GUYANESE must reject the race-baiting and race hatred emanating out of Brooklyn by a radical anti-government element of the diaspora. The race-baiting and hatred does not serve the interests of the nation. Worse, it furthers racial division at home, and in the US-based diaspora. Also, I note that a litany of falsehoods has been peddled from Brooklyn from the same elements. Appalling, disrespectful remarks were made; these must be condemned in the strongest words.
One Rickford Burke referred to Hon. Prime Minister Mark Phillips as “a lightweight buffoon, and a despicable, token, house slave.” Such language is rude, and must be condemned. PM Phillips is a man of integrity and decency, and a champion of equal rights for all Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity.
Burke also made outlandish comments and claims not supported by facts. His detractors say he has been waging a battle against racism; a non-existent issue. Some of his Guyanese critics claim he has been waging a battle to support his own economic survival; they ask whether he is gainfully employed. And some Guyanese say he has been instigating violence, and spewing race hatred between Indians and Africans. Some also feel Burke has been able to influence US Congressman Hakeem Jeffries to endorse or make statements not supported by facts. Regrettably, Congressman Jeffries identified with individuals who supported election rigging in Guyana, and who attacked US Ambassador Sarah Lynch for taking a position to protect democracy and voting rights. Jeffries and others have advocated for the recall of Ambassador Lynch, an iron lady who has stood for democracy in Guyana.
Burke claims that the PPP government discriminates against Africans. This is not supported by data. The PPP Government has been the most inclusive on race, gender, and geography throughout the history of the nation. As an illustration, of some 6,000 scholarships over the last year, 39 per cent were awarded to Afro-Guyanese, 40 per cent to Indians, and 21 per cent to Mixed and Amerindians, albeit the latter two groups are under-represented when measured against their composition in the population. Mixed are 20 per cent, and Amerindians 10 per cent of the population, while Africans are 29 per cent and Indians 40 per cent. State appointees on boards are composed of one-third Africans, including as CEOs and Chairs. Africans continue to dominate all layers of government — public service (85 per cent), the army (90 per cent), the police (80 per cent), nursing (75 per cent), teaching (60 per cent), and the top echelons (Permanent Secretary) of the public service (50 per cent), although their group constitutes only 29 per cent of the population. Board appointees include those of Amerindian, Chinese, and Portuguese extraction. In the government, there is an African PM and seven ministers of African ancestry, one of Amerindian, and one of Portuguese background, and two of Mixed ancestry. What could be fairer than this?
In terms of governance, groups of independent Guyanese, representing the legal profession, the private sector, political parties, the press, and civil society have been loud in their praise of the performance of the government for the remarkable job they have done on the first year anniversary despite major COVID-19 constraints and the devastating floods. Also, opinion polls I conducted in August and November 2020, January, March, July and August 2021 approved of the performance of the government, including a majority of Africans and Mixed. The government has touched the life of every Guyanese of all strata and ethnicity through various programmes.
Calls by radicals to make the country ungovernable have not only been rejected by most Guyanese, but also by the EU (European Union), UK (United Kingdom), OAS (Organisation of American States), Commonwealth, American, UN (United Nations), CARICOM, and other diplomatic missions.
It should be noted that Burke was on the side of those who attempted to engineer electoral fraud in 2020. It was the vigilance of foreign diplomatic missions and ballot protectors, as well as some of us from the diaspora that saved democracy from collapsing. Stealing an election is the mother of all corruption, and the worse form of racism in Guyana; it is no different from apartheid rule. The lies being peddled by Brooklyn operatives must end. It will not lead to achievement of political goals. Respecting democratic principles would lead to more productive results. I support peaceful protests and exposure of bad governance. And I condemn racial discrimination. People must be employed based on their skills and talent and not on race. Guyana depends on the contributions of members of all ethnicities.
Africans and members of other groups are not facing discrimination under the President Ali administration. If there is discrimination, it must be exposed and eliminated. Unsubstantiated claims must not be made. No one should promote or support efforts at creating race hatred and conflict that would further deepen the divide among ethnic groups. Using divisive tactics like stirring race hatred and making reckless claims of race discrimination will not help anyone or any political party. We need to build Guyana and not to destroy it. We must neutralise race tension and set the country on the right growth trajectory. Burke should fight for real causes and not combat non-existent issues.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram