Ethno-racial inequality must be addressed if Guyana to realize full potential as a viable diverse society

Dear Editor,

The Working People’s Alliance joins with Guyanese and the rest of our Anglophone Caribbean family in their observance of the 180th anniversary of the end of chattel slavery. WPA salutes African Guyanese on this their special moment of memory and celebration. Memory of the period of enslavement is necessary as a reminder of how the lust for power and accumulation of wealth could lead to institutionalized exploitation. Eighteen decades may seem like a long time, but because of the enormity of the human destruction visited upon the enslaved, the scars of bondage are still very fresh.

Emancipation Day must continue to be a moment of celebration because in the final analysis emancipation meant the defeat of slavery. Any people who overcame such a brutal system should be proud of themselves. That Africans continue to survive the dread realities of post-emancipation is a tribute to their resilience. In celebrating with African Guyanese, WPA celebrates all its members who have played and continues to play important roles in the African Guyanese community.

We especially salute Brother Eusi Kwayana who must be credited with pioneering cultural awakening among African Guyanese. That we observe Emancipation Day as a public holiday in Guyana is due in large measure to Brother Eusi’s example, advocacy and leadership. His dedication to the cause of Black dignity and uplift will forever be etched in the consciousness of African Guyanese and he continues to serve as an inspiration to all who raise the banner of Black empowerment and Black pride.

Much has changed in Guyana since 1838, but the cry of the descendants of the enslaved for equal dignity and opportunity still rings loudly across our country and beyond. Any objective assessment of the condition of African Guyanese today cannot escape the feeling of despair and hopelessness that emanate from large sections of that group. This is fueled by a sense of economic dispossession and lack of opportunities to lift themselves out of that rut. However uncomfortable it is, the issue of ethno-racial inequality must be addressed if Guyana is to realize its full potential as a viable diverse society in which all its citizens enjoy a sense of security.

It is for that reason that the WPA urges Guyanese to use this emancipation anniversary as both a moment of remembering and another opportunity to reaffirm our collective commitment to ethnic and racial equality in word and deed. We do not believe that a debate on race relations between our two principal political leaders will do much to address the burning racial issues that have long plagued Guyana. Rather, we urge the leaders to devise and support policies that would ensure that all ethnic groups share our common economic benefits.

It is particularly important that we begin to think about ways to democratically distribute the potential benefits from the imminent oil and gas sector so that increased wealth contributes to national cohesion rather than exacerbate our already fragile ethnicity. Economic development cannot be managed outside of our ethnic realities. WPA, therefore, reiterates its long-held view that economic advance must be hinged on a political solution of which ethno-racial respect and unity is a central plank.

Yours faithfully,

David Hinds

For the WPA

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