Caribvoice's Blog

Abu Bakr is inaccurate

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In a letter titled, ‘Who is the ‘Indian intellectual’? in the Stabroek News of 11/19/15, Abu Bakr wrote: “An activist called Annan Boodram writes letters a couple of years ago blaming persistent suicide patterns in the Indo-Guyanese community on Burnham/PNC, a trope for Black people. There was an exchange with me on the subject. One objects because we cannot allow the venom to be injected into veins every time a self-described Indian intellectual opens his mouth. I think Mr Boodram has seen the error as he has initiated a laudable effort in the suicide awareness field.”
This statement is NOT accurate in a number of ways. Firstly, I never ever wrote any letter at any time ‘blaming persistent suicide patterns in the Indo-Guyanese community on Burnham/PNC’.
Secondly my exchange with Abu Bakr, was on social media, not the print media, was about the genesis of suicide as a huge issue in Guyana.
I simply pointed out that the problem did not suddenly materialize in a vacuum under the PPP administration but actually began much earlier under the previous administration. Thus the factors that impacted suicide, would have been in existence or arisen under the government of the day. Any blame apportioned to the government of the day would have been in so far as they may have been directly or indirectly responsible for the genesis of any of the impacting factors and for any official neglect in addressing the issue. So Bakr’s conclusion that any blame to the PNC is “a trope for Black people” is wholly and solely, Mr. Bakr’s intellectual property. Neither did I make such a connection explicitly or implicitly in any media or at any fora.
In fact, Abu Bakr would be only too well aware that The Caribbean Voice was very vociferous in taking the PPP government to task for its neglect with respect to addressing suicide, even as we consistently lobbied them to take action and even as we made it clear that they could not escape blame for the current crisis.
Also, non-Indians, including Blacks, were then committing suicide then as they are now, so any reference to suicide as an Indian problem is not only inaccurate but points to a mindset that is still steeped in a divisive us vs them game with respect to an issue that is now a national crisis. As someone who has personally lived the agony of being both a suicide survivor and a once suicidal person, I strongly urge Abu Bakr and all others to please stop locating suicide within the context of race or use it as an issue to score cheap points. When The Caribbean Voice gets an SOS, we don’t look at race or ask about political affiliation; we simply understand that a life is at stake and we urgently need to ease the pain as a first step towards reversing the suicidal mindset. Ditto for all suicide prevention activists and NGOs.
Thirdly, I have never ever described myself as an intellectual, either verbally or in writing in any media or at fora. Any reference to myself has always been as an educator, social activist and journalist/media personnel.
Finally, the suicide prevention campaign with which I’m involved was catalyzed by a critical need, driven by caring concern and is manned by many volunteers, who give of their time, efforts and resources, both in the Diaspora and in Guyana. My involvement is the result of a personal journey of agony and soul searching and a realization that redress cannot be brought about by rhetoric but by applying Mahatma Gandhi’s timeless dictum: ‘be the change you want to see.” And so I urge Abu Bakr to jettison his acrimony and join us on in applying the Mahatma’s principle, to save lives.

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