Martin Carter
(1927-1997)
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Thursday, November 23, 2006
Hey Everyone,This is just a brief note to inform everyone that we have now created a new chat room (a special thanks to Gav !!) which we hope you will all use ... For those of you who are unfamilar with chat rooms, it is a great way to meet people from around the world by having a "real time" conversation with them... You can talk about all sorts of various subjects or simpy view the online discussion... I would like to invite all of you to use this feature which I believe is a great way to connect with people from around the world...Thanks again to Gav as this would not have been possible without his hard work and dedication...Sincerely,JonoThe Mittelholzer Foundationhttp://www.mittelholzer.org
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Thursday, June 22, 2006


Hey Everyone,

Under the spirit of encouraging national unity and preserving our culture we have launched a website called the Mittelholzer Foundation. Since we feel that all forums are only as good as their visitors, we would like to encourage everyone to join and participate.

Features of our site will eventually include:

Archives of rare pictures, historical journals and essays.

Free Online Classified

Free Community Cooperative

Gallery of hundreds of old and new pictures of Guyana

Free Event Listing

A Chat room

An assortment of arcade style games (including a cool cricket game !!)

Private Messaging

And much, much more ...

And hopefully an area where people can download and upload music

One of the most complete links pages featuring Guyanese and Caribbean sites

Once again, we cannot work on promoting national unity and preserving our history without your participation and as such, I must make a very public and personal plea for people to join and spread the work of our existence...

Main Page - http://mittelholzer.org/

Forum - http://mittelholzer.org/forum/index.php

Thanks,

Jonathan Bratt

jonathanbratt@rogers.com


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Friday, May 05, 2006
A Political Plea...
Hey Everyone,


Sorry to bother you as I am sure you are all busy however I came across this important news item in the Kaieteur News and wanted to forward this message to as many people as possible and I hope that you will also feel the need to so do. Although I am not an authority on Guyanese politics there is little doubt that the country has suffered enough because of the racial politics that are continually being practiced by the PPP and PNC. It is for this reason, that the people of Guyana have been and continue to be subjected to the constant threat of violence and criminal activity as the political officials have done little to improve the quality of life for the average Guyanese citizen. It is time for all Guyanese people to take back their country from the corrupt politicians and inept government that seeks only to maintain the status quo which is essentially to keep the people as uniformed as possible so that they can maintain the status quo and retain their political power. If the people of Guyana were better informed about the current political practices and policies in place, they would no doubt expect and demand better from their elected officials who, in my honest opinion, have done little to help improve the country. It is for this reason, that I make this public plea to everyone to at least think changing their vote from one that is based solely on race and ethnicity, to one that is based upon the idea of change. There is no doubt that all Guyanese people deserve and I firmly believe that the AFC represents a legitimate opportunity for Guyana to have a prosperous future. If there is any confusion or hesitation to vote for change, then consider voting for the AFC as a means of protest which will send a message to the powers that be that you are tired of the existing racial politics that so divides and hinders the economic and social development of the country. It is time for every Guyanese citizen to take back their country and to assert their power by casting a vote for the AFC.



People do have the power to change the world in which they live in... I encourage you all to please forward this message to all of your Guyanese friends and family and to do all you can to help the AFC win this election either through a donation or by talking with friends and family about the idea that it is time for change, it is time for the AFC lead Guyana toward the bright future our ancestors had envisioned and struggled to achieve.


Thank-you for your time and I although I do not have any affiliation with the AFC, there is no doubt in my mind that they represent the best hope for Guyana.



Sincerely,


Jonathan Bratt
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Friday, April 28, 2006
Thanks to James for this wonderful article !!

By Felicia Persaud

Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y., Fri. Apr. 28, 2006: “I grieve … Your land is vast, full of plenty and your people hope. What tragic fate has betook you and left you barren. Of love, of the beauty and the freedom of existence.”

Those words from renown Guyanese poet James C. Richmond came back to me on Saturday April 22 as I woke like many to the horrific news that four more nationals – including a government minister – were senselessly slaughtered in the South American nation. The news came on the heels of the many other killings in recent weeks, that has put the spotlight on this country of less than a million people.

