Home Letters National truth and reconciliation intervention
A letter and a news item within a local newspaper moved me to pen this missive to suggest that the time is nigh for consensus by elected officials for a national truth and reconciliation intervention.
The letter by my friend Earl John was printed on October 30, 2019, under the caption “I will smash a glass in Vybert Young Kong’s memory”. Earl wrote: “There was the turbulent year of 1964 when an industry-wide strike also struck a rage of fires across the estates of the sugar industry…The coastline was lit up by fires almost every night, and one could see from Blairmont, the reddened sky along the East Coast of Demerara…In that year, in addition to several thousands of acres of cane being burnt, along with dozens of houses of workers of both ethnicities, was the memorably tragic termination of one hundred and forty-two lives. 1964 was a year of such hostility amongst ethnic communities.”
Earl alluded to a sordid period of racially motivated destruction and killings from 1962 to 1964. My research suggests the disturbances started around January 31, 1962, following the “Kaldor” budget, and continued: February 16, black Friday; May 25, 1964, “Wismar Massacre”; June 12, 1964, “Sun Chapman Explosion”; July 6, ghastly murder of the Abrahams family; to name a few. Persons still alive who may be able to provide first-hand information concerning this period, if willing, include Ashton Chase OE, Hamilton Green OR, Miles Fitzpatrick CCH, Llewellyn John CCH, Elder Eusi Kwayana, Christopher “Kit” Nascimento AA, Harripersaud Nokta CCH, and Hon Clement Rohee. The news item referenced earlier appeared on November 4, 2019. It announced an upcoming publication of an investigation outcome into “those who died in the violence following Camp St jailbreak”. It states “For more than 15 years, the number of persons who died in the violence that followed the February 23rd, 2002 Camp Street jailbreak and the circumstances of their deaths have been the sources of heated disputation. As part of a public service journalism project to shed more light on that period, Stabroek News has compiled from its archives a list of persons killed between February 23, 2002, and September 2006, their photographs were available and basic facts surrounding their cases… It is hoped that this record will aid in fact-based discussion of that period”.
Editor, there are numerous stories about atrocities committed during 1962- 64, and 2002-2006. Because of my physical attributes and surroundings, my exposure to such wrongs would be skewed through lens inflicted on persons of my ilk. This is equally likely to be the case for others who don’t look like me (same for social media exposure). I believe those soon to be published details of persons who died between 2002 and 2006, though informative and edifying, could evoke divisive sentiments within our politically charged, hypersensitive environment at a time when we are on the cusp of being catapulted to reap the fruits of an economically prosperous country. Unfortunately, we haven’t shaken off vestiges of the societal deliberately destabilising “divide and rule” tactic employed by our colonial masters. And it will be naive not to assume that a morphed version of imperialism “chomping at the bit” with vested material interest in this Eldorado resurgence wouldn’t be inclined and committed to devise strategies to guarantee sustained economic dominance. In a similar way, colonialism promoted and protected the landed gentry. I submit that our ethnically divisive culture can provide fertile breathing ground for such stratagem to perpetuate to our disadvantage. The writing is on the wall. However, once managed well, there will soon be enough for Guyanese to enjoy a vastly improved standard of living. Building trust within a unifying framework is a definite helpful option. Hence my humble suggestion for consideration of an acceptable process across the divide and with the inclusion of civil society, designed to collectively exorcise the ghost of divisiveness via a truth and reconciliation undertaking; as a timely, useful and restorative idea. If Rwanda could bounce back by leaps and bounds, so can our dear Land of Guyana as one people, one nation, one destiny. Happy Youman-Nabi!