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Being overwhelmed with complaints of alleged racism and accusations of discrimination premised on racial consideration the Executive Council of the Guyana Public Service Union in 1994 appointed a committee to investigate these complaints and to submit a report. The investigating team recommended that the President of GPSU address the issues based on its findings, including an amendment to the GPSU Rules to deal comprehensively with the identified concerns. The Union’s Executive Council unanimously agreed with the recommendations.
The amendment to the rules required adjudication by the Union’s Biennial Delegates Conference, which required much preparation. The first presentation of the related amendments was not successful, because in order to amend the rules, it was necessary that the objectives of the Union Rules reflect any new directives. This was not done initially and was subsequently corrected. The Executive was then given the mandate to fully address concerns of racism. This important step was initiated with a grand launching of the standing committee to address racism.
The Executive Council viewed effectively addressing the scourge of racism as so important that it chose 9 June 1997, a day after the Union’s anniversary, to launch the Racism Committee. This was done at the National Cultural Centre and the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Janet Jagan was invited to give the feature address. A symposium followed the launch and the event was widely covered by the print and electronic media –a grand occasion for which we were justly proud. This process led to the sensitization of members and others further afield of the need to improve race relations within the membership of the GPSU and beyond.
Over the years, in pursuit of this mission, the GPSU has been spearing no effort to impact improved race relations not only nationally, but also regionally and internationally. The Union has been in the vanguard of the Public Services International (PSI), advancing and advocating for more direct involvement in the eradication of racism, globally. At the PSI’s World Congress in Ottawa, Canada in 2002 the GPSU successfully advocated by means of a resolution that racism and xenophobia be a priority on its agenda, thus realizing the emphasis the Union places on this issue. The GPSU’s President was elected unanimously to be the Caribbean’s Representative on the Inter American Regional Committee on Racism and Xenophobia.
Notwithstanding this, racism in Guyana is a roller coaster ride and it is felt that this could best be addressed nationally at Parliamentary sittings, political exposés, religious and family caucuses. Towards the achievement of this objective, the GPSU has included Race Relations on the Agenda of all Educational Programme.
Commemorating anniversaries brings reflections, not just celebration. The Union is proud of its track record in gathering evidence, speaking out, enlightening and its membership commitment, both past and present.
Public Servants have highlighted a number of acts of racial discrimination that were either observed or visited upon them by employers, but this when challenged was either met with resistance or the cases were completely ignored. Members have been always urged by the GPSU Leadership to adopt a positive and strong anti-racist culture and to foster individual equality in all dealings.
Government on the other hand has maintained and continues to enact a culture of “hostility” epitomized by dismissals, non-renewal of contracts and other forms of discrimination. There is a strong perception that these negative actions are premised mainly on racial considerations and to some lesser extent on political favoritism.
In this regard, the Guyanese people need creditable, non-partisan, and trustworthy leadership, committed to fairness, evenhandedness and consistency in expressions and actions to impact, encourage and impress citizens to believe and trust that it is enlightening and beneficial to have harmonious human relations.
In observance of this 24th Anniversary of the launching of the GPSU Committee on Racism, the leadership of the GPSU pledges to vigorously pursue the task of eradicating all forms of racism, xenophobia and discrimination, in recognition of the reality that in societies there will always be differences and varying preferences, but these issues should be resolved through enlightened approaches of conflict resolution.
GPSU is therefore inviting all Guyanese to join it in this universal mission in the interest of the survival of all mankind.