The money rightly belonged to the Africans
February 7, 2004
Has Stabroek News rushed to the defence of the British in response to my letter captioned, "Compensation fund used to construct building for Queen's College"(SN 01/29/2004)? Support for "compensation for planters" does not synchronize with the new historical, intellectual and political forces of 2004, the forces of reparation, and the forces of new interpretation of the rights of Africans. QC is a monumental endowment by Africans to the intellectual heritage of Guyana and this should be fixed onto the consciousness of all Guyanese.
If Forbes Burnham, Sonny Ramphal, Fred Wills and Rashleigh Jackson were around in 1833 to represent the Africans at manumission, do you think the "well over four hundred pounds sterling" to British Guiana would have been compensation for Europeans instead of Africans? No way. Just recently the Jews received six million dollars (US) from the Germans as further compensation for their unpaid labour in Europe. The four million pounds sterling rightly belongs to the Africans of British Guiana as compensation for unpaid labour. The compensation money is rightly African - give them back, and allow the ancestors to sleep in peace.
The 1833 Abolition Act is obviously flawed if it allocated twenty million pounds sterling to be paid to British planters. Their contribution to the society in British Guiana as at 1833 was little more than the weapons of mass destruction of the period. The technology, knowledge and skills of sugar, and the taming of the littoral were a contribution of the Africans' intellectual heritage.
I have a picture with me of a "West Indian sugar factory" of 1694 and an account that "these factories were built on the Egyptian model", and also sugar was derived from the Arabic sukkar. This was taken from Deer's A history of that the word sugar Volume 1.
Since Kean Gibson's book on linguistic dehumanization, we have to word change "Egyptian model" to "African model" because the technology of planting and making sugar was taken (without payment) from the Africans transported to Pernambuco, Brazil in the 17th century, and transferred to Barbados and then Guiana. Hence compensation can't be for Europeans, but for the exploited Africans.
Where also is the money of the Africans who "purchased their discharge" from the British? All this has to be corrected before any thought is given to a holiday to commemorate the arrival of any race group to this country as stated in my letter of 01/29/2004.
I agree with the sentiments of W Henry Skerrett in his letter to Stabroek News "We must try to foster unity" (SN 01/13/2004) which said that money rightly belonged to the Africans and was used to construct the Queen's College building.
Ras Tom Dalgety
Our editor's note merely explained that the fund was set up to compensate the planters, it did not seek to justify it.