Guyana needs ‘ethnic impact’ statements

Dear Editor,
I was attracted to an article written by Professor Randy Persaud on Mr. Nigel Hughes’ call for a “Truth and Reconciliation of the atrocities that had been committed over the decades.” Mr. Hughes has been a strong advocate for Afro-Guyanese’ in terms of equality and fairness within the past three years. During the PNCR-led coalition government (2015-2020) his political advocacy in this regard was not visible. Perhaps he needed some time to recover from his mathematical perversion that 34 is a majority of 65 in the Guyana Parliament!
Mr. Hughes’ position regarding his advocacy for “Truth and Reconciliation” seems to be a variant of the PNC’s “Declaration of Sophia.” It represents a search by opposition elements to include among other things, the creation of a vision and a plan for Guyana’s development in which their group wants to be integral. They hope that re-imagining of PNCR’s approach to politics would serve as a counter to President Ali’s “One Guyana,” evolving philosophy.
Prof Randy Persaud, in his critique of Mr. Hughes’ position, asks why the Report of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Dr Walter Rodney’s assassination was treated with disdain by the PNCR led coalition. He also wants to know why Mr. Hughes and others would want more commissions of inquiry when their outcomes are more beneficial for academic interests. Citing other examples of political assassinations, Prof Randy says that the attempts by PNCR operatives to link issues of Afro-Guyanese with those of American Blacks is a false equivalence.
What strikes me the most, however, is why Prof Randy left out the glaring bastardization of the Presidency when Mr. LFS Burnham was placed on the CIA payroll between 1969 and 1971 and was in receipt of $(US) 5000 per month for two consecutive years. Three years later (1974) President Burnham announced party paramountcy where the PNC party was the supreme authority of the land to which all government agencies, including the Judiciary, were subservient. That was an unprecedented seizure of power that also crushed the sovereignty of the people. If there is a matter that requires “Truth and Reconciliation,” it would be this incalculable abuse by the Presidency that must rank at the apex, followed by election rigging which is the mother of all corruption. But where would these take us?
When I wrote two days ago that the PNCR party might move away from election rigging and develop a different strategy to win political power, there erupted a political explosion ignited by the controversial PNCR member Mr. Hamilton Green (Elder) who stated: “if they say he (Mr. Burnham) rigged elections, I say we should keep rigging, so to save us from these devils, these bastards, these demons.” Mr. Hughes and Mr. Vincent Alexander were in attendance. Have they distanced themselves from this level of recklessness and bigotry?
The position of the PNCR in re-imagining their structure and ideals becomes murkier when a prominent Trade Unionist had asked President Granger to cancel the 2020 elections. These public outbursts are a blatant affront to democracy. They also suggest turmoil within the opposition which seeks to plunder democratic norms in their quest for state power.
Why do we need a “Truth and Reconciliation” investigation to explain obvious and clear outlandish utterances? It was under Mr. David Granger’s regime that a similar Truth and Reconciliation proposal was advanced, but Mr. David Granger being also an astute historian, knew that it would not be to the advantage of the governing APNU+AFC party, so he determined instead to conduct a down-graded one-member COI only into the Lindo Creek murders.
Enough evidence is available to suggest that the best way to resolve problems of discrimination (ethnic, gender, region) is not necessarily through inquiries which have historically had very little impact on outcomes, but by engaging the people in every neighborhood and using that experience in conjunction with existing data to empower people through housing, health, education and jobs.
Let the data speak to the PPPC’s government’s progress in empowerment! The PPPC government has awarded: (1) 30,355 house lots as of 2023 and built 1,240 houses and is in the process of building another 1,467 houses for low, moderate income, and young professionals; (2) over 21,000 GOAL scholarships; (3) created over 13,000 permanent part-time jobs; (4) have trained (or in training) 99% of teachers; constructed 3 Secondary Schools, namely, Hope, Westminster, and Prospect and has under construction 9 Secondary Schools with another 13 to begin construction in 2024 as well as 6 Primary Schools; (5) established a Pediatric and Maternity Hospital at Ogle, building a new Hospital at New Amsterdam, and is in process of building 6 new state-of-the art regional hospitals plus upgrading Bartica, Suddie, West Demerara and Lethem Hospitals.
These are powerful empowerment tools/methods that synchronize with President’ Ali’s evolving philosophy of “One Guyana” that addresses problems of discrimination, equal access to opportunity, balanced regional development, fair play, and justice. However, some caveats are vital: (1) equal access does not necessarily lead to equal outcome; (2) no country, including Guyana, could completely eliminate inequality or poverty: (3) incentives for risk taking must not be stultified; and (4) Guyana must avoid a “hand out” economy that would disincentivize people to work.
What might be more beneficial in terms of fairness, equality, and justice, is to consider the launch of a project on GER (Gender, Ethnic, and Regional) Impact Statements as these would produce empirical evidence of any significant imbalances in these categories. Corrective measures could then be considered for implementation.

Dr Tara Singh