Discrimination against Indians in Guyana's National List of Honorees

Discrimination against Indians in Guyana's National List of Honorees

Photo : Donald Ramotar, former President of Guyana

Former President Donald Ramotar has exposed and condemned "the discriminatory, vindictive and racist policies" of this APNU-AFC coalition government in its appointments, hiring of staff, awarding of contracts, granting honours, removing Indians and Amerindians from state positions, adopting villages to the exclusion of those where Indians and Amerindians live, training of staff, etc. Ex-President Ramotar must be applauded for his courage in speaking out against racial and political victimization and ethnic persecution.

But in my travels around Guyana, voters are scathing in their remarks about the former President. They note he failed to do things that would have benefited PPP supporters and to institutionalize programs that would have guard against the victimization of Indians and Amerindians. They say he also marginalized and maltreated Indians in favour of PNC supporters, and that he failed to honour deserving members of the public who contributed significantly to the progress of the nation and for the return of democracy after 28 years of PNC dictatorship.

Voters note, for example, that while under this PNC led regime, as Ramotar exposed, only 14 Indians out of 77 awardees (a mere 18%) and Amerindians are also underrepresented on the list of this year’s independence honorees), Ramotar hardly honoured any Indian or Amerindian during his three year term. The PNC, on the other hand, took care of its supporters and loyalists recognizing them even when some don’t deserve an honour or even when they murdered people (primarily opponents).

So many unrecognized PPP supporters did much more than PNC supporters who were recognized with special honours. Yet PPP did not recognize these deserving stalwarts. Last year (2016) and even in 2015, right after it came into office, the PNC-AFC coalition distributed some 125 honours, with only 11% being given to Indians who comprise of some 43% of the population. Amerindians, Mixed, Chinese and Portuguese were also underrepresented. Indo-Guyanese in the diaspora who contributed significantly towards Guyana (in the restoration of democracy and humanitarian projects in their former homeland) were also underrepresented.

Voters note that the PNC approved pensions for its former M.Ps and loyalists whereas the PPP refused to do same for its deserving former M.Ps like Isahak Bashir, Fenton Ramsahoye and Balram Singh Rai. The PPP government bent backwards to reward and distribute various hand outs to supporters of the PNC (believing it will get their votes) alienating itself from its own supporters in the process. This caused the PPP to lose the elections. Why the PPP refused to honour deserving supporters and engage in actions to benefit its loyalists is inexplicable. The list of honourees from both governments should have reflected the composition of the population.

Voters also point out that Ramotar and his predecessor hardly granted silk (Senior Counsel) to deserving Indian lawyers whereas the PNC boldly distributed Silks to its supporters, many of whom are undeserving. The PPP did not want to create a bourgeois class among lawyers, and as such neglected its supporters, who in turn moved away from the party. In general, voters assailed  the PPP leadership for failing to do “the right thing” (discriminating against or side lining its own) when in government. The Silk list should have reflected the ethnic composition of lawyers in the country.

It is inexplicable why the PPP alienated itself among its traditional supporters causing them to defect to the AFC and leading to its loss of power. And sadly the AFC having accepted the 11% Indian support (that abandoned the PPP) and giving it to the PNC has now totally abandoned the Indians. The PPP’s political behaviour in office is a lesson to be learned. But voters query whether the PPP has learnt anything from its behaviour or actions.

Vishnu BIshram

New York