AFC slammed for disrespecting Hindus on Diwali observance


I WRITE to condemn the Alliance For Change (AFC) for its religious insensitivity in calling for the convening of parliament on the eve of Diwali, the most significant celebration for Hindus in Guyana and one in which almost every Guyanese enjoys through participation in the motorcades, concerts and meals (delicacies). 

Hindus in Guyana were fuming with rage that my very good friends Moses Nagamootoo, Khemraj Ramjattan and Veerasammy Rammaya and other MPs and executives of AFC have the audacity to sign on to the party’s demand that parliament meet on the eve of Diwali. At the West Coast motorcade and various other Diwali related events where I was present and in the mandirs on Sunday morning, it was a subject of discussion – like myself, they cannot understand how the AFC, a party that should have been different from the others, could display such gross disrespect for Hindus on insisting that parliament meet on October 22 (today) when Hindus are in the midst of celebrating their festival which is followed by a public holiday in recognition of the importance of the religious event. Worse yet, they feel Moses, Khemraj, Rammaya, all of whom come from Hindu families, and have Hindu neighbours, should know better than to seek the convening of parliament on such an auspicious occasion for Hindus. These gentlemen are my friends but I cannot let them off the hook by not criticising their insensitivity towards Hindus. It shows they don’t even know their own culture. How could these men allow themselves to be led astray to disrespect the entire Hindu population? Here it is that non-Hindus and non-Indians could appreciate Diwali, but the AFC MPs can’t show any respect for the festival. Openness and tolerance of others’ faith must begin at the very top of any organisation. When Hindus themselves don’t understand their practices and traditions, they open themselves to humiliation and become the laughing stock of others. Hindus, in fact all Guyanese, are disappointed in the AFC for its religious insensitivity. A public apology is needed. Diwali is an eternally sacred Hindu event of great spiritual significance in the Rig Vedic Adivasi Puranic culture of Hinduism and Hindus. Recognition of the SHAKTI (invulnerable divine powers) of Maha Lakshmi Devi, the Divine Mother, is of paramount importance to Hindus in Guyana. I expect my friend Moses, for whom I have great regard and consistently extolled his virtues, and by extension he being mindful of DIWALI being a national festival with spiritual, religious and temporal features in respect of which any form of disrespect or violation will redound to the discredit of the country and the nation. DIWALI is a legacy of our illustrious indentured immigrant ancestors and should be seen and duly respected as such. Calling for reconvening parliament on Diwali eve is very disrespectful – it is no different than reconvening parliament on Christmas Eve or the eve of Eid. Diwali is not a one day event. It is observed over a five-day period and it really comes to an end on the sixth day with Goberdhan puja, the day after official observance of Diwali. It is for this reason that parliament goes into recess in many societies (India, Mauritius, Fiji, Natal, Durban, Guadeloupe, etc.) with large numbers of Hindus – they don’t wish to appear insensitive to Hindus. Even in the United States, Congress is in recess, as is Canada and Britain. In neighbouring Trinidad and Suriname, parliament has been in recess for the festival. But in Guyana, it appears it is okay for the AFC to disrespect Hindus. It is also noted that while Diwali is officially celebrated as a holiday on October 22, the day before and after Diwali are very auspicious, when all Hindus engage in fasting and performing pujas. Also, this year, because of the eclipse and the position of the moon, some experts have claimed that Diwali is on October 22 while others claim it is on October 23. Because of the interpretation, and to please Goddess Lakshmi, many Hindus are observing the festival with celebrations on both nights and some mandirs in NY are having special pujas on both evenings. At any rate, it has been the custom in Guyana that diyas are lit in front of homes of Hindus on the eve of Diwali and businesses close up early on that day to facilitate rituals. Parliamentary business cannot and should not be conducted on that day as it is inauspicious for Hindus. AFC should seriously think of attending cultural sensitivity courses to learn about the religious practices of the various faiths in Guyana. The party leadership needs training in religious sensitivity. They have to be trained to follow the practices of peers in India, Durban, Mauritius, Fiji, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, etc., all of which show their respect for the Indian population.


Justus Uwayesu, rescued at 9 from the streets of Rwanda, is enrolled as a freshman at Harvard.CreditIan Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist for The New York Times
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BOSTON — Nine years old and orphaned by ethnic genocide, he was living in a burned-out car in a Rwandan garbage dump where he scavenged for food and clothes. Daytimes, he was a street beggar. He had not bathed in more than a year.

When an American charity worker, Clare Effiong, visited the dump one Sunday, other children scattered. Filthy and hungry, Justus Uwayesu stayed put, and she asked him why.

“I want to go to school,” he replied.

Well, he got his wish.

This autumn, Mr. Uwayesu enrolled as a freshman at Harvard University on a full-scholarship, studying math, economics and human rights, and aiming for an advanced science degree. Now about 22 — his birthday is unknown — he could be, in jeans, a sweater and sneakers, just another of the 1,667 first-year students here.

