CARICOM must condemn racial violence in Guyana
- Trinidad newspaper urges

Guyana Chronicle
May 3, 2001

THE Trinidad Guardian newspaper says the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) must speak out against racial violence in Guyana.

It raised the issues in an editorial headed `Alarms of racism'.

Here is the text of the editorial:

THE issue of racism is frighteningly topical around the world at present.

In Britain, race has become a major issue in the election campaign, with the Conservative Party shaken by accusations of racism after Conservative MP John Townend complained that the British were in danger of becoming a "mongrel race".

The party dragged its feet over disciplining him.

Eventually party leader William Hague issued a public reprimand to Mr Townend and said that the party believed Britain was richer and stronger for being made up of many ethnic communities. But a black Conservative peer, Lord Taylor, saying Mr Hague's response was too little, too late, has now threatened to resign from the party unless Mr Townend is suspended.

The issue has led many people to conclude that the Conservative party is in fact tacitly racist. Former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath made matters worse for the Tories by criticising Mr Hague's handling of the incident.

The old statesman recalled that, in 1968, when Enoch Powell made his infamous "rivers of blood" speech, which was critical of non-white immigration to Britain, Prime Minister Heath responded by immediately firing Powell from his Cabinet.

This change in approach, Sir Edward implied, suggested that the party and perhaps the country had taken several steps backward in the decades since then.

Reverse racism also seems to be cropping up in Britain. In the northern town of Oldham, Asian youths are reported to have declared no-go areas for whites in districts with a mostly Asian population.

Across the Atlantic, the U.S. has recently seen race riots over police killings of blacks in Cincinnati. In the shocking outcome of the investigation into the killing of Amadou Diallo by the New York police, none of the officers who fired more than 40 bullets into the black man's body was found liable for anything.

Further north, in Canada, Senator Anne Cools, a veteran of the historic 1969 anti-racism protests at Sir George Williams University, said in March that she had suffered racism to the point of being called "a black bitch" by some of her colleagues in the Liberal party to which she belongs.

That same month, Canadian Multiculturalism Minister Hedy Fry claimed that crosses were being burned in the city of Prince George.

This statement by the Trinidad-born Dr Fry raised a storm in Canada, suggesting as it did an upsurge in activity by the racist Ku Klux Klan.

These conflicts and alarms are not confined to old societies which are having to come to terms with more recent arrivals.

Here within the Caribbean region, where no one group can claim a greater historical right than another (not that doing so could justify racist acts), the same rifts may open.

In particular, the post-election disturbances in Guyana have taken on unmistakable, ugly racial overtones which cannot be ignored.

Race and politics have long been intertwined in Guyana, but there is no political trigger for the continuing unrest, in which it is now undeniable that those of Indian descent are being specifically targeted.

The rest of the Caribbean has taken the reports of these incidents too lightly, to the extent of seeming almost unaware of them, or indifferent to their significance.

But these outrages cannot be ignored. The issue should be forthrightly addressed by Caricom and firm condemnation of racial violence must be heard loud and clear across the region.

Veteran British politician Lord Tebbit reacted to the furore over the Conservative Party by saying that no multicultural society was a happy society.

That grim conclusion should be proved wrong. (From yesterday's Trinidad Guardian)