This is the second part of my letter on
Kean Gibson’s book, The Cycle of Racial Oppression in
Guyana (SN, Sep. 28). Ms. Gibson makes a bold claim in revisionist
history - that a vicious caste system in Hindu religion makes
for an unmitigated racist hatred of other people and the African
Guyanese are seen as the lowest common denominator by this caste
system. Historically, the Hindu community with its Brahmin anthropological
superiority wanted to rid British Guiana and subsequently, Guyana
of the presence of the lower caste, and that caste is the African
Guyanese perceived by the Hindu religion as the personification
The race riots of the sixties,
according to this linguistics scholar at UWI, was the first major
attempt at the fascistization and nazification of Guyana on the
part of Hindus whose main vehicle is the People’s Progressive
Party. Since that time, Africans have been visited by violence perpetrated
by this party, and the African-Guyanese is now literally facing
extinction at the hands of the state in Guyana. Two forces have
been set upon the African community - the PPP and the police force.
Twentieth century revisionist
history began with AJP Taylor’s classical and spectacular
masterpiece, The Origin of the Second World War. Since then, revisionist
history in the academic world has picked up momentum and is now
standard methodology in the social science investigation of historical
and social phenomena. A group of Indian intellectuals in the diaspora
is working on a revisionist interpretation of Cheddi Jagan’s
role in history. The West On Trial is coming under intensive probe
for its personalistic and subjective account of people and events
in Guyanese history. For example, a reliance on the West On Trial
leads you to the condemnation of many important figures who may
have been portrayed by Cheddi Jagan in his book as unpatriotic and
anti-democratic because they opposed his communist zealotry.
Kean Gibson’s book
is an extremely poor, and is in fact a propagandistic attempt at
revisionist history. In adopting an iconoclastic style, one naturally
puts a radical and unique interpretation to past events. In the
case of Gibson, there is simply no radical analysis but a highly-charged,
emotional opinion-making process of events in the sixties. It goes
something like this. African people were killed in the sixties because
the Hindu caste system didn’t like them. Another example should
drive home the point. She says Jagan held a victory rally in Georgetown
because he wanted to kill the African losers of the election, that
is, Burnham’s supporters. Ms. Gibson is writing about the
sixties at a time when Kwayana’s booklet, No Guilty Race is
available to the public. Ms. Gibson rejects the core argument of
Kwayana and vehemently asserts that in the sixties, the Hindus were
the guilty race.
There is absolutely no serious
attempt or any attempt at all to dissect important, crucial events
and give them a scholarly assessment. It is for this reason that,
I believe, Ms. Gibson may not have been the only composer of this
little book or may have been incited to write this emotional appeal
as part of an extremist, racist fringe group to which she belongs.
Her booklet is an unapologetic regurgitation of racist diatribes
for which she may well get herself into trouble with the law. We
are thus coming to answer the crucial question why she wrote the
book. I will leave that for the third section of this. But for now
readers should be introduced to samples of her fictional account
of Guyanese history.
It is generally accepted
throughout the scholarly world that Guyana’s problem began
with the split in the PPP with the emergence of a Burnham stratum
and Jagan faction. The rest all Guyanese know about. Since that
schism in the nationalist movement, racial insecurity and race based
politics together with the PPP’s communist proclivities have
been the root causes for over fifty years of social stagnation.
In penning these lines here one feels self- insulted doing so in
a review of a book written by a Guyanese scholar who teaches at
a university. These lines in this letter should be written for high
school students who are now entering preparatory work for CXC. Which
Guyanese doesn’t know about the role of the PNC and its African
base and the PPP and its Indian base? Which Guyanese doesn’t
know about the competition for power by these two leviathans that
are hopelessly trapped in the politics of ethnic insecurity. The
sociologist calls it Guyana’s ethnic problematic.
Up comes Ms. Gibson and
tells us that the key to understanding the mistrust between the
races, the reason for the killings in the sixties, the political
dilemma throughout the ages, and the fragile stage we are at in
this moment in time is because the Hindu caste system with its dual
belief of good and evil is the real determinant of Guyana’s
And to crown it all, not
one single item of evidence is cited to support this sensationalistic,
fictional, irascible exclamation. To add insult to injury is the
childish descent into description by Ms. Gibson. For example, all
laws passed by the PPP in the sixties, the PPP budgets, programs
etc are all manifestations of the invocations of the Bhagavad Gita
with the caste system being the driving force.
