Gibson's book seeks to grapple with labelling, racism
-Roger Moore
Stabroek News
May 1, 2004

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Dr Kean Gibson's book The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana is not a "call to arms and violence" rather it attempts to understand why Indo-Guyanese label Afro-Guyanese "criminals, hooligans and rapists," according to presenter Roger Moore.

Moore, who hosts the locally-produced television show At Home with Roger, presented this view on Thurs-day before the Ethnic Rela-tions Commission at the continuation of its inquiry into the allegation by the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) that Gibson's book is "peddling and spreading racial hatred between Guyana's principal ethnic groups."

"The book is not a call to arms and violence, as the IAC so maliciously and erroneously is claiming, but a call for self-empowerment, enlightening us to why Blacks were being called criminals, rapists and hooligans," Moore said.

According to Moore, Gibson's book has been in circulation for one year now and there has been no manifestation of any of the fears expressed by the IAC in its complaint.

He demanded that the IAC move beyond merely stating that the book has the potential to incite racial hatred to proving its claims by providing empirical evidence. "The IAC must put forward concrete evidence linking the book to racial hatred and violence. It has not to date done any of this, rather this body has been allowed by Guyanese to sit comfortable in the realm of speculation and emotional outpourings aimed at silencing and denigrating a Black Caribbean academic."

There are many themes contained in the IAC's complaint, Moore told the ERC, which can be deemed as stereotyping Africans, East Indian racism, Hindu propaganda, Hindu nationalism and fundamentalism and marginalisation of Africans among other things.

He concurred with Gibson writing in her book that when Indians at Albion burned tyres, assaulted a magistrate and overturned his car and attempted to set a police station on fire, they were referred to as "protestors and a crowd", while African protestors against the PPP rule were invariably dubbed "mobs, thugs and hooligans."

Gibson, who Moore says he has interviewed several times, has described the experiences of Blacks at the hands of East Indians which the former has refrained from speaking about for fear of being branded racist.

He said Gibson has been quite clear in her description of the caste system, adding that when Dr Prem Misir in his submission to the ERC intimated that the caste system extended beyond structural divisions to accommodate one's character, he had in essence been repeating Gibson's sentiments.

Moore referred to a piece by parliamentarian and Leader of the Rise, Organise and Rebuild Guyana party, Ravi Dev, in the Guyana Indian Heritage Association-produced book Indians Betrayed - page 46, paragraph 3 - as a weak and deceptive attempt to show how violent Africans were against Indians from the time the police force was established in 1839.

Moore alluded to certain incidents that, in his view, represent Black oppression by East Indians in Guyana. He cited the removal of Clem David from the former Guy-ana Broadcasting Corporation by then information minister Moses Nagamootoo, the wrongful dismissal of Comp-troller of Customs, Clarence Chue and the government's apparent refusal to pay the sacked Supreme Court employees despite a Court of Appeal order favouring the latter.

Persons, Moore claimed, were forced to resign from the then GBC and others, including he, resigned voluntarily in 1995 after observing the situation.

In response to a question posed by ERC Chairman Bis-hop Juan Edghill, Moore said Blacks in Guyana do not generally possess a violent mentality and the Christian faith, to which most of them belong, preaches passive resistance.

However, Edghill pointed out that not all Christians are Africans and not all Indians are Hindus.

Joseph Bishop, representing the Forum for the Libera-tion of African Guyanese (FLAG), said that the IAC's fear that Gibson's book will incite a violent uprising of a racial nature is "unfounded."

Bishop also spoke about Indians Betrayed saying that it completely omits the mass killings of Africans and seeks to promote Indian Guyanese as "gods who are incapable of fighting back an opponent when attacked..."

According to Bishop, Gibson's book exposes "the cunning system of Hindu nationalism employed by certain sections of the East Indian population."

Bishop told the ERC that an application by him for 20,000 acres of land for agricultural use by FLAG has been deliberately stalled. The ERC suggested that he make another check on the application and approach the commission if the situation continues and he perceives that it is the result of prejudice. Bishop also said that public servants are being victimised and are forced to quit their jobs or take industrial action and that GIHA has stereotyped Africans as the originators of crime.

"It is time for [the writers/producers] of Indians Betrayed to come to grips with themselves and understand that Guyana is not theirs and we need to have a better system of morality, therefore whenever Guyanese literature is exhibited there must be better terms of expression. The expletives on certain pages of the book leave one to wonder."

Colin Bascom, on behalf of the Campaign for Justice in Guyana - United Kingdom (JIG-UK) told the ERC that while Dr Gibson's book is a brave work that dares to reflect the pain and anguish of many Afro-Guyanese, Indians Betrayed was not meant for the eyes of Afro-Guyanese and is "a nasty piece of race hate propaganda which could end up inciting both sides to violence."

In this context, JIG-UK launched a formal complaint before the ERC against the GIHA publication.