Gov’t committed to promoting good governance, ethnic harmony – Guyana at UN Forum

The government remains steadfast in its goal of promoting equity and unity in Guyana’s multicultural, multi-ethnic society.

The PPP/C administration wholeheartedly supports and joins the efforts of the international community in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

This was affirmed by Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, during her presentation at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Persons of African Descent.

The delegation included Dr Erica Forde, and two members of the Ethnic Relations Commission, Chairman Sheikh Moeenul-Hack and Commissioner Deon Earl Dick (Ras Khafra).

The Guyana delegation was led by Oneidge Walrond, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, and included two members of the Ethnic Relations Commission, Mr. Sheikh Moeenul-Hack (Chair of the ERC) and Mr Deon Earl Dick (Ras Khafra), and Dr Erica Forte

Minister Walrond said the rights of persons of African descent are rigorously represented in the country’s legislative and socioeconomic framework, in advancing the government’s plight to promote good governance and ethnic harmony.

Consistent with this, the members of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) were earlier this year sworn in to allow for a thorough execution of its duties in promoting equity.

Moreover, the Racial Hostility Act is another piece of legislation that seeks to eradicate this social ill, by creating an offence for wilfully exciting racial hostility or ill-will.  

“The Government of Guyana is committed to upholding the dignity of people of African descent through the protection of their human rights in our legal framework. We are similarly committed to ensuring equitable access to the social and economic programmes of the government, such as free education, healthcare and access to housing and water, which collectively represent one-third of our national budget,” minister Walrond said.

Further, Chairman Sheikh Moeenul-Hack expounded on how President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s ‘One Guyana’ platform seeks to promote unity, and inclusion while addressing and eradicating disparities where they may exist.

Additionally, the chairman dispelled the serious allegations made by PNC activist Darren Wade, who at the United Nations Forum for the People of African Descent alleged that the government is involved in discrimination against Haitian nationals, when compared to favourable treatment given to individuals from other countries such as India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Moeenul-Hack made it clear that this is not the case.

“Regarding Guyana giving preferential treatment to three Asian countries, and not Haitians, is not so.  The nationals of these countries also require ordinary visas. In the court case, the deportation order was quashed, and the persons were released. It was not a constitutional case about reinstating a visa-free regime, as alleged,” he clarified.

“We can only eliminate racism if we are willing to dialogue and work together. We welcome international cooperation to share experiences and build capacity,” he concluded.

Further, Commissioner Deon Earl Dick (Ras Khafra), adding his voice to the thematic discussion on Pan-Africanism for dignity, justice and peace, highlighted the significant role that the Caribbean has played in the development of the Pan-African movement.

He added that Pan-Africanism includes establishing and strengthening ties between Africa and people of African descent in the Diaspora, and this is something that Guyana has been doing. An example of this effort is the Ghana-Guyana Chamber of Commerce, established in May.

Meanwhile, Regional Health Officer, Dr Erica Forde highlighted the importance of health and the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right for all.

She noted that Guyana was one of the states to endorse the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, which displayed its commitment to enhancing measures that ensure the right to eradicate any forms of discrimination in the delivery of health services.

“Guyana’s population is diverse. However, common among all are non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure. We are working to further disaggregate our data. Notwithstanding, Guyana supports the need for global reflection on the impact of slavery and racism on total health and well-being with a focus on the disadvantages that people of African descent experienced and are experiencing in their uptake of healthcare services, and the long-term and interdimensional consequences,” she highlighted.

Organised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Permanent Forum on Persons of African Descent is part of a global consultative process with a focus on five thematic panels on global reparatory justice, Pan-Africanism, transnational migration, data-collection for recognising and addressing systemic and structural racism, and health, well-being and intergenerational trauma.  This session’s theme is “Realizing the dream: A United Nations Declaration on the Promotion, protection and full respect of the human rights of People of African Descent”.