Dr Henry Jeffrey’s hollow claims, and what he did not say about the fact-finding group

Dear Editor,
Dr. Henry Jeffrey’s diatribe-laden article, “Fact-finding in Guyana’s ethnic context,” is an insult to Guyanese of every political and ethnic persuasion. Seldom have I read such hollow, unsubstantiated claims written by an educated Guyanese.
Let us examine why I arrive at such a conclusion. First, Dr. Jeffery welcomed the self-anointed fact-finding delegation from the U.S, and then stated, “It is the democratic and constitutional right of Guyanese to complain to whomever they believe is best located to help their cause if they believe they are being discriminated against.”
First, Dr. Jeffrey’s sentence cries out for answers to the following questions: (a) Who are these Guyanese whose democratic and constitutional rights are being denied? (b) Are they Afro, Indo and all other ethnic groups in Guyana; or are they just Afro-Guyanese? (c) If they are Afro-Guyanese, what proportion of this population of Guyanese were the complainants? (d) What proportion of the complainants believe they are discriminated against? And (e) To whom did they complain?
Second, Dr. Jeffrey’s sentence clearly reveals the ‘subjectivity’ and ‘predetermined bias’ of the “fact-finding group.” This becomes quite evident when we examine the part where Dr. Jeffrey states, “…Guyanese [can] complain to whomever they believe is best located to help their cause.” Focusing on the phrases, (a) “whomever they believe,” and (b) “to help their cause,” we see that neither of these phrases makes claim of neutrality, objectivity, or impartiality on the part of the fact-finding group. Hence, the people who sponsored these African-American factfinders “believe” that this group of politicians will “help their cause,” and not that of Indo-Guyanese or the rest of Guyana’s six races. This then begs the questions, (i) Who are the Guyanese that selected this group of factfinders? (ii) Why is such information hidden?
Third, Dr. Jeffrey skirted an examination of the qualifications and investigative competencies of the members of the group. So, let us look at who they are, and their statuses as objective investigators/ observers.
The delegates in the forefront of the so-called fact-finding mission are from the U.S Southern States: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Mississippi. All, except for the Chair, Dr. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, represent predominantly African American districts, geographic areas with wide arrays of socio-economic problems. Local State Assemblies carved out these districts to satisfy Federal Legislation that seeks to ensure “Black-minority” political representation. In the case of Dr. Dawkins, she was a representative but later lost in three elections she subsequently contested.
In addition, it is pertinent to note that the Southern States from which the fact-finding members originate are among those that suppressed much of African-American civil liberties, including voting rights. This, then, calls into question (a) What have these African-American fact-finder politicians done to right the wrongs in their States? and (b) To what extent are these politicians successful in addressing and alleviating the oppression and domination of African-Americans in their districts or elsewhere? Could it be that this fact-finding group is a case where the pot is calling the kettle black? You be the judge.
To substantiate the above, let us heed what Dr. Jeffries said about African-Americans, and I quote, “…in the USA,… superiority racism has led to the institutionalization of myriad discriminatory actions …these minorities have suffered from persistent inequality due to centuries of racism, discrimination and long-lasting effects of slavery, which have created conditions that make it difficult for them to get ahead.”
Two crucial underpinnings can be deduced from Dr. Jeffrey’s acknowledgement of the plight of African-Americans. (1) Afro-Guyanese should take pride in being spared from the atrocities African-Americans continue to suffer, and for being under the governance of the PPP/C, an administration that does not discriminate based on race, one that provides opportunities for all Guyanese to succeed. (2) The African-American politicians on the fact-finding mission have not solved the sufferings of their [African- American] constituents who elected them. Why then would Afro-Guyanese rely on them for representation and provision of opportunities they already enjoy?
Third, Dr. Jeffries concedes that, “The situation (in) Guyana is more complex than in the USA.” If the group of Southern politicians have difficulties in solving less-complex issues than those of Guyana, why were they invited as “factfinders?”
Fourth, Dr. Jeffrey’s article rambled on with a host of unsubstantiated claims and accusations against the PPP without providing proof, or verifiable and valid evidence. For example, he cited his own written words that “…there is not a single area in African social life that the PPP has not sought to dominate or depress.” This he did without providing a single example of domination.
Dr. Jeffrey then stumbled along, making comments on Guyana’s economy, quoting at some length an article by Ernest Halperin who spent less than two months (April and May) in Guyana in 1964, and who then wrote the article which Dr. Jeffrey cited.

The article, written nearly 60 years ago with an anti-Jagan political bias, bears no relevance to today’s Guyana.
Dr. Jeffrey also made reference to relations of domination in Fiji, Israel, Northern Ireland to bolster his claim that the PPP has sought to suppress Afro-Guyanese. This he did while acknowledging that the Afro- and Indo-Guyanese populations are almost evenly split. One does not have to be a political expert to know that the PPP administration is multi-racial, and that neither Fiji, Israel nor Ireland has such ethnic and racial population diversities as Guyana, hence rendering Dr. Jeffrey’s comments and comparisons futile and useless.
Finally. if Dr. Jeffrey intended to present an objective assessment of the Afro-Guyanese reality, he could have done a comparative analysis by race (i) of employment – especially civil service employment, (ii) the Government’s distribution of house lots and homes, (iii) the disbursement of pensions and old-age assistance, (iv) admissions to the University of Guyana and Teachers’ Training Colleges, (v) development initiatives such as schools, health clinics, and roads etc., in Afro- and Indo-Guyanese village communities. Instead, Dr. Jeffrey chose to ramble about political domination and discrimination without providing any substantive evidence.
Finally, if Dr. Jeffrey’s intent was to comment on the legitimacy of the fact-finding mission, he would have provided information on (i) Who authorized the investigation. (ii) Who, and how factfinding group members were selected. (ii) Who financed the fact-finding group’s visit. (iii) What official/authorization letters of introduction did the group provide to authenticate its legitimacy. (iv) What were the primary objectives of the visit. (v) Methods of investigation.
Having failed to provide such information, Dr. Jeffrey simply expressed hollowed claims.

Narayan Persaud, PhD
Professor Emeritus