The voice of Amerindians

Frankly Speaking...
by A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
July 14, 2000

If even being frank or realistic, I'm still a bit ambivalent about specifying the one group of Guyanese as I have done in the title above. However, because of my simple query, it is only practical. As ACDA would put it, for this item I'm being "ethnic specific".

Amerindian Guyanese have been for long, or for too long, regarded as being "different" from the other groups. For well-known reasons. Despite the obvious fact that all of our forebears were once country-people because there were no towns in the beginning, Amerindians were special or extreme country-people. They inhabited the further hinterland reaches - the heartland of the country. Isolated relatively, their lifestyles differed sharply from the more coastal groups amongst us. I suspect that many of the older readers know the rest - the private, "natural" characteristics of our first people so I wouldn't go on. Rather, let me fast-forward to a few of my queries and hope for some illuminating responses. Minus any personal barbs - or bitterness.

Now firstly, in say, January, 1993 was there some great interruption or cessation in a policy and/or programme for Amerindian integration and development? Was mischief, discrimination or incompetence really at work to stifle the progress of our indigenous, hinterland population? I mean how really were Amerindians faring before 1993? O.K. I know that various interest - groups will respond differently - some not necessarily honestly. From the historical grouse over land titles and various special rights, I suppose the relevant groupings are even entitled to stifle whatever conscience(s) they have. The political divide takes care of that even though I suspect that in the inner reaches of the heartland raw politics can quickly submerge. Amidst all the economic challenges facing people and government, I trust the actual Amerindian Guyanese themselves can be honest.

Secondly, even though I'll be told that these organisations existed before 1993 - records will be there - I must note the militancy found by certain "Amerindian organisations and leaders" since `93. I often wonder: Who truly represents how many Amerindian people? Not merely who can mobilise a crowd to protest, or those who can articulate views on television shows. Who are the true representatives of the Amerindian population?

I have to be honest about the Catholic Church, the Seventh Day Adventists and the early United Force. They probably represented different interests for different obvious reasons. The WPA tried. But the PPP's Harripersaud Nokta was always in the hinterland. And I know a bit of some Amerindian (Orealla? Bartica? Pomeroon?) PNC-types. But where stands the status of the now militant Amerindian People's Association, the GOIP and the other new half-a-dozen "Amerindian organisations"?

As I've stated, I feel badly discussing Amerindians as a group apart. But I suppose another day of reckoning will come for any false reps. No doubt many won't care to recall what happened to certain Amerindian villages when Barama was granted its first vast concessions. No doubt too, certain "Amerindians" will be mobilised to file legal actions against the Beal investments. And Hubert Wong will enter his "party" in the Millennium Political Derby. But why do I feel that the actual Amerindian people - the majority - won't be fooled?

Next week, I'll ask for more assistance, as I try to find out whether mixed Bouvianders or pure Amerindians are all Amerindians. Is it a legal, historical or cultural status or group?

Consider with me...

1) What do particular states think of the outwardly race-based seizure of the constitution in Fiji? Must that disgrace be relegated merely to a "case study in Multi-Ethnic Insecurities and Politics"? Violence, murder and hostages or not?

2) Whilst it is easy to criticise government's performance - or lack of it - from outside of the responsibility, I'd love to see the Civic's reasoned responses to two types of charges from two leading PNC-types made in the press earlier this week. I refer to Sherwood Lowe's contentions that this government has not been innovative; it demonstrates a lack of capacity in decision-making and its management systems are outdated or ineffective. Then there was Hamley Case, `busing' feelingly about the "PPP's entrenched ideological backwardness" and its government's "procrastination and unwillingness... to facilitate private investment."

3)Really, next week after the Suriname problem, I'd like to hear, say, President Jagdeo and Henry Jeffrey rebut.

4) Watch it Major-General! An "H. Archer" (SN Monday July 10, 2000) points out that there was/is extreme ethnic imbalance and under-representation of Indo-Guyanese on the National Registration Centre staff and in the (1997) new employment. Naturally, you can't look at race. Just merit. Then again... Poor Major-General.

5) But what's wrong with the Civic? Even though it is campaign time in Georgetown's Sophia, where people won't remember the regularisation efforts or care to, shouldn't they work along with Mr Ming? Let Mr Hoyte reclaim Sophia. Its conscience! Ask Hammie and Odinga!

6) Naughty Mr Hoyte. He claims that Prime Minister Hinds is migrating before year-end. (Which year-end?).

7) Another naughty letter-writer ("Rudolph D. Mahadeo") on Tuesday suggested that the GPSU should be able to collect its union dues and/or agency fees directly from its loyal members who love it. I know the procedures. But it is worth a thought.

8) Support Roy Fredericks and Andrew Lewis - the old and new in our sporting firmament.

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