What is appalling is that
Ms. Gibson violates all the elementary requirements of research.
In research, when theory is developed, it is then applied to actual
phenomena to show the correctness of theory. This is simple. If
a breakdown in the national economy is the cause of crime, then
what the researcher does if he/she accepts that in Yellow Range
village, the high incidence of rape was due to unemployment, is
to study the demography of the area and look at the unemployment
statistics before making that didactic conclusion. The demographic
study of Yellow Range village must be done because the researcher
stands to face permanent condemnation if it is proven a neighbouring
village has a higher percentage of unemployment and less economic
activities but a non-existent crime rate. This brings to mind the
false argument of some politicians that the crime madness in Buxton
was due to economic deprivation. Some of us argued that Buxton was
a social paradise compared to hundreds of ravaged villages all over
Guyana, yet no one was blowing off businessmen’s heads in
those depressed enclaves. Buxton was a terror zone because politics
and not economics sought a marriage with crime
Finally, it is obvious that
in writing her booklet, Kean Gibson didn’t consult any of
the endless research materials on Guyanese politics from the split
in the fifties to the final days of the Hoyte regime. If she had
done that she would have known that throughout this period, the
Hindu politicians she called Brahmins first sided with Burnham after
the break-up. Then formed the United Force with D’Aguiar,
then built up a relation with the Burnham regime, and sought and
got a close patron-client relationship with the Hoyte government.
Now if you accept Gibson’s theory of the fascist, racist nature
of the Hindu caste system, then these “Brahmins” would
not have touched African leaders even with a ten foot pole. And
as true devotees of the Bhagavad Gita, they would have zealously
become Papa Cheddi’s foot soldiers. Ms. Gibson has to learn
more about the importance of profits over religious sentiments.
I regard this booklet as
a pamphlet, whether wilfully or not designed to encourage feelings
of hate. And my main contention is that it is a descent into everyday
demagoguery and not a work based on research using scholarly methodologies.
Who did Gibson speak with?
Where are Gibson’s facts? One supporter of Gibson wrote in
the Kaieteur and Stabroek that people should not attack Gibson’s
scholarship, which they cannot match. But there is no scholarship
in Gibson’s booklet as we will come to see. When I heard about
the book, I sought to get it because I figured that Guyana is in
dire need of a new approach to our history, and that traditional
explanations need to be attacked. My guess was that Gibson went
into some archives, was given access to some private libraries,
and took possession of some valuable private papers and letters
and would unveil a masterpiece in a new interpretation of Guyana’s
I was kind of suspicious
at first because of her Channel 9 sojourns; but you were inclined
to read her because she is a Guyanese scholar. I reclined under
a tree in the National Park early one morning and read Gibson. I
was annoyed with myself. I took the booklet, folded it into my newspapers,
stuck it between a tree branch and went jogging. I was immensely
disappointed that someone of Gibson’s academic stature could
write such nonsense. And there is no better word to describe this
Readers will now be impatient
because I still haven’t told them why she wrote the book.
But that will come clearly to readers when the aridities of her
thesis are exposed. Let’s highlight some of her irritating
non-starters. Her footnotes tell the whole story. There are no quotations
from the editorials of any of the three dailies or scholarly papers
by Guyanese academics. She relies exclusively on tapes of Channel
9 and CNS Channel 6. She has no use for the programmes of other
One is at a loss to understand
why in writing a book on Guyana’s racial division, Gibson
would quote extensively from these two channels that are in fact
political outfits. One is very close to the opposition PNC, the
other is run by a politician. Where is the researcher’s suspicion
of such material? This is almost a sacred rule in research; you
cannot take as gospel the words of politicians. This is an unforgivable
sin of Ms. Gibson.
So what do we have? Ms.
Gibson makes use, heavy use of what callers said on the talk-show
programs on Channel 9 and the Voice of the People on Channel 6.
Is this what research has come down to? Is this what scholarship
has come down to? A university lecturer analyzes racism in Guyana
and her sources are the people who phone into TV programs to voice
their opinions? Alan Fenty, the Stabroek News columnist, alerted
the public two years ago to the modus operandi of these talk-show
hosts. Fenty described a situation when the microphones were inadvertently
left on, and the host was directing his friend when to come on and
what to say. Since then, Guyanese know what these shows are like.
