Racial tension over controversial death of Guyana teen
By Bert Wilkinson
Guyana’s race relations commission has intervened in the dispute over the controversial death of a teenager during a botched religious exorcism two weeks ago, calling for religious tolerance and asking people in the sleepy farming community across the Georgetown Harbor not to see the issue through racial or religious prisms.
High school student Sangeeta Persaud was pronounced dead at a WestCoast hospital after being rushed there when it became clear that her condition had worsened, after hours of attempts by members of a Christian church to exorcise demonic spirits from her.
The child had been taken to the nearby community church by her mother and grandmother, who had said Sangeeta was “manifesting spirits” and making unusual animal sounds after having a cup of tea at breakfast on March 28.
Ethnic Relations Commission Chairman Juan Edghill said last weekend that the Commission is disappointed that race has become a factor in the death of the teen, of East Indian origin, at the hands of Pastor Ewart Cummings, the only person of African origin in the 50-member church at Canal Number Two Polder,about 15 miles west of the Georgetown, the Guyana capital.
Racial tension between Indo- and Afro-Guyanese is a fact of daily life here, and most Guyanese vote along racial lines rather than on the issues.
“We don’t want to make this more inflammatory but the reality is Pastor Ewart Cummings is an Afro-Guyanese. Obviously there is some annoyance and discomfort with people converting to Christianity (from Hinduism) in the community. I found it very amusing that even some of our more learned and enlightened Guyanese would have taken the opportunity to write to vilify a sect, saying [some]people taking advantage of [other] people’s poverty,” Edghill said after a recent visit to the community.
Police have not arrested anyone relating to Persaud’s death but have said that the matter will likely undergo a coroner’sinquest to determine“who is responsible for her death” as an autopsy was inconclusive.
He argued that people in the Hindu-dominated farming enclave have a right to convert to a religion of their choice and should not be vilified by others for doing so.
He defended the exorcism by saying that leaders from all the major religions administer prayers for the sick. “It’s an everyday practice all across Guyana and it’s not limited to any sect that is taking advantage of poor people in Guyana,” he said, referring to newspaperletter-writers -- including University of Guyana Pro Chancellor Prem Misr, who have criticized the child’s death, calling for criminal proceedings or denouncing religious conversion.
Edghill, even questioned whether the medical treatment administered to the child was correct as he called for a thorough investigation.
This article was found at: