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The A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) is not accepting the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) denial of racism and discrimination in the management of Guyana. At its Tuesday’s press conference, Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Aubrey Norton, said the PPP’s call for evidence of ethnic and political discrimination is intended for them to continue discriminating while disowning it. “Given the serious implications of this issue on political stability and social cohesion, we wish to elaborate.”
The following is the Opposition’s response to the Government
PPP discrimination is evident in the following:
(a) the threat to bulldoze African Guyanese who occupy lands that the PPP want while regularizing squatters perceive to be PPP supporters. This is evident in the PPP dealing with Mocha;
(b) the allocation of more than 75% of the contracts in Region 10 to PPP supporters from outside of the region.
(c) the disproportionate and disrespectful manner in which the PPP treats opposition-controlled local councils and communities (for examples: RDC# 4 and 10, Mocha, Dazzell and Bare Root on the ECD, and Indigenous villages);
(d) the blatant attempts of the PPP to undermine or hijack organizations that represent ethnic rights and interests, such as the National Toshoas Council, the Cooperative Societies (particularly, the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union), and IDPADA-G;
(e) the scant regard the PPP has shown toward offering adequate wages and other benefits for public servants;
(f) the politicization and discrimination practiced in the distribution of cash grants by putting its local party activists in charge of allocation.
SECONDLY, the efforts by the PPP and its Prime Minister to deny the existence of discrimination because of what the government has done in Afro-Guyanese or Indigenous communities is an exercise in deception. A new road or bridge in Buxton proves nothing if expenditure is still skewed towards communities in PPP strongholds. And we have witnessed several examples of this lopsided spending. The hog of the national patrimony goes to the PPP elite, family, friends and favourites.
The PPP cannot successfully deny the existence of ethnic and political discrimination. If they want to they must reveal how expenditures and projects are allocated across regions, towns, villages, and local government areas. They must provide the data on all who are obtaining contracts. It should upfront inform all communities what their total budgetary allocation from the central government would be. It must inform communities what measures are in place to ensure local residents can benefit as contractors and workers from projects in their communities.
THIRDLY, the PPP obsession with domination causes them to disregard and discriminate against those persons, groups, communities, and institutions that it considers as obstacles. Similarly, the more it will ignore the rule of law and the norms of consultations and cooperation. This is exactly what is occurring in Guyana today as the PPP strives for total domination. Inevitably, they will have to engage in ethnic and political discrimination and marginalization of individuals, groups and communities.
Witness the situation in Mocha and more recently in Belladrum – where the PPP bypassed the local councils, the community representatives, and the bulk of the residents themselves. It is undeniable that had these been its strongholds, the PPP’s approach would have been less bare-faced.
Likewise, the attack by the PPP on IDPADA-G and the Cooperative Credit unions and the Linden Utility Service has nothing to do with its fake claim of ensuring their financial propriety. It is all about a political party that is hell-bent on total domination and on trying to make all Guyanese beholden to it.
FOURTHLY, The PPP government has passed no legislation, proposed and implemented no policy, has established or supported no institution, nor has launched any public enquiry on the issue of ethnic and political discrimination in Guyana. Instead, we see the opposite, with the underfunding and undermining, for example, of the ERC and the Public Procurement Commission. For the record, it was the Coalition government that resurrected these commissions, and which empowered all communities through the holding of local government elections in 2016 after 22 years.
Let us be clear. A new Coalition government will do more than merely ask the people to trust us not to discriminate. We will create or reinforce policies, laws and institutions to minimize ethnic and political discrimination in Guyana. For example:
(a) We will transform the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) by arranging extensive technical and managerial assistance from international sister organizations.
(b) We will implement the idea of requiring an Ethnic Impact Assessment for every major Government programme or policy. Such assessments must identify and mitigate/eliminate problems that may unduly (intentionally or unintentionally) create or exacerbate racial inequalities.
(c) We will activate the Fiscal Transfer Act to (according to the Act itself) “provide for the formulation and implementation of objective criteria for the purpose of the allocation of resources to local democratic organs.” This will minimise discrimination.
(d) We will create a social protection and assistance system that is structured and professionalised. Delivery of benefits will be managed and manned by a modern public service, and not by ministers and other party hacks walking around with the people’s money in bags.
(e) We will introduce set-asides in government contract awards to reduce the discrimination caused by the sheer historic unevenness of the playing field. Women, Indigenous people and other under-represented groups will benefit. Such mechanisms have been used in the USA, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa and Northern Ireland. As we seek to be more inclusive in awarding contracts, no one will be treated unfairly.
(f) Of critical importance, we will increase transparency of government decisions and affairs. We will empower citizens with the right to know and the right to information by, among other ideas, revising and fully activating the Access to Information Act.
(g) We will put an end to ethnic and political discrimination being a norm in Guyana.