Improving Ethnic Relations in Guyana (II)

This concludes the presentation to the “National Conversation on Ethnic Relations” with proposals to improve our ethnic relations. Below are the proposals, to which I could only allude because of time constraints:
1. Group Narratives: Continue and deepen these national discussions at all levels of society, so that our ethnic groups can understand the perspective of each other from the narratives they recount. Work towards consensus-building on those aspects of the narratives that clash, so that the national narrative includes the contributions and perspectives of all groups in an equitable way.
2. Civic and Cultural Nationalisms: We must distinguish between Civic Nationalism – based on the values inscribed in the Basic Structure of our Constitution, which guarantee our equal civic rights – and Cultural Nationalism, based on our ethnic cultures. We must emphasise they do not necessarily have to conflict, once all are treated equitably. There should be no conflict between our ethnic identities and our common National Identity.
3. Multicultural State: Multiculturalism should be made the official policy of Guyana, declaring that all cultures will be treated by the state equitably. We should launch a Ministry of Multiculturalism to institutionalise multicultural policies to ensure that the identity of the Guyanese people reflect our diversity.
4. Anti-racism: Anti-African racism must be confronted not only in its Guyanese manifestation, but in its universality; which implies it is not a locally-generated phenomenon, but a globally-generated one. Its genesis lies in the European-African dipole developed after the slave trade. The educational institutions must take a lead in this area, as also must all social and religious institutions. Anti-Indian and Anti-Indigenous racism practised within that dipole must also be confronted.
5. Group Worth: The educational institutions from nursery to university must also deliver curricula that give substantive worth to all our ethnic groups and to the contributions of all to the development of Guyana.
6. Political Democracy: The African-Guyanese Ethnic Security Dilemma in reference to being denied the Executive has been resolved because of recent demographic shifts that have created a nation of minority groups. We must allow this new, fortuitous circumstance to take root, as occurred in 2015 and 2020; and for the democratic politics of “in and out” to be practised as is now done Trinidad, for instance. The major groups can form alliances with smaller groups (as APNU did), or craft programmes (as the PPP did) to win crossover votes and institutionalise democratic elections to handle our political competition.
We do not need contrived “power sharing” arrangements to fix what is no longer broken. It is now irrelevant.
7. A balanced State: In those areas of national life in which there has been historical discrimination, there must be affirmative action programmes to rectify present imbalances. For Indian and Indigenous Guyanese, the staffing of all state institutions: Civil Service, Army, Police, People’s Militia, State Commissions etc, must be reoriented to reflect the composition of the populace.
8. An Equitable Economy: Because Indigenous-Guyanese were totally excluded from national development; and, after slavery, African-Guyanese were explicitly discriminated against in their economic endeavours (flooding of lands and denial of credit), programmes to increase their participation in the economy must be initiated and implemented.
Such programmes for African- Guyanese persons were initiated during the several development plans of the PNC from 1965 to 1992, the PPP between 1992 and 2015, and APNU/AFC from 2015 to 2020; and there must be an investigation why African- Guyanese are still lagging. The problem might be cultural/social rather than economic. Much blame can be laid at the feet of African- Guyanese leaders who perpetuate the myth that their constituency “don’t have a head for business”.
The recent efforts to develop the hinterland, where most indigenous peoples live, must be accelerated.
9. Ethnic Impact Statement: All affirmative action programmes mentioned above must be monitored quantitatively, to ensure their targets are being approached positively.
10. Decentralisation: Integrative Federalism will:
1: Reduce the struggle for power at the Centre.
2: Foster intra-ethnic groups’ rivalries.
3: Encourage cooperation and coalition at the centre.
4: Bring Govt closer to the people, and revive the village economy.
5: Vertically split the powers of an always potentially tyrannical Government.
6: Abolish “winner takes all” politics.
7: Reduce disparities between groups, especially since states dominated by Indigenous persons would be equal to others.
8: Facilitate the formation of a second, moderating chamber in the National Assembly.