… says rural appreciation needed to foster national unity
Former Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) Bishop Juan Edghill has accused government of being unappreciative of the rural cultures and lifestyles, a detriment in the push for national unity to prevail.
During a discussion forum called “The Factor”, which will be aired tonight on Television Guyana (TVG) Channel 28 at 20:00h, Edghill among other political luminaries explored the notion of national unity and social cohesion; what it means to the layman; the role of politicians in achieving this status, and the significance of such a movement in this jubilee year.
The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) administration has campaigned lustily on the need to promote national unity amongst Guyanese, and still continue to place much emphasis on this ideology. However critics contend that government has only been giving lip service to reaching such an achievement.
Adding to those assertions, Edghill posited that the divisions in Guyana do not exist solely on the margins of racial groupings.
In fact, he declared that disunity borders on the class level rather than the ethnic level:
“I have accused this present administration of being urban, upper middle class, judo Christian elites who don’t appreciate the culture of the rice farmer, the sugar worker, the man in Buxton who goes with his hook and fish, the Rasta man who has his own lifestyle… If you are an urban elite and you have no appreciation for rural folks in this country, you are not a candidate that could bring about unity in this country,” he explained.
The other panelists included Ravi Dev and Dr David Hinds, who joined Edghill in exploring exactly what is meant by national unity.
The three commenters agreed that one needs to examine the layperson’s perspective when s/he refers to the notion of “national unity” before a game plan can be crafted to achieve it.
“We have to now question the premises and disentangle the various strands of what different people talk about when they mean unity… Does unity just mean unanimity, does it mean to be identical… These are all questions we need to ask,” Dev stated.
Hinds also expressed: “We need to revisit the whole notion of unity, national unity, and ethnic unity, whether it means the same thing or we inflated them or so forth.”
However, Edghill highlighted that, based on his engagements, people look forward to having one main goal when they speak about national unity.
“If you don’t have unity, you have division… Di vision, two visions… The attempts of establishing national unity for the Guyanese that I have consulted with over the many years on the grassroots level, they are not talking about us having uniformity or sharing one identity… What they are looking for, and I subscribe to that at a personal level, and it is for us as a people to sit around a table called the Guyanese family in its plurality and say this is a common vision we have for Guyana,” he explained.
He further explained that the problems in Guyana are not necessarily because of disagreements between the ethnic groupings:
“Guyanese of East Indian extraction who have grown up in a predominantly Afro-Guyanese village, their perception and views of Afro-Guyanese is totally different from an East Indian who grew up in an East Indian society…You say something bad about an Afro-Guyanese to an East Indian Guyanese who grew up in that society, you could get into a very serious argument because their outlook of that community of people is totally different,” Edghill explained.
Broadening the discussions, Dev pointed out that, “for individuals to be descending from people who slaved for this country to be put in a situation where they have no hope of seeing themselves reflected in those who are governing the society, based on the system we have of electing those who lead, it has to create a sense of dissonance.”
Hinds added that there appears to be a fear to step out of the lip service and sloganeering of “one people”.
“So if you begin to talk about the specificity of our identity, the Guyanese people respond to that to say that but you are so in division… these are the very people who guard their identity but they are also invested in this notion of one people at a certain level and they feel that if you don’t express that one people then you are betraying some kind of national vision or so forth,” he posited, noting that this demeanour is not healthy if Guyanese are to achieve national unity.
Overall, it was agreed that national unity cannot happen overnight and it requires the genuine efforts of all.