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Ethnic Relations Commission
66 Peter Rose & Anira Streets, Queenstown, Georgetown, Guyana
Tel. +592-231-6479, 231-6473,
231-6281, 231-6265
Fax: +592-231-6246

April 26, 2011

PRESS STATEMENT

Decision of the Ethnic Relations Commission with respect to a speech made by Mr. Lance Carberry, Chief Whip of the PNC/R and Mr. Robert Corbin, Leader of the Opposition and leader of the PNC/R at a PNC/R Press Conference.

The Ethnic Relations Commission acting under Article 212 D of the Constitution of Guyana, considering all the information at its disposal, regarding the said matter and having deliberated on the matter on the 11th April, 2011 at a specially convened meeting hereby adopts the following conclusions on the matter.

Background

The Office of the President has lodged a complaint with the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) stating that Cabinet at its meeting on January 18, 2011 was advised about the unacceptable content of a recent PNC/R Television programme that espoused ‘Race Hate.’ The said programme was a recording of a PNC/R press conference Cabinet has requested that the ERC conducts the necessary inquiry and take the appropriate action.

The TV statement carried on Channel 9 was based on the theme ‘PPP and Jagdeo attempting political hijacking of people of African descent.’

The Statements:

Mr. Lance Carberry: ‘… most shocking is the report of the planned state launching of this event later in January where it is proposed to place the main oppressor of African Guyanese over the past 19 years to dominate. Latest information is that the President has instructed that no prominent African Guyanese that holds different views from that of the ruling party should appear on the opening programme at which he is scheduled to make the feature presentation…’

Mr. Robert Corbin: ‘The main oppressor is obvious…we have been speaking of marginalization in this country for the last few years. At the latter part of 2010 we saw the mad rush to Linden dole out money and to do a number of things which they neglected to do for years and the march on Buxton after many years by the President to suddenly give the impression that they are concerned with the marginalized villages…I do not think that the oppressors are difficult to identify.’
[This was in response to a reporter when asked to ‘identify the main oppressor of the Afro-Guyanese people]

Observations:

  1. It cannot be disputed that there is a perception by some Guyanese that the current administration is oppressing and marginalizing Afro-Guyanese and it is plausible that this may resonate with some segments of the population. 
  1.  The Commission for its part has not in fact, found evidence of marginalization against afro-Guyanese and does not subscribe to the view that the current administration is an oppressor of African Guyanese. It is the Commission’s view that while it is aware of several allegations of victimization based on ethnicity and marginalization, the Commission has not to date received any credible evidence that indicates that the Government has a policy of discriminating against Afro-Guyanese. This being the case, the Commission wishes to emphasize, does not mean racism subtle or otherwise does not exist in Guyana.
  1. The ERC recognizes that in the political arena politicians are known to comment on and to criticize other political parties both in Government and out of Government especially in jousting for political leverage with respect to their perceived constituencies. It is also acceptable that outside of being emotive and spurious, statements may also be fair comment.
  1. It is not the Commission’s considered opinion that the comments made by the two gentlemen amount to ‘race hate’ in the context of the existing legal framework.
  1. While the Commission respects the rights and views of others, it charges all political parties to act responsibly and refrain from unhealthy discourses that have the potential to mislead, or perhaps pander deliberately to ethnic insecurities that may cause unease and mistrust based on race.  

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