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Managing multicultural challenge in a small plural state such as Guyana requires in depth study prior to the implementation of any policy that may adversely affect specific ethnic groups. More specifically, the desire to achieve ethnic balance in the workplace should not be done willy-nilly, since it will engender public discord. Hence, those who are promoting this agenda must be prepared to accept the consequences.
Traditionally, Afro Guyanese are primarily government employees, an inheritance of our colonial past and a cultural facet of the Guyanese society. Thus, any attempt to upset the status quo will be viewed with great suspicion. Afro Guyanese are underrepresented in the private sector, in businesses and commerce. Forcing them out of the public service will create undue hardship owing to an absence of soft landing in the private sector and a hostile environment.
Unfortunately, over the past two years employment and economic opportunities for Afro Guyanese in some sectors have decreased significantly. The evidence seems to suggest that Afro Guyanese are only employable as security guards and other blue-collar jobs at the lowest rung of the employment scale.
The employment practice of government ministries/agencies and some private sector organisatons is biased against the employment of Afro Guyanese. For example, an examination of the Region # 10 Board of Guardian showed not a single member of the Board is Afro Guyanese, even though the majority of region’s population is Afro Guyanese. At the Ministry of Social Services, there is a deliberate attempt to Indianise the ministry at the expense of Afro professionals. The situation is worse in some private corporations. At some commercial banks and insurance companies among others there is little or no Afro Guyanese presence among the employees.
The constitution of Guyana guarantees the right to employment, however they are those whom by their actions are bent on denying Afro Guyanese this right, even though thousands of Afro Guyanese are either unemployed or under-employed.
At his swearing as a GECOM’s commissioner, Clement Rohee on Tuesday August 17, 2022, boldly advocates for the composition of GECOM’s staff to reflect the ethnic composition of the country. While he claims such action will result in the professionalization of GECOM there is no study to support his witless proposition. Rohee should be aware that the professionalization of GECOM is impossible to achieve with partisan commissioners and therefore should have advocated for a new method of appointing nonpartisan and competent commissioners.
There are scores of senior Peoples Progressive Party activists who have been persistently advocating for ethnic balance in government ministries and departments where Afro Guyanese are in the majority but are conveniently silent in areas where Indo Guyanese are the majority. Further, they do not see some sections of the private sector with questionable employment practices which at its best can be deemed racist.
The government approach to employment in the public service and semi-autonomous agencies cannot work in its current form since it is biased. It does not guarantee the professionalization of government services but merely reinforce ethnic triumphalism and mediocrity and further widen the ethnic fault line.
A worthy recommendation in overcoming this problem is the establishment of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce laws pertaining to discrimination against employment owing to race, creed, religion among other variables.
Afro Guyanese have been in this country for four hundred years. We were enslaved, we toiled not for ourselves, but so-called masters and we fought for our freedom and achieved same. Therefore, no discriminatory policy can keep us back, we will continue to fight against all forms of injustice and unsavory attacks.