Murders like the Ronald Waddell execution, the Gazz Shermohamed killing and the bloodbath of February that took eight lives in one night in a tiny village on the outskirts of Georgetown, the country’s capital, have all stunned the nation.

But the Satyadeow Sawh, Rajpat Rai, Phulmattie Persaud and Curtis Robinson murders left many especially bewildered, since for the ruling Peoples Progressive Party/Civic, it hit so close to home.

I never knew Sawh, Waddell or Shermohamed, or the many more whose lives have all been taken coldly and callously by bullets. But for me, the reports of the horrific killings took my mind back to a dark period in my life in Guyana, prior to the Desmond Hoyte rule, where many lived in fear of ‘kick-down the door’ bandits, that robbed, raped and killed often.

I especially remember the infamous leader of the bandits, ‘Eyelash,’ who brought terror to the East Coast of Demerara and of the many vigilante groups that were formed in many communities by residents to help protect their families. I can still see the many steel doors that popped up all around houses to prevent such attacks and I can still hear my father detailing to me in military-like precision, the plan of assault and my role should our home be attacked by the terror squad.

Luckily we never were, but I know countless others who were; many of whom left Guyana almost immediately after, vowing never to return.

So contrary to the many comments and emails I’ve seen flashing around this past week, terror in Guyana is nothing new. What is new, however, is the sophisticated weaponry and tactics of the criminals, boosted no doubt by the lucrative drug trade that’s spilling over from neighboring South American countries.

And the economic plight of many in the country is providing the fuel for to rapidly make its way across the country. With many in the civil service and tactical services units so vastly underpaid, fast, easy money is no doubt tempting and it’s causing many to dismiss a human life as coldly as they would a chicken that they rear for a meal.

So what should be done? First off, the government and the opposition must desist from using these killings as a political ploy. There is no time for selfish politicking. This is a national crisis of enormous proportions that can only be solved by bringing in international help, especially to neighboring Brazil and Venezuela, while working together to devise a national strategy.

And targeting one specific area of the country while the government and the police throw around wild theories of a political terror plot is not a solution. The rising crime rate in Guyana is a social scourge of enormous proportion not some air brain scheme to steal the government. If that were the case, the entire cabinet would have been taken out already.

When Hoyte took over the government in 1985, he reinstated the death penalty and took a significant bite out of crime. Similar radical steps must be taken to send a strong message to those who take innocent lives without care but it must be substantially boosted by international firepower and aid.

Once these criminals are found, the death penalty that’s on the books in Guyana must be implemented to send a clear message that such cold-blooded assassinations will not be tolerated. Let’s get real please, identify the problem and not continue to be blinded by race and politics.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is publisher of The Caribbean World News Network (caribworldnews.com), the only daily Caribbean Diaspora newswire.

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WELCOME TO THE GUYANA FOLK FESTIVAL '06 SEASON


http://www.guyfolkfest.org/
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Dear Colleagues:

Greetings and best wishes in this the 40th year of Guyana's independence.

This e-mail is to share with you the plans that are emerging for Guyana Folk Festival 2006.

For the past five years, the Guyana Cultural Association, a New York-based, non-profit organization, has organized the Guyana Folk Festival which is becoming an important end-of-summer holiday destination for the Guyanese and Caribbean diaspora.

Each year, the festival is organized around a theme. In past years the themes have been "Celebrating Guyanese music," "Celebrating the Guyanese word," "Celebrating Guyanese dance." In 2006, the theme is "Carifesta 72 Revisited: Celebrating Our Caribbean Culture"

Background

Just six years after independence, Guyana hosted the most important cultural event in contemporary Caribbean history--Carifesta 72. For three weeks (August 25 to September 15), the Caribbean expressive culture bloomed in Guyana. The festival celebrated the region's intergenerational and multiracial heritage, transcended the narrow geographies of history and revealed the important role of creative expression in the region's future development. Carifesta 72 was one of Guyana's important gifts to the region during its 40 years of independence.

