Dear Editor,
I notice a current public debate among African Guyanese with two – Messrs. Lincoln Lewis and Hamilton Green – asking other prominent African Guyanese former Prime Minister and President Samuel Hinds what he had done to promote their fellow African Guyanese at during his political career.
In the context of a general school of thought, supported by those with access to the media and to shape public policy, that we are all Guyanese citizens only and that we should ignore the Guyana Constitution and its guarantee of support and protection to our ethnic. , cultural and religious rights, is this discussion racist? Or is it a much-welcomed discourse among members of one of our ethnic communities?
There has been no opposition from anyone so far, therefore: if an Indian Guyanese warned his fellow Indian Guyanese to defend himself during a time of open violence on them, is that racist? Or is it a genuine and welcoming concern for the safety of fellow members of one of our ethnic communities that should be echoed by all decent citizens?
In his letter to the press that prompted this current exchange, Mr Hinds wrote about the way he saw Indian Guyanese regarded by fellow African Guyanese as not fully legitimate citizens of Guyana and should therefore not be allowed to hold political power. That perception still exists and has prompted such remarks made by the late Professor Rex Nettleford of UWI that “Indians in the Caribbean must learn to be West Indian”.
Learning to be West Indian would mean erasing or discarding our Indian history and heritage and giving us whatever we consider to be considered “legitimate” citizenship and who, as noted, can speak openly and without fear of being denied. they are just as racist when they use their ethnic identity and double bar citizenship, which is their constitutional right – as well as all other citizens.
However, if I were to say, publicly, as an Indian Guyanese, to another Indian Guyanese what he or she has done to uplift our Indian Guyanese community how many denials of being racist and divisive would we be accepted? And, even more interesting, by whom and by how many quarters?
When will there be an open and honest national debate on identity and citizenship in this country that will address the universal hypocrisies, accepted double standards, dishonesty, and persistent prejudices against whole groups of Guyanese citizens and who, ironically, continues to promote those self-prejudices and perceptions that Mr Hinds saw decades ago?

Ryhaan Shah

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