Human Rights group says Guyana’s political parties must stop fuelling ethnic insecurity

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The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) today said that Guyana’s political parties must stop fuelling ethnic insecurity.

Below is the full statement from GHRA:

For the past seventy years both major political parties have repeatedly exploited the ethnic fault-lines of our society for electoral advantage.  The events unfolding following the No Confidence Vote are once again carrying the country towards ethnic confrontation. Having created an unexpected election, both parties are beginning to mobilize in ways that do not inspire confidence. The scenario for generating ethnic insecurity has played out so often in the past that its phases are well-known.

Age rather than ethnicity is a more predictable indicator of the inclinations of young Guyanese and they have a right to a future driven by as honest a political response as possible to the realities of Guyanese life. Anything less is major inter-generational injustice. To avoid another dysfunctional, ethnically-driven election, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is calling for a major political agreement between the two main political parties, responsibility for which we believe is shared equally by both of them.

The current bomb scares are the opening gambit to unnerve the population in general and to discourage ethnic solidarity. This will be followed inevitably by prolonged controversy from both sides over the state of the Voters’ List – the tool of choice for pressing ethnic buttons.  Television programmes fueled by righteous indignation of party political programmes cultivate intransigence and confrontation, projecting compromise as cowardice. All of this hypocrisy should be condemned and repudiated.

A serious contributing factor to this unacceptable situation is that implementation of the major electoral reforms legally approved under the 2001 constitutional reform process to redress this problem have been steadfastly ignored by all subsequent governments. To this extent there are no innocent victims in the current crisis.

The key to understanding this tactic was concisely stated by Yash Ghai, the distinguished Kenyan lawyer in a lecture in Georgetown in 2011. He recounted how he once challenged a Kenyan politician over why they used similar ethnic insecurity tactics in Kenya, to which the politician replied, “because it works. And it’s cheap”.

In sharp comparison with the political disillusion of the adult generation, young Guyanese show up in large numbers at any meeting about the future of Guyana, not only for self-interest in jobs and education but because they also have most at stake and most to lose.  As the adult generation becomes more entrenched climate deniers, rejoicing over every new oil strike, the younger generation looks with foreboding at a future of climate crises accelerating floods, mega-storms and drowned coastlines.

Though better informed from social media, the younger generation lack leadership. Our religious, professional, business, cultural and sports organizations should redress that vacuum, by being more pro-active in public life. This obligation is not met sufficiently by complacent calls for peace and harmony that cost them nothing.  Nor is it enough to take refuge in public conformity and private dissent. Rehabilitation of political life requires more people expressing themselves freely and plainly in a common effort to shape the principles and standards that must govern public life and the qualities we should look for in those seeking political office.

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