MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE: LEARNING FROM GANDHI AND MARTIN LUTHER KING IN THE CONTEXT OF GUYANA’S FUTURE – by Mike Singh

 

 

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On June 7th., 1893 –  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ,  the father of the modern Indian independence movement was unceremoniously kicked off the first class section of a train whilst travelling from Durban to Pretoria in present day South Africa.  Gandhiji  or ‘Bapu’ as he was later on affectionately called was asked to move from the first class cabin to that of the van compartment because a white man sitting in the first class section objected to an Indian person sharing his same space.  Gandhi refused to budge on the basis that he was holding a first class ticket which he paid for and secondly having been admitted to practice as an Attorney in The British Commonwealth (South Africa was still a British colony) that he was therefore a subject of the British Realm and entitled to the same privileges and civil decorum he had come to enjoy years  earlier as a law student in Great Britain. Regrettably, that right was not realized until Mandela became President of South Africa more than 100 years later.  That event was start of South Africa’s long walk to freedom

This epochal event in Gandhi’s life is what ultimately shaped his outlook on life thereafter because as he was kicked off that train in Pietermaritzburg – he chose to spend that cold and shivering winter night in the train station’s waiting room where he decided to stay in South Africa and wage the struggle against socio-economic and human injustices not just for persons of East Indian heritage but for the local black community as well. It is out of his principled stand that his policy of non-violent resistance or “Satyagraha’ emerged as the most potent and powerful force known to mankind in the fight against racist, political oppression and tyranny. Gandhi himself inspired the formation of the African National Congress and several persons of Indian ancestry born in South Africa such as the venerable Naidoo family, Moosa Meer (father of the ANC activist the late Fatima Meer) and others played a pivotal role in the ANC which even led to Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada being jailed for life together with Nelson Mandela and others on Robben Island following the Rivonia Trial of 1963-1964 on the oppressive charge of treason.

Gandhi’s teachings and philosophy eventually led to India’s freedom from British colonial rule on August 15th., 1947 following his famous ‘Quit India’ movement.  In the mid 1950s, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on the bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama and that was the spark of the US Civil Rights struggle against Jim Crow laws of racial inequality. In 1959 – the late Dr. Martin Luther King whom had embraced Gandhi’s philosophy travelled throughout India with the late Coretta Scott King to see firsthand the results of Bapu’s unparalleled philosophy of peaceful and non-violent resistance after which he (Dr. King) became a lifelong apostle of.

In 1965, Dr. King led the freedom movement across the famous Edmund Petus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and during which one of my heroes – Congressman John Lewis (Democrat – Georgia) was beaten severely by the oppressive forces unleashed by Governor George Wallace upon innocent civilians merely exercising their God given right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Congressman John Lewis to this very day still shows the scars and nurses the pains of a cracked skull that he suffered at the hands of a repressive state government and a brutal system that was legal despite the passage of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Recently, hundreds of thousands of Guyanese of all walks, religious beliefs and ethnicity lined up early to cast their electoral ballot in what is undoubtedly the single most important political elections in almost twenty five years or since political independence.

It was  a clarion call for change, and  a choice that had to be made once and for all as to whether we would  simply allow the arrested development brought on by the divisive agenda of ‘Apanjhaat Politics’ of the past fifty years or will we as a besieged, oppressed,  brutalised  and deceived nation choose the path to the future, a future where each and every Guyanese irrespective of race, colour , creed or class could feel that we are an important stakeholder in the country’s future socio-economic development.

We need to embrace each other’s diversity as a sign of our richness of cultures, creed and everything else noble that we can pool together because this is country that is endowed with so much that no person should ever be left behind. Our future must be one that offers the hope for a brighter, better and prosperous tomorrow and one that is free from the shackles of mental bondage and the evil thoughts of racial superiority.  It matters not whether we are African, East Indian, Portugese, Chinese, Amerindian or European or Hindu, Muslim, Christian or even Jewish – what matters is that we are all God’s children and the only thing that makes one of us better than the other is the pureness of one’s thoughts and actions or ‘Karma’.

