by Dr Prem Misir

Marginalization today is the talk of the town. The People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) believes that its street protestors have demonstrated because they are marginalized, among other things. Let's not sweep under the rug the fact the PNC/R marginalized both the African and East Indian Guyanese working class in the infamous '28 years' of the Burham/Hoyte rule. Also, let it be known that today while some African Guyanese experience poverty in the urban areas, some East Indian, Amerindians, and African Guyanese, in that order, confront poverty in the rural locales. Poverty, in itself, though, is not sufficient to marginalize any population group. Over the period 1968 through 1992, the PNC victimized and marginalized the working-class.

DEMOCRACY was restored to Guyana in 1992, bringing with it all the fundamental civil rights that were previously removed. In today's Guyana, however, only African Guyanese have been presented as the marginal people, and apparently, according to this thinking, they experience some kind of marginality. The marginal man has been described by Park (1949) as "one whom fate has condemned to live in two, not merely different but antagonistic cultures." There are three types of marginality.

First, we have cultural marginality where a minority group shares some cultural aspects of the dominant group, but shares other cultural facets with one or more minority groups. In effect, the marginal person is estranged from some cultural characteristics of the dominant society.

Second, social marginality refers to a situation where a minority group is not allowed to participate fully in the institutions of the dominant society through prejudice and discrimination. In this case, their marginality is mainly experienced in the occupational structures.

Third, we have political marginality where prejudice and discrimination are legalized to disallow full participation in the dominant society. Since prejudice and discrimination have no legal basis in Guyana, the only marginality types of relevance here are social and cultural.

In this paper, however, the main focus will be on social marginality where the occupational structure is the focus. This paper is part of a larger study on marginalization in different institutions in multiethnic societies.

Specifically, here, we examine the levels of participation of East Indian and African Guyanese in the administrative decision-making process. The level of participation in decision making is a useful indicator of the level of marginalization in a society. Our focus will be on the public sector, education, State Boards, Neighborhood Development Council (NDC) expenditures, State Media Boards, and the distribution sector.

This study is strategic in a democratization process, which calls for a more open and a more participatory society. Meaningful participation in significant institutions of society will contribute to preserving peace and security, securing justice and human rights, promoting economic and social development, and creating a political culture where the will of the people is accepted as the basis of governmental authority.

This movement toward democratization should enable all Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity to progressively participate at all levels of the institutional decision-making process. More fundamentally, democratization will facilitate vigorous participation of all our citizens at different levels of the decision-making processes.

This Table shows the senior and administrative ranks for most Ministries of the public service. These are Human Services, Security, and Labor, Health, Home Affairs, Public Works, Agriculture, Information, Foreign Affairs, Education, and Finance. Ministries not included at this stage are Housing, Legal Affairs, Culture, and Trade. Their inclusion would have sustained the general conclusions herein outlined because of similar demographics.

East Indians are in large numbers in the upper echelons of the Ministry where they comprise two-thirds of the Ministers. At the level of the Permanent Secretary, both East Indians and Africans are in strong numbers. However, Africans control all the other senior administrative and executive positions, such as, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Principal Assistant Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Accountant Heads, and Senior Personnel Officers. Africans, therefore, certainly are not marginalized in the upper levels of the hierarchy in the public service. There is, in effect, an emergent ethnic mix in the hierarchy of control.

