Boro Guyanese keep in touch with homeland

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They may be more than 2,500 miles from their homeland, but the 50 people who attended a backyard political meeting off Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill Saturday had politics in Guyana on their minds.

Both curious onlookers and fervent political observers came to hear Ravi Dev, the leader of Rise Organize and Rebuild Guyana, known as ROAR, a fledgling, conservative political party that just six months after forming captured one national and two regional seats in the South American nation’s elections last March.

“The Richmond Hill area has a lot of first-generation Guyanese still close to the politics back in Guyana,” said Dev. “There’s never been a time when I’ve visited New York that there hasn’t been interest in Guyana.”

In his talk, Dev chronicled the current political situation in Guyana, paying particular attention to a recent strike by sugar workers, killings of civilians by customs officials, the state of the Guyanese economy and the role he envisions his party playing in Guyana’s future.

Dev said he sees a bright forecast for Guyana despite a paralyzed economy, mass emigration and killings of civilians suspected of smuggling by BASS officials, the government’s armed customs wing. He said recent protests around the country were a sign that people were ready for change.

“Even though all of Guyana seems to be falling apart, I am more optimistic that it is about to turn the corner,” he said. “What I see planted in these protests and uprisings is a democracy where people will demand representa­tion.”

Guyana’s current government is led by the People’s Progressive Party, which was democratically elected in 1992 after 28 years of rule by the People’s National Congress. Guyanese have traditionally voted along racial lines, said Dev, with Indians supporting the People’s Progressive Party and Afro-Guyanese voting for the People’s National Congress.

According to CIA records, the population of Guyana is 51 percent East Indian, 43 percent Afro-Guyanese and 6 percent other.

“Whichever group has the majority has historically won,” said Puran Fukhai, a supporter of ROAR. “We are saying let’s share this pie. Let’s both sides respect one another.”

Dev said his biggest reason for speaking to the Richmond Hill gathering was to promote the potential role Guyanese Americans can play in promoting democracy in Guyana.

“The people of New York should help their brothers and sisters in Guyana to understand that the democratic process demands they hold their officials responsible,” he said. “They’ve experienced the function of a real democracy here and can play a role in transmitting it to Guyana.”

For many Guyanese Americans who attended, going to the meeting was a chance to stay involved in a homeland to which they still have ties.

“I always keep abreast with news on Guyana over the Internet,” said Navin Shivprashad, who came to New York in 1987 and whose father still owns a business in Guyana. “I’m here to find out what plans ROAR has for the country.”

Balram Rambrich usually reads about Guyana in the Caribbean Indian Times and other newspapers. An aerospace engineer who arrived from Guyana in 1977, he said he came to hear what Dev had to say about the state of Guyana’s economy.

“The country has big economic problems,” he said. “A lot of people are leaving because of the economy and violence.”

George Correia, who landed in New York in 1980, said he supported Dev because he hopes to one day be able to return to Guyana to live.

“One day maybe people can return home instead of coming here,” he said. “I’m a Guyanese by heart.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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