I am writing in response to in PNC’s Aubrey Norton that “everyone must oppose creeping economic apartheid” (as published KN Apr 26). When objectively examined, his claim of PPP/C practicing economic apartheid is baseless. To the extent that he believes that economic apartheid exists in Guyana, that term might be applicable to the PNC reign in office (1965 to 1992 and 2015 to 2020). All forms of discrimination must be condemned regardless of party in government.
I am very familiar with the concept of ‘economic apartheid’ having studied African Politics and economic development when I did doctoral studies in Political Science and Economics. The concept was borrowed from the apartheid system in White controlled South Africa (pre-1991) and Rhodesia (pre-1980) to describe the economic racism (discrimination) that non-Whites experienced in both countries. It was also applicable to Jim Crow America. But there is hardly any evidence to support an accusation of economic apartheid against the PPP during its three stints in office. The PPP ran (has run) an inclusive government.
Norton starts off his argument with a glaring falsehood. He refers to Dr. Irfaan Ali as an “installed” President when it is well known both nationally and internationally and Gecom recognized, and so declared, that the President and his PPPC won free and fair elections in March 2020. There is a legally elected PPPC government.
Apparently, Norton has no issue on which to discredit the PPPC government, so he turns to race or political accusation. When evidence is lacking, political opponents tend to resort to unsubstantiated blanket statements to accuse the party in power of racial or political discrimination. Regrettably, defenders of the opposition appeal to racial or political statements without evidence. They are appealing to race rather than make ‘rational’ arguments that can be supported with facts.
We need to look at figures in government appointment and employment practices and situate them with the ethnic composition of the population to allow an objective analyst to form a reasoned conclusion: Afros constitute 29% of the populations with Mixed 18%. A third of appointees of the PPPC are Afros with 20% Mixed – that would be more than their composition in the overall population. Also, a third of the state-owned corporations have Afros as CEOs. Under the PPP, 53% of Permanent Secretary are Afros and Mixed. Also, in awarding of contracts, hardly anyone who received contract under APNU has been denied a contract based on competitive bidding. Companies may have been blacklisted based on allegations of corruption or failure to meet terms of contracts. But no evidence has been provided that companies were denied contracts on account of ethnicity or political affiliation. And if there is discrimination, it must be condemned unlike what happened during the period 1965 to 1992 and 2015 to 2020.
Since last August, some 310 Afros, who were predominantly contract workers. were terminated while some employees were reassigned to other Ministries. The PPPC has not engaged in any tinkering with constitutional bodies. The constitutional agencies are still a majority of Afros who were appointed by APNU+AFC. Contrast PPPC’s ethnic distribution of appointees with that of APNU’s led coalition (May 2015 to July 2020). Under APNU, initially 16 out of 17 Permanent Secretary were Afros and the lone Indian was subsequently replaced making it 100% Afros in a population where they account for only 29% of the population.
It should not be forgotten that four sugar estates were closed putting over 6,000 Indians out of a job plus the loss of thousands more jobs in secondary industries tied to those estates. Some 1,972 Amerindian CSOs were also terminated. The APNU led government then hired thousands of workers of who 80% were Afros, 10% Indians, less Mixed, and fewer Amerindians. In addition, some $GY 2 billion in grants were doled out annually from 2016 to PNC aligned communities. There have been no important projects in PPPC traditionally supported areas. Where was the balance? Does this troubled Norton.
Mr. Norton also needs to be reminded that the civil service or bureaucracy (70%) police (75%), army (90%), and nursing (70%) comprise overwhelmingly Africans. There are about 40,000 government civil service employees of which 75% are Afros. Those numbers do not lend credibility to Norton’s wild accusations of economic apartheid. Norton has to explain why his PNC party has failed to implement the recommendation of the International Commission of Jurists to balance the civil service and police and armed forces.
Norton also forgot that it was the PNC that shuttered the bauxite industry putting 10,000 Afros out of a job. It was the PPPC that had to rescue the bauxite industry. After 1992, the PPPC government provided assistance to bauxite workers who were terminated by the PNC. In addition, the PPP opened up opportunities for numerous Afro entrepreneurs. Afros were provided incentives to invest in Linden, an bauxite town. And let’s not forget, that the PPPC continues to subsidize the bauxite town with a sum of $GY 3 billion annually. The town also gets almost free electricity 24 hours.
Clearly, the claim by Norton that PPP/C has discriminated against Afros or Indians and Amerindians who support APNU is reckless. And to utilize a highly emotive concept of apartheid is disingenuous. Let the facts speak! Let the truth prevail.
By Dr. Vishnu Bisram