Guyana Needs To Adopt Pluralism

Stabroek News
December 27, 1997

The Research Institute for the Study of the Caribbean Diaspora (RISCD) and the Caribbean Research Centre of New York, jointly held a conference on Saturday on leadership and inter-group relations in Caribbean Society at the University of Guyana.

The conference attempted to address the race issue and leadership within the region. Speaking on race and culture, senior lecturer at the university, Patrick Dial, said Guyana needed to adopt the concept of creating a plural society.

"What you need is not tolerance but the respect for each other's ideals. Acceptance leads to strength and cultural richness," he said. Dial said that even though people of different races mixed and lived together, this did not solve the problem.

The problem also could not be solved by "chewing people in the monolith" created with the feeling that this will bring about strength and progress, he said. Pluralism was the direction all the modern states were taking and the Guyanese society needed to adopt this approach, he said.

Dial recognised that there was a cultural problem in Guyana: "If there was absolute harmony, we wouldn't be talking about it today." Giving the historical origin of the existing problem, Dial said that in the days of slavery, the Europeans were the top bracket of society and the slaves were economically, socially and politically less important.

The Europeans had their own cultural life and their practice led the slaves to look upon themselves with self hate coupled with a feeling of inferiority. After the abolition of slavery the ex-slaves quickly integrated into the Western culture patterned after the Europeans, putting aside any other as inferior.

Also addressing participants at the conference was Kampta Karran, the secretary of the Race Relations Task Force headed by Bishop Randolph George. Karran defined race and concluded that it was an illusion without scientific validation.

However, he concluded that racism was a social fact in Guyana moulded into shape by political pressures. "A people can therefore redefine race and use it in such a manner to construct a truly multi-racial society," Karran stated.

"A number of contributing factors are needed to realise this end and these include: a race relations committee, race relations legislation, multi-cultural and anti-racist education, responsible political leaders, a responsible media and international relations that promote racial cohesion", he said. Speaking, too, at the conference was Pandit Anand Sriram, spiritual leader of the Guyana Central Arya Samaj.

He pointed out the limitations of the one-day conference and stressed the need for future opportunities to elucidate on points made. Pandit Sriram said: "Most of the tragedy of our times is due not so much to the power of evil-doers as to the failure of those blessed with the sound values to put them into circulation

"Those who unwittingly keep their good ideas locked within themselves not only short change countless others but also allow the shaping of trends to slip by default into the hands of those least qualified: the indifferent, the incompetent, the unprincipled and all too often, the subversive." The panel discussions at the conference were moderated by Karran and Prem Misir, Director of RISCD.

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