This Table illustrates the ethnicity of Heads in the high schools, elementary, and nursery schools, and the ethnic composition of Regional Education Officers (REDOs) in the 10 Regions. Most Heads are Africans in all three types of school. Only in the elementary schools do East Indians show competitiveness with Africans for Headships. In the People's National Congress Administration, it was not unusual to find on average that 70% of the Regional Education Officers were Africans. Today, the racial imbalance has been narrowed to the point where we have about 50% of REDOs are Africans, followed by East Indians with 40%. (Source: Ministryof Education)

East Indian Guyanese predominate in the senior positions of School Heads and Deputy School Heads only in Regions 2 and 3. African Guyanese occupy these positions in Regions 4 through 10. Some schools only have an Acting Deputy Head partly because currently no Teaching Service Commission exists. This Commission as well as others have not been established because of the PNC's refusal to participate in the parliamentary process. (Source: Ministry of Education)

Most school heads in Regions 2, 3, and 6 are East Indians, while the majority of school heads in Regions 4, 5, and 10 are Africans. East Indian school heads are found in the largest majority in Regions 2 and 3. African school heads predominate in Regions 4 and 5, 7, and 10. African Guyanese are in the majority in all State Boards in Education. Their prominence is more conspicuous on those State Boards governing the National Library, Cyril Potter College of Education, Government Technical Institute, and the President's College. East Indian and African Guyanese are present in almost similar numbers on the University Council and Queen's College. However, East Indian Guyanese are in a majority on the University Council, while African Guyanese predominate at Queen's College.

Table 5 shows that in a review of 27 other State Boards, we see African Guyanese in the majority on 13 and East Indian Guyanese on 12, with two State Boards having equal numbers drawn from these two major ethnic groups. The Guyana Medical Council and the Pesticide & Toxic Control Boards have equal numbers of East Indian and African Guyanese. Boards predominantly African Guyanese are BIDCO; Kaieteur Parks Commission; National Archives; Museum; National trust; Parole; National Edible Oil; Bermine; and the General Post Office. Boards predominantly East Indian Guyanese are: Guyana Fisheries; GOINVEST; EPA; and Lands & Survey.

GBC, GTV, and Guyana Chronicle are the three State Media found in Guyana. Of the three, only GTV is partly financed through the Consolidated Fund. Some people may be disappointed to learn that, contrary to popular perceptions, only one State Media (GTV) is partly funded through taxpayers' money.

Africans and East Indians are equally represented on the GBC Board of Directors, constituting together almost the total Board membership. Africans make up about two-thirds of the GTV Board of Directors, and most of the Directors on the Guyana Chronicle Board are East Indians. Again, the data does not support marginalization of any of the two major ethnic groups on State Media Boards.

Region Four is the most populated of all ten Regions, and has a significant African population. This Region also houses Georgetown, the Capital City of Guyana. Georgetown has a large number of urban African dwellers. Region 4 has a budgetary allocation of $148M for the year 2002. The Regional Administration has now assigned $85.7M in the areas indicated in Table 7. The residual sum of $62.6M has been allocated for projects in other parts of the Region.

Again, Region 10, with a huge African population, has a budgetary allocation of $219.7 million in 2002. This sum is intended to increase the provision of social services in Region 10. These budgetary allocations, indeed, do not demonstrate any marginalization experienced by Africans. People who are marginalized are not beneficiaries of sizable sums of budgetary allocations.

Over the years 1993 through 2000, East Indians and Africans equally copped the Medal of Service and the Golden Arrow of Achievement Awards. Africans received most of the Order of Roraima, Order of Excellence, Military Service Medal, and Discipline Service Medal Awards. In totality, Africans bagged more than half of all the National Awards since 1993. The distribution of National Awards has not marginalized Africans. If anything, East Indians may have been peripheralized in this process.

Social marginality where people are deprived of full participation in the society unquestionably is not a characteristic in the Guyana public sector. East Indians were marginalized in the public service and being recipients of National Awards in the Burnham years of the PNC regime, as attested to by a 1979 study. Today, with a greater ethnic mix in the public service, the talk of marginalization of African Guyanese is totally absurd.

[Editor's Note: Marginilization is a complain of the PNC/R and a reason for its anti-government demonstrators taking to the streets, beating and robbing Indians, etc. We hope this "preliminary study," published in the Chronicle in May 2002, will help bring this issue into perspective.] rinted from
     HOME          <<< Page X                                           TOP                                  Page X>>>                       
© 2001