Political solution to racial vulnerability needed

Stabroek News
December 22, 1997

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) on Saturday said a national political solution is urgently required for racial vulnerability and said the two major parties must set the process in train.

"Confidence-building measures at many levels are required. An urgent beginning is for the leadership of both major parties (PPP/Civic and PNC) to establish a process immediately to ensure significant participation in government of all racial factions. Regardless of whether this is acceptable to their hard-core followers, conditioned over the years to view tolerance as weakness, nothing less will be acceptable to the vast majority of this battered nation", a statement from the group said.

GHRA said that racial animosity, perceptions of fraud and political thuggery have taken the country to the brink of communal violence and robbed the country of the satisfaction of peaceful elections. It said Guyanese people have been forced back into racial rather than national definitions

"The nation is sick and tired of the evasions and excuses by both parties; sick and tired of nicely balanced racial slates of candidates disguising the racial cultures of both parties; sick and tired of racist attitudes and conversation tolerated by leaders unwilling to put their racial support at risk. This basic racial culture rapidly re-asserts itself when the electoral tide turns and the more unscrupulous elements in the media and the parties gain ascendancy," the statement from GHRA said.

GHRA said that before the national elections began, neither party was able to convince the citizens that its commitment to multi-racial politics would prevail over an obsession with power.

"The consequences of this obsession were reflected firstly, in the capital city being reduced to a boarded-up ghost town before a vote was cast; later by hooligans, dubbed as `revolutionary voices', frightening citizens and disrupting the funeral service of a national hero (Martin Carter) and finally, marshals of the court being bundled out of an inauguration ceremony, their writs thrown to the ground by the newly inducted President," the statement said.

Calling for a thorough and quick explanation of the "extra-ordinary administrative failures" within the electoral process, GHRA said the "ineptitude and disarray of the Elections Commission threw an additional burden on the police force, attempting to contain a crowd pumped up by partisan media."

The statement added that in contrast to the 1992 polls "when the stature of the Elections Commissioner rose as the situation deteriorated, the extraordinary goings-on in the Elections Commission saw the stock of the Elections Commissioner plunge from an all-time high on the evening of elections day to a flurry of legal writs by the end of the week".

"The herculean efforts of the commissioners to preserve the integrity of the process were eventually overwhelmed for reasons the nation still only vaguely understands," the statement said.

While the Elections Commission fiasco and the Court of Appeal proceedings will be the main focus in the short-term, a political solution to racial vulnerability is the overriding priority, GHRA urged.

A note from the webmaster:

Have you any comments on the racial divide in Guyana? Please share them with me and I will post them for others to read and comment on. Perhaps we can get a worthwhile dialogue going that leads to greater understanding of the origins and future of this debilitating divide in the 'Land of Six Peoples'.

My e-mail address is: daniels@lasalle.edu