TO BE IN MEXICO OR NOT TO BE IN INDIA? A SHAMEFUL QUESTION & DILEMMA
BY PREM MISIR
January 12, 2004
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The Indian Diaspora Conference v. Special Summit
While this Indian Diaspora Conference was unfolding, one local editorial piece cast serious aspersions on the President of Guyana's judgment to attend. Apparently, the editorial authoritatively suggested that President Jagdeo, instead, should have been in attendance at the Special Summit on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), scheduled for January 12-13, 2004 in Monterrey, Mexico. Why? The editor claims the President's presence was required because circumstances are not normal in Guyana today. Keep in mind that as we speak Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Rudy Insanally is representing Guyana and the President at this Special Summit.
The editorial clearly apportions a lesser significance to the Indian Diaspora Conference (We will return to this later) than the Special Summit, implying that a win-lose strategy in Presidential decision-making was applied. The inference is that the President struck up a victory for the Diaspora attendance in India and intentionally incurred a loss for the Monterrey Special Summit. This reasoning fails to consider the possible People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government's application of conflict management to conflicting situations; in this case, the conflicting situation is a conflict in schedule, albeit the editor's non-consideration of the possibility that the President's state visit to India was a long-confirmed engagement, and that the Indian Diaspora schedule was settled long before the Special Summit calendar was determined.
This clashing of schedule at the governmental level really generally is an expected problem that, by definition, was anticipated and resolutely addressed. The decision to finally enable the Foreign Affairs Minister to attend the Monterrey Special Summit was applied in an environment of certainty, given the expected and routine nature of scheduling problems. This environment of certainty at a high governmental level facilitates appropriate decision-making through intensive interaction, in this case, between the President and the Foreign Affairs Minister. The editorial really demonstrates a rush to judgment and a naivety that suggests that the Foreign Affairs Minister and the President are incommunicado. Such a scenario is outlandish, is an enigma, and is far from the truth, given the presence of the President's 'hands-on' approach to his work, regular Cabinet sessions, special briefings, and the lawlessness that permeates some media houses.
Agenda of the Special Summit
The editorial seeks to imply that the Administration still is not savvy in foreign affairs matters, and that it does not treat the Special Summit with the seriousness it deserves. Guyana is being represented by the Foreign Affairs Minister and, hopefully, with full briefings from the President and Cabinet.
Readers also need to weigh the substantive aspects of this Special Summit. This FTAA Special Summit was proposed by Canada's former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The intention was to address issues arising from the Quebec City's Summit in April 2001.
The Special Summit's official agenda will focus on three themes, discussing and debating initiatives and not providing funding and/or other concrete financing arrangements: (a) economic growth with equity - supporting small businesses in Latin America and minimizing huge transaction costs Latin American immigrants in Canada and the U.S. pay to send remittances back to their home countries; (b) social development - talking about initiatives to enhance health care, education, and reducing poverty; and (c) democratic governance - showing delegates how to implement the Democratic Charter endorsed at the Quebec City Summit.
Trade and security are not on the official agenda at the Special Summit in Monterrey. FTAA negotiations are not part of the agenda, as these will only be discussed and concluded at the Argentina Summit in 2005. Marc Lortie, the senior Canadian trade official for the Special Summit said, "We are not expecting to produce a new plan of action..." CBC News of Canada noted, "But in the end, some think this Special Summit will amount to little more than a big meet-and-greet." One-third of the 34 member countries of the proposed FTAA have new Heads of Government since the Quebec City Summit, so there will be considerable meeting and greeting.
India's Contribution to Guyana
The editorial apportioning lesser importance to the Indian Diaspora Conference than the Special Summit at Monterrey may mean two things: the editor does not understand the nature and contribution of the Second Pravasi Bharatiya Divas; and the editorial smacks of racial and ethnic prejudice. What is Guyana exposed to and getting out of this Indian Diaspora Conference? The Singhvi High Level Committee Report on the Indian Diaspora suggested the following:
The possible offer of free specialized medical treatment in India where local facilities in Guyana are inadequate
Supporting the Indian private sector to invest in Guyana
Promoting Indian hoteliers to establish Indian hospitality servicesIncreasing assistance through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) as well as other programs.
