Pro-African organisations float solutions to deteriorating political race relations

Last Updated on Tuesday, 8 September 2020, 10:53 by Denis Chabrol

The African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA), Society for African Guyanese Empowerment (SAGE) and International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G) are urging Guyanese leaders, security forces and the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to help the country grapple with political race relations worsened by the recent killing of three Afro-Guyanese.

ACDA said the “callous race-driven” murders of Orlando Jonas as well as cousins Isaiah and Joel Henry whose mutilated bodies were found aback Cotton Tree, West Coast Berbice suggests the need for Guyana’s constitutional race relations body to find solutions to the political race problems facing the country.

“We call on the Ethnic Relations Commission(ERC) whose constitutional mandate compels this entity to engage and work for racial harmony and justice,” said ACDA, a 27-year old rights organisation.  That organisation added that the growing tensions resulting from those murders must be addressed by condign actions that demonstrate adherence to the Rule of Law and its decrees on justice.

ACDA also hoped that police would be able to conduct a thorough investigation to arrive at incontrovertible evidence that would not be thrown out by a court of law and so free those who would be charged and prosecuted. “We do hope that the Police Force will be allowed to conduct an independent investigation to bring to justice all those who were involved in these heinous acts. ACDA wants the charges to be properly executed so as not to include flaws that can result in members of the Judiciary having excuses for throwing these cases out on a legal technicality,” said ACDA.

That organisation blamed the incumbent People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for the social tensions in the society since returning to office just over one month ago.  “The marking of X on the victims’ body points to a new low in political race relations in the country. ACDA notes the political targeting of African Guyanese since the PPPC administration came into office. We believe It is troubling: and creates the condition for independent actors to engage in race/political violence planned or spontaneous,” the association said.

Echoing suggestions by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Leader David Granger, ACDA urged its community “to be vigilant and to take all legal and lawful means to protect self and community.”

Saying it was “stunned by the petrifying news” that the bodies of the Henry cousins  had been found slaughtered to death in Cotton Tree
backdam, IDPADA-G appealed for calm at this devastating time of loss. That organisation disagreed with those who regard the killing of the Henrys as an isolated, inhumane and criminal act, instead saying it symbolises Guyana’s deep-seated problems that have at times been ignored by the international community.  “IDPADA-G begs to differ. We wish to confront this act as yet another manifestation of the festering division, ethnic strife and utter contempt for the lives of those from other ethnic groups, which have characterized the evolution of
Guyanese society and to which many, including various Governments and foreign actors, have turned a blind eye and even aided and abetted from time,” said that State-funded organisation that was established by the then David Granger-led administration under the auspices of the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent.

IDPADA-G also lamented the mental racial violence that is being perpetrated on Social Media. “A cursory review of social media would reveal that this physically violent act is but the heinous physical manifestation of the everyday verbal ethnic violence that is prevalent in our society,” the  organisation said.

Guyana’s President, Irfaan Ali, meanwhile, on Monday acknowledged that some Social Media posts were a cause for grave concern and he hinted that the authorities needed to take firm action. “I have had over a thousand Facebook posts sent to me in the last 24 hours, some from people who I would have great respect for, for their intellect, for their level of education but their posting is not only damaging and insensitive but their posting borders on criminality itself and, as your President, I want to say we have to address these issues frontally. We have to not only monitor but we have to take strong actions on Social Media for some of the hateful posts and some of the speeches that are being pursued on Social Media; some of the assumptions that are damaging and have serious implications,” he said.

The President said his administration would address race relations through policies and programmes but at the same time other stakeholders needed to  join the process responsibly and maturely.

Recalling that Guyanese had been alerted to the fact that discord around elections is an indicator of a festering “dangerous state of ethnic relations in our society” for which solutions must be found, IDPADA-G urged Guyana’s political leaders to make good on their promise to meet after the August 2, 2020 declaration of election results by the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).  “We look to the promised dialogue between the major parties called for by GECOM before the results of the elections were declared, and, given the escalating tension in the society, we register our disappointment it has not as yet occurred. Recognition of the central problem facing Guyana and commitment on all sides to a resolution and transformation of our society must be an immediate outcome of this
tragic loss of life,” IDPADA-G said.

SAGE also urged police to dispassionately pursue the perpetrators of what it contended was a “racially motivated crime with political
overtones.”   That organisation said there was no room for “silence and empty chats of peace” but resistance must be meted out depending on action by police and soldiers. “The forms of self- defense would be determined by the intensity of the attacks and the response of the State to the ensuing protests,” SAGE said.

SAGE, in calling for countrywide protests, urged police and the incumbent Irfaan Ali-led administration not to take action against those who are exercising their constitutional right to protest. “It is against that background that we urge the police and their political handlers to desist from further escalating the already charged situation.

“We are forced to ask those policemen and women how do they shoot at Black people in Hopetown and Belladrum and go home to face their own Black families? SAGE therefore urges Black police officers to disobey orders to shoot unarmed people protesting the murder of their children by race-haters,” the organisation said.

The Guyana Police Force and the Guyana government have said that while they understand that the killing of the Henrys have sparked outrage on to the West Coast Berbice road, they could not tolerate the blocking of the major thoroughfare and so preventing other people from going about their lawful business. Police also said people were being robbed during the protest action.