Kaieteur News – I have over 50 years in social/political/human rights activism. I have been around academia since I entered UG as a freshman in 1974 and since October 1988, I have been a newspaper columnist.
In all these years, in Guyana I have never seen the leadership of an ethnic community run and hide from its ethnic constituencies the way African leaders have done in November 2022. It has never happened before.
The League of Coloured People was relentless in its advancement of the Creole middle class. The British Guiana East Indian Association fought strenuously for the recognition of the rights of the former indentured labourers.
The People’s Progressive Party under Cheddi and Janet Jagan knew that without the embrace of the Indian peasantry, Indian rural proletariat and the general Indian petty bourgeoisie, the PPP would not survive.
The PNC under Forbes Burnham, Ptolemy Reid and Hamilton Green assured the public servants and African Guyanese in general that the PNC was in existence to protect them from the Indianized PPP.
When Portuguese businessman, Peter D’Aguiar, formed the United Force and sought the hearts and minds of the Guyanese Portuguese community and the Amerindians, he got it and he stayed true to his constituencies.
The historical aberration has occurred in November 2022. The governing majority in the National Assembly amended the law in relation to penalties for conviction of marijuana. Mandatory prison sentence for small amounts has been removed.
But possession of even one gram is still a criminal act for which prosecution is mandatory. The Rastafari community protested outside the National Assembly last Monday when the amendment was being tabled. I went to ground with them (see my column yesterday).
One of the Rastafari protestors openly said that the government is an enemy of the Rastafari people and also the PNC. He made reference to the opposition three times. As I commented in my column yesterday, no one outside of the Rastafari community turned up to lend support. In Guyana, there is the PNC, WPA, ACDA, Cuffy 250, IDPADA-G and a school of lesser known African oriented organizations. These groups exist throughout Guyana. When it is Emancipation Day, they take to the National Park to proclaim their existence.
None of them was represented at the picket last Monday? Why? Before we answer that question, there is more exposure to come. There are a number of pro-African rights commentators on social media. Yet none mentioned the retention in the legislation of one gram and the Rastafari protest.
The answer is excessively disturbing. You see 99 percent of the conviction for possession of marijuana, as distinct of possession for trafficking, is African Guyanese. Of those convicted, 100 percent are below the age of 40.
In its election campaign of 2015 and in its manifesto, the PNC+AFC promised to decriminalise small amount. I shared the platform with Basil Williams in Paradise village in the 2015 election campaign in which the promise to decriminalise small amounts was made. In 2015, the year the PNC took state power, the amendment was drafted by Nigel Hughes and was put on the Order Paper to be read under the name of AFC parliamentarian, Michael Carrington.
In 2016, the item was taken off the Order Paper by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo and the Carrington Bill sadly went through a death of betrayal. The great Guyanese revolutionaries – Tacuma Ogunseye, David Hinds, Desmond Trotman, Clive Thomas, Rupert Roopnaraine and Dr. Maurice Odle from the WPA were part of the government but accepted the death of Carrington’s Bill.
From September 2015 when Parliament first met under the APNU+AFC to the end of July when the APNU+AFC legally lost the 2020 election, not one of the PNC and WPA leaders apologised to African Guyanese and offered an explanation much less an apology for the guillotined Bill.
The famous African rights organisation, ACDA and its long-serving head, Violet Baptiste (when is that lady going to give way to new leadership?) and her deputy, Eric Phillips never commented on the deliberate death of Carrington’s Bill.
In 2021, without the explanation and apology, the PNC and AFC tabled an amendment in the name of Sherod Duncan to make possession of 100 grams legal. It was a joke coming from both the PNC and Duncan and was rightfully thrown in the waste basket.
So we still have to ask the question why no African rights leader or group offered support to the Rastafari protest or even commented publicly on the one gram retention. And why none of the social media commentators objected to the one gram retention. They had to hide and are still in hiding because if they open their mouths, African youths will tell them, they are betrayers.
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