Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
|Listeners of the Cuffy 250 Forum on Sunday received a grim picture of the conditions under which African Guyanese live and the (mis)treatment meted out to them by the two-year-old Irfaan Ali government. The online forum, organised by the Cuffy 250 Committee, was hosted under the theme “Resisting the Emerging Apartheid State” and saw several presenters spotlighting the government’s adverse management of the political economy.
Without exception, evidence was presented by Dr. Henry Jeffrey, Messrs Lelon Saul, Deron Adams, Vincent Alexander, Kidackie Amsterdam, Darren Wade, Tacuma Ogunseye and Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton, to support their contention. The forum was moderated by Drs. David Hinds and Norman Ng-a-Qui.
Vincent Alexander, co-founder of the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G) addressing the philosophical underpinning of apartheid, which he is racism and where a mechanism to its achievement was separation, he said the system was not just discrimination but the undermining of separation to provide for some and deprival of others.
He noted in Guyana the manifestations are seen in the discriminatory manner the national patrimony is being distributed to deny Africans what belong to them, such as ancestral land, seeking to acquire land, and where the state is now moving in on ancestral and communal lands to distribute as they wish, as though these lands belong to the state to distribute to whomever they wish.
Stating that Guyana has an analogous and metaphorical apartheid that has emerged not emerging, Alexander said we are faced with the question of liberation where it takes on an ethnic dimension, where African Guyanese freedoms are affected; economic growth and development are not being fostered and developed; and the very essence of liberation confronts us as comparisons can be made between liberation struggles in Southern Africa.
Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton, said he does not believe apartheid is emerging but is probably rather here. He listed a several economic measures, including government’s failure to respect collective bargaining and paying members of the Disciplined Services bonus as against increase salary which adversly affect income growth and pension, as he accused the government of stifling the empowerment of Africans, in what he called “economic apartheid.”
In the allocation of resources, such as land for economic opportunities and budgetary allocation in the regional and local governments won by the opposition and in communities considered opposition, the Opposition Leader informed, citizens are being stifled to ensure they do not thrive. The socio-economic, political, and cultural disparities are obvious in what he called the “ethnocratic state” as he challenged the government to prove his claims are untrue.
PPP/C drive to ethnic domination has been successful
Political scientist and former minister in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, said the PPP/C drive to ethnic domination has been successful. And is pervasive. “There is no single area of African social life the PPP had not sought to dominate or depress,” he charged, pointing out that it is so pervasive that Africans are made to feel if they want to progress, they must join the PPP.
Guyana’s experience with majoritarian democracy has not been good, said Jeffery, who also pointed out that the PPP authoritarian and corrupt governance has become legendary. According to him, constitutional reform did not get to the root of Guyana’s problem given the ethno-political conflicts and called on the Opposition Leader and President Irfaan Ali to get together and find a pathway to political inclusion.
The “winner take all” politics has not worked said Jeffery as he rendered advise national unity cannot be attained where ethnic gaps exist in areas such as the private and public sectors and resources are distributed in a discriminatory manner.
Attorney-at-law Darren Wade zeroed in on land justice and its importance to African Guyanese who he said are facing threats of ancestral lands being coveted at the instigation and support of government and distributed to others.
Wade cited the attitude of his ‘learned friend,’ Attorney General Anil Nandlall S.C, who encouraged persons to occupy lands in Kingelly, West Coast Berbice; lands that were bought by freed African Cudjoe McPherson and rightfully belong to his heirs. Those lands were never sold and the transport remains in the family’s possession.
Pivoting to how the government is using race in the award or denial of placement in University of the West Indies law programme, Wade shared his personal story of being denied by the PPP of a prestigious scholarship he received during the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change Government (APNU+AFC). He stated emphatically that African Guyanese, like all races, have a right to equal and equitable treatment, which was a common theme by all the presenters.
Vicious campaign of marginalisation against African Guyanese
If Guyana is to develop, all races must participate equally, said Tacuma Ogunseye, of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA). He spoke of the negative social consequences of black women as security guards and the impact on children and families, pointing out that the liberation of the African community must lead to liberation of all races.
It was pointed out time is running out for Guyanese to get it right, particularly with the influx of foreigners who are seeking to benefit from oil and gas resources. Ogunseye warned that Guyanese could become a minority in their own country and further deprived. He drew attention to the Guyana Constitution which outlines the expressed role of the state facilitating the participation of citizens in development and eliminating barriers that hinder development.
Kidackie Amsterdam, in his presentation, did a visual of the gravity of the situation by showing main streets in African communities that are in deplorable state, as he juxtaposed these to main streets in Indian villages. Pointing to the economic dislocation for residents having to take their produce from point A to B, Amsterdam noted with the impassable roads people are having difficulty building and repairing homes, getting supplies to their businesses, and from their farms to the main road because the streets in the villages are so bad no vehicle wants to go.
Deron Adams, Regional Chairman, Region 10 said in the region they continue to document a wide range of discriminatory practices affecting the daily lives of African Guyanese in areas such as economic equity, security, and human & constitutional rights. He noted and presented evidence of the firing of Afro Guyanese; lack of access to adequate housing; exclusion from high skilled positions and now public service jobs (Charles Rosa School Nursing); discrimination in the awarding of contracts; lack of access to decent health care services; discriminatory action during the cash grant distribution; discrimination to Afro Guyanese farmers (West Watooka and Berbice River); and government’s refusal to give support and access to Small Business loans through the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN).
A vicious campaign of marginalisation is being waged against African Guyanese said, Lelon Saul. He cited several examples in employment in the public sector, the almost absence in some institutions in the private sector, the confiscating of land leases and attempts at coveting ancestral lands to give to PPP supporters. Calling on African Guyanese not to give up their land he also encouraged them to apply for land in Manarabisi, East Berbice-Corentyne, to benefit from a project the government plans on executing.
Turning attention to infrastructural development in African communities comparatively to others and distribution of fertilizer and other grants by the Government, Saul concluded that without a doubt African Guyanese are not being treated equally. He then made the call for collaboration with others that support African empowerment and called on African Guyanese not to support businesses that oppress and subjugate them.