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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Guyana Government closes chapter on Dr. Rodney’s death – Time to reopen the 1964 Wismar ethnic cleansing atrocity (Part 2)

Nandlall added that Rodney’s untimely death highlighted how the then ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) government “contaminated the entire state apparatus and used the might of state power to silence the voices of political opponents and critics.” He quoted the findings of the 2014 Commission of Inquiry on Rodney’s death which concluded that “Prime Minister Burnham knew of the plan and was part of the conspiracy to assassinate” Rodney.

A paragraph in an account by Reverend Seopaul Singh (2009) on the Wismar Ethnic Cleansing Atrocity reads: “[T]he PNC launched the X-13 Plan in May 1963, naming L.F.S. Burnham, Hamilton Green, Ptolemy Reid, former officers of the British Guiana Police and Volunteer Forces, and Claude (Chippy) Graham as prime operatives. Over 19 incidents of bombings were reported by then Supt. of Police Paul Britton of Special Branch. In May 1964, the X-13 Plan was first executed at Wismar against the minority Indians there, with broad daylight and nocturnal widespread arson, violence and ethnic cleansing done in clear view of the British Guiana Volunteer Force.”

The surviving victims and their families of the Wismar Ethnic Cleansing Atrocity should be compensated (financially and otherwise) for their mental and psychological trauma, injuries, and loss of life and property. Researcher S. Pasha (2020) records the destruction of more than 200 properties, the death of five persons, assault of 50 persons, and at least seven rapes during the six days of terrorism on May 20-26, 1964.

Establish  a Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The precedent has been set with Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, USA, on May 31-June 1, 1921, when a White mob descended on a Black community, burning down more than 1,200 Black-owned houses, scores of businesses, a school, a hospital, a public library, and a dozen Black churches with 300 persons dying in the orgy of violence. The case was made for reparations for compensation in the form of monetary payment for “economically assessable damage” arising from the violation, including physical or mental harm, material losses, and lost opportunities. The case reads, in part:

“Victims of gross violations of human rights, like the Tulsa Race Massacre, should receive full and effective reparations that are proportional to the gravity of the violation and the harm suffered. The failure to provide such a remedy itself does continuing harm. As noted in the preamble to the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, ‘in honouring the victims’ right to benefit from remedies and reparation, the international community keeps faith with the plight of victims, survivors and future human generations and reaffirms the international legal principles of accountability, justice and the rule of law…” (Dreisen Heath, 2020).

As Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, should lead the charge in establishing  a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) fashioned after the model in South Africa to review the atrocities of that country’s apartheid system. It should be a courtlike body that will help heal the country’s ongoing arguments about the tragedy and bring about a reconciliation of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations.

Continuously practicing political appeasement

It is certain that these recommendations will not be implemented because Indian-led governments in multi-ethnic societies (except for Mauritius) are insecure. The armed forces are loyal to the Opposition and stand ready and inclined to stage a coup d’etat, as in the case of the military takeovers in Fiji in 1987, 2000 and 2006. Even when elected, these Indian-led governments do not control traditional and new media, Public Service Ministries, the Judiciary, major trade unions, the regional and/or national university, and “independent”, “impartial” institutions such as the Elections and Boundaries Commission, the Integrity Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission, and even the Ombudsman. Whichever ethnic party wins elections in these plural societies, the mass of Indians remain losers.

These governments cannot address and change institutional discrimination and systemic racism against their own Indian political supporters for fear of parliamentary protests, social demonstrations and media noise. Accordingly, they are weak and lack “testicular fortitude”. These Indian-led governments in Guyana and Suriname occupy political office but do not have the power to govern equitably and fairly. They have to continuously practice political appeasement to aggressive elements in the society to avoid conflict. They often have to make concessions to pacify aggrieved opposition elements, sacrificing their own Indian supporters in the process.

I am doing a major study of the Wismar Ethnic Cleansing Atrocity. Please send me any information or reference you may have, particularly victims’ testimonies and eyewitnesses’ statements. Your assistance will be acknowledged in my published work. However, your identity will not be revealed if you prefer. E-mail: [email protected] WhatsApp in Trinidad 868 756 4961.

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Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Assistant Professor University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Chairman, Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC) E-mail: [email protected]


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