But of course, he is not. He is an example of the potential buried even in humanity’s most hopeless haunts, and a sobering reminder of how seldom it is mined.

Over the 13 years since his escape from the smoldering trash heap that was his home, Mr. Uwayesu did not simply rise through his nation’s top academic ranks. As a student in Rwanda, he learned English, French, Swahili and Lingala. He oversaw his high school’s student tutoring program. And he helped found a youth charity that spread to high schools nationwide, buying health insurance for poor students and giving medical and scholastic aid to others.

He is nonetheless amazed and amused by the habits and quirks of a strange land.

“I tried lobster, and I thought it was a big fight,” he said. “You have to work for it to get to the meat.” And the taste? “I’m not sure I like it,” he said.

Fresh from a land dominated by two ethnic groups — the majority Hutu and the Tutsi, who died en masse with some moderate Hutu in the 1994 conflict — he says he is delighted by Harvard’s stew of nationalities and lifestyles. He was pleasantly taken aback by the blasé acceptance of openly gay students — “that’s not something we hear about in Rwanda”— and disturbed to find homeless beggars in a nation otherwise so wealthy that “you can’t tell who is rich and who isn’t.”

He says his four suitemates, hailing from Connecticut, Hawaii and spots in between, have helped him adjust to Boston life. But he is still trying to figure out an American culture that is more frenetic and obstreperous than in his homeland.

“People work hard for everything,” he said. “They do things fast, and they move fast. They tell you the truth; they tell you their experiences and their reservations. In Rwanda, we have a different way of talking to adults. We don’t shout. We don’t be rowdy. But here, you think independently.”

Born in rural eastern Rwanda, Mr. Uwayesu was only 3 when his parents, both illiterate farmers, died in a politically driven slaughter that killed some 800,000 people in 100 days. Red Cross workers rescued him with a brother and two sisters — four other children survived elsewhere — and cared for them until 1998, when the growing tide of parentless children forced workers to return them to their village.

They arrived as a drought, and then famine, began to grip their home province. “I was malnourished,” Mr. Uwayesu said. “My brother would tell me, ‘I’m going out to look for food,’ and then he would come back without it. There were times we did not cook the whole day.”

In 2000, young Justus and his brother walked to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital and a city of about one million, in search of food and help. Instead, they wound up at Ruviri, a sprawling garbage dump on the city’s outskirts that was home to hundreds of orphans and herds of pigs.

Justus found a home with two other children in an abandoned car, its smashed-out windows and floor covered with cardboard. For the next year and a half, he said, all but the search for food and shelter fell by the wayside. “There was no shower, no bathing at all,” he said. “The only thing was to keep something warm for the night, something really warm.”

He learned to spot trucks from hotels and bakeries that carried the tastiest castoffs, and to leap atop them to grab his share before they discharged their loads to less nimble orphans.

For days when there was nothing to eat — no trucks came on Sundays, and bigger children claimed most edible garbage — he hoarded food in discarded cooking-oil tins, sunk into trash-fire embers to keep their contents warm.

Mr. Uwayesu said he was hobbled in a fall from one moving trash truck, and once nearly buried alive by a bulldozer pushing mounds of garbage into a pit.

Just 9, he spent nights in terror that a tiger said to roam the dump would attack him (there are no tigers in Africa). In the daytime, begging on the streets, he saw a world that was beyond him. “At noon,” he said, “kids would be coming back from school in their uniforms, running and playing in the road. Sometimes they would call me nayibobo” — literally, forgotten child. “They knew how different we were from them.”

“It was a really dark time, because I couldn’t see a future,” he said. “I couldn’t see how life could be better, or how I could come out of that.”

Purely by chance, Ms. Effiong proved the boy’s savior.

The charity that Ms. Effiong founded, in New Rochelle, N.Y., Esther’s Aid, decided in 2000 to center its efforts on helping Rwanda’s throngs of orphans. One Sunday in 2001, after delivering a shipping container of food and clothing, she took a taxi to the dump, spotted a scrum of orphans and, after some conversation, offered to take them to a safe place.

All but Justus refused. “I took him to where I was, cleaned him up, changed his clothes, dressed the wounds on his body and eventually sent him to primary school,” she said.

In first grade, he finished at the top of his class. It was a sign of grades to come: straight A’s in high school, followed by a seat in a senior high school specializing in the sciences.

Mr. Uwayesu moved into an orphanage run by Esther’s Aid, then, with two sisters, into the compound where Ms. Effiong lives while in Kigali. Throughout his schooling, he worked at the charity, which since has opened a cooking school for girls and is building a campus for orphans.

"My life changed because of her,” he said.

He would not have been able to compete for a spot in an American university without outside help, however. After high school, he applied for and won a seat in a yearlong scholars program, Bridge2Rwanda, run by a charity in Little Rock, Ark., that prepares talented students for the college-application process.