The goal of Guyana Folk Festival 2006 is to celebrate the several threads that make up the Caribbean cultural tapestry and the ties that bind the peoples of the Caribbean, at home and in diaspora.

The 2006 Program

The emerging program shows that this year's festival will start in June 2006 and will end with the popular Folk Festival Family Fun Day on Sunday, September 3, 2006. What follows are some of the emerging highlights:

Festival of Guyanese Film: This program scheduled for Friday, June 30; Saturday, July 1; and Sunday, July 2 will showcase films made by Guyanese or about Guyana. The venue will be the Meyer Levin School Auditorium, Ralph Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.

Festival of Performing Arts: This program scheduled for Saturday, July 29; Sunday, July30; Saturday, August 5; and Sunday, August 6 will celebrate Caribbean performing arts. The venue will be the Meyer Levin School Auditorium, Ralph Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.

The Guyana Cultural Association's Awards Ceremony. This event for members and special invitees is scheduled for Wednesday, August 30, 2006. The venue is to be announced.

Come to My Kwe Kwe. This event is scheduled for Friday, September 1, 2006. The venue is to be announced.

The Symposium. The 2006 Folk Festival symposium will examine Guyana's place in Caribbean creativity. This event will take place at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York on Saturday, September 2, 2006. Prior to the New York symposium, a series of seminars on the same theme will be organized in Guyana, Atlanta, Florida, and the Cayman Islands.

Folk Festival Family Fun Day. This event is scheduled for Sunday, September 3, 2005 at the Meyer Levin School Ground, Ralph Avenue (between Tilden & Beverly), Brooklyn, New York.

The Guyana Cultural Association, organizers of the Guyana Folk Festival, seek your usual support and participation. I will keep you updated as further information becomes available.

For further details on the Guyana Cultural Association and previous Guyana Folk Festivals, please visit:
http://www.guyfolkfest.org/


(Special Thanks to James C. Richmond and all the organizers of these most important event in the history of Guyana ...)
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Over the long Easter weekend I started reading my newly-arrived review copy of University of Hunger: Collected Poems and Selected Prose by Martin Carter, edited by my friend Gemma Robinson and published in the UK by Bloodaxe Books. (By happy coincidence, another new edition of Carter's poems edited by Ian McDonald and Stewart Brown will be published by Macmillan later this year.) University of Hunger--which takes its title from one of Carter's best-known poems--includes every poem he published in his lifetime, and is scrupulously annotated--the full treatment. It is, in fact, one of the best edited volumes of Caribbean literature I've yet seen, befitting the work of one of our major--dare I say canonical?--authors.

And it got me thinking, as I sometimes do, how wonderful it would be to have a Caribbean equivalent of the French Bibliotheque de la Pleiade or the Library of America--a uniform series of definitive editions of our major literary works, edited by experts and produced to the highest physical standards, and kept in print indefinitely at relatively inexpensive cost to the buyer. Perhaps one day a sufficiently enlightened (and sufficiently wealthy) benefactor will come along and make this possible. Should that day come, which writers or works would we include? What are the true Caribbean classics, worthy of preservation in this way for future generations?

Carter would certainly make the cut--the other obvious writers would include Jean Rhys, George Lamming, Sam Selvon, Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, Wilson Harris, Kamau Brathwaite, Louise Bennett, C.L.R. James--and who else, Beat blog readers? Who are the canonical West Indian authors? Which not-so-well-remembered writers do you think deserve to be resurrected? I'd make a strong argument for A.J. Seymour myself. Other suggestions? Use the comments below, please.

Caribbean Beat Weblog
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Saturday, April 15, 2006
THE VENN COMMISSION

The strike in the sugar industry and the shooting of sugar workers at Enmore forced the Colonial Office in England to agree that the sugar industry in Guyana was facing a crisis, and that urgent action was needed to improve the social conditions of the sugar workers. As a result, the Secretary of State for the Colonies in October 1948 appointed a three-member commission to examine and report on the problems affecting the industry. The commission was headed by Dr. J. A. Venn, a professor of Cambridge University, while the other members were R. Sudell, an agricultural journalist, and B. G. Smallman of the Colonial Office as secretary.

