UN Report Status of Minorities in Guyana by Gay McDougall

Note: This Report has been accepted as evidence in the present libel case – Jagdeo vs Kissoon, regarding a column written by Kissoon last year.  You can read the court reports on this website.

UN Report Status of Minorities in Guyana by Gay McDougall

Here is the link to the complete Report http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/49bfa6ec2.pdf:

 Summary –

The independent expert on minority issues, Ms. Gay McDougall, visited Guyana between 28 July and 1 August 2008. During her visit, she travelled to Georgetown and surrounding communities. She held consultations with the State President, ministers and other senior government representatives, NGOs, civil society groups, political parties, religious leaders, academics and others working in the field of minority issues and anti-discrimination.

The independent expert visited communities, including Buxton, and talked to community members about their lives and issues.  =

In July 2003, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance highlighted that he found that every level of Guyanese society is permeated by a profound moral, emotional and political fatigue, arising out of the individual and collective impact of ethnic polarization.1 In 2008, the independent expert witnessed a continuing societal malaise that shows evidence of having deepened and transformed in some instances into despair, anger and resistance. This is particularly evident among Afro-Guyanese individuals and communities that reported feeling excluded, discriminated against and criminalized. 

Ethnically divided political and administrative structures and failed political processes have created deep frustrations and distrust in the institution of government. A climate of suspicion, rumour and conspiracy theory exists in Guyana which has been fuelled by exceptionally violent incidents in 2008. Two separate and conflicting narratives and perceptions of reality have emerged among Afro- and Indo-Guyanese, which threaten to undermine shared values and common goals that are essential to a united, prosperous Guyana.

The independent expert recognizes commendable steps on the part of the Government to date to address issues of ethnic tensions, criminal activities and economic underdevelopment.

However, further effective action is required urgently to restore confidence in good governance and the rule of law among all communities, and prevent an inexorable slide into further polarization and possible violence. A new era of political will and strong, visionary leadership is required to realize change and reverse the economic and social stagnation that is evident in a divided Guyana.

Afro-Guyanese with whom the independent expert met described feeling excluded from having a full voice and stake in the national polity and equal enjoyment of rights in many fields of life including employment and economic participation. They reported stigmatization of young Afro-Guyanese males and entire African communities. Derogatory stereotypes of criminality colour wider societal perceptions of Afro-Guyanese individuals and communities.

Particular challenges affect women from minority communities, including a scarcity of employment opportunities for women from Afro-Guyanese communities, the extremely heavy burden of care shouldered by single mothers, and a disturbing culture of domestic violence, often fuelled by poverty and unemployment in their communities. Women feel that domestic violence cases are not treated seriously by the criminal justice system. Additionally, women’s participation in political processes remains well below levels of equality.

Current anti-discrimination legislation and policies are insufficient to address discrimination, exclusion and ethnically based bias. A new and robust anti-discrimination and equality plan of action is required to be applied across all sectors of society to break down the barriers that have become ingrained in Guyana.

A bitter and destructive political environment has infected the wider society and is failing the people of Guyana. It must give way to a climate of truth, reconciliation and compromise.

Reforms must be far-reaching and highly consultative. However, consultation and process must be time-bound and action-oriented, and must lead to concrete, achievable outputs that ensure non-discrimination and equality.

Promises must be delivered upon, including the urgent creation of five credible human rights commissions, to deliver change to the lives of individuals, families and communities and put in place new foundations upon which to build. An open and constructive dialogue on inclusive governance remains an essential component of this process. The Government of Guyana is urged to take the lead in initiating such a dialogue, however, political will must be demonstrated by all parties.

Here is the link to the complete Report    http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/49bfa6ec2.pdf:

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 08/31/2011 at 5:22 pm

    “Two separate and conflicting narratives and perceptions of reality have emerged among Afro- and Indo-Guyanese, which threaten to undermine shared values and common goals that are essential to a united, prosperous Guyana.”

    This observation reminded me of a warring married couple. There can be no reconciliation when they fail to listen to each other with an open mind and heart and forgive the errors and hurts of yesterday.

    Thanks for sharing this report.

  • Cheryl Martin  On 09/03/2011 at 1:21 pm

    date Sat, Sep 3, 2011 at 4:58 AM
    subject Re: UN Report Status of Minorities in Guyana – by Gay McDougall

    I am an educator, and I can see cases of gross educational ,and emotional neglect when students come from Guyana to the Public School system.

  • LIBERATOR  On 09/07/2011 at 1:50 pm

    It goes without saying that in Guyanese society the Afro population is unfairly dominated and marginalized by the Indo-guyanese government. It is racism at its best. Those in power will never see it since they can only see the forest but not the trees. The US report further bears this out. There needs to be an honest dialogue among racial groups in Guyana on the issue of the distribution of power .. who has it and who does not. But since it is not in the Indo-guyanese dominated PPP government’s interest in such matters it will never happen. Maybe until another racial war like the one in the 60s, the Jagdeo administration’s attention will continue to be diverted elsewhere.

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