UN Rapporteur concludes visit
--- to draft race solution recommendations

Guyana Chronicle
July 22, 2003

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Mr. Doudou Diene, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, concluded his visit to Guyana yesterday.

Mr. Diene appointed April 25, 2002 by the Commission resolution’s 2002/68 was here to understand the origins of ethnic tensions that recently affected the political and social fabric of the country. The visit was also a learning process of Government Policies and measures aimed at guaranteeing the rights to equality and non-discrimination of citizens from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Jan Sorensen, UN Resident Representative, informed the media at a press conference held at UNDP ’s Office Brickdam, that Mr. Diene had a full, extensive programme, holding meetings throughout the country, including Lethem and Buxton.

Prior to the Press Conference there was a breakfast meeting with President Bharrat Jagdeo and Ministers of the Government.

Mr. Diene promised to fulfill his mandate in Guyana which is to undertake a “most comprehensive and objective assessment of the communities and race relationships and also the drafting of recommendations that can help or cultivate the solution which the Guyanese people will have to find.”

He will submit the findings and recommendations to the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights in March 2004.

At the press conference, he acknowledged that there is ethnic and racial polarisation and stated that this was recognized by almost everyone he met at different levels.

Mr. Doudou Diene, highlighted Political Fatigue; Human and Emotional Insecurity as critical issues but declared that despite all of these factors there is a sense of belonging by all groups.

“From mandate given to me there is one thing I felt strongly with all the people I met, a sense of belonging from all ethnic and political groupings.”

“I strongly believe that something new is happening, a new political atmosphere which implies that the political authority recognizes their responsibility in finding the solution” he stated.

The Special Rapporteur pointed to Constitutional Reform being adopted, Committees being established and the Communiqué published by political parties as positive signs.

Something is moving, something is started and this should be recognized he stated.

Hinting that his report will reflect this new atmosphere, he however noted that if he had visited Guyana one and two years earlier he was sure that the atmosphere would not have been the same.

Noting the deep human and insecurity he added that there is no feeling of hatred, but just fear from both sides, calling it a fundamental point.

When in a given society deeply marked by the issues you encounter they are willing to talk, it is a positive sign, he pointed out.

He lauded the freedom of speech utilized by the people who spoke and expressed themselves freely, attributing it to the freedom of expression in a democratic society.

The UN Special Rapporteur stated that the role is to contribute to the Guyanese people in finding their own solution.

Throughout my contact the political leaders have felt political fatigue and expressed the view that this situation cannot continue, he added.

He observed that this hemisphere has inhibited a legacy of racial and ethnic division and racism, a builder of slave system, cult degradation of African slaves and Indians Indentured Labourers.

The legacy has served as a pillar and structure economically, socially and politically he said.

Key point is the responsibility of the political leaders, he reiterated.

The Issue he highlighted was, what has been done by this legacy and underlined the responsibility of political leaders in this regard.

Noting that some countries have been attempts to confront it - face it -, he added that other political leaders use it for their own political agenda.

Commenting on Guyana’s situation, he stated that from that time, political leaders did not meaningfully address the situation and this is what led to the situation now.

Any lasting solution has to come from the political parties because they have a big responsibility to play along with the religious community in unifying, he stated.

He thanked the Authorities for accepting his invitation to visit Guyana and opening and facilitating him. He noted that all the departments were accommodating and available.

The attitude of the opposition party also received merit from the Rapporteur for frank and honest display.

He also commended other political parties, Civil Society; NGO’s; Women’s and Youth Group and Religious Leaders.

He recommended that a document that was produced following a conference on racial issues organized in 2001 in South Africa be circulated to all Guyanese.

He proposed its implementation as one of the basis to be used to settle the issues.

Mr. Doudou Diene will be heading for Trinidad, Canada and Colombia then Sierra Leone.

The Special Rapporteur’ s visit is expected to further contribute to strengthening current efforts by the United Nations aimed at supporting the building of social cohesion in Guyana in particular.

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