‘African-Guyanese played leading role in liberation of Guyana’ – Selwyn A. Pieters

Toronto Guyanese Emancipation Soiree

By Lincoln DePradine

Selwyn A. Pieters

The late Nephrologist Dr Roger Luncheon, a former lecturer at the University of Guyana’s Medical School and ex-head of the Presidential Secretariat in Guyana, is among Afro-Guyanese that “moved the dial forward’’ in the country’s emancipation and decolonization struggles, according to lawyer Selwyn A. Pieters.

“Guyanese of African descent have played a significant role in moving Guyana forward. Irrespective of one’s views of the politics, African-Guyanese played a leading role in the liberation of Guyana from colonialism,’’ Pieters said last Saturday at a Toronto event commemorating the act of the British parliament abolishing slavery in Canada, Guyana and its other colonies in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Saturday’s “Emancipation Soirée’’ was organized by a special committee of Guyanese in Toronto, in conjunction with staff of the consulate general on Consumers Road.

It was the first “Emancipation Soirée’’. But Mani Singh, Guyana’s newly appointed Honourary Consul in Toronto, promised that it will not be the last.

“The intention is to do one next year on a bigger and grander scale,’’ he said.

Singh, recalling a recent visit to Europe, noted that its foundation and many of its “admirable structures’’ were built on the “blood and sweat’’ of Africans through slavery, in the “worst form of inhumanity’’ by men against another people.

In an appeal to Guyanese, Singh urged them to come together. “Guyana belongs to all of us,’’ he said.

Mani Singh

The “Emancipation Soirée’’ included a reception for guests. Among them were diplomats, including Guyana’s consular officer based in Ottawa, Cindy Sauers, and other Guyanese nationals and friends.

Guyana-born Pieters, in the keynote address, underscored the importance of discussions on seeking reparations, saying that trauma of slavery and colonization is manifest today among Black and Indigenous peoples.

“Using human beings as chattel or property – to be bought, sold and traded – has impact on families and how families interact,’’ said Pieters.

“There can be no doubt that there is intergenerational trauma from slavery which Black people experience,’’ he added. “As a lawyer, I do see the trauma. We see it in our courts when we talk about Indigenous people and their intergenerational trauma.’’

Pieters referred to the contributions to Guyana of not only Luncheon – who worked for about 20 years at the Georgetown Public Hospital – but also other Afro-Guyanese, such as the late historian and Working People’s Alliance member, Dr Walter Rodney.

“Dr Walter Rodney remains one of the foremost scholars who has emerged out of Guyana,’’ he said.

Pieters noted the ethnic divide in Guyana, especially between the majority Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese population, saying it’s “something that people want to shy away from’’.

However, Pieters argued that “you can never shy away from it’’.

“There’s no doubt, particularly around election time, that there is tension between Black people and Indian people,’’ said Pieters. “Anyone that denies that fact is simply misleading themselves. So in Guyana, from time to time, we have tension between Indians and Blacks; from time to time, we have incidents that could have resulted from either implicit bias or racism. But, those are part of the fabric of life in Guyana.’’

The current government, under Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who has been Guyana’s president since 2020, is in the best position to propel the country forward, said Pieters, who practises law in Canada, Guyana and Trinidad.

“People of African descent in Guyana are part and parcel of Guyana’s development. Any government policy must ensure that all Guyanese, inclusive of Afro-Guyanese, benefit equally from Guyana’s patrimony,’’ he said.