Our Readers' Opinions
September 3, 2013

Some people seem to be trying to start racial strife

Tue Sep 03, 2013

Editor: I am a born Guyanese, but left the Republic 27 years ago and worked in several countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the USA. I grew up in a country torn by racial strife between the Indos and Afros. Unfortunately, the problem exists up to this day, and this is the main hindrance to the development of a country which is so rich in natural resources.{{more}}

I lived and worked in St Vincent and the Grenadines for nearly six years and there was absolutely no racial conflict in that multi island state, maybe because the country is predominantly black and there is no ethnic group which has a population near to it. In Guyana, the Indos are approximately 47 per cent and the Afros 43 per cent, the rest being Amerindians, Chinese, Portuguese and mixed races. The racial problem there stems from political leadership which started since 1955, when Forbes Burnham, an afro barrister moved away from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which he had founded with Indo dentist Dr Cheddi Jagan. Since then, there have been racial conflicts between the two major races which divided the country, especially at election time.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, from the time the country gained statehood in 1969, it was headed by Ebenezer Joshua, an afro Vincentian and was succeeded by another afro Milton Cato, who saw the country into independence in October 1979, and shortly after James Mitchell, an almost white agronomist from the Grenadines, who took over leadership of the country for more than 15 years. He handed over to a black economist who lost the prime ministership after only five months and thereafter Dr Ralph Gonsalves, of Portuguese descent, took over power since 2000 and remained in office.

Now a wicked racial conflict has raised its ugly head, where a black woman, who is waging unfortunate racial war against the Prime Minister and his right hand minister, Julian Francis, who is also of Portuguese descent, accusing them of gross dishonesty and being incapable of running and administering the country. One of her grouses is that Gonsalves, being a Portuguese, is incapable of representing the country in its bid for reparation for descendants of slaves since slavery started in Madeira where the Prime Minister’s forefathers originated. The unwarranted attacks are on Facebook and ironically a radio programme, which targets persons of Portuguese descent is aired on Nice Radio, which is owned by someone whose paternal ancestors are also Portuguese.

Dr Gonsalves has been the prime minister of the country for 13 years and Arnhim Eustace, who took over from Sir James Mitchell, has been Opposition leader for almost the same period. The leaders of the other two opposition parties are also afro Vincentians.

The attack by this woman, who I understand is an aspiring politician, is obscene and very offensive and one wonders how could the owner of the radio station could allow such unwarranted and defamatory attacks to be made against the two senior ministers of Government. What is noticeable in the radio broadcast is that there was not even a single commercial and nothing was said that it was sponsored by any business, individual, or organization. The radio programme is broadcast outside of St Vincent and the Grenadines and I am at a loss as to what message the management of the radio station and/or the presenter is sending to the listeners internationally.

Some of the statements to my mind are slanderous and tantamount, if not, bordering on seditious intention, which is prohibited under section 62(1) of the Criminal Code, Chaper 171. The Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines also makes provisions for non-discrimination of race, creed or colour.

I understand also that a certain opposition lawmaker has time and time again spoken out against what he called “white leadership” and said that it was high time for a black to be prime minister. I am of the view that those in authority should initiate steps as early as possible to prevent racial conflict in the country before a momentum is built up which could get out of control and eventually it would be a hindrance to the development of the country.

Oscar Ramjeet