Most Guyanese welcomed the meeting between the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), led the House Democratic Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, and the delegation from the Guyana Government. The statement of the CBC said that it had a productive meeting and discussed energy and food security, regional economic prosperity, and economic stewardship. The strength of the bilateral relationship between Guyana and the US and the need for future dialogue and continued cooperation were emphasized. Nothing about “racism” and ethnic discrimination.
In a separate statement Congressman Jeffries indicated that a delegation of House Members will meet with a delegation from the Opposition to continue the dialogue about opportunities and challenges facing Guyana and the African diaspora in the Western Hemisphere. The statement said that the House will continue to encourage the government and the opposition to work together to ensure that all Guyanese citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity, benefit from the economic growth underway in the South American nation. The statement mentioned nothing about “racism” or ethnic discrimination against African Guyanese. It has since been reported in Guyana that the meeting will take place on 27 September on Capitol Hill.
These statements were in sharp contrast to the speech made by Congressman Jeffries in June 2022 to Seventh Day Adventist members in New York as they were celebrating Guyana Day. Congressman Jeffries said that Guyanese are living “under very difficult circumstances with a Government who (sic) has not consistently treated everyone consistent with the principle of equal protection under the law”. He continued: “And we are not going to tolerate racism here, we are not going to tolerate racism down in Guyana either and we going to continue to do everything necessary to get things moving in a fairer more equitable direction.”
Coming out of the blue, from someone who never publicly declared any interest in Guyana, many Guyanese were baffled. However, when his photograph with Rickford Burke appeared, Guyanese then understood. Congressman Jeffries was speaking at the behest of one of Guyana’s most rancorous opposition polemicists on race and ethnicity, apparently his good friend, who may have been counselling him on Guyana. Even more baffling is the Congressman’s failure to formally raise the issue or “racism” or ethnic discrimination with the President of Guyana and senior government leaders when he had the opportunity to do so at their meeting.
Congressman Jeffries recently revisited Israel and embraced the most racist government in Israeli history. Previous governments have been accused by Israeli civil society, namely, B’Tselem, and Amnesty International, of practicing apartheid against Palestinians, now acknowledged by many in the mainstream. Congressman Jeffries has not condemned the murderous, racist, Israeli wars against the Palestinians, its war crimes against Palestine and its children, its seizure of Palestinian lands or its creation of the equivalent of apartheid era Bantustans in Palestine. US press reports suggest that whatever other reasons exist for Congressman Jeffries’ interest in Israel, votes and political contributions for himself and the Democratic Party are primary considerations. Congressman Jeffries opposition to anti-African racism in Guyana and, at the same time, his support for, or at least silence about, Israeli apartheid, exposes his duplicitous politics.
As for the African diaspora, Congressman Jeffries has made no statement about decades of American interference in Haiti which most acknowledge is a direct consequence of the conditions in that country today, just as the American interference in Guyana in 1962-1964 and its support for the PNC dictatorship, also for decades, is a direct consequence of the allegations of racism during its illegal rule and the struggle for ethno-political dominance. Remember the American invasion of Grenada in 1983, a country of the African diaspora in the Western hemisphere? Congressman Jeffries’ concern about the African diaspora is contrived and hypocritical.
Congressman Jeffries’ fanfare about a meeting with the Opposition, is to continue to promote a partisan agenda in Guyana and also a personal political agenda in the US to secure votes in the 8th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, which he represents and where many African Guyanese live. His agenda is buttressed by his ominous threat not to “tolerate” racism in Guyana. His plan for Guyana must therefore be viewed with trepidation.
Guyana’s ethnic issues have been the subject of the following escalating descriptions over recent years: “discrimination and marginalization,” “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid” and most recently “slavery.” These are alleged to have been, or are being, practised against African Guyanese, described as its “kith and kin” by the Opposition, by an Indian dominated government. We await indication from Congressman Jeffries if he is persuaded by the Opposition delegation that these descriptions, including “slavery,” are an accurate reflection of what is going on in Guyana.
Guyana’s current problem of its politics being infused with the struggle for ethno-political dominance, giving rise to allegations of ethnic discrimination, is the product of complex, multi-faceted, post-slavery and post-independence, oppression and violence. The problem has long been recognized and efforts to resolve it started since 1950 and continued in fits and starts since then, without success so far. Many of us have devoted considerable efforts in seeking political solutions satisfactory to all parties and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, Congressman Jeffries’ ill-advised and partisan intervention in our domestic affairs will only add to our difficulties.