The ethnic problem is still not well understood

Stabroek News
June 22, 2001

Dear Editor,

There has been much comparison between the protests on the Corentyne and the uprisings of the East Coast. Some have even gone the distance to say that the protests of Albion justify the protests on the East Coast and vice versa. To make a valid link between these two pinnacles of frustration is difficult and those who do are traversing misleading ground.

The upheaval on the Corentyne is a catharsis to the escalation of resentment and frustration traceable to administrative flaws and the slow manner in which these maladies have been addressed. However, these protests aren't driven by politics. The objective of the struggle is more governance than government. In other words Government's apathy rather than the Government itself is under attack. Thus, once the administration displays the warranted urgency and insight in addressing these deficiencies, these protests don't pose a perpetual threat to the overall political stability of the society.

On the other hand, the protests of the East Coast pose a more worrying threat because these are driven by a deeper and more fundamental discrepancy. These uprisings are given impetus by more than just administrative failure (the regular rhetoric on marginalisation). These tumults are quests for political power, a desire to be meaningfully integrated in the political apparatus. They won't be quenched by superficial inclusivity nor by committees that focus on symptoms and not causes. The problem is ethnicity.

There have been incessant calls for "theoretical models and arguments," but this is really putting the cart in front of the horse and is underestimating the level of ignorance prevalent within Guyana's political landscape. Before one can administer a treatment to an illness, there has to be a proper diagnosis of that illness. If there is a misunderstanding or scepticism in understanding, treatment has to be withheld. There is no general acceptance of the incongruity of the present paradigm because there is still an ambivalence among key political players in acknowledging these hard facts. Mr. Hoyte describes ethnic insecurity as "eschatological" while President Jagdeo continues positing "Guyana doesn't have an ethnic problem", sparing no opportunity to scold those who highlight its protuberance.

The imperative demand it would appear has to be to bring a level of consciousness that demystifies the sordidity of the past and present before concerted efforts for the future are made. It's a sad reality but it's reality, uncompromising reality.

Yours faithfully,
Amar Panday