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Not for the first time, the country has to confront the uncomfortable development of racial prejudice in the open space. Only a few weeks ago, a minister of government was heard saying that African Guyanese young people did not have role models to emulate. On the surface, that statement could be seen as a harmless observation. But in our delicate environment, it got the minister in a lot of trouble, particularly within the African Guyanese community. It reeked of an attack on racial honor, which is one of the root causes of ethno-racial conflict.
As if nothing was learned from that episode, here comes another Indian Guyanese elite male being accused of hurling racial epithets at an African Guyanese female police rank who was on duty at his father’s residence. He is also accused of spitting on the rank who reported that she fled the scene out of fear for her safety. Since then, there have been condemnations from several quarters. But conspicuously, there have been none from the ruling party, the government and Indian Guyanese interest groups.
This publication is treating the incident as an allegation, especially since the police has not given any indication that it has acted on the report which we understand has been duly lodged. The complainant’s lawyer has also filed legal action against the accused who is also a lawyer himself. That the police have not acted remains a mystery. But this is part of the problem. One is forced to ask whether the police is avoiding entanglement in what could be perceived as a politically sensitive issue. If that is so, it only adds fuel to the fire since there is the charge of abuse.
This publication is very clear that there is now a developing pattern of racial prejudice coming from people with privilege in the society. This is most instructive. We have drawn attention in the past to the convergence of power and prejudice. We accept that racial prejudice may be just beneath the surface in our racially charged environment. But the fact that some citizens feel that their actions are less likely to be sanctioned by the authorities, may be what is fueling the pattern that is emerging. The inaction by the police in the matter at hand gives credence to this theory.
There is another factor at play here—gender. Going hand in had with the racial element is the fact that women seem to be the target of these powerful men. Just a few weeks ago, another male government minister was heard hurling sexist remarks to a female member of the National Assembly. That Minister got the support of the highest leadership in government. The very minister is now at the center of another scandal involving another woman. The president has refused to address the matter. He instead advised the complainant to go to the police. He is obviously oblivious to the fact that the other woman at the center of the racist allegations is still awaiting police action on her complaints.
These developments cannot be left unaddressed by those in power. The ruling party and government owe it to the country to confront what is becoming a big problem for the country. We feel that the issue of race relations remains one of the great hinderances to our country’s forward movement. For too long we have kicked the ball down the road. Guyana cannot afford a racial confrontation—we have been down that road before. The government must act now. As a start, the police must act on this matter regarding the female police rank forthwith.