–President Ali contends
–reaffirms Guyana’s commitment to inclusive development
PRESIDENT, Dr. Irfaan Ali, has reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to gaining international reparations for the crime of African enslavement and said that those reparations must go beyond an apology.
The Guyanese President said this while addressing a high-level meeting to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action that was held under the theme “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent.”
President Ali was joined by Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd and Permanent Resident and Ambassador to the United Nations, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett.
The Head of State told world leaders: “Guyana is committed to gaining international reparations for the crime of African enslavement. Reparative justice must not only include a full and unconditional apology from those responsible and/or who benefitted from the transatlantic trade in captive Africans and their consequent enslavement, but must go beyond apology.”
The President said that it is in this regard that Guyana will continue to support efforts being made within the Caribbean Community to press for the convening of an international summit to demand reparative justice for the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, African enslavement, and its enduring effects.
The Head of State also reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and said that the country was pleased to join in adopting the Declaration.
President Ali said that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is a comprehensive, action-oriented, document that proposes concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
He also emphasised that equality and non-discrimination are not only fundamental principles of international human rights and international humanitarian laws, but are also at the root of political, social and economic development.
He said that as the global leaders collectively strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they must be conscious that the overarching objectives of poverty eradication, protecting the planet and building a peaceful world cannot be achieved without addressing all forms of inequality.
“Despite advances made over decades of struggle, racism and racial discrimination continue to be sources of conflicts and inequalities among people in all regions of the world.
“I am proud to belong to a country that honours and celebrates its ethnic diversity. Our people seamlessly participate in each other’s religious and cultural festivals and traditions. In many ways, we can be a wonderful example to the world,” President Ali said.
He, however, noted that too often in the political arena, ethnic insecurities, real or perceived, and race are used opportunistically to manipulate issues in a manner that promotes tension and racial feelings.
To this end, he said: “Social media, whilst a powerful tool to inform people, has also been much misused. The Government of Guyana will continue to work assiduously to eradicate all forms of racism and racial discrimination and to ensure inclusive development with equal access and sharing in Guyana’s wealth.”
During his inaugural address to Parliament, President Ali had announced the formation of a ‘One Guyana Commission’ which will be tasked with fostering one nationality and a common love for country, celebrating the ‘oneness’ enunciated in the national motto.
This, he explained, is part of the government’s efforts to put an end to the division caused by race and politics and to create a path towards building a single Guyanese identity.
“The establishment of a One Guyana Commission attests to the inclusive approach which is necessary to realise the ambitions which we set ourselves both at Independence and upon becoming a Republic,” President Ali emphasised in his Republic Day address.
He also related that this commission takes aim at excising vices of ethnic rancour, hatred and divisiveness while serving to break down barriers of mistrust, suspicion and stereotypes.
“The One Guyana Project will encourage respect for the immeasurable worth of every citizen regardless of his or her race, religious belief or class,” the Head-of-State also said, noting that the goal is to foster greater tolerance and understanding.
He noted that this commission will be given legislative effect and it will facilitate efforts to cement Guyana’s society while respecting the diversity from which “oneness” springs.