The Indian Government has been of considerable help to Guyana. Guyana is expected to receive a concessional line of credit of US$25.2 million via the Exim Bank of India for the modernization of three (3) sugar plants identified by a team from the Sugar Technology Mission of India. Collaborative agricultural research has been earmarked through a Memorandum of Understanding between the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The ITEC program was launched by the Indian Government on September 15, 1964 as a bilateral program of assistance. At this time, 45 ITEC scholarships have been offered to Guyana. The Indian Government also has agreed to increase technical experts via the ITEC program in Guyana and enabling India to provide experts to train Guyanese in some areas, including medicine. The Indian Government has indicated its intention to waive the balance of 28.78 million Rupees from a credit line of 100 million Rupees loaned in 1989. An education exchange program agreement has now been signed where India has agreed to make available primary and secondary textbooks at minimum cost. The President on his current India state visit may finalize arrangements for the design, financing and construction of a stadium. The editor needs to digest the Indian Government's contributions to Guyana and understand the need for reciprocity in enhancing diplomatic ties for national development.
Racial & Ethnic Prejudice
The editorial also smacks of racial and ethnic prejudice. One reading of the editorial would indicate that the Guyana Government places undue weighting on an Indian state visit at the expense of a hurriedly-called Special Summit in Monterrey. What are we to make of this? Since the PPP/C Administration has been perceived in some quarters as being Indian-driven, then clearly, the editorial by questioning a significant and historic Indian state visit seems to be pretty close to the line of inciting racial hatred.
The editorial sustains a zero-sum power game where an ethnic group always wins at another group's expense. This certainly is not the process for enhancing race relations in a multicultural society. Finger pointing and racial incitement, manifested in this case through the media editorial, historically, are popular activities among ethnic extremists to secure political power. Guyanese from all walks of life must reject and admonish this extremist media line, as it is inimical to social and economic development.
This editorial seems to be playing one major ethnic group against the other major group in the same way the imperialists divided these two main ethnic groups. The editorial appears to be intentionally wanting to create the groundwork for ethnic and political instability. In so far as these apparent racial and ethnic incitement exercises persist, the Guyana society will be perceived as having an unstable framework.
Recently, I have written about the social construction and reconstruction of racial and ethnic prejudice, and it may be useful to again present such notions. The editorial, if not manifest, is certainly a latent process, for the construction of ethnic prejudice and insecurity. People unwittingly consume such erroneous editorial ideas in a high degree of falsity. However, they help shape the individual's reality, that is, to influence the individual to believe that all these ideas represent the true picture in Guyana. In the end, we see the development of false perceptions and a reality filled with untruths. Notwithstanding the falsity of these perceptions, they constitute the individual's reality and that individual behaves in accordance with these false beliefs. We can invoke the Thomas Theorem which states: "If people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." What we draw from society and use to fashion a view of reality is referred to as the social construction of reality. Referring back to the editorial, we can say that it forms a view of ethnic prejudice and insecurity in Guyana.
But that reality sculpted by those editorial ideas which, indeed, may be perceived as true for the individual, may, nevertheless, be false in terms of the objective reality. Clearly, politicians and some media houses ubiquitously present this view of ethnic prejudice and insecurity and call for new political arrangements to eliminate the racial discord. It's as if the politicians and media house create a stage play where they write the script and hope and pray that the masses would use it effectively. Why? In the first place, particular politicians and the media help to fashion this false reality for the masses, and that, in turn, enables them to use the ethnic and race card; the race and ethnic card makes certain politicians and some media houses relevant in Guyana's politics. Let's symbolically express this idea: P + M = R ? PP where P are the certain politicians who shape the false reality, M is the mass media who help to sustain this reality, R is the people's false reality, and PP is political power attained. The expression denotes that certain politicians plus the mass media apply such editorial ideas and similar-related materials to construct or reconstruct an individual's false view of reality in this country, which could thrust some politicians into political power. This is the bottom line for the bizarre editorial in question.