I WRITE you in relation to Lincoln Lewis’s response on a letter I had written to the media and which was subsequently published. First and foremost, I am a strong advocate for social cohesion and racial harmony. I serve as the National Chairman of a Peace Federation which is an organisation geared towards promoting peace and love among all Guyanese.Over the course of this year, this multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural organisation has embarked on a campaign of bringing all races, political parties and cultures into a stronghold of peace.
The remarks made by Lincoln Lewis are devastatingly misguided and malicious. As I said in my first letter on the African Business Chamber: “I am someone who does not know what racism is, I do not like it, I do not believe in it and I do not tolerate it.”
I believe that we all have enshrined democratic rights, to believe or not to believe, to agree and to disagree. It is unfortunate that Mr. Lewis would turn a philosophical disagreement into a racist and ethnic rant. Some people do not see race, and I am grateful to be such an individual. When I enter the market, I do not look for people of a certain race from whom I would buy goods; if I need medicine, I look to purchase from a pharmacy where I feel happy and comfortable and in most cases, they are Afro-Guyanese. I believe that every race and every person has the right to develop themselves. My point is that in Guyana, we have various chambers that account for all races, so there is simply no need to segregate our commerce by race. All I have tried to highlight is that any ethnic chamber of commerce could move towards apartheid, starting with businesses then trickling down to the people. I pray this never happens.
My aim as always is to call for harmony and cooperation in business throughout Guyana. My goal was just to say that I do not believe in apartheid — in business or humanity. My disagreement with the formation of the African Business Chamber does not mean that I don’t believe that people have a right to open businesses. If a chamber were started by the Indians in Guyana, what would Lincoln Lewis say about this development, especially under the previous Government? If the Portuguese started such a movement, what would have happened? Any specific race forming a chamber could be very detrimental, although lawful. If some persons felt that the existing chambers of commerce were not inclusive enough, there should have been dialogue to solve this problem. I am not a current member of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), but I am aware that there is a diverse group of members inclusive of Africans. Linden has a Chamber, and other races are apart, so why was this ethnic chamber formed to begin with?
Africans in Guyana are historically very indomitable and resourceful. Anyone who denies this reality should have his/her brain examined. Our history books tell us that the owner of Plantation Northbrook, a cotton plantation on the East Coast of Demerara, decided to sell this land to a group of 83 Africans for 30,000 guilders, equivalent to 2000 British pounds or $10,000. These Africans, like many others, had saved money that they had earned from over-time work over the years. They were mainly headmen and mechanics from Grove, Paradise, Hope and Enmore; and since much of the money they had saved was in the form of coins, they had to transport the payment in wheel-barrows to the seller.
Shortly after, Queen Victoria agreed to a request from the new owners to rename the plantation Victoria, in her honour. By 1839, Africans had purchased plantations of Lichfield, Golden Grove, St. John and Providence in West Berbice. These examples inform us of the African dynamism in organisation and business.
I recall when an Indo-centric individual who was based overseas a decade or two ago started an “Indo-centric” party and I was approached to be part of its membership, and to lend various forms of support even if I did not accept membership. My answer to the gentleman was this: “My brother, I, Roshan Khan, can never ever be ungrateful to African people in this country. They were my teachers, mentors, nurses, my mother’s mid-wives, and neighbours, essentially, my family. Africans have always been special and close to me so I am sorry my brother, I cannot associate in any way with any Indo-centric political entity.”
Again, I wish to reiterate that I believe in a one-world society, where people are judged by character and not by the colour of their skins or political affiliations. If anyone misunderstood or felt injured by the caption of the first published article, I am saddened and wish to assure everyone that I remain a true Guyanese and a patriot of Guyana.