Lewis calls on Corbin and Trotman for positive leadership
Stabroek News
April 29, 2007

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200 years after the abolition of the slave trade Africans are still struggling to be treated as equals. Speaking at an event held by the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on the April 4, 2007, to commemorate the bicentenary of the slave trade by Britain Lincoln Lewis, the General Secretary of the GTUC said African were second class citizens in a land their foreparents had built with their blood, sweat and tears. "We are still struggling for our rights to identity, expression, association, self-determination and advancement."

Speaking to an audience that included Robert Corbin, the leader of the People's National Congress Reform and Raphael Trotman, the leader of the Alliance For Change Lewis said that our political history and reality are of race-based parties with each party having sprinklings of other races. Evidence in elections, he said, confirms this. The 2006 elections showed that we now have two African-based parties, the People's National Congress and the Alliance For Change. "The extent to which they are representing us continues to be troubling. It is public knowledge the African community's disappointment with these two parties' posture in standing up and speaking forthrightly to black issues."

Lewis said that in other parts of the world, like the USA and South Africa, "the issues and rights of race are frontally discussed. Yet in 21st century Guyana we are refusing to honestly acknowledge the race factor, or to put in place mechanisms to ensure the equality and rights of all races."

As taxpayers, he said, Africans make significant contributions to the government treasury and its ability to finance projects and pay salaries.

"We are the taxpayers and not the tax-evaders. Yet the government's strategy is to ignore the retooling and optimizing of any industry in the African community."

Lewis said that President Jagdeo in his first visit to Region 10, promised to make Linden and Ituni the industrial zones in this country. "Today" he argued "these communities are dying and people are becoming impoverished as the bauxite industry is allowed to crumble. President Jagdeo has taken the strongest and most proficient group of artisans, within the length and breadth of this country and relegated them to garbage collectors and gutter diggers.

"Not that there is no dignity in honest, hard work of any kind but what a waste of skilled resources vital to the development of these communities and our country."

Addressing his remarks to Corbin, Lewis said that "people come to my office to tell me, as they may have also told several others, how fed up they are with the perceived indecisive leadership and confused agenda in Congress Place."

Turning to Trotman, he said "you are a leader of a black-based political party yet people believe that you do not want to acknowledge this. That you do not want to represent the interests of your base.

That you seek to weaken Africans by dividing us along imagined colour and class lines, while others consolidate their differences."

"But let me make it clear", he continues, "a people get the leaders they deserve. For it is my opinion that the inertia that exists in the African community has significantly contributed to the behaviour of our leaders.

"For they didn't conceptualise the programme, neither did we demand of them to do so. It is for this very reason we are gathered here today to conceptualise, develop and refine a programme to hand to you goodly political leaders to take to the parliament of this country where we shall all test the intent and purpose of a government that has found excuses to marginalise and oppress us over the years."