Jan 16, 2020 Letters
I refer to an online news outfit’s headline story of January 13, “Phillips blasts Harmon over “PPP Token” remark” which contained, ‘‘The ERC pointed to several statements made by candidates on the campaign trail so far, including remarks about tokenism”.
Before I respond to the above, let me voice my opinion on the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) since its founding, albeit in a very volatile national milieu as an undertaking by the Herdmanston Accord and by Constitutional Amendment (#2) Act of 2000.
The ERC charged with the complex and important task of discharging its functions, as should be, in engaging the challenge of race, in a deeply divided society and striving to get all parties, to understand its dangers; its propagation by certain political elements, as a means of sustaining political support, and the pitfalls such a destructive ideology will always pose for hindering efforts at fostering national unity, while posing a threat to the national peace.
These have been factual political incidences immersed in race and more, that have risen to a particularly all-time high, especially over the past three years, but more so, during the past twelve months, inclusive of the present constitutional life of the ERC.
The rather REACTIONARY mode of the ERC, rather than the need for being PROACTIVE in confronting what had been, and still is, an anti-national collective that continues to promote this dangerous beast called racism, both overtly and covertly throughout sections of the media. And this must include the dark corridors of social media, particularly Facebook, via which some of the most lurid and vile attacks ever read, are a continuous fare for a specific segment of our population. But the voice of the ERC has been silent, as a result of which, one is bound to question its mode of function.
However, some weeks ago, I was very happy and satisfied when I read of the matter of the current manner of functions of this race relations body, penned by an alert and vigilant writer.
Simply stated, again, the ERC is armed with specific guidelines as to its operations; and authority, as elaborated in its powers. And though, one will accept that because promoting tolerance has to be done in an impartial and therefore diplomatic manner, there is the challenge of those elements who will seek to take advantage of such an approach, continuing to perpetuate a dangerous doctrine which causes continuous erosion of the peace, while concomitantly raising the threshold of social tensions. It would seem that this category, has so far escaped the attention/public reprimand, and the question must be asked of this constitutional body, why? It was fair that a certain gospel music personality had been called out and reprimanded for his unsavoury remarks. However, correspondingly, it would seem that this body entirely missed a most nasty, vile and vicious social media attack on Afro-Guyanese, under the pen of a well-known PPP/C operative. And there were no statements from the ERC, as should have been, condemning such racial putridity.
Now, this constitutional body, is wagging a finger, at what it has described as “several statements made by candidates on the campaign trail…including remarks about “tokenism”. Though it is its right to implore civility in any election campaign behaviour, this recent caution can be seen as a convenient action, since it can be observed that the ERC has been reluctant to make individual reprimands when it comes to engaging political sources/individuals; but would rather play it safe by uttering statements of concern in a campaign environment because of the collectivity nature of the actors. This is highly ridiculous, and opens the body, to accusations of being both afraid and partial in the discharge of its duties.
As to its underline observation on the use of “tokenism” – one contends that it is a fair description that can withstand any accusation of race, particularly in the direction to which such an accusation is made. In fact, there is irrefutable evidence that it continues to be a grave insult to the sensibilities of a particular segment of society, who perceive such a ploy as a vile and devious and deceptive strategy that pretends inclusivity of their race in the socio-economic rights of national development, but in reality, is not. It is a justified conclusion since, the twenty-three years of PPP/C government, with its so-called smattering of Afro Guyanese in its cabinet, inclusive of an Afro-Guyanese prime minister, never resulted in the equal place of the mass of Afro Guyanese at the national table of human rights. It was a graphic illustration of what ethnic discrimination and marginalization had been, and how much it degraded the daily lives of the particular race group. Of course, one subscribes to the right of any citizen of any race, reserving the right to the particular political affiliation of his/her preference; however, when this is encouraged in a state that is beset by ethnic division, such as ours, for purely dishonest and fraudulent reasons, such as what has been the experience referred to above, then it should be exposed, and be condemned.
And here, one can also include the disingenuous strategy of the PPP/C, using primarily images of Afro Guyanese in their campaign advertisements. By any long shot, it is wholly fraudulent and barefacedly dishonest for a party that relegated this particular section of society to being mere strangers, begging for a stake in the socio-economic benefits of its native land, to suddenly begin to make them the principal feature in their plans for a future government, if elected. Where is the genuineness in such a cheap political campaign trick, when that party’s brutal and discriminatory governance track record towards Afro-Guyanese has been well chronicled? How can it be so presumptuous in pretending such inclusivity, when its party leader has been publicly calling on his supporters to take back the country from a party and government that is led by an Afro-Guyanese, but is a coalition of multi-ethnic mix? Such statement conveys to Afro-Guyanese that they will have no place in the considerations of such a party would-be government. This is among the deceptions and contradictions which are part of tokenism, and which must be exposed, and highlighted as to its possible political traps, to those targeted in its grand plan of deception. One must therefore ask the ERC – what is wrong, or racially offensive about a political party warning its supporters about the ploy of tokenism, of which they must beware?
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