I wish to commend your newspaper for reporting on the draft document on minority issues in Guyana prepared by Gay McDougall who was named the First United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues in August 2005. The draft document has been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.
As expected the report was heavily criticized by the Government of Guyana which in its self interest would want the world to believe that all is well in regard to race and minority relations in Guyana, and that it is doing all it can to make relations among all the races as harmonious as possible. The Government of Guyana would also want to argue that any problems in relation to race and minorities after 16 years of rule can still be said to be the responsibility of the previous administration which was voted out of office in 1992.
While all the problems stemming from poor relations among the two main racial groups in the country and the associated minority issues which, as the government rightfully points out, also incorporates challenges faced by the Amerindians, cannot be attributed to the PPP, saying that everything is relatively OK and that we are moving forward on resolving the major issues is ducking our heads in the sand. Two of these unresolved issues come to mind immediately: the effective denial to the residents of Linden the TV access enjoyed by most Guyanese living in other parts of the country, and the unsolved murders of mainly young Afro-Guyanese males by the ‘phantom squad.’
Guyana needs wide, honest and informed dialogue on race/minority relations, and a genuine commitment to deal with the issues. Stabroek News and other media can help by providing the internet addresses to important reports like the one referred to in this letter in the body of news articles when they are reported.
This would help interested persons easily get the full text of these important documents so they could peruse them for themselves and thus come to informed viewpoints based on complete documents, rather than selected excerpts and spin.
This goes directly to the need for Freedom of Information legislation in Guyana, and the real opening of the Guyanese media space to facilitate frank and informed discussion by Guyanese on these major issues that impact on the country’s economic and social development.