Perhaps with the exception of Gibson who doesn’t live in Guyana.
You are both mad and entertained
when you search through the footnotes of Gibson’s book. She
tells us a teacher commented on the phone to a Channel 9 host on
what a student told her when she asked him what he would do if he
became president. He said he would shoot Black people. Ms. Gibson
seems fascinated with these callers because these callers portray
the reality of Guyana. But far from it, these callers are anything
but real, sensible people. And poor Ms. Gibson gets taken in by
these fulminations which she transforms into research materials.
Let’s have some more
samples. She said it was Indians who were robbing Indian victims
and making it look like African Guyanese. And how does Ms. Gibson
know this? Because a caller to Channel 6 phoned Mr. Sharma and confessed
that she got robbed and it was an Indian who did it.
Ms. Gibson relates a story
for us in which someone met her on the street and told her if you
are not an East Indian in Guyana, then you are a nobody. In another
instance, a caller on Channel 9 showed the popularity of the African
struggle against Indian racism when she said she was Amerindian
and the Amerindian people support the marches in George-town. Even
if Ms. Gibson was impressed with that exclamation, research requirements
dictated that, with her intention to use that expression, she ought
to have sought the views of Amerindian community leaders. Chapter
4 is punctuated with these silly expressions taken from those two
channels and well-known extremist commentators. In the last instalment
I will make a distinction between normative interpretation and descriptive
distortion to show the true intention of this political diatribe
masquerading as social-science writing.
This is my final instalment
on Ms. Gibson’s book. I hope to complete two tasks here; explain
why she wrote the book, and secondly expose her conversion of reality
into fiction. There is a tendency among researchers to get emotionally
close to their subject of investigation. If you are doing a book
on the sherpas of the Himalayas, chances are you will make lasting
friendship with some of them. The same goes for tribes of the Amazons.
Ms. Gibson’s academic interests are African art forms. In
Guyana, she encountered African-Guyanese who felt strongly about
the nature of the PPP regime and the supposed political domination
of its East Indian constituencies. Ms. Gibson, accepting these sentiments,
became a convert to the cause of an extremist, racist group. Her
contribution to its cause was to put a respectable, academic cover
on the far-fetched, zany allegations this frenzied cabal is accustomed
to propagating on Channel 9. In doing so, Ms. Gibson has espoused
a political cause. Nothing wrong with that; but everything is wrong
when scholarship is used for the purpose of propaganda. Even spinning
is more acceptable than this type of political behaviour.
Ms. Gibson’s book
is an invidious, insidious, conspiratorial, vicious apology for
the perpetrators of a post-1997 regime of violence. You can argue
that there are many forms of violence and that governmental oppression
is equivalent to mayhem others in society create. But to deny the
pain and brutality heaped upon innocent citizens because of their
ethnic make-up is offensive when coming from the halls of academia.
She is guilty of turning the victim into the criminal and transforming
the criminal into an innocent, oppressed being. In this sense, Ms.
Gibson is guilty of embracing the call to violence. Her book is
replete with examples of denying the traumas of the victims of race-crime
and making them out to be the perpetrators. Some examples will be
hard for the average reader to digest, but they prove the point
that everything is wrong about this booklet.
During the 1997 and 2001
election campaign, she said the PNC campaigned on a multi-racial
ticket, the PPP did not. It was the open endorsement of a race-based
election program that caused Indian people to beat African citizens
during post-election violence. And then she gives us the episodes.
The Indian village of Enterprise attacked the African enclave of
Bachelor’s Adventure. An African woman watching a fire in
Robb Street was shot dead by PPP activists. But here is where dishonesty
creeps into Ms. Gibson’s description. She simply said the
woman was watching a fire. What the woman was watching was an inferno
in Georgetown in which Indian businesses were being burnt. I was
there and two incidents saddened me when I saw a modern Western
nation like Guyana descending to the level of barbarity. At the
GAWU head office on Regent Street, a mob began to chase my cousin
and his GAWU colleagues back into the burning building as they ran
from the flames. The only way out was to drive crazily out of the
compound in a 4X4; that saved them.
