“We will enforce the existing laws against racism more vigorously and vigilantly guard against bad elements who foment social and racial strife,” he said in his feature address at the opening of the Social Cohesion Round-table.
His pledge came several months after former President Bharrat Jagdeo was cited for allegedly uttering racially divisive remarks at Babu John, Port Mourant, Corentyne. That is the subject of a private criminal charge by Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram who is a harsh critic of Jagdeo and the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).
Jagdeo has noted that he had gone on to say in that speech at Babu John that his party, unlike A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), does not tolerate such actions as the beating of drums and urging people to go and vote those coolie people out and that anyone found doing so would be expelled.
If found guilty, a person could be fined, jailed and barred from holding constitutional and elected offices.
Guyana’s Constitution empowers the Ethic Relations Commission (ERC) to, among other things, discourage and prohibit persons institutions, political parties and associates from indulging in, advocating or promoting discriminatory practices on the ground of ethnicity.
The Racial Hostility Act says anyone who willfully excites or attempts to excite hostility or ill-will against any section of the public or against any person on the grounds of race will be fined GUY$65,000 and two years imprisonment. Similarly, the convict will be barred from holding several elected and constitutional offices.
President Granger said his government’s public policy on Social Cohesion sees the need to eliminate extreme poverty and so bring an end to the inability of persons to buy basic food. “There can be no social cohesion in an economy characterized by huge gaps and wide income disparities between a few very rich people and a large mass of destitute, homeless and very poor people,” he said.
Also on the Guyanese leader’s agenda is the need to end geographic and gender inequalities. “The disparities in development and income between the coast and hinter lands must be reduced and removed. The gender gap must be closed by ensuring that girls and boys are given equal opportunities to be educated and employment,” he said.
Another aspect of government’s policy towards attaining greater political inclusion and national unity is the holding of periodic general, municipal and local elections. “This should start at the level of our parties” …“We need elections to create a system of inclusionary democracy by promoting the participation f citizens and by including their organisations in decision-making,” he said.
Government also plans to increase the participation of business, civil society and non-governmental organisations in decision-making as well as ensure there are fair employment laws and occupational health and safety for miners.