« PrethodnaNastavi »
simpler people becomes, among the more educated, a little tortuous. Manner will often take the place of matter and abstractions will come hot from the brain without exactness of logic or argument.
During the last few years the Guianese have been repeatedly told by the British administration that they should show more initiative, more willingness among themselves to put their house in order rather than expect all to be done for them by various forms of charity. That there is lethargy is undoubtedly true and it is found among the Africans rather than among the Indians. There are deep-lying psychological reasons for this. In the slave days the plantation owners provided everything for their slaves; it was little enough, but the slaves had no need fr to concern themselves over the necessities of life. When emancipation came there were enterprising Negroes who bought land and started free communities, but the nature of the coastlands never allowed the success of small private enterprise. Since emancipation there has been little to suggest to Guianese// not employed on the large éstates that they might improve their lot by their own efforts; while, on the sugar estates, a form of the old paternalism was continued. The African and the simple rural Indian have thus been brought up to the tradition that all improvement must come from benevolence above, and self-reliance has never had an opportunity to flourish in the Guianese character. The African, particularly, feels that, as for his slave forbears, all will be provided. This lethargy has
50 Tour Ju apg
been, without doubt, one of the strongest barriers to the wor
Colony's development and the administration is attempting to instil a sense of self-reliance into the new, healthy generation which is growing up.
In 1954 there were 8,600 Portuguese in the Colony, about 2 per cent of the total population. Almost all are descendants of indentured labourers brought over from Madeira after the en end of slavery. These labourers found work on the plantations little to their liking and many returned to Madeira; others opened small shops in the rural districts, and today the Portuguese are still largely shopkeepers, living in Georgetown, along the coast and in the near Interior. In Georgetown they are large store-keepers and merchants, having a parallel economic development to that of the Indians, but without the Indians'
numerical domination. Their power is nevertheless great, although it is felt that they might play a larger part in the organization of the community as a whole. Like the Indians the Portuguese have not inter-married with other races, but they think of themselves as Guianese and have done little to preserve their national identity, many of them not speaking their mother-tongue.
The Chinese minority of 3,400, less than 1 per cent of the population, keeps itself aloof from the community, taking little part in politics, quietly cultivating its garden. The Chinese, like the Portuguese and the Indians, came to the Colony as indentured labourers, and like the Portuguese they very soon left the plantations to become store-keepers. Almost every store in the mining districts of the Interior is owned by a Chinese. They are cautious business men, honest and law-abiding; their caution, however, goes entirely to the winds when the chance for gambling turns up. They are prepared to gamble away their whole business without a sign of emotion.
There are approaching 20,000 Amerindians in the Colony, speaking nearly a dozen different dialects, though mainly of Carib or Arawak extraction. Most of them live in vast reservations in the Interior, where they enjoy certain privileges, and which no one is allowed to enter without permission from the Commissioner for the Interior. Others live in mining or lumber areas and spend part of the year working for the mining camps, or cutting lumber which they sell to saw-mills located on the rivers. Few Amerindians live on the coast although there are many coast people with Amerindian blood in them. The Negroes and East Indians call them 'bucks' in a derogatory way, and in general the coast people look upon them as simple, primitive tribesmen. In fact some of the tribes, particularly the Akawaio, are intelligent people enjoying a well organized society.
One of the blessings of British Guiana is that its problems are not complicated by the interests of British settlers. The great majority of the 4,000 British in the Colony are men who have come out from Great Britain to work in Sugar or as Government administrators, and will eventually return to Europe. There are very few pure 'English' Guianese, men born and brought up in the Colony; in Georgetown the British that
one is likely to meet can usually be divided into 'Sugar' and 'Government', and although there is social friendliness between the two camps there is also an element of rivalry. The Sugar men have usually spent many years in the Colony, on the coastal plantations or at the offices in Georgetown, and their knowledge, they feel, is likely to be deeper than that of Government officials who are in British Guiana for a tour of a few years. The rates of pay for Oversea Civil Service officials in British Guiana are low because it is among the poorer colonies. Although this does not mean that a lower standard of administrator is sent out there it does mean that to go to British Guiana is in some ways rather like being 'sent to Bogotá' for members of the Foreign Service.' While the standards of the administrators are not affected by the 'poorness' of the Colony there has been difficulty in persuading technical officers to come to a colony which does not pay very high salaries. The result is a slowness and inefficiency in the general administration of the country; everyone in the administration complains about it and can give numerous instances which have infuriated him, but nothing seems to be done. 'We were disturbed', says the Robertson Report, 'by the frequent complaints made to us about the dilatoriness of Government machinery generally and, while we can discount some of this as based on personal grievances, we have been forced to the conclusion that the administration in British Guiana has been for many years slow and ill adapted to the needs of the territory.' Englishmen to whom I spoke would tell me how they had come to the Colony full of enthusiasm and had spent their first year seeing obvious imperfections and fighting to right them, but had finally, like so many others, given up the too strenuous fight and drifted into a spirit of laissez aller.
For over a century a mystic phrase has been current in Georgetown which has guided the social life of the white people: 'Demerara hospitality'. Trollope so enjoyed Demerara hospitality that he was prepared to settle there for the rest of his life, and today party-giving is on a scale which almost cries for some kind of sumptuary law. The same people meet each other at different houses almost every evening of the week. The
1 With the important difference that the Oversea Civil Servant need not accept the appointment if he does not want to.
parties are rarely composed entirely of white people, though they are dominant, and there is nothing approaching an official colour bar. The expatriate English in Georgetown-with some exceptions-make every effort to cultivate social relations with coloured Guianese, yet one knows that on both sides there is consciousness of colour. Having sincerely done his duty in the cause of racial relations the Englishman goes to his own people for his true social relaxation; in this he does not differ from the Negroes, the coloured people, the Indians, the Chinese or the Portuguese.
British Guiana is still a land of six peoples and there is little sign that these races, with their so differing national characteristics, will be moulded easily into one people, the Guianese. Nevertheless, one is impressed at the apparent amity in which they all live. In January, 1955, the Archbishop of the West Indies, who is also Bishop of Guiana, gave a remarkably
forthright sermon in which he called on all the races to take stock of themselves and to realize that the only hope for the Colony lay in its becoming a land of one people rather than six peoples. He castigated all ranks and races, saying that the Colony was resting on the edge of a volcano, 'prostrate in the merciless grip of that evil tyrant, whose name is FEAR'. For him the evils were not so much political and economic as moral and social. Local officials were corrupted, there was nepotism, profiteering and abuses of wealth and privilege in the mercantile class. "The small man is always the loser,' he said, ‘and with his sense of helpless frustration he has become embittered, revengeful and even desperate.... Can you blame him if he follows some extremist politician who feeds him with wild promises of a new order of society?' The Archbishop has here touched on one of the vital facts in the Guianese situation since the suspension of the Constitution; that the problem of the Right is as great as that of the Left. The local business men, working for themselves and with little sense of their responsibility as Guianese, are the cause of much of the graft, the profiteering and the other evils which have been so well exploited by the People's Progressive Party. The suspension of the Constitution and the action against the P.P.P. have given the Right a new confidence, a sense that it has the protection of the British Government, but until the power wielded by this small section of the community is turned towards more liberal ends the masses will continue to support the P.P.P.