Amerindians are still marginalised
Stabroek News
July 31, 2001

Dear Editor,

By calling for an Amerindian holiday, Peter Persaud (SN 07/16) has touched some sensitive issues, but J.B James (SN 07/19) [ please note: links provided by LOSP web site ] succinctly warns, "What we are ready to accept is a national holiday in favour of the Amerindian people come September 10."

The Amerindian issue requires the immediate support of all religious organizations, political parties, and interest groups. - especially those that clamor, "Our people's rights are trampled upon!" and "We want equality!" These groups have the support of politicians who are continuously raging about racial discrimination. They demand expenditure in specific towns and villages to benefit directly their supporters only.

Subject to correction, I have not seen such zeal among national leaders and Amerindian ministers of government with regard to the Amerindians though, at times, they conveniently ride the Amerindian bandwagon. Recall the campaign speeches of past general elections. Recall the use of the police to prevent entry of certain politicians into Amerindian villages.

The "respectability and recognition" which Persaud seeks for the Amerindian people will not come so easily. The British applied 'protective policies' and established missions, but it will be interesting to know the extent to which the laws have been changed or amended by the PNC regime and the PPP government to address the needs of the indigenous people.

It is an indictment of all Guyanese when J. B. James says, "Many Christian minded people have said that the happiest days we ever had was when the white people ruled this country." This is a reverberating echo. James speaks of crime and claims, "The Amerindian people have suffered the most." An elaboration is needed to identify the abuse, nature of the crimes, and the criminals.

The Amerindians (6%), having been categorized as Christians (52%), were expected to celebrate Christmas, Boxing Day, Good Friday, and Easter Monday. Being Christians has proven quite useless in gaining the rights, privileges, honor, respect, and recognition enjoyed by the other five races.

About 30 years ago, Phagwah, Diawali, Eidul Adha, and Youmun Nabi were declared religious holidays. However, a lesson can be drawn from this: Muslims and Hindus suffered extensively from racial and religious prejudices. Over 130 years have passed yet they continue to suffer from racially motivated crimes and religious prejudice. Their holidays were granted not as a right based on conviction but to gain political mileage.

The Africans (33%) have their Emancipation Day. Why can't the Amerindians be granted a holiday and the East Indians an Indian Immigration Day (May 5).

Most of the history books are filled with stories of slavery, Dutch and British exploits. 'A Short History of the Guyanese People' (326 p) by Vere T. Daly has one chapter of eight pages and nine references in the index about the Amerindians. 'The History of Religions in the Caribbean (225 p) by Rev. Dale Bisnauth places Hinduism and Islam in one chapter of 25 pages (140-164).

Daly's book was written and published (1975) with Mr Burnham's blessings and recommended by the Ministry of Education for use in the schools of Guyana. On page 17, the author writes: "Indian women are besides of moderate stature, and although not pretty are nevertheless uncommonly proud." Why single out the Amerindian women for such an insult?

To categorize as not pretty or ugly, there must be a set of standards ... color, stature, hair, eyes, or facial structure? Whatever our standards are, we have no right to classify the women of another race as ugly.

Suppose, we change the sentence to refer to another race. That group may react violently and demand that Daly's book be banned immediately. God has created each and every woman beautiful and unique. Daly's book needs a thorough examination. The same goes for all texts recommended for the schools.

It is ironical. Guyana boasts of being one people, one nation with one destiny, yet its indigenous people are publicly appealing to be granted their rights and treated with respect and dignity.

Yours faithfully,

Ahmad Hamid