Saturday, September 26, 2009

Government refuses to disburse to the Critchlow Labour College monies budgeted and approved by Parliament

Stabroek News Letter to the Editor, September 25, 2009. There should not be double standards.

Dear Editor,

I am prompted to reply to public statements made by Mr Norman Faria, Guyana Honorary Consul to Barbados condemning several positions I have taken on contemporary issues and more so those pertaining to Guyana. I wish to reiterate my position that I stand on the side of justice and fair play regardless of who heads the government. I stood against what I perceived to be the unjust actions of all former governments, and I shall continue to stand against any form of injustice at this time when it is clear that those who are given the privilege to lead consider the country their personal property and the citizens their subjects.

As Honorary Consul to Barbados it is Mr Faria’s responsibility to, among other diplomatic tasks, represent the rights and dignity of Guyanese citizens in Barbados.

This is however not without noting my serious concern about his willingness to export and advance the partisan politics of the PPP government, whose disregard for human rights is being exposed daily.

I am concerned that while he seeks to tell us about the transgressions in respect of Guyanese rights in Barbados, at the same time he remains silent on rights violations by the Government of Guyana in relation to some Guyanese. This is a double standard.

I am sure as Honorary Consul he is aware the Government of Guyana continues to refuse to disburse to the Critchlow Labour College monies budgeted and approved by Parliament, and moreso seeks to deny the college any future allocations. The funding that I am referring to belongs to the taxpayers and was given to the college from its inception in 1968. This college provides training and education for taxpayers, some of whom are prepared to upgrade their skills and desire a second chance to complete a high school education. The fact that this denial affects a student population which is predominantly African, feeds the Social Sciences programmes at the University of Guyana, raises questions about the partisan nature of the government’s decision. Additionally, the government has also refused to disburse to the Guyana Trades Union Congress a grant approved by Parliament, and has since established a parallel trade union federation which validates its human rights abuses. This grant was in place since independence and was never denied even though there were instances when the trade unions and former governments were at logger-heads.

The Consul is also aware of the many state agencies that employed a dominant African labour force, which over the years were either closed, or significantly downsized and no efforts made to create employment opportunities for those affected or protect their pension plans, despite the fact that proposals have been offered by the trade union community and other interest groups. Juxtapose this with the government’s continued investments in the Indian dominated economic sectors, such as in sugar and rice, among others, and the impact of our concerns becomes even more disconcerting.

Repeated attacks on Dr Kean Gibson, UWI Lecturer, to the extent of writing the General Manager, Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, Television, was nothing short of attempting to deny her the right to freedom of speech in sharing her understanding of the racial and political oppression in Guyana. Similar attempts have also been made to silence or demonise others in and out of Barbados who have spoken out against the transgressions inflicted on Guyanese at home. This assumed role is inconsistent with the mandate of Honourary Consul since no government should be involved in attacking its citizens’ rights regardless of where they are located.

Within recent years law and order in Guyana have been under siege. There have been many murders where the guilty parties and the reasons for such actions remain a mystery. Many have fallen victim to murder, drive-by shootings, profiling, single executions, violence and robberies, but justice is yet to be served. Persons deemed to be criminals have been murdered by the police and army and no inquest held consistent with the law. Hundreds have died at the hands of the death/phantom squad(s) supported by rogue elements in the Guyana Police Force and Guyana Defence Force, and without being discountenanced by officialdom. Had a civilized approach been taken the appropriate investigations would have been conducted; those identified would have been charged; evidence presented in court; found guilty; and the victims’ families would have received justice, having been clear in their minds who was responsible for the death of their loved ones. The society too would have been better served from these experiences.

Guyana is in crisis. As a Guyanese I share the concerns of those desirous of seeing the country return to normalcy, where our laws are respected and everyone, regardless of race, sex, creed or political persuasion, can have equal access to the country’s resources. Every citizen who believes in a just society has a responsibility to uphold the constitution and laws. It should however be noted the government and its representatives have a greater responsibility and as such Mr Faria’s voice is needed to speak out against the lawlessness, injustices and inequity committed daily.

Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis
General Secretary (on leave)
Guyana Trades Union Congress
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