President can ease race antagonism by inviting PPP/C to share power


President David Granger has the power to ease racial antagonism by inviting the opposition PPP/C into his APNU+AFC government, according to commentator Ralph Ramkarran.

In his Sunday Stabroek column, Ramkarran discussed the race problematic which has dogged the country and asserted:  “President Granger has the power in his hands to ameliorate the sharpness of racial or ethnic antagonism. APNU+AFC has proposed a package of constitutional reforms that includes: 1. The vice-president being the person who came second in the elections; 2. The sharing of the government with all political parties gaining over 15 per cent of the vote. I know as a fact that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has always been a strong supporter of a political solution in the form of a coalition government between the two main political parties and would not stand in the way of such a solution.

“There is therefore no obstacle to President Granger now immediately inviting former President (Donald) Ramotar to be his Prime Minister and inviting the PPP/C to nominate 49 per cent of the members of the cabinet. Constitutional reform will in due course institutionalise this coalition. This new political dispensation will immediately reduce substantially the extent of racial or ethnic antagonism that exists in our society. It will not eliminate racial disharmony or abuse, but it will be a start. It will also lay the real foundation for reduced corruption and political stability”.

He prefaced his call by stating that issues relating to race, racial language and racial incitement are never far from our social and political processes.

The two-term Speaker of Parliament cited several cases where issues of racial incitement rose to prominence under the PPP/C government and noted that Guyana takes a serious view of racial discrimination and racial hostility.

“Racial discrimination is prohibited by article 149 of the Constitution. By the Racial Hostility Act passed in 1964, an era marked by racial disturbances and killings, a person is guilty of a criminal offence who excites or attempts racial hostility or ill-will against any section of the public or any person on the grounds of their or his or her race by means of words spoken in a public place or spoken and transmitted for general reception by wireless telegraphy or telegraph or by means of written or printed matter. The Prevention of Discrimination Act passed in 1997 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race and for other reasons in employment, pay and in other areas. The seriousness with which the legislature has treated with the issue of race in its major aspects has not been reflected in the attitude of the population. The reason for this, and the reason why change would be slow and racial abuse and incitement would continue to be acceptable among many people, and would reflect their ‘personal philosophy,’ is because the ethnic divisions at the base of our society have determined and sustained its political superstructure. Unless the superstructure is wholly or partially dismantled, racial abuse will remain a part of our lives, reflective of our ‘personal philosophy’”, Ramkarran asserted.

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