Political parties must speak out against racists

first_imgDear Editor,Every political leader, every political party in Guyana has an absolute obligation to speak out and reject racists and racialism every time these persons or these incidents make their presence known. Racists and racialism are not new to Guyana, nor are such views unique to Guyana. But in just the past two weeks, there have been, at least, three obnoxious examples of racists and racialism in Guyana.There was Pastor Kester Deane ascribing road accidents to the practice of Hinduism in Guyana. This was followed over the last few days by Professor Kean Gibson blaming suicide on Hinduism. In between, a known PNC activist incited people in Georgetown to prevent PPP activists from putting up flags and other PPP paraphernalia.There are now 19 political groups expressing interest in contesting the March 2, 2020 General Elections. One of these, APNU/AFC, the incumbent Government, is already a coalition of about seven political parties. This means nineteen political groups made up of more than 25 political parties want to contest the elections. In a country like Guyana, made up of different ethnic groups, diverse in our ethnic make-up, our culture, our religion and faith, it is of utmost importance that political parties promote racial and ethnic harmony, an environment of religious freedom and respect and a milieu where our diverse cultures are embraced and celebrated.Other than the PPP and its leaders, everyone else has been conspicuously silent on these three incidents. Given the March 2 elections are only 59 days from now and that racial harmony is critical for Guyana, it is consequential if political parties and their leaders chose to be silent. Silence in these cases can only mean agreement. There is an obligation to speak out and reject these clearly racist sentiments.After a horrific accident in Mahaicony, killing five people, Pastor Kester Deane urged Guyanese to “open their eyes” and see that the practice of Hinduism is responsible for the carnage on our roads. In 2019, road carnage resulted in the deaths of 125 Guyanese, as far as I know. Many hundreds survived with life-long disabilities and horrendous medical costs. Basically, not only was the pastor’s missive blaming Hinduism without any cause, he was inciting violence and race crimes. By circling the jhandi flags, it was a dog-whistle for non-Hindu Guyanese to violently remove these flags and not to tolerate the open practice of Hinduism in Guyana.Hindu and non-Hindu Guyanese citizens immediately openly rejected this racist ranting from Pastor Kester Deane. For once, the ERC acted immediately. Deane admitted his folly and openly apologised. But almost immediately after, he recanted his apology. The ERC has not followed up. But other than the PPP and its leaders, the other political parties, by their silence, gave Kester Deane a pass. None of them saw the need and the urgency to denounce such an outrageous statement. We cannot just vaguely preach national harmony, we must show the spine to speak out whenever we see incidences that are inimical to national unity and harmony. Some commentators dismissed Kester Deane and his racist ranting, insisting Deane is not important enough for people to bother.But allowing such incidences a pass without denunciation and rebuke is what allows racism and religious intolerance to flourish. A few weeks before, there was rightful outrage when an East Indian student at UG expressed openly racist views relating to our Afro-Guyanese sisters and brothers. He was widely denounced, not only by the PPP, but by other organisations, including APNU/AFC. The Ministry of Education took an active role. The ERC acted sternly. UG rebuked the student.The student apologised and has remained remorseful. This student is far less prominent than Kester Deane. None of the commentators thought this student deserved a pass. A nation acted, as it ought to. But the Kester Deane incident exposes our double standard. Racism must not be tolerated, no matter who it comes from. I, therefore, call on David Granger and APNU/AFC, on all the other political parties to tell us their position on the Kester Deane incident. We have heard from the PPP. Will the other political parties show us their bona fide when it comes to national unity and cohesion? Their silence is deafening.This past week, Professor Kean Gibson further embellished her anti-Hindu and racist credentials by blaming Hinduism for suicide deaths in Guyana. This is not her first anti-Hindu foray, of course. There are between 150 and 175 suicide deaths in Guyana. Persons of different religions have died from suicide in Guyana. Most of the suicide deaths in the Caribbean and in Latin America are not persons who practiced the Hindu faith. Almost one million persons in the world died last year from suicide.Most were not Hindus. There are more than 20 million people around the world who survived suicide last year. Most are not Hindus. Yet a Professor, a trained academic, concludes that Hinduism is the cause of suicide. In fact, research has shown that Hinduism as a religion rejects suicide and teaches people that suicide is wrong. Professor Gibson proclaimed her bigotry.Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP previously rejected Gibson’s disgusting diatribe and hate. I fully expect the PPP and its leaders will again unconditionally reject Gibson’s hate-filled theory. I expect every political party in Guyana will reject Gibson’s nonsense, just like the PPP has done. Silence is sometimes the loudest voice. In this case, it is reprehensible for any political party to remain silent and to, in effect, agree with Gibson. I know where Irfaan Ali stands. I know where the PPP stands.David Granger and his senior leadership in APNU/AFC must unequivocally tell the Guyanese people they reject Gibson’s nonsense. Ramkarran, Badal, Shuman and the more than a dozen other leaders of political parties must not hesitate in rejecting unconditionally Gibson’s hate and religious and ethnic bigotry.In between these two incidents, the racist bigotry of a PNC activist living in Brooklyn is inciting PNC/APNU/AFC activists. In a FB missive, he urged the people of Georgetown to stop the PPP placing PPP flags on any structure in the city. He advocates for people to rip them up. He advocates for not tolerating any form of PPP campaign initiatives in Georgetown. In short, in his hateful mind, Georgetown belongs to the PNC.Moreover, in his twisted mind, the jhandi flags that Kester Deane is mad about are equivalent to the PPP flags, deeming them both pagan symbols. Is this what Granger and APNU/AFC believe? Is this what Ramkarran, Badal, Shuman, Bandoo and others believe? Each of them has an obligation to tell the Guyanese people. Failing to speak out against any incident of racism and bigotry disqualifies any political party from being elected to lead Government. These are the latest racist examples. Silence is not an option. Only unequivocal rejection matters.Sincerely,Dr Leslie Ramsammylast_img

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