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Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh accused the Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) of having no sensible response to the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government’s agenda.
In a televised programme with the Department of Public Information (DPI) on Saturday, Singh dismissed what he referred to as “baseless” discrimination talks by the Opposition.
According to Singh, “The recourse to the ethnic bogeyman, the baseless statement being made about discrimination are reflective of the fact that the APNU+AFC has no sensible response to the comprehensive agenda that is being implemented by President Ali’s PPP/C Government.”
In the DPI interview Singh highlighted the government’s distributions of the cash grant and school grant to every region and every household as evidence there is no discrimination. What the minister did not address or provide evidence to counter is repeated claims by the Opposition and citizens the grants, particularly the cash grant, were discriminatorily distributed. Many are still holding their pink slips and many have not received a pink slip.
The Opposition and civil society have called on the government to do an audit of the cash grant. More than a year later the information has not been laid before the nation to validate or invalidate accusations of discrimination.
The minister said the government’s developmental agenda is evident in the consistent pattern of the annual budgetary allocations, and policy position that created an environment for job opportunities and income generation. Again, the Opposition and civil society have accused the government of discrimination in allocations of resources in regions declared for the APNU+AFC or in towns and villages where their supporters dominate.
Deron Adams, Chairman, Region Ten Regional Democratic Council, in a presentation at the Cuffy250 forum in August outlined the situation in his region. According to the chairman, 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.
At that forum he presented evidence of the firing of Afro Guyanese; lack of access to adequate housing; exclusion from high skilled positions and 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). The government has not denied the allegations or proven them not to be true.
Similar complaints were made in other areas. Government is also accused for engaging in discrimination is land allocation, ensuring land titles for supporters squatting on state land as they move to evict non-supporters from squatting areas. The case of Pigeon Island is one such. Last August the government informed those squatters that by year-end residents will receive titled documents for the lands they occupy.
The Pigeon Island’s story has been juxtaposed to treatment of African Guyanese squatters in Mocha Arcadia, East Bank Demerara. The plight of one Mark Hyman attracted attention. He was living in the area for 35 years when the Central Housing and Planning Authority moved in with workers and started breaking up his two-storyed concrete house.
Hyman said he owns 30 plus pigs, 240 chickens (140 layers, 200 meat birds), plants a garden and sells eggs, pork, vegetables (greens) to the community for a living. According to him, the government made an offer to him of GUY$14,000 to build a 45 feet X 24 feet house elsewhere. Money, he said, cannot construct such a property nor help him with relocating.
The government is also accused of discrimination in the treatment of workers. The two-year-old Irfaan Ali government has not yet met with the trade unions that represent workers in public servants, teachers, and bauxite to engage in collective bargaining. The Guyana Public Service Union has taken the government to court on the matter.