"Coolie Tom Puss" under fire To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
January 23, 2002

Whether the Christmas Annual was subsidized by public funds or not, I expect and await a government pronouncement on the derogatory title and content of Haslyn Parris' highly praised short story, "Coolie Tom Puss."

Subtly, very subtly, derogatory remarks, innuendos and insults are thrown at Indians in literature, calypsos, jokes, political statements, etc., and the Indian, generally perceived as crude, illiterate and docile, also laughs along with the others. But deep inside he is hurt, and to rise above that he slaves harder for economic power, and sends his children to school to master literature, science, medicine, law. I know at least five Indo-Guyanese Ph.Ds in Literature. Today, the term "coolie" is as derogatory as "nigger". Parris, former Deputy Prime Minister, and Dr. Ian McDonald, of all persons, I am certain, are fully aware of this. I daresay, the aspersions were therefore deliberate. Even during the repressive days of the PNC, LFS Burnham had the decency, or appearance of it, in withdrawing "Marajin" from the public airwaves.

I am deeply hurt when the keepers of society and culture reach to such low and join the common hoodlum in persecuting Indians. They use the pen. Others use stones, fires and guns. The minds are the same. Only the methods differ.

I do not expect apologies from these big men, or little men, depending on how you see them. But I expect a statement from the government, followed by discussions on (1) implementing legislation on human rights and quality of life issues such as this, and (2) restructuring of the Guyana Prize for Literature Committee.

I am so hurt that I stayed awake all night deliberating about returning the Guyana Prize for Literature awarded me in 1998. I am also contemplating, in collaboration with at least a dozen academics, professionals and businessmen, other serious actions that can be taken to maintain the legitimacy and credibility of the (once) prestigious Guyana Prize.
Gokarran Sukhdeo