Then next to Jerome Khan’s
business in Robb Street, upstairs of an electrical store, as the
family fled the flames, the crowd were pelting them with huge stones.
The crowd then worked itself up into a frenzy and began cutting
the hose of the fire engines. If according to Ms. Gibson, as she
said on page 39, the 2001 election victory was a triumph for the
Hindu caste system and its hatred for Africans, then I can tell
her that on that fateful night when Regent and Robb Streets were
on fire, the Hindu caste system was standing like a coward desperately
trying to get out of a burning city. And it wasn’t Hindus
who were rallying around the bonfires of hate that evening.
Ms. Gibson goes on to tell
us about the acts of Indians killing Africans because the PPP had
won the 2001 poll. She described an African pedestrian being beaten
to death on a village road, then an Indian mob lynched an African
labourer at his workplace. In doing this review, I failed to find
any evidence of this even though I went through the newspapers with
a fine tooth comb. It is interesting for the researcher to juxtapose
two manuscripts – Ms. Gibson’s booklet and the GIHA
dossier on the violence. Here is where the researcher gets confused.
Ms. Gibson documents the killing of African people after the 2001
election which she said was engendered by the reckless rhetoric
of PPP supporters, like “we deh pon top now.”
On the other, the GIHA study
paints a morbid picture of bestial attacks on Indians. So what actually
happened? It is like reading the scorecard on a one-day cricket
match. One paper has the West Indies making 99 for 9 in fifty overs.
Another newspaper has West Indies chalking up 350 for two in 50
overs with Lara and Sarwan plundering a century each. One paper
has to be right, the other wrong. But not to worry, this writer
witnessed the violence in both 1997 and 2001 and the burning materials
and shooting flames in the photograph on page 8 in the Sunday Mirror
of January 18, 1998 was right outside our little shop. The fire
engine came in the nick of time. I saw who lit that fire. Simply
put; Ms. Gibson is yet to discover the truth.
If you come from Mars and
you read the Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana you cannot fail
to understand that here is a country named Guyana in which a minority
tribe is being crucified by a racist, fascist, violence-prone ideology
of Hindu Dharma. From pages 39 to 73, Ms. Gibson uses the most emotionally
structured language to describe the extermination of Africans by
this Hindu ideology. She uses terms like, “extermination,”
“genocide,” mass killings, “Nazi-like methods”
quite often. In fact, it would be true to say that not since Benschop
has someone come so close to inciting ethnic anger by the use of
inflammatory connotations. There are parts in chapters three and
four in which Ms. Gibson exceeds the insane sermonising of the talk-show
What the visitor from Mars
would soon find out as he/she walks around Guyana is that there
is no tribal warfare and that the coming extermination that Ms.
Gibson describes is all in her imagination. Any objective analyst
would tell the Mars visitor that large areas of life in Guyana are
controlled by African Guyanese and these include the birth certificate
and passport agencies which are priceless documents for the average
Indians. The security forces, the judiciary and the public sector
have a strong African presence.
Ms. Gibson said that it
was the Hindu caste system that saw the victimization of the Globe
Trust Bank, omitting to state it went bankrupt because of loans
to non-Hindus. She also failed to mention that it was a Hindu judge
who ruled against its liquidation. No word is devoted to the acquittal
of Shawn Brown’s brother-in-law for killing a leading Hindu
businessman in Unity village by a well-known practicing Hindu judge.
There is no discussion at all on the judicial system in which Indian
judges with Hindu names make decisions in favour of African Guyanese.
Ms. Gibson goes on and on
about the planned Nazi-like assault on African-Guyanese while at
the University of Guyana Indian lecturers are crying out against
victimization and UG does not have a Hindu administrator, on the
contrary, the Chairman of the PNC is third in charge. Important
to note is the condescending language Gibson uses to describe African-Guyanese.
If anyone should take offence at this book it should be African
Guyanese who are portrayed as lost, passive people who are unable
to understand their lot (see page 68). Finally, I have been informed
that University Press of America invites writers to publish their
books once the books are paid for. This explains why Gibson’s
book was not edited. This book should be withdrawn immediately from
circulation. It is simply bad news.
<<< Page X
[Editor’s Note: This essay was published in
the letter columns of Stabroek News and Chronicle
in October 2003 in three parts. The first part was not secured.
The second, third, and final parts were combined into one here.]