In a letter to the editor published today, Oneidge Walrond, Guyana’s Tourism Minister and Head of the Delegation representing the government at the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (IDPAD), sternly addressed the differences in positions between the administration and IDPAD-G.

The letter aimed to clarify the government’s stance and address what it believes were false assertions made by representatives of IDPAD-G during the forum.

Minister Walrond began by reiterating the government’s full support for the work of the IDPAD-G and many of its recommendations. She said the government believes that these recommendations have the potential to uplift people of African descent and include extending the International Decade for People of African Descent, crafting an actionable declaration on their rights, seeking reparatory justice for past atrocities, and ensuring adequate support from the United Nations.

However, Minister Walrond expressed disappointment with the unnecessary difficulties caused by “false assertions” made by representatives of IDPAD-G, and known affiliates of the main Parliamentary Opposition, such as Attorneys-at-law Darren Wade and Nigel Hughes.

She highlighted Wade’s “unsupported” claim that the government engages in discriminatory practices towards Haitian migrants while favouring nationals from other countries. Minister Walrond clarified that Wade failed to provide evidence for these allegations. Additionally, she pointed out that Guyana is not the only state in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to impose visa requirements for Haitian nationals.

She noted that the decision to reinstate the visa requirement for Haitians was based on substantial evidence of organized trafficking of Haitian nationals through Guyana. She said the concern was publicly acknowledged by the CARICOM Chairman and the Secretary-General in 2021. The minister also highlighted data showing a significant discrepancy between the number of Haitians recorded as arriving in Guyana and those registered as legally departing, raising concerns about trafficking and abandonment cases.

Regarding Hughes’ claims, Minister Walrond disputed his assertion that the government had taken no action on the Dutch apology. She clarified that the Dutch apology did not include any commitment to tangible benefits or reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans. Furthermore, Guyana was not among the countries to which the Dutch extended their apology, despite being a former Dutch colony. The minister mentioned that the Guyana Reparations Committee, supported by the government, is advocating for Guyana’s inclusion in the Dutch apology and ensuring consultation with the descendants of enslaved peoples.

In conclusion, Minister Walrond expressed concerns that the conditions of people of African descent might be of secondary importance to the principal members of IDPAD-G, who she believes are using the platform for personal, political ambitions.

“The government remains committed to advancing the rights and welfare of people of African descent and will continue its engagement with international forums like the IDPAD-G to achieve progress,” she said.



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