The commission arrived in Guyana in late December and during the next six weeks visited the main sugar plantations. The team also took evidence from 192 persons at meetings held in Georgetown and New Amsterdam.

The commission's final report, submitted in July 1949, paid special attention to problems affecting women in the sugar industry. It noted that in 1948, 28 percent of the sugar workers were women, and spoke of the strenuous labour they had to perform in weeding, moulding cane and jumping over canals.

The women were forced into this situation to supplement the poor wages earned by their husbands. Many of them, the report stated, had to be up by 3.00 a.m. in order to prepare meals and to leave for work, and they would not return home until the evening. As a result, their children's care was neglected since there was no parent at home to care for them. The commission was concerned, too, that female workers were supervised by male drivers.

Among the recommendations of the Venn Commission were the following:

1. Each estate must provide creches to care for young children, while tasks should be arranged to allow women workers to return home to prepare meals and look after their children.

2. Women must not work in water (canals and flooded fields), and gangs of women workers should be supervised by women overseers.

3. All workers must be supplied with fresh drinking water, and sheltered areas must be erected for protection against rain and to provide places for workers to have their meals.

4. Roads must be constructed so that workers could travel in comfort to the fields.

5. For factory workers, social amenities such as proper toilet facilities, bath rooms and canteens must be provided.

6. There must be proper inspection and care of machinery on the estates.

7. The Workmen's Compensation Ordinance must be amended to give recognition to the claims made common-law wives and their children. This was necessary since most marriages among sugar workers were not official.

8. Measures should be taken to halt the use of child labour in the sugar industry.

9. The title of "drivers" should be changed to "headmen".

10. The Medical Department should institute regular inspection of housing, water supply and sanitation on the sugar estates.

11. Plots of lands must be provided to regular workers to cultivate rice, root crops and vegetables.

12. The British Government should provide a subsidy of one pound Sterling for each ton of sugar produced in Guyana for at least the next 15 years.

13. All the "ranges" in which sugar workers lived must be torn down and replaced with proper weatherproof housing by 1953.

14. The "cut and load" system which influenced the 1948 strike should remain in force, but the "cut and drop" system should operate when there was not an adequate supply of punts.

15. A Wages Board, to fix wages, should be established for the entire sugar industry. It should be made up of an equal number of representatives from the employer and the unions, and two neutral members appointed by the Government.

The Venn Commission also stated that a contributory pension scheme should be established. It recommended that male adult workers should contribute 2.5 percent and the employers 5 percent of the weekly earning of the workers. But this scheme was not implemented mainly because the SPA was not supportive of it, and also because the MPCA, the recognized union, was not willing to struggle for it.

The Commission examined the demands for recognition by the GIWU as the bargaining union for sugar workers instead of the MPCA. It disagreed with the immediate claim made by GIWU saying that if workers maintained their membership of the union for about three years, the union would then have grounds to make its demand for recognition.

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THE ENMORE MARTYRS

By 1948, most sugar workers in Guyana were giving support to the Guyana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU). On 22 April 1948, cane cutters, backed by the union, went on strike demanding the abolishment of the existing "cut and load" system in the fields. This reaping system which forced cane cutters had to load the sugar punts with the cane they cut, was not popular among cane cutters. It was introduced in 1945, and from time to time workers had gone on strike to demand that it should be changed. As part of the demands of the 1948 strike, the cane cutters called for the replacement of "cut and load" with a "cut and drop" system by which the cane cutters should cut the cane, but other workers would load the cut cane into the punts for shipment to the factory.

In addition to this particular issue, the workers demanded higher wages and improved living conditions on the sugar estates. However, the real aim of the strike was to demand recognition of the GIWU as the bargaining union for the field and factory workers on all the sugar estates in the country.

The strike obtained political support from the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), and the workers were addressed at numerous public meetings by Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan and leaders of the GIWU. The PAC bulletins were widely distributed at these meetings. Dr. Jagan himself was personally involved in the organization of the strike, and helped to raise funds across the country to it. Janet Jagan was also in the forefront in operating soup kitchens for the striking workers and their families on the sugar estates.

