Guyana preparing first racial discrimination report for UN
-after 11-year lapse

By Andrew Richards
Stabroek News
July 17, 1998

The inaugural committee meeting on Guyana's initial report on the International Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination was held on Tuesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In attendance at the Inter-Agency Permanent Committee (IAPC) meeting, was Prime Minister Samuel Hinds who said the initiative is being taken at an appropriate time given the current feelings permeating the atmosphere.

He said the issue is a sensitive one and people must recognise the overlapping differences and political affiliations which could be attributed to their placement in either the rural or the urban areas.

"We are a people of different races coming together as one. In this aspect, we have closed distances over the years. Our job is to ensure closer ties are established," the Prime Minister stated.
Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee, in explaining Guyana's position on the Convention, said it was advised that a consolidated report spanning the last 20 years will be submitted to the United Nations. He disclosed that Guyana is the third most delinquent country in the world after Sierra Leone and Liberia in relation to the submission of reports to this particular Convention. Guyana became a signatory to the Convention in 1968, Rohee said, and this was ratified in 1977.

He said though this will be the first report of its kind since becoming a signatory, at the time of ratification, Guyana had seen the constitution as "the overarching instrument" by which to govern.

"The government of Guyana does not interpret the provisions of this convention as imposing upon it any obligation going beyond the limits set by the Constitution of Guyana or imposing upon it any obligation requiring the introduction of judicial processes going beyond those provided under the same Constitution," he stated.

The Convention provides for the condemnation of racial discrimination by state parties, and of segregation and apartheid, and of the propagation of racial authority.

It also provides for the guarantee of civil, economic, social and cultural rights irrespective of race, colour, national or ethnic origin.

Another provision of the Convention is the assurance by state parties of effective protection and remedies against any acts of racial discrimination.

Rohee said under Article 9, state parties are obligated to report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures which they have adopted and which give effect to the provisions to the Convention.

Guyana's initial report was due on March 17, 1978, and its 11th report on March 17, 1998, Rohee said.

The IAPC comprises several government ministries, religious organisations and non-governmental organisations.

Senior Foreign Officer, Dr Timothy Critchlow, who sits on the committee, noted that there was a paucity of resources in the public sector for that particular kind of work.

He pointed out though that even with the limited resources, the commitment still exists and input is being had from both the social partners so that the report would be balanced.

Dr Critchlow said reports have been submitted to the Conventions on economical, social and cultural rights and the civil and political rights and he was happy to see the state of affairs on the racial discrimination convention being corrected.

He said problems were encountered in the preparation of previous reports due to imprecise record-keeping in Guyana and noted that this may again occur. He pointed out, however, that meticulous care will have to be taken in the preparation of the report since it will be subjected to scrutiny after submission.