Healing can't begin without analysing the past
Stabroek News
December 2, 2001

Dear Editor,

The Stabroek News seems to not fully comprehend the need and justification for a truth and reconciliation commission in Guyana. I refer to a previous letter [ please note: links provided by LOSP web site ] in which I called for such a commission and the editorial note called for us to move on and stop "rehashing" the past. I also noted that Mr. Mohammed Rahaman responded in the SN of 11/30/01 challenging the Stabroek News editorial note. The Stabroek News insists on us to "move on", but it has not made any suggestions on how to "move on".

Some of us would like the PNC years to disappear. For the East Indian community here that period of our history has been very traumatic and it is clearly evident that it has had a long lasting and devastating effect on our psyche. I am not going to try to list all the areas of discrimination and oppression that our community suffered then. I think they are well known to the Guyanese community. But to tell more than half of the population of Guyana to stop "rehashing" the past and "move on" without dealing with what actually happened in the past, in spite of the difficulties this would entail, is naive. It is clear that there are deep seated and widespread ethnic problems in our society, today.

In addition, such an approach denies what actually happened. It's tantamount to saying to the Jewish people to stop talking about, writing about, making movies and documentaries about, the holocaust, and "move on". It is tantamount to telling Africans around the world to forget what happened during slavery and "move on". It will not happen. I think such an approach stems from a lack of comprehension as to the extent of the damage done to oppressed peoples.

I would like to believe that there is a large section of our country that would like to see the beginning of a process of healing of our two major ethnic communities. However, that healing cannot begin unless we are willing to deal with the underlying feelings of distrust, feelings of having been oppressed, feelings of being left out and not belonging. It's the same principle involved in individual therapy - the individual must be willing to "rehash" what happened and deal with it, before healing can commence. Maybe this is a tall order for Guyana given the agenda of some politicians to ensure that there is continuous ethnic distrust in order to retain influence and power. But I don't believe it is impossible for our non-governmental institutions to embark on such an initiative. It is long overdue and people of goodwill and courage must be willing to start. Unless the ethnic/racial problems are addressed in this country, our efforts at development will be stymied, will be locked up in partisanship based on ethnic distrust and hatred.

Yours faithfully,

Rohan Sooklall