Power-grabbing outside the ballot box, not ethnicity the source of Guyana's problems --President Jagdeo

Stabroek News
May 7, 2001

The current political problems Guyana is experiencing are not due to problems of ethnicity, President Bharrat Jagdeo has said, but to "an attempt at grabbing power outside of the ballot box."

Addressing a gathering to mark the 163rd year since the arrival of East Indians in Guyana at the Indian Immigration Monument, Church Street on Saturday afternoon, Jagdeo said if it had been a problem of ethnicity hundreds of Black polling agents would have been beaten up on election night and people would not have been protesting against the appointment of Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon.

Even though it is no secret to anyone that voting has largely followed ethnic lines in this country, Jagdeo said that many - the silent majority - who would have cast their votes for one particular party or the other, did not agree with what was happening today.

Calling on the people as a nation to condemn criminal acts because they had a negative impact on Guyanese of all races, he said he saw a new trend now whereby the police were blamed for everything with the hope that they would not act.

He called on people to stand by the police because of what he perceived was the psychological warfare going on, with the constant pressure on them not to take action.

Noting that those blaming the police were not concerned about the victims of violence, Jagdeo said if the police arrested someone wrongfully some sections of the society were taking it on themselves to be the courts and to decide "what is right and what is wrong and who is innocent and who is guilty." That, he described as camouflage, and "all part of the complex plot of power grabbing."

Since many of these people did not represent the interest of ordinary people of all races in this country, he said that he did "not for one moment, buy the excuse that one community or two communities are depressed or marginalised.

"Depression of the communities and so-called marginalisation did not start eight years ago," he said, maintaining that it started a long time ago, not only in colonial but in post-colonial times.

Depression and marginalisation, he said, are "just another excuse" of the power grabbers. As president, he had to take care of all peoples of the country. "If people in Buxton have a problem I have to fix it. If people in Canal have a problem," he would have to fix it too, adding that whatever and wherever the problems arose he would have to fix them.

At present, he said the government was trying to correct the problems communities were experiencing due to economic stagnation,

the huge debt, and the lack of potable water, electricity and drainage and irrigation.

He stated that people of all races in Guyana had been disturbed by what happening because it did not allow them - the young people of the country especially - to fulfil their dreams.

Jagdeo felt that "what we are seeing reflected in our society has its root in 163 years of suspicion deliberately created by the colonial planters to keep the different ethnic groups from forming an alliance so as to serve their own interest in governing the country."

He said, "many people were told that the Indians came here to displace them from the jobs they were traditionally engaged in. This quality of division was fostered over the years. It did not end with Guyana becoming independent. What we are battling here today is 163 years of suspicion." However, he was confident that the problems created by years of suspicion could be changed with "hard work."

He urged persons to "never allow, however deep the hurt," the condemnation of all the people of one particular ethnic group or the other because of the criminal activities which had been carried out. "Many, I do not think, have any political loyalty or decency." Speaking to those of Indian descent, Jagdeo said "we must never allow ourselves to do that because if we do that as Indo-Guyanese we are also going to be condemned for the wrong actions of a small group that may not act in the best interest of the country."

He noted that since the arrival of East Indians in Guyana 163 years ago no one could dispute the contribution that they had made to the development of the country in every area of life. Guyanese as a nation he said, "especially people of East Indian descent, have every reason to be proud and to celebrate these achievements because you have contributed in a great way to making Guyana what it is today."

Noting that he had made a statement last year for which he had been criticised, he said that history for Guyanese began with the indigenous peoples, the Amerindians, a long time before the arrival of the East Indians. He continued: "While I am proud to be an Indo-Guyanese [and] I am very proud of my ancestry, of what that ancestry has given me, I will always remain true to that position. I was born here and I owe loyalties only to this country - just to this country and to all people regardless of their race or ethnicity." He added that he would not descend into representing partisan interests.