The past has to be examined
Stabroek News
December 7, 2001

Dear Editor,

I noted Mr. Merrill Hyman's response [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] to my call for a truth and reconciliation commission as a necessity before we can "move on". Mr. Hyman reduced my letter to, "essentially, the call to move on is an attempt to make the PNC years disappear." But like the Stabroek News, he has not offered any real mechanism of how to "move on".

It is very easy, in my opinion, to tell Guyanese to move on, without dealing with what is preventing them from moving on. Mr. Hyman's, and the Stabroek News' calls for a moving on without dealing with the past, suggest an attempt at denial of our history from 1964 to 1992. That people are not willing to "move on" is clear from the daily lies perpetrated by talk-show hosts, lies that are intended to inflame ethnic passions that have resulted in the targeting of Indians for robberies, killings, burnings etc.

A mere call for us to "move on" will accomplish nothing if the reasons for our present ethnic difficulties are not addressed. And an integral component of such a focus must be our past. If we forget what happened in the past, we are likely to repeat it, and judging from the daily infightings between our

major political parties and the cliched harangues spewed out daily, our people are very much in the past. There must be some concrete mechanism, some real and broad-based body that can deal with this problem. Such a body can be comprised of representatives, for instance, from our major religious organizations, the United Nations, Caricom, etc.

There seems to be, from the Stabroek News editor and Mr. Hyman, a reluctance to set up a truth and reconciliation commission. I wonder why since neither of them have provided a reason, except for possible different versions of the past. But it is precisely beause we have different versions of the past, that we need a "truth" commission. Such a commission can begin the process of finding the facts through interviews, surveys etc. That this could be a difficult process is clear. But it is not reason enough not to embark on it.

The truth and reconciliation commission set up after the fall of apartheid in South Africa could serve as a possible model for Guyana. Not that the process will be perfect or that everyone will be satisfied with the findings. But to not do anything practical is refusing to address a glaring and widespread problem in our society. It is a pretense. It perpetuates a dishonesty.

I suspect that resistance to such a commission is rooted in fear of what it might unearth. But such a fear is naive because the results of what happened during that period of our history, is very much alive in the psyche of our people and it affects the functioning of the government, it rears its ugliness in pre and post-election violence, it underlies claims of discrimination today, it is a component of ethnic insecurities.

Yours faithfully,

Rohan Sooklall