I implore all of my brothers and sisters of this great land to respect each other, treat each person with the love and respect you will expect of yourself and to desist from any acts of political or racial violence which would derail the possibility of the anticipated progress that we all seek . The will of the electorate must be respected and that is why there were so many international observers present in Guyana – to ensure that there was no electoral fraud or “hanky panky taking place”.

These elections were  more about the choices we make for the country’s future than they are about Granger or Ramotar so please do not be baited by anyone to commit any act that can and will result in the innocent loss of lives. I am certain that as nation that is now better informed and exposed thanks to the role of social media – one has the intellect and the ability to discern the truth from any kind of Stalinist malarkey being peddled by those that view Moscow and of late Beijing as their new masters. When was the last time did you receive a Christmas barrel or a small piece from Moscow or Beijing?

I have seen firsthand what the long lasting effects of politically inspired violence or ethnic cleansing has done to societies in places as Afghanistan, Rwanda and even India where I have either lived in or visited many times. It is not a pleasant sight because it is the mental pain, physical anguish and despair that has affected millions of innocent lives in the final analysis.  In a society, where we have a peaceful and orderly transfer of power – we will have the hope of a better tomorrow, a tomorrow that will bring investments from reputable western companies, creation of well paying jobs, profit sharing for  employees, technology transfer, respect for the environment, an improved quality of life and a better standard of life for all Guyanese.

However, in order to achieve these things, we  needed  to create the enabling environment and this meant making the proper and informed decision of voting for  leaders  that are above board, beyond reproach and are willing to bring this beautiful motherland of ours back to a place where public security, safety, zero tolerance for corruption, zero tolerance for narco-trafficking, zero tolerance for domestic violence, zero tolerance for money laundering, good governance, accountability, transparency and the rule of law will not be ever compromised. Anything less is a recipe for continued disaster which we can ill afford.

I knew the late President Hugh Desmond Hoyte very well as we shared a very special bond like ‘a father and son’ and I can say without fear or favour that the recent victory of the combined opposition is what he would have loved the most. I say to my many brothers and sisters in my beloved motherland that this new era in terms of national unity will be truly regarded as ‘Guyana’s finest hour’ and in so doing I will be remissed in my duty if I did not say a huge thank you to US Head of Mission – Bryan Hunt, Her Brittanic Majesty’s Representative – High Commissioner James Gregory Quinn and a ‘Merci’ to High Commissioner Nicole Giles (a truly special daughter of Canada) for standing steadfast with us in our fight for a free and fair election.  Similarly, deep appreciation and gratitude to The Commonwealth Observer Mission, the Carter Centre, the OAS Observer Team, the CARICOM Observer Team and our many Latin friends and neighbours from UNASUR who came to ensure that our democratic rights were not stolen from us.

I also salute Ambassador Wesley Kirton for being such a noble son of the soil for his consistent advocacy of truth, healing and national reconciliation. I had the honour meeting many world leaders but one of the most important persons I met in my life is my beloved primary school teacher Mrs. Shirley Green (Dolphin Gov’t School) who inculcated in me as a young boy – the ideals of love, tolerance and forgiveness as a regular participant in her Thursday ‘Bible Classes’ and without whose dedication and commitment I would not be writing this article. I owe an immeasurable debt to my black school teachers, brothers and sisters and that is for your kindness of heart, acceptance and unconditional love and so I look forward to a Guyana that can rise up and live up to the very ideals that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela – all fought for and that is human dignity and social justice. We are all each other’s keeper.

It was time for a Change.  CONGRATULATIONS TO THE ELECTED PARTIES . WE HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR COMMITMENT TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL GUYANESE AS  WE LOOK FORWARD TO COLLECTIVE  PROSPERITY  AS A NATION UNITED BY THE COMMON BOND OF OUR MULTI ETHNIC & CULTURAL DIVERSITIES.  PLEASE REMEMBER OUR COMMON CREDO OF “ONE PEOPLE ONE NATION, ONE DESTINY”.

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