It seems we may need independent observers for beauty contests
Stabroek News
April 24, 2002

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Dear Editor,

It would be refreshing and mildly shocking for Stabroek News to stray into the zone of candor, but I fear that so inured are you to this style of writing that your very thinking might have become similarly diseased. Not once in your editorial of 4/22/02 on the beauty contest do you mention the one issue that is at the core of the entire controversy, and it can be summed up with the most taboo word in Guyana, a word so fraught with the turmoil of our short but messy history that its very name will no doubt eliminate this letter from further consideration - and that word is race.

The criticisms of Ms Rahaman have been well noted - her weight, her tattoo, her 'Palm Court' past, her less-than-adequate responses to some of the contest's questions - and they are all quite valid but the vitriol from her critics would have been far less had she been from another ethnic background.

Her victory was quite a shock to the system - she was not, nor indeed any of her tribe, expected to win. For all intents and purposes this was a Miss Guyana contest for only one segment of people. The organizers of the show, as well as most of the judges, the participants and the audience were of one racial group. Mia and the few others had already fulfilled their obligations towards tokenism by taking part. She was expected to be one of the many in the background, smiling radiantly and falsely while the rightful queen, some crowd favorite, was anointed. This, in effect, was a perfect replica of the mindset of a large section of the population - for another group to be silent, non-existent, to be non-people.

But then the judges did not come through with their end of the bargain - perhaps oblivious or even in defiance of the dictates of the angry crowd. One can revisit the Cultural Centre for similar scenes a few years ago when Ms. Morvinia Sobers was crowned. We would have had the same igneous outbursts of animus had Ms. Indra Changa received the judges' nod then.

I suggest that before these fans turn their wrath upon the Regent Street vendors there be an independent forensic audit of the judges' decisions. And for all future beauty contests we should invite international observers and the Carter Center. But by then, there would be even fewer of Ms. Rahaman's tribe and the judges would have wised up to the reality of the day.

Yours faithfully,

Rajiv Pooran