I AM writing this column with much heaviness in my heart, given the treatment meted out to the African community by the APNU+AFC administration. I resolve however that the struggle for equal rights and justice must continue and the gains made zealously guarded and protected.
Emancipation must forever remind and energise us to action that freedom is never free, it requires eternal vigilance and sacrifice, guarding against and fighting those who seek to deny and erode it in any form. One hundred and seventy nine (179) years of attainment must see Africans rising from any notion that their lot will be improved because in the leadership resides persons who look like them, or because they have given their votes to the group in office.
Evidence continues to show why it is imperative to continue the fight in the presence of clear signals that as a bloc, the race is being viewed as a vote-getting machine, a means to an end, a back to climb on, a group to marginalise or discriminate against. To critique this government with the intention for it to observe its deficiencies, African leaders’ silence is being sought with reminders of the horrors of the PPP/C government. Such conversations also referenced that party’s bottom-house meetings and race-baiting to remove a government because of the physical look of its principal leader, and as such, Africans must rally in defence of their own. The PPP/C when in office did the same thing with their supporters.
As a trade unionist and descendant of a proud lineage, it is incumbent upon me to make it known that my silence and loyalty can only be assured with the upholding and enforcing of universally acceptable principles. The government and opposition are publicly talking about building a cohesive society, while they sow the seeds and fertilise the weeds of division among the masses. We are still at the base level of fighting each other rather than fighting systems that militate against us, and this works only for the benefit of a few.
The masses are suffering or being thrown crumbs, while the leaders live off the hog, so much so that even their physical and other characteristics are akin to the animal. The vote which has empowered us to elect representatives must not see us accepting whatever they throw at us, lest we end up living on our knees. Our vote doesn’t stop at the ballot, it’s precious, and must be safeguarded every day in furtherance of our empowerment by ensuring those we identified to pursue it and are being paid by us to so do are doing exactly that.
Oppression is a cycle of continuity, it doesn’t ever end. It continues to manifest in different forms and different faces and changes its format continuously, regardless of who is in power, whether they look like you or not, necessitating acts of continuous vigilance. Freedoms gained from slavery and indentureship doesn’t mean that we don’t have other freedoms for which to fight, even as we protect the gains. Compare where we are to other nations on rights and justice, when people are being denied the right to media and we can’t even talk, we have a far way to go.
Africans should accept no punishment under anyone, whether it is the one you put in government or in opposition. We have equal rights to this country’s resources, to be treated with dignity and respect, guaranteed the protection of the laws, and our rights and freedoms not transgressed. As an African I publicly question President Granger’s commitment to African empowerment, and this does not include the superficial, ceremonial and celebratory, for these are easy to do.
For those who see empowerment of Africans as denial of the rights of others, let me debunk such a misplaced notion. Empowerment has to do with creating the enabling environment through policies, laws and programmes in furtherance of upliftment in society. Where international conventions and charters, the Constitution and Laws of Guyana are so enshrined, no government must be allowed to selectively enforce them to the detriment of the African community. I am deeply disturbed over the on-going sweepers/cleaners’ protest to be treated with respect and dignity. No legitimate work is debasing and all workers are guaranteed equal treatment under the law, which much be respected.
These underpaid workers who are part of the public sector are primarily poor black women, and all it requires of this government to right an injustice instituted under the PPP/C government is affirmative action consistent with the law and public service rules. The treatment meted out to these workers and conditions under which they give of their labour are akin to modern slavery. Where their ancestors succeeded in toppling it, it must not be reinstituted and I applaud their courage to stand against it.
These workers like workers of the Bauxite Union of Guyana Incorporated, members of the Guyana Public Service Union, Guyana Teachers Union, etc, would have thought that the chains had been broken when they put the APNU+AFC in office. Instead of moving affirmatively to abolish malpractices, African leaders are cowering or seeking excuse that should they act they’d be accused of racism. There is no racism in taking action to securing the inalienable rights of all races, it is called Affirmative Action and where this government refuses to or remains timid to act, it must feel the wrath of the affected and decent-minded citizens.
My ancestors fought bitter battles, some died, in the pursuit to be treated as human beings, which was the underlying principle that undermined the justification for slavery. This heroic journey must not only be commemorated yearly, but secured and defended every single day of the year. It is of concern that additional work of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, Forbes Burnham, Joseph Pollydore and Desmond Hoyte in securing and enshrining achievements into laws (e.g. Article 147 in the Constitution and Section 23(1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act) are facing clear and present threat in the David Granger era. The achievements of African forebears are being brought into question and where it was wrong under Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar, it remains wrong now.
The non-implementation of the 2012 Agreement between Linden/Region 10 and Central Government is also testimony to what the ancestors fought against. The continuous act of denying citizens the right to freedom of expression by refusing to return their television station and disempowerment by not having the Economic Committee established should have ceased since 11thMay 2015.
Africans cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of complacency or acquiesce, for history shows they delayed the achievement for freedom. We must stand up fearlessly in the spirit of the ancestors who struggled, to resist any force, from any source, that threatens human dignity and respect which would allow all to enjoy equally the benefits of this land of their birth. Let us in further pursuit for full attainment rely on words buttressed by actions, failing which outcries and vigilance must become necessary tools in the fight for such.