For roughly the past decade, Harvard’s international admissions director has personally scoured Africa for potential applicants each year.

Like most top universities, Harvard chooses its freshmen without regard to their ability to pay tuition. But until this year, the Cambridge campus had only one Rwandan student, Juliette Musabeyezu, a sophomore.

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No more. Of the 25 or so African applicants who made this year’s cut, three are from Rwanda, including a second Bridge2Rwanda scholar.

Not bad for a little country that is home to barely 1 percent of Africa’s billion-plus population. A photograph of Rwanda’s Harvard contingent appears on Ms. Musabeyezu’s Facebook page.




 Guyanese people are more unified than ever---East Indians, Blacks, Amerindians, Mixed races, Chinese, etc, etc are getting along better than ever.


* Thankfully in the year 2014 there is a refreshing change in Guyana.




* President Ramotar recently said, "Where there is UNITY there is VICTORY for the people and the country."


* It is very heart-warming to see peace, prosperity and unity all across Guyana.


* Sure there are problems. No country is problem free. Just today Canada lost her virginity. There was a terrorist attack in Canada today. The first ever such attack in Canada.




* Guyana still has numerous problems but the good news is the greatest asset of Guyana, her people, are more unified than ever. And like President Ramotar said:






Essequibians gladly welcome ‘Because We Care’ education grant

THE Ministry of Education and the Region 2 (Pomeroon-Supenaam) Administration has started the distribution of the $10,000 “Because We Care” education grant to parents whose children are attending public nursery, primary and secondary schools across the Region.

Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh chatting with some parents as they awaited their turn to collect their children’s vouchers at Abram Zuil Secondary

Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh chatting with some parents as they awaited their turn to collect their children’s vouchers at Abram Zuil Secondary


The exercise, which began at 14.00hrs on Monday at ten distribution centres in the south, saw hundreds of parents turning up to collect their $10,000 vouchers.


According to a release from the Department of Education at Cotton Field, Member of Parliament, Mr. Dharamkumar Seeraj was at the Good Hope distribution centre, while Advisor to the President, Mr. Odinga Lumumba was at the Huis t’Dieren Primary School distribution centre.
The release said that Minister of Education, Ms. Priya Manichand was at Suddie Primary School distribution centre, and Minister Jennifer Westford was at the Aurora centre.

Dr. Ashni Singh in discussion with parents at the Abram Zuil Secondary School on the Essequibo Coast

Dr. Ashni Singh in discussion with parents at the Abram Zuil Secondary School on the Essequibo Coast


Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul was at the Fisher Primary School distribution centre and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh was at the Abram Zuil Secondary School centre.


The release said also that MP Mr. Cornel Damon was at Taymouth Manor Primary, while Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Alli Baksh was at the Anna Regina Multilateral School distribution centre. Minister in the Finance Ministry, Bishop Juan Edgehill was at the Cotton Field Secondary School centre, while Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony was at the C.V. Nunes Primary School distribution centre.
At Abram Zuil Secondary, parents turned up in large numbers from as early as midday to collect their vouchers. And while they waited patiently for the Minister of Finance to arrive, the atmosphere was one of excitement and joy, as everyone expressed their satisfaction and gratitude.

More parents waiting to collect their children’s education grant made available by Government at the Abram Zuil Secondary School

More parents waiting to collect their children’s education grant made available by Government at the Abram Zuil Secondary School


Minister Singh, in his address, said the inputs are being provided so children can attend school. He said if children are well educated, then the country will be brighter and more prosperous.
The Finance Minister said the PPP/C Government has, from its earliest days, ensured that more and more resources are added to the education sector.


The Finance Minister, in his charge to parents, said it is not only about the $10,000, but it is necessary that parents do their part to ensure that children are better prepared for a more prosperous Guyana.
Many parents who collected their $10,000 education grant said they are thankful to the caring PPP/C Government.


One parent said the Government is very caring and good to all children of Guyana. She said under the PPP/C Government today children have many opportunities to complete their primary, secondary and university education. The distribution exercise was set to continue at four distribution centres in the north of the Essequibo Coast yesterday.

(Rajendra Prabhulall)


There is a new newsprint (The Guyanese) circulating in Richmond Hill, Little Guyana. It is intended to keep the Diaspora informed of the TRUTH of what is happening in Guyana and your government. This newspaper is an alternative to (KNews). It is colorful and attractive and carries a wealth of good and productive news as apposed to the negative news (KNews) carries. I receive the first set of prints at our place of business yesterday, and I am happy to inform my fellow Guyanese in the diaspora to support this newspaper. The Guyanese - is for people who sees the glass half full rather than half empty. (The Guyanese - is for the optimistic readers). An optimistic sees opportunity where others see uncertainty and despair. So, here you have it, folks.