Gibson book has opened eyes to race problem
-Harry Dyett tells ERC hearing
Stabroek News
April 16, 2004

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Dr. Kean Gibson's book, "The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana", [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] has forced the Guyanese society to acknowledge that a real problem exists in Guyana regarding perceptions of race, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) heard yesterday.

Harry E. Dyett A.A. made this statement during unsworn testimony at the continuation of the inquiry into the allegation by the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) that Gibson's book is "peddling and spreading racial hatred in Guyana between its principal ethnic groups."

According to Dyett, Gibson's work represents a departure from the standard attitude of the Guyanese society toward the problem of perceptions of race, by seeking instead to confront it.

"For too long this cancer in our midst has either been rationalised or ignored as though it did not exist. The timeliness of the book by Dr. Gibson and the reaction to the book has served to force us to confront the issue. It can no longer be wished away," Dyett stated.

Dyett intimated that the IAC's attempt to halt the circulation of Gibson's book could be interpreted as a move to dictate and suppress free expression.

"Only those who wish to dictate and suppress free expression think it would be acceptable to block books or suppress views they disagree with, or would ostracise those who do not accept a particular cultural orthodoxy. We must guard against such heresy."

Gibson's thesis, according to Dyett, "has struck a nerve and seemingly offended the sensibilities of the Indian community."

He pointed out that, although he does not agree with all of Gibson's historical analysis she has a right to write her book.

However, the atmosphere at the hearing became tense, when the commission attempted to inquire whether Dyett's conclusion regarding the key premise of Gibson's book, replicates his own opinion.

The section of Dyett's testimony that precipitated the contretemps was his statement in testimony that "[The Guyanese society] must congratulate Gibson on her new thesis, which posits that the Hindu is the primary causal factor [of race hate] and presents its implications for the political, social and economic power relations in the society."

Dyett refused to give his personal opinion and told the panel, "I hope this commission does not denigrate to the level of an inquisition of the sort that took place a few years ago."

Dyett also rejected the submissions of IAC executive member, Evan Radhay Persaud, as failing to offer substantive evidence that the contents of Gibson's book are "false, malicious, without factual foundation" among other things.

"No single thesis has within it the seeds to 'peddle racial hatred in Guyana between its principal ethnic groups," Dyett declared.

Earlier Persaud concluded his presentation on the eight remaining excerpts from the book that the IAC has deemed offensive and further submitted to the commission copies of the PPP/Civic 2001 manifesto and page one of the PPP constitution which stipulates the Party's Marxist/ Leninist background.

These documents were presented to the ERC in keeping with its request on Wednesday for verification of specific sections of his testimony.

Persaud, in final remarks to the commission on behalf of the IAC, said "...the IAC believes that the entire book represents the proclamation of a theory which provides the framework and justification for racial attacks on Indo-Guyanese by Afro-Guyanese. It is a call to arms, a call to racial violence in the society and a call for race war to be unleashed in Guyana."

Persaud continued that Gibson clearly intends that "Afro-Guyanese must wage racial violence including pre-emptive attacks on Indo-Guyanese Hindus in order to overcome exploitation by these Hindus, to defeat the racism of these Hindus, to obtain power sharing from these Hindus, to break the hegemony of these Hindus and to change the order of things."

Chairman of the Commission, Bishop Juan Edghill, has ordered that the suggestion by the IAC that Gibson's imagination is twisted be struck from the record.

Additionally, Edghill further directed, that the part of Dyett's testimony which referred to the recent organisation of an all-Indian cricket match by the Guyana Indian Heritage Association (GIHA) and said that it can be construed as fanning the flames of ethnic separation and discontent be struck from the record and filed separately as a complaint to be dealt with by the commission.

Persaud has requested one week to produce the other evidence requested by the commission, which is expected to begin hearing testimony by Roger Williams today.

Other than Bishop Edghill, the ERC comprises Dr. Frank Anthony, Major General rtd Norman McLean, Pandit Ramkissoon Maharaj, Cheryl Sampson, Andrew Garnette and Shahabudeen McDoom. Both McDoom and McLean are currently unavailable and McLean is represented by substitute Commissioner, John Willems.