When the PPP tells the story they say that Vibert De Souza, then Minister of Amerindian Affairs, proposed that the name Timehri be replaced by the name Cheddi as a tribute to the life of the political PPP founding father.
To understand the reason why Vibert would undertake to remove the honor and commemoration bestowed upon our Amerindian people by replacing the indigenous name with that of the founding father of a political party with a questionable manifesto, we may have do some political dissection to track what could have been Vibert’s motivation.
Vibert’s bio tells a very uncompelling tale. He was born in Moruka in the Northwest District of Guyana and has been a member of the PPP from his youth, being a member of the PYO. He got all the jobs that people with his complexion got in those days –working at JP Santos and St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, even selling insurance at Hand in Hand Mutual – and was rewarded for his service to the PPP by being named the First Minister of Amerindian Affairs by President Cheddi Jagan.
Vibert himself has had a very contentious relationship with other Amerindians, most notably Damon Gerrad Corrie who filleted De Souza’s character, stabbing even at the percentage of Amerindian Heritage De Souza possesses. Corrie seems to have posed many questions to Vibert about his heritage and his commitment to the preservation of tribal practices. But his was already the smiling face on every pamphlet that the PPP distributed, and through his smile they were able to tout themselves as the first government to recognize our Amerindian people and their contribution to the fabric of our culture.
But, there are some things in our political history that cannot be disputed, simply because there are inexpugnable records that are supported by existing copies and photographs. In 1964, then Premier Forbes Burnham spoke of bringing to the fore, our Amerindian peoples, by giving them a seat at the government’s bargaining table and in 1976 it was PNC’s Dr. Ptolemy Reid who handed over the first Certificate of Title to Captain Mary Williams of Mainstay Waiaka – a symbol that the PNC was supportive of the Amerindians’ claim to their lands.
So, the PPP’s propaganda speeches about the PNC not having any love for the Amerindians was purely to get their political support and to steer them in to harboring thoughts of Afro Guyanese that were, to say the least, non brotherly. Theirs was simply spin, when they said that the PPP was the first to build schools and churches and hospitals for Amerindians and that if it weren’t that party the Amerindians would have no hostels or chance of getting in to high schools.
Many of us remember the Hostel on Princess Street in Georgetown that was built by the PNC government around 1968 to house several students for Queens College and Bishop’s High school, which were premier institutions back then, as well as other high schools that offered scholarships to students who demonstrated academic prowess….
…Which brings us back to 1997, quasi President Sam Hinds, political Gepetto Janet Jagan and an Amerindian molded for a moment such as then, named Vibert De Souza.
The passing of Cheddi in 1997 was the catalyst for Janet to ensure that their legacy of communism was enshrined. She would have done it by renaming Linden, some variation of the Jagan name but I think, in that, her political ambitions knew mortal boundaries.
So, Janet chose the Airport – our country’s face to the international community and the door to our country’s soul. She was already in firm grip of the strings that manipulated puppet Sam Hinds -the most transient head of state in our country’s history – and she knew that Vibert, a man of unimpressive political stature and very tapered civic vision by virtue of his encampment in the PYO, was there to do her bidding.
When Sam, during one of his transitory positions in office decided to rename the Airport Cheddi Jagan International and Vibert seconded the motion by citing the renaming as fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to serving Amerindians, while Janet stood by with the cloth half way off the plaque to solidify the commemoration, none of us was surprised and none of us was cheering either because we saw it as a desecration to an honor that had been rightfully bestowed and a brazen displacement of tribute to Amerindians and their place in our country’s history.
The new Administration is correcting many wrongs in its short tenure.
Yesterday we saw the restoration of integrity in the passing of the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill.
There’s more restoration to be made and it goes past the inclusion of our indigenous brothers at the inauguration of the current president.
Let’s restore the name to our country’s main gateway, Timeheri International, and for all the right reasons.