Majority of Guyanese must rail against racism peddled by minority -Dr Duncan
Stabroek News
July 26, 2004

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UWI Professor Neville Duncan says the majority of Guyanese have to raise their voices against the racism being peddled in the country by a minority.

Dr Duncan, Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies (UWI) also challenged Guyana's political leadership to start articulating its vision of the Guyana it would like to see twenty or so years down the road. He said that if it did not do so it would lead to confusion and conflict.

Duncan threw out the challenge on Friday when he responded to comments by Prime Minister Sam Hinds on his presentation at a public lecture he gave at the Redeemer Lutheran Church, Sheriff Street, Campbellville, organised by the Guyana Council of Churches in collaboration with the Caribbean Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches (WCC). The lecture was part of the activities of the Fourth Annual Regional Conference of the WCC.

Prime Minister Hinds who stressed that his comments were being made in his personal capacity as a citizen of Guyana contended that Guyana was a nation in the making and its peoples were coming from different positions.

Duncan, who is Jamaican by birth but has spent more time out of Jamaica than he has spent there, said that with the challenges facing the region arising from what he described as `global commons issues' which are beyond the ability of any one nation to address, only united regions and countries can meet and overcome them.

He noted that the Caribbean has an important role to play in the post-9/11 world in giving leadership in the building of a new civilisation the strength of which is grounded in its diversity. He said that tourists were coming to the Caribbean in greater numbers now since 9/11 and would, according to a survey by the World Tourism and Trade Organisation, continue to do so for the next twenty or so years. Duncan explained that they are doing so because they appreciate the different cultures of the region.

Central to that role he said is Guyana which stands as the bridge between the Caribbean and Latin America and between Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe, the United States of America and China. Because of this, Duncan said that it is the duty of the majority of Guyanese to raise their voices against the ideology of racism which a minority in the society is peddling.

Also he said that the rest of the Caribbean could not stand idly by and see Guyana become dysfunctional as the region would lose the tremendous advantage and role it could play in the world.

Duncan in discussing the situation in Guyana made the distinction between racism, which he defined as an ideology of domination of one group by another and racialism, which he said celebrates the differences between the races. He explained that he could have no difficulty with the latter since God created us differently. "What is the problem with saying we like who we are as God made us", Duncan observed, adding that the global issues that confront the region and the world transcend questions of ethnicity.

He said, too, responding to another comment from a member of the audience, that the country had to rebuild its institutions such as the education system which was once the pride of the Caribbean.

Drawing from his own experience of interacting with Guyanese from all strata of society, Duncan said that he is surprised that the inter-personal relationships which Guyanese enjoy at the individual level have not exerted a greater influence on the country's political culture. He stressed that the political culture should reflect the culture of the society rather than the other way around.

Commenting on the possibility of power sharing, Duncan stressed the need for the Guyanese people to look for win-win possibilities but feels that power sharing should be a start in going beyond the existing paradigm. He explained that power sharing which focuses on the lowest common denominator of areas of agreement panders to separateness and forecloses the opportunity of higher levels of agreement around which a national consensus could be forged.