President David Granger on Sunday urged numerous African Guyanese organisations to come together, even as he pledged his government’s support to end racial discrimination, create jobs and improve access to education.
“I am not going to be so crass as to ask you to measure the accomplishments so far in this decade but what I would like to caution you about is that this is the key time to organise, this is the time to mobilize and not to agonise interminably about the condition in which we find ourselves as a nation,” he said. At the same time, he said all Guyanese are entitled to share equitably in the country’s patrimony.
Addressing the opening of Cuffy250’s 4th Annual State of the African Guyanese Forum at the Critchlow Labour College, he said 20 months have already been lost and so the “the clock is ticking” on the remaining 100 months of the United Nations (UN)-designated International Decade for People of African Descent to implement certain activities.
Granger urged participants to consider how best the African Guyanese organisations could be mobilized to achieve specific, measurable targets. “I ask that some forum be created so that nobody will be left out, everyone could feel involved, everyone could be consulted if we are to achieve the objectives of this International Decade (of People of African Descent),” he said.
He announced that government has committed to implementing five of the 10 activities that the UN has approved for the decades that lasts from 2015 to 20124. They are an apology and compensation from Europe for the inhumane and criminal act of the slavery, provision of education, provision of jobs and the promotion of equality and an end to discrimination.
Granger said ethnic discrimination and lack of equal access to public services contribute to inequality, adding that people of African descent have in the past alleged such acts of discrimination in the public and private sectors. “There is evidence that there was discrimination. We must now correct that situation because discrimination against anyone promotes insecurity and social exclusion and that can lead to disorder.”
The President said the intended Plan of Action must give the assurance that no group or community would be disenfranchised to prevent it from accessing public services. “People of African Descent must be assured that they will not be discriminated against and hindered in accessing public services including housing, education, public health and utilities and most important their land rights,” he said.
Granger’s charge that there has been discrimination comes amid a simmering public controversy over claims by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo that the APNU+AFC administration has been discriminating against Indo Guyanese.
While Germany has apologized to the Jews for the Holocaust and Britain has done so to the Mao Maos for torture, the President said Guyana and other Caribbean countries would continue to press for Europe to apologise and compensate people of African descent for slavery. “This is a hard thing and the Caribbean governments are insisting on an apology because a crime has been committed and they must say we are sorry,” he said.
Saying that “we have to make the decade work for the people of African descent,” the President charged the African Guyanese community to use education to rise out of poverty and equality. “We have an obligation just as our illiterate fore parents 178 years ago saw the benefits of education, we their educated descendants than to ensure that every single child goes to school and stays in school.”
Granger restated that government planned to establish a Lands Commission to “rectify the anomalies and resolve the controversies” concerning thousands of hectares of communal lands that were “purchased with hard cash” after slavery practically ended in 1838.
The President again cited the need to reduce employment by creating an entrepreneurial programme to assist young Guyanese to establish and manage their businesses.