Exclusions and discriminations

first_imgThe report produced on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) titled, “Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Assessment of Guyana”, is valuable for several reasons: the least not being it was produced by a source seen as “friendly” to the present Government. Friends are allowed to be candid in their assessments and the subjects are expected to take suggestions in good stead.One observation related to the accusation by the Government that a statement in late July to a New York group by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo constituted “race baiting”. What Jagdeo actually said was “There is an assault on our democracy. There is an assault on people of Indian origin. There is an assault on supporters of the PPP. What we thought would never return to Guyana in just one short year has returned with full force, and even worse in some regards than the Burnham era.”Honing in on the section that referred to “an assault on people of Indian origin”, a statement issued through the offices of the Prime Minister and Presidency “condemn(ed), in the strongest possible terms, the irresponsible, hateful race baiting and malicious fabrications and falsehoods uttered by Opposition Leader Mr Bharrat Jagdeo.” In the following days, a sharp debate has erupted on the claims and counterclaims that, unfortunately, followed the lines of cleavage where race and politics coincide in Guyana.However, the USAID report, the data for which was compiled towards the end of last year – at least six months before the Opposition Leader made his statement – pointed out in reference to discrimination, “…there is perceived and real ethnic exclusion from the political processes and social discrimination based on race, gender, socio-economics, and sexual orientation. There is also de facto discrimination of indigenous people and those who live in the periphery in terms of access to social services and economic development.” It also said, “Too few resources are used for public good. Rural and hinterland communities are disproportionately affected.”Since the report took pains to confirm what had long been denied publicly – which is that the two major parties are ethnically based, it is difficult to understand the Government’s denunciation of Mr Jagdeo for highlighting the concerns of his constituency. A few weeks later, President David Granger, who is both the leader of the PNC and APNU, addressed a gathering of African Guyanese at the “African Forum” and referring to the PPP Administration, bluntly said: “There is evidence that there was discrimination.” Claiming that “we no longer have to face the song-and-dance people”, he explicitly acknowledged that African Guyanese must work together to ensure the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights through their full and equal participation in all aspects of society.No one should denounce these statements as “racist” or as “race baiting” as they reflect the reality of politics being practised in a polity in which the concerns of the ethnic constituencies must be addressed. While the report went on to suggest a raft of short and medium-term measures to address the above and other political challenges in Guyana, they all are centred on constitutional changes that will not be easy to agree on in the short or medium terms as we explained in yesterday’s editorial “State of the State”.What we would suggest is the Administration implement immediately the “Ethnic Impact Statement” proposal it promised in its Manifesto. What this means is before any policy or initiative is launched, the Government should issue a statement on its possible impact on the several ethnic communities. For instance, if the Police and GDF are to embark on a recruitment drive or if the People’s Militia is to be resuscitated, statements should be issued ahead of time explaining whether and why there might be discrepancies in ethnic composition.To proceed otherwise is to invite charges of “ethnic discrimination”. And most likely, counter charges of “race baiting”?last_img read more