Dear Editor,

It is ironic that Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton used the Sophia settlement area to advance his claim that the PPP/C government is neglecting and openly discriminating against his party’s supporters. However, our citizens, particularly the residents of Sophia, are well acquainted with the history of this settlement area and cannot be easily fooled.

Editor, the average citizen is aware that Sophia emerged as a squatters settlement due to failed policies and initiatives by the PNC to provide shelter and livelihood opportunities to low-income citizens in Georgetown. Meanwhile, the residents in Sophia would recall that when they attempted to occupy the land in that settlement area, they met a signboard that stated the ‘land was owned by the PNC, and anyone found trespassing would be prosecuted.’ The residents of Sophia will definitely never forget how they were humiliated and driven off the land like animals by the PNC when they attempted to occupy Sophia before this party was booted out of office in 1992.

Those who went into Sophia during the 90s would also recall that this squatter settlement had no access to electricity, water, sanitation facilities, paved roads, or drainage and was characterized by makeshift dwelling units. Residents were forced to resort to ‘Flambo’ and ‘lanterns’ in the evening for light. The few trenches in Sophia were the primary source of water for washing and bathing. During the rainy season, the residents had to puddle through heavy slush to get into and out of the area due to the absence of paved roads.

Today, Sophia is one of the largest suburban areas on the outskirts of Georgetown. It has access to electricity, treated water, internet, sanitation facilities, paved roads, bridges, drainage, and housing units that match those in formal housing areas. The settlement area has a health center, community center, places of worship, shops, general stores, supermarkets, school, and police station. This transformation was only possible because the PPP/C invested significantly in regularizing the Sophia squatter settlement between 1992 and 2015 and continued to do so after it was reelected in 2020.

Unfortunately, the PNC, in its original and other incarnations (APNU-AFC), does not have any track record of investing in Sophia or any other squatter settlement to improve the livelihood of residents in those areas. Indeed, like in the 1990s, when the PNC returned to office in 2015, it brutally removed squatters from ‘A’ Field and ‘B’ Field instead of making any meaningful investment in the settlement area.

Similarly, the PNC is not known for promoting the well-being of citizens when the party is in power. Between 1968 and 1992, this party made Guyana one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. During this period, poverty and inequality increased, and widespread discrimination against citizens perceived to be non-supporters of the party was practiced overtly. When the party returned to power in 2015 under the PNC-led APNU-AFC coalition, it continued with the same old practice, as evidenced by the closure of several sugar estates that saw the dismissal of over 7,000 workers.

The same ethno-political discrimination was extended to hinterland communities with the dismissal of the 2,000 Community Service Officers (CSOs) by the APNU-AFC government. The Local Authorities that were won by the PPP/C were bypassed for infrastructural works by the PNC-led APNU-AFC government. In its new incarnation, the PNC-led APNU-AFC coalition terminated Guyana’s representatives at our foreign missions, Permanent Secretaries, Regional Executive Officers, and high level managers in the public sector who were thought to be supporters of the PPP/C.

If there were any doubts that the PNC-led APNU-AFC government was hostile to non-supporters, those doubts would have been removed by several statements made by persons associated with the government during the period 2015-2020. Who could forget the statement made by one of its leaders that ‘the only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I could give work to is PNC’ or the remark by a sitting Minister that the first people are avaricious.

Similarly, Guyanese will never forget the call by a member from one of the parties it coalesced to ‘flush out PPP moles from the public service’ These racial slurs lay bare the ethno-political discriminatory practices of the PNC-led APNU-AFC government that were reminiscent of the infamous 28 years the PNC governed Guyana.

Sadly, racial and political discrimination is even practiced inside the PNC. Recently, the Opposition Leader, was accused of turning a blind eye to racial hostility faced by Indo-Guyanese within his party. In his letter addressed to the party’s Central Executive Committee, Faaiz Mursaline stated that “the constant racial hostility … is just too much for me to handle and the Leader seems to not care.”

Based on the recent complaint from the former Treasurer of his party, track record of the PNC, and racial slurs from persons associated with his party, the Leader of the Opposition should refrain from speaking about discrimination, poverty and inequality in Guyana. Failure to do so would render him hypocritical and probably make him a big draw at the Suarez Brothers Circus that is in Georgetown.

Kevin Persaud


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