Internet Radio

Guyanese give race relations low marks but thumbs up for women’s empowerment, indigenous rights

A poll commissioned by the United States (US) pro-democracy organisation, International Republican Institute (IRI) finds that Guyanese believe that race relations in this South American nation second to transparency and accountability in government, but they are happy with efforts to empower women and indigenous people’s rights.

In the poll conducted among 1,500 respondents during January 2022,  29 percent of the respondents said the status of women’s empowerment was “very good”, 41 percent felt it was “somewhat good”, 11 percent though it was “somewhat bad” 12 percent “very bad” and 8 percent “don’t know/ refused to answer’.

There  have been numerous programmes that are aimed at socio-economic and legal empowerment of women.

In the area of indigenous people’s rights, the results are that 25 percent of Guyanese rate the status as “very good” , 35 percent somewhat good” , 12 percent “somewhat bad” , 11 percent “very bad” and 17 percent “don’t know/ refused to answer”.

Major issues facing indigenous peoples have over the decades included unsettled land boundaries, no rights to subsurface rights to minerals in their lands, and environmental destruction by loggers and miners.

But the poll finds that 41 percent of Guyanese believe that race relations is “very bad” , 21 percent “somewhat bad” ,  23 percent “somewhat good”  and 10 percent “very good”.

On the question of “How common or uncommon is ethnic or racial discrimination of voters during election?”, 64 percent said it is very common, 15 percent somewhat common, 7 percent very uncommon, 10 percent very uncommon and five percent don’t know/ refused to answer.

Giving a racial breakdown of the response to this question, 73 percent of mixed Guyanese said there is ethnic or racial discrimination of voters during election, 13 percent said it was somewhat common, 4 percent said it was somewhat uncommon, 7 percent said it was very uncommon and four percent don’t know or refused to answer.  The poll states that 66 percent of Afro Guyanese believe that there is ethnic or racial discrimination of voters during election, 13 percent somewhat uncommon, 7 percent somewhat common, 10 percent very uncommon,  and 4 percent don’t know or refused to answer. Among East Indians, 59 percent say there is ethnic or racial discrimination of voters
during election, 16 percent say it is somewhat uncommon, 8 percent somewhat uncommon, 11 percent very uncommon, and 6 percent don’t know/ refused to answer.  Fifty-seven percent of Indigenous Guyanese said it was very common for there was ethnic or racial discrimination of voters during election, 19 percent said it was somewhat common, 10 percent said it was somewhat uncommon, 11 percent said it was very uncommon and four percent don’t know or refused to answer.

Overall, 66 percent of the respondents said that they were very concerned about election-related violence, 16 percent somewhat concerned, 7 percent little concerned, 8 percent not concerned at all, and 3 percent ‘don’t know/ refused to answer’.  An ethnic breakdown on this question shows that 72 percent of African Guyanese, 64 percent of Indo-Guyanese,  54 percent of Indigenous Guyanese and 66 percent of mixed Guyanese are very concerned about election-related violence, while 12 percent, 17 percent, 22 percent and 17 percent of those race groups respectively are somewhat concerned about such an occurrence.

The poll also states that 69 percent of all the respondents  say “definitely yes” that voters experience racial, ethnic, gender-based or
other discrimination during elections, 15 percent said “probably yes”, five percent “probably no” , 6 percent definitely no and five percent “don’t know or refused to say.

By ethnic classification, the poll reveals that 72 percent of African Guyanese, 65 percent of East Indians, 65 percent of Indigenous and 74 percent of Mixed Guyanese say they “definitely yes” do voters experience racial, ethnic, gender-based or other discrimination during elections, while 14 percent, 16 percent, 12 percent and 14 percent of those ethnic groups said “probably yes” they had such an experience, and 7,8, 5 and 4 percent respectively said they did not have such an experience.

Fifty percent of all of the respondents said they definitely never experienced physical or other types of violence including
cyberbullying during elections, 10 percent said “probably no”, 9 percent “probably yes”  and 23 percent “definitely yes”.

As regards the issue of the respondents feeling personally feeling discriminated against in Guyana within the past 12 months from January 22, the poll says 38 percent of the respondents felt so based on their ethnic background, 29 percent for their political views, and 25 percent for their economic status. Specifically about racial discrimination within that 12 month period, of the 578 respondents who felt so, 33 percent were African, 41 percent East Indian, 8 percent Indigenous and 19 percent Mixed.

The incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration has been touting the “One Guyana’ concept but is yet to establish the long-promised ‘One Guyana’ Commission. Earlier this week, the National Assembly unanimously went a step further in moving to reconstitute the constitutional Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC).

Since the split in the PPP in 1955, Guyana’s political landscape has between the largely Afro-Guyanese-backed People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and the mainly East Indo-Guyanese supported PPP. Both parties accuse each other of racial and political discrimination whenever either is in opposition.

The poll shows that in the area of transparency and accountability of national government, 35 percent say this is “very bad”, 18 percent “somewhat bad” , 25 percent “somewhat good” , 11 percent “very good” and 12 percent “don’t know. refuse to answer”.

As it relates to the economy, the IRI poll that was funded the US National Endowment for Democracy shows that 33 percent of Guyanese believe that the economy is in a “very bad” shape, 21 percent “somewhat bad” , 30 percent “somewhat good” , 9 percent very good  and 7 percent don’t know/ refused to answer.  Mainly as a result of Guyana’s emerging oil sector, the annual Gross Domestic Product has been growing exponentially over the last two years but salaries continue to remain depressed when compared to the cost of living. In recent months, there have been job losses and increase in the cost of living due to the now more than two-year long COVID pandemic and related global shipping logistics, and more recently the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Security for 33 percent of Guyanese was in a “very bad” shape at the time of the survey, 20 percent “somewhat bad” , 31 percent “somewhat good, 11 percent “very good” and 5 percent “don’t know/ refused to answer”.

Local Government was described by 25 percent of Guyanese as “very bad”, 18 percent said it was “somewhat bad” , 30 percent somewhat good” , 13 percent “very good” and 13 percent “don’t know/ refused to answer”.