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Govt pledges to ‘uphold dignity’ of Afro-descendants; several options to seek legal redress against racial hostility

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 May 2023, 0:25 by Denis Chabrol

Minister of Trade, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond and (left) Ras Kafra of the Ethnic Relations Commission at the UN permanent forum for people of African descent.

The Guyana government on Tuesday told the United Nations (UN) permanent forum for people of African descent that no effort was being spared to ensure descendants of enslaved Africans are not discriminated against, and that already there are legal and constitutional mechanisms to punish people engaged in racial discrimination.

“The government of Guyana is committed to upholding the dignity of people of African descent through the protection of their human rights in  our legal framework,” Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond told the forum being held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

She added that government was committed to ensuring that Guyanese continue to benefit from social programmes such as equitable access to social and economic programmes such as free health, education and access to housing and water, amounting to more than one-third of Guyana’s national budget.  Ms Walrond also said Guyana’s constitution.

With Guyana’s constitution prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race, gender and religion amongst other provisions, she said the independent judiciary, which is historically proportionally represented by Afro-Guyanese, the independent Ethnic Relations Commission and the Racial Hostility Act. She reminded that elected officials could be barred from holding office if they violate that law.

Touching on the need to compensate Afro-Guyanese for the lasting adverse impact of slavery and the slave trade,  Ms Walrond said Guyana is part of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and the National Reparations Committee of “Afro-Guyanese leaders.”

The Guyana government minister also said Guyana was keen on seeing the UN Permanent Forum for People of African Descent crafting a political declaration. “Guyana is a multi-ethnic society striving to forge unity and harmony among our diverse peoples. We will, therefore, continue to support the work of this forum including the elaboration of a political declaration on people of African descent,” she said.

The umbrella International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana, told the permanent forum that the Guyana government was not doing enough t0 push for reparatory and restorative justice, but was more busy posing for pictures with Afro-Guyanese.

The mainly Indo-Guyanese backed People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has often been accused of discriminating against Afro-Guyanese especially in the distribution of lands, access to jobs, awarding of multi-million dollar contracts and preferential treatment of some businesses. The government has dismissed those accusations.

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May 2023