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Prime Minister Mark Phillips must do much more than talk the talk about the proud descendants of enslaved Africans who fought for freedom. He must walk the walk.
As the second most powerful constitutional leader in the Executive, his is the privileged opportunity to stand up like the African braves of yore and address injustices being meted out by his government.
African Guyanese are not asking Phillips to take away the rights of any group or treat others lesser than. They are asking him, as a black man, in the seat of power to ensure there is racial justice for the community. Phillips, former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, is in similar position of power and influence, if not more, than Colin Powell, who both as United States (U.S) Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has earned the reputation of ensuring African Americans’ contributions to U.S development are properly recorded, they are treated as equal participating members in society, and their welfare protected. Powell has been able to do this in a white majority society.
Phillips has the opportunity to be a Powell, to stand like a true soldier in defence of rights and freedoms, whether in uniform or civilian clothes. He more than most knows the importance of sovereignty and that sovereignty is not confined only to borders but what happens within. It is not perchance countries go to war with others to protect human rights and freedoms within theirs.
Phillips has the opportunity to end the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) economic genocide programme against the African community. This programme had particularly targeted and dismantled, and put into the category as a depressed community, the once proud and thriving town of Linden/Region 10 where he is from.
His is equally the opportunity as is the minister of agriculture, who recently went to Enmore and said to lay off sugar workers the government will attend to their needs and provide relief for them in the form of seed, molasses and other assistance, to realise offers of similar assistance in the African communities. The minister’s boast about the G$10 billion the regime gave to the beleaguered Guyana Sugar Corporation, that is producing sugar at approximately $US0.41 cents per pound and selling at US$ 0.23 cents, must see the same level of subsidies placed in African and Amerindian communities.
Phillips has a responsibility, as a member of Cabinet, when he hears discussions and decisions that will positively impact the lives of East Indian Guyanese to advocate the same for African Guyanese. He should be able to provide evidence of economic injustices in the African community and demand that these be fixed. If he cannot find them, let him come, I will help him.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) said the flooding resulted in Level 2 and Level 3 disasters. Regions Seven and 10 are among the five regions rated at Level 3 but no resources are directed to these regions as others that have had similar or less disaster rating. It should not matter that the named regions are considered strongholds of the opposition. The affected are all Guyanese, regardless of race or political association.
Mr Phillips is strategically placed to get the government to move with alacrity to resolve the 11-year-old dispute between the Bauxite Company Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) and Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU). The non-resolution of this grievance is affecting the socioeconomic and psychological welfare of the workers and their communities. He and Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd, a fellow Lindener, can hold hands and demand the PPP bring an end to the suffering of their town’s men and women.
Phillips must be driven by conviction that he believed in what he said in his Emancipation Message that One Guyana includes everybody, which means that every citizen must benefit from the nation’s patrimony and enjoy their rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana. Moreso, he must stand up and make sure that Africans are not deprived of ancestral lands which were purchased through cooperative means in the immediate post emancipation period.
In his message he spoke about knowing the Constitution and upholding it. Let him tell President Ali to meet with Joseph Harmon to address issues of governance, including the appointing of the Chancellor and Chief Justice, two accomplished black sisters, who by being in the positions over a considerable period, far beyond what a stipulated and acceptable probation period would have been, are deserving of confirmation. Said position was articulated for Carl Singh and Ian Chang and is upheld today.
As President David Granger was held accountable for failing to reverse the programme of economic genocide, which was imposed by the PPP/C, I shall too hold Phillips accountable. As Sam Hinds was held accountable actively participating in the economic disembowelment of the African community, particularly in bauxite, I will similarly hold Mr Phillips accountable.
The Prime Minister has an opportunity to make his deceased father, whom I knew well, proud. He must be able to look at his loved ones and the community he is from in their eyes as a man who stood up as a fighter for what is just and fair. He must prove that the job for him is not about the perks of the office. He must prove himself by not only talking the talk but walking the walk.