From the moment the Indo-dominated People’s Progressive Party (PPP) took office on Aug. 2 last year after being declared the winner of Guyana’s general elections, allegations about systematic racism against Guyanese of African origin have abounded in the Caribbean Community’s largest and most resource-rich member state.
This had much to do with the firing of nearly 1,500 mostly Afro public servants and other state workers and charges from leaders of the main APNU-AFC opposition coalition about selective distribution of COVID-19 cash grant relief payments and similar musings about grant assistance in the aftermath of devastating floods earlier this year. The coalition also said some of its supporters were made to ‘jump through many hoops’ to access relief payments while it was smooth sailing in areas which traditionally support the PPP, charges authorities have denied.
On Sunday, a group calling itself Guyanese Organizations Against Racism (GOAR) took their case to the Guyanese in the New York and tri-state diaspora, accusing the PPP of blatant racism against African Guyanese and accusing U.S. Ambassador Sara Ann Lynch of supporting what they referred to as a racist and corrupt regime. In tow with GOAR were representatives of the Haitian community, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Guyana Caribbean Institute for Democracy (GCID). Several opposition lawmakers flew in from Guyana for the rally and marched along Flatbush Ave. to a rally venue at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries was among the featured speakers at the rally. He wasted little time in going after Ambassador Lynch as he called on the Biden administration to send her packing. Opposition officials had been lobbying Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and other Washington politicians to pay attention to what they called targeted racism against African Guyanese, accusing Lynch of lawlessly and irresponsibly supporting the administration of President Irfaan Ali.
Over the weekend, Jeffries had also called for the envoy to be dismissed but he was fairly detailed on this occasion as he went after the ambassador.
“We stand in solidarity with each and every one of you to deal with the situation down in Guyana. We will not tolerate racism, intolerance, hatred, xenophobia, racially motivated violence, discrimination and justice. It is time for the Biden administration to act and the first thing that I think that Biden administration needs to do is to get rid of the Trump-appointed ambassador to Guyana,” he said to applause.
The administration in Georgetown reacted quickly and had a denial statement out just about the time that rally attendees might have reached their homes. The release appeared to suggest that opposition elements have got to Jeffries and are misleading him.
The government of Guyana also noted remarks made by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, which it found to be quite appalling. The government, in expressing its disappointment with Rep. Jeffries, said he allowed himself to be negatively influenced by individuals who are adamant in destroying Guyana by instigating violence and division among her people. “We call on the Congressman to desist from joining with these individuals in creating chaos in our communities at home and in the diaspora. We invite the Congressman Jeffries to have discussions with us on matters of mutual interest,” Georgetown said.
Organizers had also included Haitian representatives at the rally largely because authorities have imposed visa restrictions on Haitians entering a fellow community member nation because of alleged trafficking-in-persons rackets.
Guyanese traditionally vote along racial lines, with Indos mostly lining up behind the PPP and Afros and some of the mixed race behind parties in the coalition. Race riots in the 1960s had killed more than 150 people.