We needed a truth and reconciliation commission
Stabroek News
November 28, 2001

Dear Editor,

Roger Moore's letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in response to the appearance of an Indo-Guyanese family on the Oprah Winfrey show, demonstrates his total disregard for what Guyanese faced under the PNC, and his endorsement of PNC policies during the dictatorial reign.

Mr. Moore's statement that " this was not the only country in the world" where people "slept on rice bags and wooden floors and street corners" suggests that because Guyana wasn't the only such place, people should not complain. How ludicrous. Can Mr. Moore apply that same reasoning to Guyana now? If so, then he should not complain about anything in our society, because we are not the only country facing the challenges we face today.

He claims that the policies executed during the PNC reign were not institutionalized by the Government. If the PNC didn't institutionalize them, who did? How does he explain the

denial of the Indian population here their right to go to the ballot box and elect a leader of their choice. If rigged elections were not institutionalized by the PNC, then who did it? Please explain that. I'm interested to hear him rationalize the kick-down-the-door bandits who terrorized Indians during the PNC years. And what about housing schemes built under the PNC? These were overwhelmingly given to Afro-Guyanese. To date the PPP government has distributed over 50,000 house lots to Guyanese of all ethnicity.

Mr. Moore claims that education was free but people did not "participate in it". Mr. Moore, education is still free today and people are not participating as they should. The present government has seen it fit to enforce truancy laws to get children off the streets and in schools. In addition, merely making education free, doesn't make it equal. During the PNC years, there were no senior secondary schools where a student can take the GCE A Level exams in Berbice, the part of the country predominantly Indian. But in towns that were predominantly black, Georgetown and Linden, there were many such schools.

If the family on Oprah were able to save $200,000 while sleeping on rice bags and wooden floors, then it speaks of their endurance and their ability to go through hardship and still save, in this case, to migrate. He joins others in claiming that Burnham preached self-reliance. Well, it is clear that that policy, like many other PNC initiatives, failed, because Guyanese are more foreign minded than ever before, and whatever attempts were made to make us self-reliant failed to take hold in the populace.

He charged that the " PPP burned the rice fields and destroyed the cane". I wish that he would give us the proof.

Then he went on to claim that the family was not independent because of their "religious and social circumstance". Well, are religious and social independence not to be guaranteed by a democratic government?

Until Guyanese can honestly see what happened during that time of our history, and are willing to put the facts on the table and discuss them openly and fairly, some of us

will continue to complain about discrimination and racism, while others will deny they ever took place. It is time we work aggressively to establish a viable truth and reconciliation commission. Interested, Roger Moore?

Yours faithfully,

Rohan Sooklall

Editor's note

While we do know many people who will deny that elections were rigged from l968 to l995 achieving broader "truths' on our modern history may not be such a straightforward task as the writer suggests. Historians will eventually do their best with the material available. For now, the best solution may be for both sides to stop rehashing our history and trying to gain points and indeed to apologise to each other for any wrongs that were committed and to try to put the past behind us and move forward.