In a recent letter to the press, Eric Phillips, Executive of ACDA, but now Advisor to the President of Guyana and SARA, and Chairman of the Guyana Reparations Commission, accused me and four other “feature writers” of the Guyana Times as follows: “weekly and daily use propaganda, lies and racial incitement to brainwash Indians that Africans have never accomplished.”
My first reaction was, “Oh Dear! Here we go again!” The reason was: back in 2009, when Mr Phillips was just an executive of ACDA, he had responded in an identical fashion to an article of mine in the KN, “Ballots not Bullets”, wherein I had advised that street protests and violence were counterproductive to the opposition’s cause. I had been emphasising a theme developed over the last few years: “with Guyana now a nation of minorities, no one group could depend on a single ethnic group to catapult them into office. Consequently, the political fluidity that had been missing when Indians comprised an absolute manner and could lock out Africans (just below them in size) from executive office was not a possibility. Mr Phillips disagreed most vehemently with this assessment.
“He asserted categorically: “Neither the PNCR nor AFC or any combined opposition will defeat the PPP electorally – at least not in 2011.” This is because, “The sad reality is that the vast majority of PPP supporters will not allow themselves to vote for any other Party… If Indians did not vote for Desmond Hoyte, who was very pro-Indian and who engaged the REFORM to bring about fundamental change in the PNC….why would they vote for the PNC or AFC now?” Mr Phillips concluded I had joined those (named Indians) “who want to destroy Africans in Guyana using the anti-human rights Westminster (West Monster) system.”
Well, I answered, “for one, time and circumstances have changed and the opposition could have changed their tactics and strategy to exploit those changes. The fact of the matter is that the opposition do not need “the vast majority of PPP supporters” to vote for them to create seismic changes in 2011. If, as is now most likely, Indians are at most 43% of the population (and the PPP are getting all their votes from that community as Mr. Phillips seems to assume) then, theoretically, the opposition does not need a single Indian vote to defeat them.”
But after it was proven right and the “West monster” System stymied the PPP in 2011 and ejected them in 2015 in favour of the PNC (now named APNU) Mr Phillips has become noticeably more reticent about its shortcomings in delivering equity to minorities. But I leave that for another day.
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This time, my transgression, evidently, was to advise against him opposing the land claims of our Indigenous Peoples, (“unjust, unfair and pernicious”) in a recent article, “Land Contretempts”.
Noting Philips had asserted, “…Our Amerindian leaders, if they’re honest, know that the Amerindian Act of 2006 was an act that gave them reparations,” I pointed out, “First of all, the Indigenous peoples were not given lands on any “reparatory” basis. Land for the Indigenous Peoples was part and parcel of the Articles of our Independence from Britain.
“Indigenous Peoples’ MP, Stephen Campbell, attended the 1965 Independence Conference in London and ensured the official Agreement for the Independence of Guyana, (Annex C) required the independent Government provide legal ownership or rights of occupancy for Amerindians over “areas and reservations or parts thereof where any tribe or community of Amerindians is now ordinarily resident or settled; and other legal rights, such as the rights of passage in respect of any other lands they now, by tradition or custom, de facto enjoy freedoms and permissions corresponding to rights of that nature. In this context, it is intended that legal ownership shall comprise all rights normally attaching to such ownership.”
I had also taken issue with Mr Phillips and ACDA which persistently claimed, most recently to the sitting Land CoI, that Indians were “given” free land in Guyana. Just as the miserly wages that freed Africans refused to accept were part of their indentureship contract, so was a return passage to India. Of the 163,964 Indian immigrants that remained in Guyana, a mere 2,653 (1.6%) exchanged their return passage, worth $60/each, for land worth an average of $30/$45 each.
But, somehow, this is denying African accomplishment? Can the Indian Guyanese speak for justice?