Aug 01, 2017  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon

If you are planning to smoke a marijuana cigarette (in common parlance, “a joint”) tonight at the National Park when the crowds thin out and the night gets older; don’t do it. On Emancipation Day you will get seriously unemancipated. The police will arrest you, a silly magistrate will give you three years, the people you voted for couldn’t be bothered with your fate, and you may lose your life in a prison riot.
In other words on Emancipation Day, slavery may visit you again, if you take that joint. On this crucially important date, all African Guyanese must ask themselves if the effects of the abolition of slavery are totally gone.
All humans, without exception, would say that slavery was civilization’s most cruel, horrible act of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Emancipation Day, then, has a special place in the hearts of the descendants of slavery. But the theories keep multiplying in the halls of academia that the mind of the physically emancipated is not freed.
It was Bob Marley more than any great scholar who popularized the concept of mental slavery with his extraordinary hit tune, “Redemption Song.”
Have Guyanese Indians in this country freed themselves from the limitations and strictures of their ancient culture and religion that they brought with them from India? Indians are obsessed with light complexion which has its basis in ancient Hindu texts. Many Indians in Guyana have some kind of tolerance for the caste system.
How mentally free are African Guyanese? The question takes on special meaning when applied to Black Guyanese leaders in power. Desmond Hoyte had serious trappings of a colonial mentality.
Let me clarify that. Of our eight executive presidents, (I include Sam Hinds; he was president if even for a short time), Desmond Hoyte embodied a stronger sense of the difference between right and wrong and had a greater sense of fairness. That leaves three African President; Burnham, Hinds and Granger.
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Let us exclude Hinds. He lasted only months so there isn’t any material at all that is available for research.
Burnham is one of the Third World’s most manifest enigmas. The most anti-colonial of all Caribbean leaders, he also was fascinated by certain colonial paraphernalia. Why would the president of a small, poor country be on horseback sharing out cigarettes to poor districts in Georgetown?
Dale Andrews, the famous crime reporter from Kaieteur News who died a year ago told me he never liked Burnham because he thought his uncle’s discussion of Burnham with him was the reason.
Dale said his uncle was a public servant who was ordered to work weekends at the state-owned Hope Estate as part of Burnham’s policy of exposing public sector workers to the field experience. Dale said his uncle told him Burnham would appear on horseback and shout on employees who he felt were either lazy or skulking. Dale said his uncle related many incidents where Burnham would gallop his horse and workers had to scamper.
I heard but not from Dale about such actions and when that happened many workers would fall into the trenches. I honestly don’t know if that was true but I would not put it past Burnham. The troubling, worrying, disturbing thing about the admirers of Burnham and Jagan is this relentless unwillingness to concede major character faults, personality defects, political egregiousness and national mistakes by these two men.
I would say the two Guyanese that admire Burnham the most are President Granger and Vincent Alexander by their publicly proclaimed sentiments for Burnham -— Alexander heads the Burnham Institute and Granger’s private home houses four Burnham foundations/projects. But I don’t think you can get them to give their thoughts on the reason for this horseback thing. I was on a channel 9 panel with Alexander and I brought it up but he did not respond.
It is too early to assess the last African Guyanese President because Granger is just two years in power and in those two years there hasn’t been the implementation of any visionary project. I would say he has not been an impressive president, the type that Guyana cries out for, given our special historical and psychological problems.
We will have to wait longer before we can determine his colonial values if any. He does come across as a conservative leader in the mould of Hoyte but surely not with the phenomenal courage of Hoyte to take uncertain pathways. He does not seem willing to agree to the changing of the marijuana penalties –including the nature of bail– and that is what I am told is holding up the amendments which remain on the Order Paper of the House.