September 26, 2016

A most shameful picture of Government

BY RYHAAN SHAH

A week ago, all the media published a most shameful picture of the Granger Government. It was the photograph of the new board of the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC). Of the 12 people in the photograph, (two board members were missing), three were Government Ministers, all African Guyanese and two of those women; of the 11 Board members named, two of them were women, both African Guyanese, and there was a lone, single, solitary Indian Guyanese male.
Everything is wrong with this picture and especially since just months ago, Government was forced to reconstitute several State Boards to be more gender and ethnically balanced because of public outcry. That so soon after, the Granger Government can persist with its racial and gender discrimination indicates a total disregard for the people’s wish for parity and equality.
The Georgetown Public Hospital presented its Board to the media days later in a photograph that was less staged and friendlier. This Board is more ethnically and gender balanced; no Government Ministers were present in the press photograph.
It appears that the Administration was well aware that it had to sell the GPOC Board to the public, hence the presence of no less than three Government Ministers in the formal photographic line-up. If the idea was that the presence of the heavyweights would check public protest, Government was right.
Not a word has been said by the media, women’s groups, the GHRA, and every other NGO concerned with rights and fairness. If President David Granger was testing his authority, he scored a resounding victory.
Until now, the Administration had tried to keep up its masquerade of unity which is dependent on some level of appearance for appearance’s sake.
However, the GPOC board with less than 10 per cent representation of Indian Guyanese who are the country’s largest minority at over 40 per cent; and with a similar underrepresentation of women who make up half of the population show that the Administration is confident that it can now bare its racism and gender bias.
People with power and authority send messages more by their actions than by their words and Granger has sent a powerful message of his Administration’s preference for African Guyanese and African Guyanese men, that is, people who look like him. They will be the advantaged and his Government’s further gender discrimination was fully endorsed by women Ministers – Cathy Hughes and Annette Ferguson, and all to no protest.
Guyana is on extremely dangerous ground and the GPOC board could be the first step to the reappearance of institutionalised racism as happened under the Burnham regime.
The Board’s make-up raises obvious questions about political neutrality and whether the public service, including State Boards, are to become rubber stamps for the Administration. That this comes at a time when Government plans to introduce training to professionalise the public service, makes this move and its motives highly suspect.
For any Government to represent the population effectively, it is important that people from different groups participate. Representative Governments engage diverse communities, draw on the skills of the broadest group of people, and provide checks on the use of political power.
One of the best strategies for improving race and gender relations is to have people from different groups work together as equals in a positive environment where they can all contribute to the country’s development. Membership of State Boards is one of the best such places.
Ethnic and gender inclusion affects the sense of fairness in a society and has the potential to strengthen social cohesion, an idea that Government pretends to support but which the GPOC Board exposes as a lie.
Racism and discrimination of every kind subscribe enormously to a country’s underdevelopment. The exclusion of skills and ideas from the larger section of the population has no place in intelligent leadership and the discriminations of race and gender as reflected in the GPOC Board are actually unconstitutional.
By excluding the majority of the population – races other than Africans and women – from plans for the country’s development, the Granger Government is acting contrary to both the spirit and the legal framework as established by the Guyana Constitution.
But Government shows utter disregard for laws, regulations, procedures and for constitutional requirements as well and if we let these go without protest, we would have no one but ourselves to blame for the downfall that is sure to follow.
The GPOC Board is an ugly, unlawful and the shameful face of the Granger Government. No one should be comfortable with its constitution and no one sitting on the Board should be comfortable either.

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