Women's Issues In Guyana

The rape allegation should have been fully investigated

Stabroek News – March 28, 2008

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter by Bro Eusi Kwayana captioned “The boycott of the St. Vincent conference by Dr Peggy Antrobus and Andaiye was a significant example of affirmative action” (08.03.26). He is among the most respected Caribbean politicians (although unofficially retired), a man of incorruptible honesty and integrity.

I fully support his call that there should be a proper and neutral investigation of the accusation of rape from a female constable by the Prime Minister of St. Vincent. No one (not even a Prime Minister or President) is above the law and no one should violate a woman’s body although it goes on all the time in Guyana by some officials.

The St. Vincent woman should have her day in court and the P.M should clear his name that way rather than have someone working under him to clear his name.

When I first read about the rape allegation a few months ago in the Trinidad Express, I was taken aback and didn’t think it could be true. I know Dr. Ralph Gonsalves well. He was one of the Caribbean politicians I respected and admired for his fiery brand of Caribbean nationalism during the late 1970s and 1980s. I helped to organize a seminar for him at City College in the early 1980s and heard him speak subsequently at other conferences. He was an outstanding speaker. He addressed the problems Guyana was experiencing and paid tribute to the late Dr. Rodney who was recently assassinated.

He also praised Dr. Jagan for his contributions to Caribbean independence movements, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. He referred to Dr. Jagan as “the dean of Caribbean socialists”. Joey Jagan also spoke at the CCNY conference which was co-sponsored by the Black Studies Department, the Car-ibbean Students Association, and the Student Government where I served as an elected Senator for the Natural Sciences.

Dr. Gonsalves came across as a progressive defender of women’s rights extolling the virtues of women in the struggle for better governance in the Caribbean. He also talked about women in the WPA and if my memory is right I believe he mentioned the names of Bonita Harris, Karen De Souza and Andaiye, among others, in his talk on the struggle against the Burnham dictatorship. So Ralph knows Andaiye and she would call him by his first name.

Dr. Gonsalves is a leader with whom you can have a personable conversation and tell him off. He does not get offended. From time to time, I bounced up with Ralph (as people fondly call him) at Caricom conferences and briefly would reminisce about his progressive positions, his lecture at CCNY, and how voters in St. Vincent told me he has deviated from the positions he once held. Most recently, I met him last October at a reception hosted by Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn where I spoke frankly with him about complaints from St. Vincentian friends about his rule. He laughed it out.

Last December, Gonsalves offered to resign over a labour dispute and then shortly after that came the rape allegation. I was hoping to catch him at the Nassau summit and give him a piece of my mind about what is happening in his island nation. Ralph is a respected left-wing leader and he should govern in a manner beyond reproach.

Given his respect for women and his position as a “feminist”, naturally, I was shocked that an accusation of rape was levelled against Gonsalves. I saw the report a couple of months ago that cleared him. And I saw another report in the Trinidad papers earlier this month dismissing the allegation (following an appeal from the victim) saying the P.M has no charge to answer. I support Eusi. Let the court clear Ralph.

With regards to the boycott of St. Vincent conference, I would have preferred Andaiye to go to St. Vincent and give Ralph a tongue lashing and then walk out of the conference.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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