavior and the present day exchanges on the Internet and other forums, the process will be an odious one that will pit African Guyanese against East Indians in acrimonious debate, personal insults, active spreading of falsehoods, character destruction (and) partisan fundraising,” he said.
Professor David Hinds, also of GuyanaCaribbeanPolitics.com, agrees. “Race has mattered since 1955 … (and it) will matter in the upcoming elections,” he said. “In fact I think it will matter more in this election than ever before.”
“The major political parties in Guyana have traditionally owed their electoral success to covert and overt appeal to race,” he said. “Should they stop that, their reason for being will be severely hampered.”
Hinds says that since 1955, the issue has mattered and central to the concern has been the zero sum competition between the two major races for the power to govern Guyana.
The political analyst says that nothing has been done since the last election to alter that situation, adding to the volatility of the state of affairs.
“Since 2001 we have seen the hardening of positions on both sides,” said Hinds. “This does not discount the fact that the PNC (peoples National Congress) has offered to share power with the PPP (Peoples Progressive Party). But the PPP’s blunt rejection of this offer has served to strengthen the hand of the anti-sharing faction in and around the PNC.”
Asked whether Guyanese will see a return to violence that erupted in the past elections, both Hinds and Brotherson agree its possible.
“Going by precedent, several Guyanese will boldly stoke the fires of race hate that will contribute to the predictable violence at home,” said Brotherson.
While Hinds feels that “hopelessness and frustration at all levels are at boiling point in the African Guyanese community and they will find an outlet during the expected acrimonious campaign.”
And he adds that neither of the major parties would mind. “The PPP does not mind the country being ungovernable or depressed so long as the hold power,” said Hinds. “And the PNC also would not mind violence as it would help their stated policy of making the country ungovernable.”
Professor Hinds recommends, like many, a government of National Unity, preferable before the election but definitely after.
“Such a development would remove the cause for confrontation,” he said. “Guyana’s problem is not one of proper election versus improper election; it’s a political problem that is racially driven.”
While Professor Brotherson sees it as “an abysmal lack of trust that inheres in the political system about the smallness of the economic pie to be divided.”
Meanwhile, participants at a recent hearing of the Ethnic Relations Commission recommended that the body conduct a scientific study about the issue of race as the first step towards finding solutions. – Hardbeatnews.com