GUYANA HIGH COMM ISSION
MR H.K.L SINGH
It is indeed fitting that
this Third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia
and Related Intolerance is taking place in South Africa, a country which has
experienced the worst forms of institutionalised racial discrimination but has
nevertheless emerged from this experience as a burgeoning non--racial democracy.
The Guyana delegation would therefore wish to congratulate South Africa on its accomplishments and thank you for hosting this important conference aimed at the eradication of these grave inequities.
Our appreciation is similarly extended to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of the Conference, for providing the requisite leadership to make this Conference a success. We have no doubt that the outcome will help to make our world a more just and equitable place.
The history of mankind
has been repeted with examples not only of extraordinary human achievements
but also of horrible crimes against humanity In the last century alone, we experienced
two World Wars which were precipitated largely by the belief in the superiority
of one race over another. From the ashes of the Second World War arose the phoenix
of the United Nations Organisation with the aim of restoring "faith in
the fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person".
In several landmark actions, the Organisation has removed the shackles of colonialism,
broken the curse of apartheid and condemned discrimination wherever it exists.
Over the years an important body of legal instruments has been developed to
promote and protect the human rights of all peoples irrespective of race, colour,
sex, language, religion, political persuasion, social origin, properly, birth
or other status.
As this International Year of Mobilisation Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xendphobia and Related Intolerance draws to a close and we enter a new millennium, it is opportune that this high level World Conference has been convened to examine the continued violations of human rights and victimization of countless numbers of people in many parts of the World.
Today new forms of discrimination have arisen in the new era of globalisation which has brought distant and diverse communities closer together, through advances in. communication. We have witnessed such evils as ethnic cleansing and the oppression of vulnerable groups such as minorities, migrants, refugees and indigenous peoples. Very often, the oppressors do not hesitate to take the moral high ground to commit the most despicable acts of racial incitement, hatred, bigotry, prejudice and injustice.
The Govemment of Guyana
stands firmly against these practices and hopes that out of this Conference
will come a clear set of concrete recommendations in keeping with the objectives
of the Conference as set out in General Assembly resolution 52/111 to preserve
the principles of equality and non-discrimination as central pillars of our
modem civilization. Given that most of our countries; enjoy a rich tradition
of cultural and racial diversity, we must seek to make these qualities a virtue
instead of a vice and a source of strength instead of weakness. Accordingly,
we must find ways and means to reinforce the many strands that make up the fabric
of our society.
Like South Africa, Guyana,
is a multi-racial society, multi cultural and multi religious that has its roots
in the colonial past when one racial group was conveniently set off against
the others in a policy of divide and rule. With the departure of the colonialists
the two major ethnic groups, namely the Africans and East Indians which had
suffered together under the yoke of slavery, colonialism now saw themselves
pinked against each other. However, the dfferences that separated them, were
more economic and class related rather than racial. Very often they were the
product of unscrupulous political manipulation.
Despite these artificially created difficulties it is fair to say, however, that Guyana has made significant strides since the days of colonialism toward creating a unified society. For the most part, the six peoples which make up Guyana have learnt to peacefully coexist with each other and to uphold our national motto of One People, One Nation, One Destiny. We are of course not without our problems but with perseverance we know they can be overcorne. We would like to think therefore that our experience is one of the better examples of multi-ethnicity at work.
Like the United Nations,
we have sought to put in place legislation that offers all citizens equal protection
From racial discrimination. Thus, for example, we have enacted legislation for
an Ethnic Relations Commission along with a three-man Ethnic Relations Commission
Tribunal to hear appeals against the decisions of the Ethnic Relations Commission.
This body will be fully representative comprising the Christian, Hindu and Islamic
religions, the labour movement, women and youth - indeed, all major sectors
of the society. Beyond this, there is a Human Rights Committee which will oversee
and guarantee equality and justice to our people under the constitution.
We realize of course that
legislation alone will not deter racism and xenophobia. These are evils that
must not be tolerated and therefore must be eradicated. Intolerant beliefs and
practices are leamt and it is therefore by learning also that their irrationality
is understood and condemned. Only through an extensive process of education
can a change be brought about. We need, therefore to conceive and implement
educational strategies which promote a deeper awareness of the negative impact
which these deplorable practices have on us both as individuals and societies.
In this educative process, the public media have an important role to play in shaping and reordering the values and mores of our people, in forming more positive perceptions through the destruction of stereotypes, and seeking greater objectivity in the representation of our social realities. As has been said, "Racism is the witchcraft of our time; ..... It is mans most dangerous myth". We must thereforepledge ourselves to work conscientiously and wage an all-out battle to conquer this myth and to prove that the doctrine of superiority based on racial differences scientifically false, morally wrong, socially unjust, and overtly dangerous. In this context, madam President, the government of Guyana holds the view that as part of this process of reparationto the Carribbean people it is imperative that there should be a speciall regional development fund which will address the structural problems in our society.
In conclusion, let us therefore
go beyond the elimination of Apartheid in South Africa to
destroy completely racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances and ultimately, to create a better world for future generations.