OPINION: On Sackur: This Land is Our Land

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 March 2024, 16:53 by Denis Chabrol

By Dr. Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus

I am hesitant in labeling foreign people as colonial or neocolonial without making a case that is substantial in terms of theory and evidence. To stay silent in the face of abuse is a dereliction of duty.

Of recent, the assault on Guyana from some foreign folks, ably assisted by local collaborators, is undeniable and demands forceful responses. For instance, how should we characterize the unbearably arrogant demeanor of Hard Talk’s Stephen Sackur who parachuted into Guyana, and assuming full license, proceeded to interrogate, document, classify, assess, critique and ultimately condemn this country’s economic policies, our leaders, and our historical trajectory.

In the old colonial days, apart from that handful of urban cosmopolitan elites who craved foreign approval, local people were subjected to endless infrantalizing lectures by foreign folks. Colonial domination, as it were, went far beyond physical conquest, recurrent violence, and economic and sexual exploitation. It was also heavily invested in and reproduced through epistemological violence, that is, domination practiced through the production, distribution, and embedding of knowledge consistent with the cultural values, and political interests of the foreign.

It took hundreds of years and epic struggles, paid for with the blood and treasure of the global poor and powerless to rid ourselves of the arrogance of colonial domination and imperial intervention. The freedom most cherished since the departure of the foreign has to be our right to speak for ourselves, in our own language, based on our own interests, priorities, and values. The fundamental ingredient of decolonization is the recovery of voice. That is Voice, not Exit. That is why Sackur’s foray into our affairs should not and will not be tolerated.

Why does the man come here rather than go to those who have been destroying the global environment for hundreds of years through mindless consumption made possible through industrial production powered by coal and a good deal of dirty oil? Mr. Sackur’s country started exploration and production of oil and gas nearly 175 years ago. And they are still exploring! How about some moral recompense on the home front?  Mr. Sackur seems to be oblivious to the fact that his own standard of living is built on the 80 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (GtCO₂) his country has dumped into the atmosphere.

Sackur had the temerity to describe the rapid development of our energy resources as outlined by Vice President Jagdeo, as “cynical.” Why is it cynical for the Vice President of Guyana to clarify the accelerated hydrocarbon exploration and production schedule consistent with the economic, environmental, and political imperatives in the current world order? Since when the views of a talk-show host is more salient in this country than the 800,000 souls who make up this nation? In contradistinction to Sackur’s own cynicism, our oil and gas production is based on both common sense and good sense.

President Ali stood strong and the Guyanese people stand with him. He was right to stop Mr. Sackur dead in his tracks, and to correct the records, both historical and contemporary. For too long rain forest countries like ours have paid for the comfort of others in the Global North. It is time to put a stop to the nonsense.

Regarding the Western-centric cosmopolitans right here, it is more accurate to say that they were gleefully and willingly interpellated into the bosom of colonial desires and fantasies, a process of foreign domination embraced in the spirit of colonial jouissance. Shockingly, this self-inflicted hegemonic abuse still has the capacity for forward movement in Guyana. We do recall Edward Said’s warning that foreign intervention is impossible without local collaborators. Who the heck appointed OGGN to speak for us?

Again, President Ali’s forceful push back against Sackur shocking disrespect for our national sovereignty must be applauded. To be independent and sovereign you must not allow the foreign to behave as they did during the old times. Those days are gone, never to return. We might still have some who want to be petted, fattened and flattered by a Cambridge accent. For the vast, but silent majority, we say, This Land is Our Land.

Dr. Randy Persaud, Advisor, Office of the President.