GUYANA has a major problem of racial divisiveness. The “Mother of All Elections” may have been perceived and contested as a battle for racial dominance over a country flowing with potential. The ancestors of Afro-Guyanese were wrested from their homelands, enslaved, brutalized and were unpaid to produce wealth for imperial European nations.
The ancestors of Indo-Guyanese, Portuguese and Chinese came as exploited indentured labour. Indo-Guyanese were paid but abused and subjected to abject conditions on the sugar plantations. Ancestors of the indigenous Amerindian peoples had their lands seized and may have also been murdered in the process. The races were deliberately manipulated against each other to facilitate imperial rule. Leo Despres in his book, “Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British Guiana” predicted that these conflicts would ensue among the plural racial and cultural groups to determine who will rule Guyana after the colonisers left.
The time has come to end these seemingly perpetual and counterproductive episodic struggles to control the state apparatus. Guyana needs inclusive governance – a system of democratic rule based on social justice and equal opportunity. It is essential that a carefully thought-out system of inclusive governance be instituted. Failing to do so will witness a continuation, if not an exacerbation, of racial rivalries. Failure to do so represents winner-takes-all power politics.
Amending the Constitution is an important part of this process. The APNU+AFC Coalition was a promising manifestation but was met with limited success because of the perceived marginalisation of the PPP/C which maintains the loyalty of Indo-Guyanese . The PPP/C ruled Guyana for 23 years prior to the five years of rule of the APNU+AFC Coalition. During this period there were reported extra-legal killings of over 160 Afro-Guyanese men for which no one was held accountable – Black Lives Matter. Black communities such as Linden were largely deprived of resources and Black youth were deprived of employment.
Changing perceptions of ethnic dominance and diminishing ethnic rivalry in Guyana will require bold moves by fair-minded leaders. Inclusive governance is not an option for Guyana. It is an imperative for the future of the nation. The incoming government must treat racial divisiveness not as an option or afterthought, but as an urgent and major problem to be tackled to build the Guyanese nation. The winner of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections has not yet been officially declared. An incoming government must be magnanimous, reach out to its defeated opponents, and most importantly reassure the Guyanese people by espousing racial unity. To do otherwise would be a national mistake, a recipe for conflict and convey the impression of racial rule.