Daily Archives: 03/25/2014

Race, ethnic politics and police violence in Guyana – By David Hinds

Commentary: Race, ethnic politics and police violence in Guyana
Published on March 25, 2014 – By Dr David Hinds
There is major concern over police brutality against African Guyanese since the current executive government came to power. African Guyanese activists have pointed to over 400 African Guyanese, mostly young men, who have died at the hands of the police since 1992. There are strong claims that there was direct state involvement in some of these killings during the period 2002-2006. The recent Colwyn Harding incident has raised these concerns anew. Many have joined the debate. There have been some very useful contributions. The police force has correctly come under severe criticisms. But, sadly, what is missing from the debate is how police brutality is a reflection of our larger ethno-racial problem. Of all the public commentators, only Henry Jeffery and Freddy Kissoon have dared to go there.

Dr David Hinds is a political activist and commentator. He is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. 

And yes, we have had and will continue to have an ethno-racial problem. I use the term ethno-racial to mean ethnic groups that relate to each other through the lens of race. To get a proper sense of what we are talking about, a brief history and explanation of race is needed. We often talk about race in Guyana as if it is figment of people’s imagination — false consciousness. But it is not; it is real. Race as biology has been proven to be unreal. But race as social, political, economic and cultural practice is real.

The concept of race was first developed in the USA in the late 1600s as a justification for the rise of plantation slavery. It gave social meaning to skin colour. Blackness came to mean less than human, while whiteness came to mean fully human. The German philosopher, Hegel, said to be human is to be white. Thomas Jefferson would later remark that blacks were inferior in body and mind and do not feel life’s pains as other groups. Other white thinkers concluded that black people could not exist in a state of freedom. Hence it would be dangerous to free them from slavery.Blackness became synonymous with, among other things, backwardness, indolence, shallowness, unreason and laziness. This characterization of blackness as inferior — the white racial frame — found its way into laws and socio-economic and political policies. Over time such laws and polices inevitably begun to shape people’s consciousness about blackness and, by extension, whiteness.

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Guyana gets G$220B – app US$1Billion Budget

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh today presented a G$220 billion budget which will see an attempt to spend down what ails Guyana’s sugar industry, with $6 billion earmarked for that subsector.  Last year’s budget was G$208.8B.

Meanwhile, G$500 million is to be set aside to boost the competitiveness of the rice industry. Among other measures announced in the budget which was read this afternoon, is a 5% increase in old age pension taking it to G$13,125 from its current G$12,500, from May 1. In addition, pensioners electricity assistance is set to increase from$20,000 – G$30,000 per annum.

While there are no new taxes, there is also no new tax relief. Despite numerous calls over the years for a reduction in the 16% value-added tax, this remains the same. Income tax stays at 30% and the tax threshold at G$50,000.

Singh also said Guyana’s economy is projected to grow by 5.6% this year. Singh also projected that the inflation rate this year will be 5% compared to 0.9% last year, the lowest rate in decades. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 5.2% last year while the non-sugar GDP rose by 6.3%.

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Concerns about Hydro projects in the Mazaruni District

Hi Cyril,

You might have seen the press coming out of Guyana today that the government is going ahead, with the help of Brazil. with a US$45M study for the development of hydro power in the Upper and Middle Mazaruni Regions in Essequibo.
e.g. see Alva Solomon’s story in Demerara Waves:

US$45M to study Mazaruni hydropower potential

The government officials went to a few Amerindian settlements over the last week and told them that two schemes will be developed – one in the Upper Mazaruni and another in the Middle Mazaruni, and that their villages and land will not be flooded as the new technology reduces the size of reservoirs by 90%. Apparently they feel that that was enough ‘consultation’ necessary to satisfy international requirements of ‘free, prior and informed consent’.

There are very few reports available in the public domain. Survival International had done some research around the Amaila Falls Hydro and had looked at all information gleaned about possible Mazaruni Potaro hydro that may affect the Akawaio, Patamona and Arecuna people.

http://assets.survivalinternational.org/documents/1113/book-fpic-oct-2.pdf  (see FOREWORD and PDF link to this report below)

I don’t know if there are any lawyers, environmentalists or hydro-power engineers in the Diaspora who may want to weigh in and give the residents and all citizens of Guyana some advice.


 Anne Harewood

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