Jagdeo asks ERC to do study on Afro-Guyanese welfare under PNC, PPP Gov’ts

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has asked the revived Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to conduct a comparative facts-based study on the welfare of Afro-Guyanese during the periods of the People’s National Congress (PNC), People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) and A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition Governments.

Jagdeo, accompanied by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira and Parliamentarian Juan Edghill, welcomed a courtesy call by the newly-appointed ERC members on Wednesday, a statement from the Opposition Leader’s Office noted.

According to the statement, “much of the discussion saw time given to the concerns about the state and welfare of Afro-Guyanese and the ERC was requested to do a fact-based study on the periods 1964-1992 (under the PNC administration), 1992-2015 (under the PPP/C administration) and 2015 to present (under the APNU+AFC Coalition government).”

Jagdeo further requested that the Commission subsequently facilitate a public discussion on the findings.

“The Leader of the Opposition stated that if this study was done, it would find that Afro-Guyanese did better under successive PPP/C governments,” the release stated.

Jagdeo, a former president, has contended on numerous occasions that Afro-Guyanese made more advancements in society under the PPP/C Administration, which is predominately supported by Indo-Guyanese.

Apart from this topic, Jagdeo said the two parties had “frank and open” discussions on race relations in the country, and the issue of the hiring process at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) came up for debate.

“With specific reference to the hiring of staffers at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the PPP/C’s concerns related to the need for fair and transparent hiring practices based on merit. The Leader of the Opposition stressed that the State has a responsibility to give fair and equal treatment to its citizens and to ensure equal access to goods and services,” the statement highlighted.

The welfare of the sugar workers was another matter the Opposition raised with the ERC.

“The Leader of the Opposition also repeated the PPP/C’s call for equal treatment for the 7,000+ sugar workers, who have lost their jobs as a result of the closures of the Wales, Rose Hall, Skeldon and Enmore sugar estates,” the statement outlined.

It noted that Jagdeo even mentioned policies that were implemented to support communities in Region 10, specifically Linden and communities along the Berbice River, because of problems relating to the bauxite sector. 

“Those policies and subsidies remain intact today in those areas.  He, therefore, urged the Commission to look at what needs to be done to ensure that the sugar workers benefit from equal treatment,” the statement added.

Concerns were also raised about the almost 2,000 Amerindian Community Service Officers (CSOs), whose services were terminated post May 2015, the statement noted, adding that the Opposition Leader informed the Commissioners that with the loss of employment of these CSOs, over $700M has been withdrawn from their communities, resulting in devastating repercussions for the people living in those areas.

Chaired by Bishop John Smith, the ERC Commissioners are Mr Barrington Braithwaite, Ms Ruth Howard, Mr Roshan Khan, Major General (Ret’d) Norman McLean, Pandit Deodat Persaud, Mr Ashton Simon, Ms Rajkumarie Singh, Mr Neaz Subhan and Mr Norris Witter.

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