The conference, “Resisting the emerging apartheid state of Guyana,” scheduled for last Sunday, was postponed. Many Guyanese were thereby deprived of the evidence on which Cuffy 250, the organisers of the conference, intended to rely to prove the existence of emerging apartheid in Guyana, whether it began to surface in 1992, or only from 2020. If proved, this crime against humanity, perpetrated by the Government in favour of Indian Guyanese, rich and poor, would somehow have been lurking behind an elaborate façade of constitutional rights and civil liberties for all Guyanese.
South Africa adopted ‘apartheid’ or ‘separate development’ in 1948 when the Malan government of the National Party took office. Apartheid ‘emerged’ early in the century. It was later entrenched by the Population Registration Act of 1950, which classified all South Africans as white, Bantu (Black Africans), Coloured (Mixed) and, later Asians (Indians and Pakistani); the Group Areas Act of 1950 which established business and residential areas for whites; the Lands Acts of 1954 and 1955 which completed the process started earlier in the century by setting aside over eighty percent of lands for the white minority. These were supplemented by the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951, the Promotion of Bantu Self-Governing of 1959 and the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970. These enforced the citizenship and residence of Black Africans to the Bantustans. There were many other racially oppressive legislative enactments such as prohibiting inter-marriage and sexual relations between blacks and whites. Opponents of apartheid characterized the South African government and a ‘colonial settler’ regime.
South Africa was such a stain on humanity that ‘apartheid’ was categorized as a “crime against humanity” by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 2002. It defined apartheid as “inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, (murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, rape, torture etc.) committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
The State of Israel has been characterized as having ‘apartheid’ as its organizing principle. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, issued in January 2021 a paper entitled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This as Apartheid.” The paper defines the following characteristics of Israeli rule over the Palestinians, all based on Israeli laws: Immigration – for Jews only; Taking over land for Jews while crowding Palestinians in enclaves; Restrictions of Palestinians’ freedom of movement; Denial of Palestinian rights of political participation. Amnesty International, supplementing B’Tselem, has found as follows: Palestinians are treated as a demographic threat and imposed measures to control and decrease their presence in the Occupied Territories; Israeli authorities treat Palestinians as an inferior racial group who are defined by their non-Jewish Arab status; Palestinians are treated as lesser citizens; The seizure and demolition of Palestinian homes is a central feature of Israeli occupation. It is interesting to note that Israel has also been deemed it as a ‘colonial settler’ regime.
Myanmar has also been accused of apartheid against the Rohingya people because of decades of legal and official policy-based discrimination and racial segregation which recently degenerated into genocide.
Against the background of the above, the following questions arise: Are Guyanese legally designated by ethnicity? Are Guyanese required to live in designated areas based on ethnic origin? Are the homes of Guyanese of one ethnicity demolished to make way for another? Are Guyanese required to live in designated areas on the basis of ethnicity? Are Guyanese of a specific ethnicity denied government services by law? Are inter-marriage and sexual relations between different ethnic groups prohibited?
The holding of the conference by the Cuffy 250 Committee would have focused the attention of less informed Guyanese on whether the above questions, extracted from the examples of South Africa, Israel and Myanmar, apply in Guyana. As it is, Guyanese will be deprived of this important discourse involving some of Guyana’s finest – among its most educated intellectuals and professionals, with substantial academic and professional achievements. The “distinguished” speakers included: Ms. Faustine Ward-Osborne, Ms. Robin Simon, Mr. Aubrey Norton, Dr. David Hinds, Dr. Norman Ng-A-Qui, Mr. Vincent Alexander, Dr. Clive Thomas, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, Mr. Eric Phillips, Darren Wade Esq., and Ronald Daniels Esq. These illustrious Guyanese would certainly have enlightened those of us, like Mr. Floyd Haynes, who have not been perceptive enough to detect those laws, institutions and policies that suggest an ‘emerging apartheid state in Guyana.’ The Attorney General, in a recent letter to SN, disclosed that one of the above Esquires, not identified, was the recent recipient of a government scholarship. That Esquire’s experience in confronting the ’emerging apartheid state’ on the way to the grant of the scholarship would have been an interesting lesson.
If the answers to the questions above are in the affirmative, or partly so, why hasn’t a report been made against Guyana, with evidence in the possession of Cuffy 250, to the International Criminal Court for a finding that Guyana is guilty of ‘emerging apartheid,’ a crime against humanity?