RACIAL INCITEMENT PRODUCING A PREDATORY POLITICAL CULTURE
BY PREM MISIR
April 26, 2004
In recent years, we have seen the use of racial incitement to sustain a predatory political culture in Guyana. Particular political operatives, the private media, and now hate literature are the main conduits of racial provocation. All these are done, albeit in a camouflaged way, in the name of seeking political power. However, applying racial incitement not only is an illicit mechanism in the pursuit of power, but it happens within a constitutionally-approved electoral system. Power aspirants dissatisfied with the current politically-approved arrangements must know, amid their displeasure, the facts that (1) the political contenders endorsed the electoral system at the 2001 election, (2) the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration was elected under this accord, and (3) racial incitement is a violation of the rule of law.
Despite the daily dosage of racial incitement aimed at widening ethnic polarization for destabilization purposes, the masses of all ethnic groups, devoid of hatred for each other, remain undisturbed, as evidenced through their regular interactions. The UN Special Rapporteur Mr. Doudou Dične attested to this remarkable state of mind when he noted "...that, despite everything, this polarization, in all communities and at all levels of society, has resulted not in feelings of hatred between communities but rather in a culture of fear and mistrust which pervades all social activity. During his meetings and interviews, he also noted the existence of a sense of belonging at all levels of society. Therefore, at the basic level of the people's deepest feelings, Guyanese society does nurture the human values necessary for overcoming ethnic polarization and collectively building genuine pluralism, through which a dynamic, creative balance could enable cultural and spiritual differences to be recognized, respected, protected and promoted and universal values arising out of cross-fertilization among communities to be cultivated...The story of Guyana is, to a deeply disturbing degree, the story of political exploitation of the race factor by every political leader from every point on the ideological spectrum..."
But we must be mindful that this ethnic polarization is not driven by the masses, but by particular political functionaries, the private media, and hate literature. The masses must be educated to know that particular political operatives exploit the race factor to gain electoral advantage. It is this political exploitation that drives mistrust and fear; the masses are not a party to this ensemble of racial agitators. For those who still are unsure about the application of racial incitement of the masses, let's provide a few illustrations.
A few examples pertaining to particular political operatives' spewing of racial hatred follow:
1. A senior People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) Central Executive member said that it "is in the business of trying to get the Government of the day out of office. There is nothing wrong with any statements which say that as an opposition party, we are attempting to remove the government."
2. The 'kith and kin' politics, referring to African ethnicity, used by the PNCR Leader at the 1997 election
3. A PNCR Member of Parliament, cited the case of a senior ranking person of the PNCR, as suggesting that attacks against East Indians will produce positive outcomes.
4. The statement by the PNCR of making the country ungovernable
5. Use of the 'slow fire, more fire' phrase by the PNCR during the last election campaign
6. Allegations of a PNCR electoral candidate for the 2001 election inciting violence
7. Information on racial aspects of domestic terrorism (see GINA Website).
The media statements have been no different from those of the politicians. Here are just a few among many others:
1. "Government is trying to run the country by executing Blacks."
2. "...claims that the Government has Indo-Guyanese make-up and is totally mistaken by trying to run the country by executing Blacks."
3. "Killing of Sgt. Harry Kooseram is racially motivated. It's one for one. It's hit back time..."
4. "There is a planned invasion of Buxton Village."
The incitement pieces, produced by particular political functionaries, were regurgitated over a few months in 2002 by the private electronic media. These as well as the statements emanating from the media and indeed, there are numerous others, would have a relevance in any hearing on the causes of racial domestic terrorism in Guyana, a hearing analogous to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Hate literature surfaced during the crime wave. Here is just one of them. "Shaka lives" and "Five For Freedom" leaflets inciting violence against Guyanese. The "Shaka lives" pamphlet sees the five prison escapees as heroes while the "Five For Freedom" leaflet indicates that the bandits have targeted all Government officials, police officers, and their families.
And indeed, we now have the Kean Gibson debacle. The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) currently is conducting a public inquiry into allegations of racism against the Gibson book. The book noted, among other things, that the PPP/C Government is in the throes of creating an African underclass using racial criteria. The concept of underclass may refer to people who are poor and chronically unemployed. The evidence completely belies this erroneous assertion.
People from the underclass experience a sustained social and economic disadvantage and stigma, following their dispossession of all meaningful resources. In effect, the underclass will have a low socio-economic status (SES). Let's offer just a few examples to show how Africans are doing, in order to debunk this mistaken claim.
In 2000, students with 5 or more Grade Ones at the CXC were from mixed schools with large proportions of Africans and East Indians. These were President's College, Berbice High, Anna Regina Multilateral, New Amsterdam Multilateral, Bishop's High, St. Joseph's High, Brickdam Secondary, and Queen's College. Africans compared to East Indians have relatively higher job status in the Public Service, among positions as Permanent Secretary, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Principal Assistant Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Accountant Head, and Senior Personnel Officer. Most school heads are Africans in the Nursery, Primary, and Secondary Schools. Five out of the 10 Regional Education Officers are Africans. Africans are in a majority on the State Boards in Education. At the University of Guyana, Africans constitute a majority of faculty members. Africans predominate in the disciplined forces. Data indicates that Africans receive 70% and East Indians and others 30% of house lots. Equitable budgetary provisions are allocated for African and East Indian neighborhoods.
Racial incitement is not driven by any genuine concerns for African welfare, as East Indians and Africans have comparable SES. However, racial provocation is motivated by the hot pursuit for political power via destabilization, producing a predatory political culture. The Representation of the People's Amendment Bill, No. 1 of 2001 was introduced 'to prohibit person/political parties to incite racial or ethnic violence or hatred'. It's now law and its enforcement is long overdue.