The Government and the Opposition today underscored the need to eradicate all forms of racial discrimination as they joined the world in observing International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
President Irfaan Ali, in a statement, said he was proud to be part of a country that celebrates ethnic diversity.
According to the President, the Government will continue to work to eradicate all forms of racism and racial discrimination, and to ensure that there is inclusive development.
In a separate statement, Prime Minister Mark Phillips said the Government remains committed to promoting equality, tolerance and unity, and will not tolerate any form of racial discrimination.
“Our Government remains committed to ensuring that all people regardless of race can access and benefit from every aspect of development in our country. We will not condone any form of discrimination be it in the work place, in the access to education, health, security and all other areas,” the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister Phillips added that the Government will continue to implement policies and programmes that promote equality and justice.
However, the Prime Minister said like all other nations, Guyana’s history depicts instances of racial conflicts that have left deep scars on its people. He said while confronting this reality, the country must work together to create a future that is free of inequalities.
“As leaders, we are responsible for creating a peaceful, productive and prosperous environment where every citizen is valued, respected, and feels a sense of belonging, regardless of ethnicity, race, or religion. Therefore, it is critical that we lead by example, not just in words but through our actions in guiding our people, which show what we stand for,” the Prime Minister said.
On the Opposition’s side, the Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton, in an address to the nation, spoke of the need to build better race relations in Guyana, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the country.
He said the Opposition has stood and fought against all forms of inequality and injustices, and will continue to fight against all forms of discrimination.
“While racial discrimination continues to dominate our national discourse and scar our national psyche, let us in no way under-emphasize the reality that many persons often face discrimination because of their ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, gender, social status, residence, and other statuses. Women, for example, face discrimination for their sex alone, but also when their race or religion intersects with their sex,” he reasoned.
Norton said in Guyana, indigenous people face discrimination not only because of their race or ethnicity, but also because of their relative social and economic disempowerment.
Noting that Indo-Guyanese face discrimination too, the Opposition Leader called for a comprehensive national anti-discrimination plan aimed at achieving harmonious race relations, women empowerment, equality of opportunity for all, and the minimizing of all forms of discrimination.
“We, in the Opposition, therefore, join in the international call for concrete actions and a united stance to fight inequality and discrimination. Lip service and sporadic actions, however, will not work! Guyana needs a National Action Plan on race relations, gender empowerment, and anti-discrimination. Such a plan is not only a moral imperative, but also a key driver of economic growth and social progress,” Mr Norton said.
Norton submitted that the national anti-discrimination plan must be built on three distinct but mutually-supporting pillars – fostering of good ethnic relations, the elimination of racial and other forms of discrimination and the promotion of equity and equal opportunity – as provided for in the Constitution.
He said in building those three pillars, the country must subscribe to principles of Human Rights, Good Governance and the need for the eradication of corruption which is a major obstacle to economic growth and social progress.