As the strike continued, the recognized union, the MPCA, urged the workers to return to work saying that they demand for higher pay would be taken up with the Sugar Producers Association (SPA). But the workers, who had no confidence in the MPCA, refused to heed this call and stated that in any discussions with the SPA they wanted only the GIWU to represent them. However, the SPA was adamant that negotiations would be conducted only with the MPCA, the recognized union.

With sugar production seriously affected by the ongoing strike, the sugar estates hired scab labour and enticed some workers to return to work. In retaliation, strikers went to the fields and chased them away, and in some cases physically attacked them.

On 14 June the SPA and the MPCA met to discuss the issues, but no satisfactory agreement was reached. In any case, the workers were not prepared to accept any agreement that the MPCA was negotiating, since they felt very strongly that the union was betraying their interests. On the following day, some strikers attacked overseers and some strike-breakers at Nonpariel, and in the evening there were reports of vandalism, including the cutting of telephone lines between Georgetown and Enmore.

Early on the morning of June 16 a crowd of about 400 workers gathered outside the factory at Enmore for a protest and picketing exercise. The management of Enmore Estate was expecting this protest action, and the evening before had requested assistance from the Police. Lance Corporal James and six policemen, each armed with a rifle and six rounds of ammunition, were earlier sent from Georgetown early on the morning of June 16 and they reported to the management of Enmore estate at 4.00 a.m. Two hours later, they and took up positions in the factory compound which was protected by a fence 15 feet high with rows of barbed wire running along the outward struts at the top.

By 10.00 a.m. the crowd had grown to between 500 and 600 persons and was led by one of the workers carrying a red flag. They attempted to enter the factory compound through the gates and through two trench gaps at the rear by which punts entered the factory. But they were prevented from doing so because the locked gates and the punt gaps were protected by policemen. A section of the crowd then hurled bricks and sticks at the policemen, and several persons managed to enter the compound on the rear of the factory. The policemen tried to push back the crowd, but after this effort failed, they opened fire and five workers were killed and fourteen others were injured.

Lallabagee Kissoon, 30 years old, was shot in the back; 19-year-old Pooran was shot in the leg and pelvis; Rambarran died from bullet wounds in his leg; Dookhie died in hospital later that day; and Harry died the following day from severe spinal injuries. These men, through the years, became known as the Enmore Martyrs.

On June 17, the funeral of the slain men saw a massive crowd of people marching behind their coffins from Enmore to La Repentir Cemetery in Georgetown, a distance of more than 16 miles. This procession of thousands was led by Dr. Cheddi Jagan and PAC and GIWU leaders. The tragedy and the ultimate sacrifice of these sugar workers greatly influenced Dr. Jagan political philosophy and outlook. On the grave side of the Enmore Martyrs surrounded by thousands of mourners, he made a silent pledge that he would dedicate his entire life to the cause of the struggle of the Guyanese people against bondage and exploitation.

To investigate the shooting, the Governor, Sir Charles Wooley, appointed a commission of enquiry headed by Frederick Boland, a Supreme Court judge. The two other members of the commission were S. L. Van Batenburg Stafford and R. S. Persaud. Evidence was collected from 64 persons and a report was presented in August 1948. Dr. Jagan, Janet Jagan and Dr. Lachmansingh refused to testify before the commission because they felt it was a waste of time owing to the fact that the commission chairman and members were openly showing a bias towards the Police and the management of Enmore Estate.

In their testimony to the Commission, policemen involved in the shooting claimed that they were forced to shoot to protect the factory from destruction or damage and to protect the lives of workers who were on the premises.

The report, as widely expected, justified the shooting. But it criticised the Police for not applying measures, such as the use to tear gas, to keep the crowd away from the factory compound. The members of the commission also felt that the shooting period went beyond what was reasonable when they stated: "We are, therefore, of the opinion that the evidence has established that after the first few shots, there was firing which went beyond the requirements of the situation, with the result that Pooran notably and some others received shots when in actual flight."

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