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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination March 21, 2023 concentrates on the “urgency of combatting racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).” The focus recognizes that it has been 75 years since the UDHR declaration was adopted and the need for states around the world to be steadfast in the fight against the scourge of racism and xenophobia.
According to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind, such as race and colour, among others.” Even though it is now three-quarters of a century, racism and racial discrimination still affect people, the world over.
In Guyana, politicians have created institutions and enacted laws that are meant to deal with racism and racial discrimination, but there seems to be an absence of political will to definitively deal with the problem. At the highest office of Government, flowery proclamations are made about stamping out race hate and building unity, but the actions of these very officials create platforms for discriminatory practices based on race.
A fitting example is the Head of State proclamation of his desire for national unity, founded on “One-Guyana vision, … to ensure that every citizen is accorded a dignified existence and with due respect for their rights and with equality before the law”. However, since the beginning of the governance period, contrary actions were evident, viz:
(a) Termination of the services of Public Officials because of perceived political alignment.
(b) The deliberate, blatant, and discriminatory ignoring of the astronomical increase in cost of living; current inadequate earnings of workers, who provided and continue to provide quality public services; and the displeasure displayed by so many workers, particularly those in the health sector and teaching services, who choose migration rather than remain in this hostile, political, race-charged environment, ineptly managed by an ungrateful, uncaring, and insensitive employer.
(c) Unsympathetic, unenlightened, and backward approach to modern industrial relations, including provocation, discrimination, and the act of challenging workers to be confrontational, which could ultimately lead to the creation of further ethic divisions in the society.
(d) The discriminatory use and squandering of public revenues, through selective handouts, including the forty thousand dollars ($40,000) a month payout to persons to appear in the workplaces for ten (10) days each month without any assigned duties, while foisting the economic crumbs upon the Public Servants through announcements, over more than two decades, of arbitrary and minuscule increases in wages and salaries for public service workers, in breach of the Constitution and Laws of Guyana, International Labour Organisation core Conventions and the Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Principles of Workers and the legally binding Collective Labour Agreement between the Government of Guyana and GPSU.
(e) Manifestly undervaluing Public Service employees’ services and contributions to the progress and development of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
(f) Misuse of the public coffers to fund its political agenda and campaigns, under the guise of Cabinet Outreaches.
(g) Political intimidation of workers, through Ministerial interventions at workplaces.
(h) The lack of genuine interaction with the workers’ representative and the perennial breaches of Collective Labour agreements.
(i) Failure to pursue a path of good governance through respect for the rule of law and to resolve issues through the legitimate processes of collective bargaining.
(j) Pursuing for decades nefarious means of undermining the legitimate efforts of the GPSU to represent and discharge its functions in the interests of its membership and its role in society.
(s) Refusal to ratify International Labour Organisation Convention C190 on “Violence and Harassment”, together with related Violence and Harassment Recommendation 206.
As right-thinking Guyanese, we are all aware that the scourge of racism and racial discrimination is a hinderance to national unity and national development. Everyone, including politicians and their followers fully understand that coexistence is impossible with the tentacles of racism and racial discrimination hanging over us. It is therefore opportune for immediate action to dismantle the traditional methodologies of politically loaded bias, garnering governmental support, and race baiting to achieve the requirements of the 75-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Ahead of time, Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) foresaw the need for racial unity and founded the “GPSU Race Relations Committee” on June 9, 1997, based on a concept paper drafted on December 23, 1996, to combat the scourge of racism within the Public Service and even further afield. If GPSU could have created this basis for Public Servants, then why can’t Government inspire a national reparative movement through its political will?