…and Republic Day
Well, here we are…we made it to another Republic Day. Number 51 and still surviving as a nation! Now, this isn’t just simply looking for a silver lining behind the dark clouds that hover perpetually over our precarious existence, but just emphasising it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. Look at Cyprus…they split back in 1974 into Greek and Turkish enclaves and, like Humpty Dumpty, have never been put back together again. Ditto Yugoslavia, which had been presented as an actual model for ethnic groups living together. We won’t mention all those fissioning in Africa.
And when you consider all we’ve been forced to put up with, just surviving as a nation hasn’t been easy. We have to remember it was one of the founders of the PNC – then called Sydney King – who proposed as far back as 1962 that if we couldn’t get along, then we should partition the country. Even Burnham thought that was extreme and expelled King from the PNC. As Eusi Kwayana, however, he was one of the fervent PNC supporters during the ethnic riots that amounted to a full-scale civil war. But we survived intact.
Most of the credit for that feat was due to the fortitude of the PPP under the leadership of Cheddi Jagan. How many times did he not eat humble pie for the sake of our unity following Burnham’s rigging of the elections in 1968, 1973, and 1980 to hold on to power illegally? He was constantly hounded by his supporters – who were being crushed by the jackboots of the Burnhamite dictatorship – to “do something”. But he always demurred saying that the bloodbath wasn’t worth it.
The price paid by those supporters was unbelievable after the depredations of kick-down-the-door bandits and several goon squads like the House of Israel. And starvation. Hundreds of thousands of them fled to whichever country would have them – the USA, Canada, Suriname, Venezuela, TT and all the other Caribbean islands. Unlike some other despots – like Duvalier in Haiti – Burnham didn’t mind the PPP supporters fleeing. It was a safety valve to Revolution and possibly “splitting”.
The PPP has never been given enough credit for the sacrifices it and its supporters made for the survival of this nation called Guyana. After the latest rigging attempt by new PNC strongman Granger (who boasts about being a protege of Burnham), he callously unleashed ethnic violence in West Berbice. If this had been met with counter violence, what would’ve been the result? It is very clear that the PNC and its camp followers don’t give a damn about our survival.
Didn’t one of them call for “partition” the other day? Traitors to the Guyanese nation!
Even though we’ve been a nation for 51 years, some people complain that we don’t have enough commonalities as a people to call ourselves “a nation”. Your Eyewitness has some problems with that claim. And he’s not just talking about the foods we eat –- roti, metemge, pepperpot, low-mein and garlic pork – or the songs we sing – Soca and Chutney – but about our obsession with politics.
Even before we got independence, it was said that we Guyanese were “precocious” politically. That means that we were “fo’ce-ripe” when it came to politics! One of the problems, however, is that we don’t talk enough politics TO EACH OTHER to discover our commonalities there! Most of the talk used to be done under “bottom houses” and of course this meant – with our segregated pattern of residence – we were talking to “our own”. With the communications revolution and everyone having a smart phone, this has now been transmuted to only talking to “our friends”.
How about those long-promised “national conversations”?
For the second time since 1972 when “Fat Boy” Burnham brought Mashramani from Linden to Georgetown (the first was after the disastrous floods of 2005), folks won’t be celebrating in the streets.
This will certainly disappoint those who have revelled in the transformation from “tramping” to “back balling”!