Discredit the minority report
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) has joined the chorus of criticisms against a UN Minority Report on Guyana. A great deal of what FITUG says has merit.
However, this report, which has also been slammed by the government, is now public record and therefore those opposed to its contents should do all within their powers to discredit it.
I would strongly suggest that all of those who are opposed to the report get together and prepare a strong brief, outlining their main areas of concern, no doubt including the limited consultations and small time frame involved, and to forward this brief to the United Nations and to have this matter followed up.
It does no credit to the United Nations to have Africans in Guyana considered as a minority.
It does no credit to the UN regardless of whatever agencies of the UN are concerned with indigenous peoples, to send an expert for such a short period of time to Guyana and to not include in the treatment of minorities— the Portuguese, the Chinese and the Amerindians — who are the most marginalised grouping in Guyana.
This report adds nothing to the ongoing debate about minorities. It does, however, deal with the issue of ethnic relations and therefore what is required is for a much clearer terms of reference for a new study to be undertaken, one that will comprise a larger team who will spend a longer period in Guyana and compile reports on both the treatment of minorities as well as the ethnic and racial divide in Guyana.
In this way some good would emerge over the controversy that has erupted over this most recent report.
The subject of the recent report is worthy of detailed study. I also feel that we must constantly strive to get external perspectives on our own problems without having to be subordinate to those concerns. Sometimes others see our problems in a different light from how we would see it. Sometimes having an independent opinion allows us to take our own blindfolds off.
And this is why studies such as the one commissioned by the United Nations are important.
While the recent Minority Report should not be swept under the carpet, it surely should be discredited because of the manner in which it was compiled.
The person that wrote that report needs to be brought to account for her findings and methodology and I would strongly suggest to all those who have been critical of this report to not rest until the United Nations agrees to fund a much wider and more detailed study of ethnic relations in Guyana, one that would have a broader terms of reference and one that has a number of commissioners rather than a single person.
Such a study would enjoy far greater credibility.
However flawed was the recent Minority Report it is a fact that the government- as has been all governments in Guyana- will be uncomfortable with claims of ethnic discrimination and ethnic marginalisation.
Very few governments like to concede on these points and this is yet another reason why despite the fact that Guyana is capable of dealing with its own political problems that sometimes an independent opinion is necessary.
But that opinion must emerge from a process that is credible and certainly the recent report is not credible because as FITUG points out care was not taken to verify certain facts.
Improved ethnic relations are important for stability and such stability is important to investors both local and overseas.
Investors want political and social stability. They do not wish to see, for example, crime and political strife imperil their investments. Once there is money to be made and investments are protected and the social costs of such investments reduced because of a stable climate, then businesses will be more inclined to invest greater more of their proceeds in Guyana.
Right now we have a great many foreign companies dominating the economy of Guyana. And they are taking our resources out of this country in return for the creation of a few jobs.
Many of them have generous tax holidays not enjoyed by local companies, so generous that some of them can afford to take loans at nine per cent interest rates.
They can do this because of the fiscal and other concessions, which are being doled out to them by the government.
Having a stable environment is thus important towards greater local investment and this is why there should always be a continuous search for ways to improve ethnic relations in the country because while we are following a flawed model of development, one that assigns too important a role to the foreign capital, this model itself depends on political and social stability and improved ethnic relations will in turn contribute towards such stability.
The government should not therefore shy away from promoting studies of race relations in Guyana.
It is now likely to do so in light of the nonsense that was written in the recent UN Minority Report.
It should turn a setback into an achievement by first launching a massive campaign within the United Nations to discredit the recent report and then forcing the UN to commission a new study of ethnic relations and the status of all minorities in Guyana.