By Vishnu Bisram
THE New York Guyana Democracy Project (NYGDP) has sent out a letter to members of Congress and the NY State Legislature informing them of the advocacy of violence and overthrow of the democratically elected Government of Guyana by one Rickford Burke, a Guyanese American supporter of the opposition APNU. He reportedly resides in Brooklyn. NYGDP, founded to advocate for and champion democracy in Guyana, is led by academician Dr. Tara Singh, who is also a Caribbean community advocate in America.
The letter states: “We … bring to your attention a pressing matter of grave importance to the Guyanese people and to our country, Guyana… a very troubling development in the political perception by a Brooklyn-based Guyanese group of the new emerging oil-producing country. At a time when our country is moving towards prosperity, the first time in its history (mainly because of the discovery of 10 billion barrels of oil by Exxon) and where investors from the United States and other countries are pouring into Guyana to seek out investment opportunities, Guyana’s stability as a democratic country must be upheld. Destabilisation efforts and calls for violence, including revolution, will destroy not only Guyanese dreams but also wreck the new road to prosperity that is being laid out by the government.
Unfortunately, this small group of Guyanese whose political party lost power in the 2020 regional and general elections, cannot come to grips yet with this reality. It should be noted that all the western diplomatic missions, including the U.S., CARICOM and Latin America agreed that the PPP/C party won the elections fairly. The CARICOM high-level oversight team certified the viability of the conduct of polls and the legitimacy of the election results; and because their findings ran counter to what the Brooklyn group had harboured, they quickly vilified this esteemed team of CARICOM professionals. In fact, this Brooklyn group has demonised the entire Caribbean leadership because of its staunch support for democracy and the legitimately elected PPP/C Government.
We cannot emphasise enough, our deep concern over this Brooklyn group’s incitement of violence against the legally elected Government of Guyana. Mr. Rickford Burke, an Afro-Guyanese supporter and advocate of the official opposition party (PNCR) in Guyana, is purportedly the leader of this group. He has called for war against the democratically elected government, including violence against the PPPC’s supporters (mostly Indo-Guyanese), and for partitioning of Guyana.
While we recognise a person’s right to free speech and his right to defend his group against any perceived wrongdoing, such outbursts go beyond the norms of civility, especially since the basis of his allegations lacks empirical support. He has distorted the situation in respect of racial discrimination and his frequent claims that the PPP/C Government killed 420 Black men are mere speculation.
The PPP/C killed no one.
The reality is: 75 per cent of the Public Service workers are Afro-Guyanese; 90 per cent of the army are Afro-Guyanese; 75 per cent of the Police Force are Afro Guyanese; 70 per cent of nurses are Afro Guyanese; 65 per cent of teachers are Afro-Guyanese and 80 per cent of the academic staff at the University of Guyana are Afro-Guyanese; 65 per cent of the students at UG are Afro-Guyanese.
The proportion of Afro-Guyanese in the general population is 29 per cent. The ethnic composition of the government and staff at its agencies are representative of the pluralist nature of the population. How could Burke and associates make out a case for racial discrimination? Unbelievable!
As to the killings, those were murders committed during the PPPC’s governance in the early 2000s, not by the government. The respected national daily newspaper, Stabroek News, did an analysis of the murders and published the results for public consumption. First, of the 420 persons killed were not all Black men; 119 for example (28 per cent) were Indian-Guyanese and some were Amerindians and some of mixed racial ancestry.
Second, many of those killings took place in confrontations between the police and criminal gangs; others were killed by gang members in gang warfare; some were killed in family/domestic problems; while a few were killed when they tried to topple the government. Above all, the PPP/C Government did not kill anyone or ordered anyone killed. It is just like blaming the U.S. President for all those murders committed in the inner cities. This Brooklyn-based extremist group has soared above reason and logic in their effort to build a political fortress on sand from which they could shoot a barrage of lies and deception.
The language used by Mr Burke is “seditious” and racially hostile. (We will be happy to provide you with the tape if so requested). We are shocked and disappointed that such hateful remarks and language of violence could emanate from a group in the USA that professes its love for Guyana. And while America grants freedom of speech, hateful speech and advocacy of violence are not protected. The Guyana Government regards the calls by Mr Burke for violence and revolution seriously and has issued a Wanted Bulletin for Mr Burke to answer several charges.
We join with fellow Guyanese in the USA, Canada, and other parts of the diaspora as well as those in Guyana to strongly condemn such advocacy of violence and hate speech against fellow Guyanese. We are heartened that Guyanese at home have ignored such chilling calls for violence against a democratically elected government. Guyana is a pluralist nation and our people have learned to respect one another despite our diversity. Creating racial hostility and advocating partition, are symptoms of losers.
Under the “One Guyana” initiative we must continue to build on this (societal cohesion) and thus pave the way for the good life for all Guyanese, irrespective of race, religion and gender or disability. We must continue to support each other and ignore and isolate those with radical and racist motives.
As a nation, Guyana faces incredible obstacles to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of jobs and the devastating flooding that ravaged the agricultural sector. All our energies should be directed to rebuilding our economy and getting students back to school, as well as getting the unemployed back to work. Guyanese should not allow the calls for violence and the spewing of incendiary rhetoric to derail the country’s development trajectory, where every person of every ethnic group is expected to play a vital role. Guyana needs builders and not destroyers or detractors.
The NYGDP organisation appeals to the members of Congress to send a congressional team to Guyana to gather firsthand information on the government’s programmes and policies.