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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

OF KWAYANA RODNEY


OF KWAYANA RODNEY
AND PADDLING OUR OWN CANOE
by David Hinds

On Father's day Buxtonions for the Educational and Social Advancement of the Community (BESAC), a New York based Guyanese association dedicated to the upgrading of education in the village called Buxton, honored two fathers from Buxton--Benjamin Agard and Eusi Kwayana. This was a most thoughtful and timely endeavor for two main reasons.

First, it represents a break from the tradition of waiting until our heroes die to honor them. Second, one of the the persons honored , Eusi Kwayana, has given over 50 years of selfless service to Guyana and the cause of justice. However, because of his fierce independence and stubborn refusal to seek personal power, the political establishment in Guyana on both sides of the tribal divide has sought to slander him and erase his contributions from the country's history. One side tell its subjects that Eusi Kwayana is a racial demon. The other side tell its subjects that Eusi Kwayana abandoned his race because he broke with a corrupt government and fought against its tyranny.

While this may not be the intent of the members of BESAC, the tribute to Eusi must serve as a signal to the powers that be that the life's work of one of the most creative sons of our Caribbean will not be consigned to the dustbin of history. This writer will spare no effort in standing between those who seek to rewrite Guyana's history to serve their narrow partisan and tribal interests. BESAC's effort shows that we need not wait on leaders to tell us who our heroes are or when we must honor them. The greatest tribute to any stalwart is the tribute of the people, the ordinary men and women who are the real guardians of human dignity. Hail up BESAC! Eusi has refused official honors, but my knowledge of the man tells me that the honor of the sons and daughters of those brave souls that STOPPED THE TRAIN in Buxton means more than a thousand official honors.

There is a movement afoot in Guyana to rewrite the country's history. One intended victim of this campaign is precisely that anti-leaderist and moral tendency in Guyanese political activism that Eusi Kwayana has given leadership to over the years. In seeing to it that the career of Eusi Kwayana is given fair treatment and that Guyana recognizes his contribution to our young nation ,we are fighting for the very soul of Guyana. For if there is any Guyanese public figure that embodies the conscience and integrity of the modern Guyanese nation, it is Eusi Kwayana. That is a fact that none can contest.

I will not attempt to write an assessment of Kwayana. This is not the place for that. Nor do I want to engage in hero-worshiping; that is not my style. But let me say these few things. Kwayana was most instrumental in Jagan winning his first seat in the National Assembly in 1947. Kwayana was a founder member of the PPP in 1950. He penned the Party song that they sing to this day. Kwayana vigorously and successfully defended Jagan on more than one occasion in the earl 1950's when Burnham sought to wrest the leadership of the party from Jagan. Kwayana declined the leadership of the said PPP as members tried to end the Burnham-Jagan rivalry by putting forward his name as a compromise candidate. Burnham had said he could work under Kwayana's leadership. Kwayana stayed with the Jagan faction after the 1955 split. I say no more.

WALTER RODNEY

This month we mark the 17th anniversary of the assassination of Walter Rodney. On the night of June 13 1980 this brilliant mind was murdered in the middle of Georgetown. It was not the first political murder in Guyana, nor was it the last. But Rodney's murder exposed the political barbarism of the ruling elite in our Caribbean. That his murderers have not been brought to book almost two decades later despite a change of government in Guyana, is ample testimony that the state is on trial.

But we the people are also on trial. By our silence we allow the state to get away with the murder of justice. Walter believed in the power of the people, our ability to surmount the toughest odds. But we have let down Walter. Not because we are incapable of realizing our full potential. Many of us do so in our individual pursuits every day, but as a community we have faltered badly.

We surrender our power to politicians who use it to whip us. We doubt our own capacity to effect change, change in our own individual and collective life. We look for Gods on earth, and when we don't find them we create them. Our cowardly promotion and defense of evil governance is an insult to our humanity. We hide behind our racial doors while our country perishes. We compromise the sacrifices of our foreparents who created the opportunities for us to move into the front ranks of the human family. We behave as if life is all "JUMP, WAVE AND WINE". We leave the children to fend for themselves, then curse them stinking when they go astray. We treat education like we did leprosy in the old days as we go after quick money.

We allow the big boys and girls to distort our history then we open our mouths for them to ram the distortion down our throats. We deny our culture and call it racism. We look for the worst in our neighbors and use it to disgrace them. We blame everyone--imperialism, the politicians, the government, the Indians, the blacks, Burnham, Jagan, Kwayana, Rodney, the Americans--but ourselves. The only way out of our present mess is to start PADDLING OUR OWN CANOE.

But we can stop that, if more of us reach out and embrace the good in our midst; if we understand that each of us has a responsibility to leave this world a better place than we met it. One of the first acts is for us to rid our hands of Rodney's blood, for all of us are guilty of the murder and the subsequent cover-up.Thirty years after the murders of Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Americans sill search vigorously for the truth surrounding those crimes. What is wrong with us, Goat bite we?

Another important step is to start reaching across the racial divide in Guyana. Rodney lived and died for that. The politicians tell us we cannot share power in the country, but we must not accept that. If we share poverty and squalor, then we can share power. It is not for Mrs Jagan and Mr Hoyte to determine whether Black and Indian representatives can work together in a government. Who do they think they are? The future of our country hinges on the spirit of togetherness, not stubborn one party-one race-one tribe government. The days for such bad mindedness is over.

I started with Kwayana and I will end with Kwayana. This time he speaks for himself in one of the most profound political statements ever made in Guyana:

"There is some thing sick about a country in which the leaders of the 1950's are the leaders of the 1990s. Such a population has not been renewing itself. The older generation must do what it can to make these relations normal and challenge the younger to new responsibilities. With deep concern for the victory of the democratic movement here in Guyana, and our joint collective determination to build a multi-racial and non-racist society, I dare to express the view that it is also not right that those who played apart in the ethnic problems of the 1960s --offensively, defensively or innocently, should offer themselves, or allow themselves to be offered again as candidates for the position as head of government. The symbolism is not good and can lead to negative results, The political old guard must go and go voluntarily of its own will. It must not idle, but must make the option of giving way without being pushed aside. While the high positions go along with power and prestige, they must make an option for subordinate roles"

That is an excerpt from a statement made on June 1 1990. Sadly it is still relevant today.

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