Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 May 2023, 23:35 by Denis Chabrol
The International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G) on Tuesday told the United Nations (UN) permanent forum for the people of African descent that the time has come for Guyana and other Caribbean states to assess and compensate Afro-Guyanese for their contribution to the development of the country.
“It is imperative that the government establishes a national commission which encompasses two national assessments of African Guyanese contributions to the development of Guyana with a view to compensation ,” Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes told the forum being held at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Appearing before the forum, he said assessors should use the 1948-1949 Venn Commission of Inquiry Report into the operations of the sugar industry as that document contains evidence of enslaved Africans’ contribution to the development of then British Guiana’s sugar industry “under inhuman conditions without compensation.” He noted that the inquiry found, among other things, the colonial enterprise required hand labour to transform 15,000 square miles of coastal swamp land to sugar cultivation as well as the hydraulics of hand labour for 100 million tonnes.
Mr Hughes also recommended that States be asked to provide data to report to the Permanent Forum or a UN special mechanism on steps taken towards reparatory justice for persons of African descent to all sectors. He said IDPADA-G members believed that global reparatory justice required more than just providing support to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Committee for reparations.
The IDPADA-G representative lamented that the recommendations of the 2018 Land Commission of Inquiry Report have not been implemented, and no action on the Dutch apology for the benefit of African Guyanese. The Netherlands has apologised for slavery in the Dutch Caribbean islands and Suriname but not Guyana where the Dutch had operated plantations with enslaved Africans.
Despite President Irfaan Ali’s global support for reparations and restorative justice and that his government would work towards the goal of eliminating racism, Mr Hughes said the reality proved otherwise. “The situation in Guyana reveals too many instances of State oppression and exacerbation of racial tensions,” he said, citing the withdrawal of a government subsidy to IDPADA-G and adverse impact on its work “based on a perception that the organisation holds an opposing view to the government.” The Guyana government had accused IDPADA-G of failing to distribute millions of Guyana dollars to ordinary Afro-Guyanese.
The IDPADA-G official indicated that the Guyana government’s pictorial portrayal of racial unity was a farce. “Greater equity in Guyana cannot be achieved through photo opportunities with African Guyanese citizens,” he said in clear references to numerous pictures mainly by President Ali and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo with Afro-Guyanese.
The Guyana government’s representative to the UN permanent forum for the people of African descent agenda was government minister Oneidge Walrond who pointed out that Guyana has sufficient legal and constitutional safeguards and opportunities for redress against acial discrimination.