These discussions on ethnic relations are to be welcomed, our politicians have continued to disagree

Dear Editor,

Mr. Nigel Hughes, Dr. Eric Phillips, Mr Ravi Dev et al make remarkable contributions to the ongoing and vital discussions on ethnic relations in Guyana.

Hughes offered solutions to this dilemma of racial disharmony and even violence between the two main ethnic groups that have existed for decades, by recommending a program of data collection and analysis relating to the impact of government policies on the different races and ethnicities. Phillips detailed the beauty and potential of our beloved homeland and the generational, socio-economic inequality between the two groups. Another participant suggested that our history of indentureship and slavery should be a big part of our curriculum and education (which to me was a welcome suggestion). The lack of this information from the younger generation may be contributing to the current disharmony between the two main ethnicities as they are plausible due to a lack of historical information. I would also recommend that our political and general history be learned so that the young generation is not misled and shattered. Even older citizens would benefit from such a program. The discussions suggested that the tension and frustration between the groups because of the socio-economic imbalance and the poorer group was treated unfairly, because the incumbent Party used policies that support their progressive base . My view that evolves from this is that the preferred group then develops arrogance and aggression towards the other group. Mr Nicholas Boyer, head of the Private Sector Commission, said there was no conflict between the groups as the younger generation intermarried and generally displayed harmonious relations. However, this view was refuted by highlighting the mutual hatred in the toxic language expressed by young and old groups via social media, during the recent election period. Former government minister and political scientist Henry Jeffrey said the Ethnic Relations Commission does not have the political power to bring about change in the ethnic division. They have no power or desire to repair this rupture. In a recent letter to the Stabroek News, Ms Ryhaan Shah noted that a similar debate on ethnic relations sponsored by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and the United Nations (UN), had begun about twenty years ago. However, she doesn’t expect anything to come from the ongoing conversations. This is an accurate representation of the powerlessness and despair felt by many citizens over this devastating issue.

Our politicians have continued the racial disharmony, as evidenced by their emphasis on partyism, at the expense of much needed attention and effort for the economic and social well-being of all our citizens. It is a disgrace, having faced social discontent and anxiety since the no confidence vote and ending with the fiasco around the national and regional elections, that we continue to drown in the quicksand of racism, stupidity, self-interest and authoritarianism . Broad issues are managed which take up valuable time. We must fight Covid-19 efficiently and effectively, renegotiate the oil contract and ensure that foreign bodies do not force us to play by their rules. This will be easier for them to do if we have longstanding and debilitating political, ethnic and economic strife.

The opposition is justified in providing checks and balances for the ruling party for their benefit and primarily for the benefit of the population. President Ali had invited former presidents to a meeting when he should have first met with the leader of the opposition, Mr Joseph Harmon. I’d think that’s mandatory under the Constitution and parliamentary rules. Our former president has clearly lost credibility and yet has been invited to a meeting but with serious effort and good intentions for Guyana, Harmon could strive for acceptance, rebuild the effective APNU and Opposition.

I was listening to former president of the United States of America (USA), Barack Obama being interviewed on the program `Hardtalk, ‘broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Obama said there would never be economic progress and social harmony if there were strict partisans and both parties remained divided and did not cooperate on important national issues. One of his frequent sayings was “We could disagree without disagreeing.” Being interviewed on Public Radio 89.5 in the USA, Obama also said, “What makes America great and special and important and exceptional is that the President of the USA took an oath to uphold the Constitution and the various officials

government takes an oath to uphold the Constitution, that they adhere to those ideals and values, even when it is not politically convenient for you to do so. Even when you think it’s wrong. ”

Our population does not know many charges in our Constitution, they are not as easily publicized as the USA and do not include those relevant, fundamental ideals and freedoms that accord with America and that all should citizen enjoy them. Guyanese also need education on their Constitution; when it is revised. We need Constitutional reform.

The Guyana government is callless and arrogant by their actions, showing that their main concern is not national interest. One example is their dismissal of key and competent figures in the Public Service. A study should be conducted to determine whether these dismissals were based on political affiliation or ethnicity. Either is an injustice.

Where is the physical presence of the media at critical times? Newspapers are their main voice. They should provide a helpline number so citizens can call a reporter when in difficulty, such as facing national issues of which the public should be aware. Their reporters could then be quickly dispatched to the scene.

The racial divide continues to be exacerbated by the recent arrest of Joel and Isaiah Henry’s family members, the two teenagers who were brutally killed in Berbice, months ago. This raises eyebrows and calls on the government to conduct a thorough investigation into the events surrounding their arrest. Based on the results of the investigation and if those results favor Henry’s family, the government should give them protection from the police.

People, NGOs, the Opposition and the media houses need to petition and write letters to all the major international governmental organizations around the world when conducting non-violent protests. A Study has shown that if 3.7% of a population protests over a case, it is likely to succeed. This is because the police are likely to have at least one family member, relative, friend or associate member of the protesters and this would make them reluctant to use force or violence. The clamor for change and democracy is likely to be heard and supported by Joseph Biden’s new administration so that too could turn on.


Conrad Barrow