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Title: Social marginalization & ethnicity : a preliminary study
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Title: Social marginalization & ethnicity : a preliminary study
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Creator: Misir, Prem
Guyana. Government Information Agency (GINA). ( Contributor )
Publication Date: 2002
Subject: Ethnicity
Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: South America -- Guyana -- Georgetown
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    Back Cover
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Full Text

AP reIhimnadyM

By Prem Misir, Ph.D.

Marginalization today is the talk of the town. The People's National
Congress/Reform (PNC/R) believes that its street protesters have had
demonstrations 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 working class in the infamous '28 years' of the Bumham/Hoyte rule.
Also, let it be known that today while some Africans experience poverty in the
urban areas, some East Indians, Amerindians, and Africans, 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 its own working-class supporters and others,
as attested by what now follows.

While working at the University of Guyana, I observed the socialist
transformation process, as articulated by the PNC Administration. It soon
became clear to me that the Government's public policies were dissonant to its
actual policies. This dissonance meant that while socialism was projected as its
public ideology, state monopoly capitalism was the actual economic ideology
earnestly pursued.

The PNC Government throughout its rule, defiantly and falsely paraded
cooperative socialism as its governance framework. This framework, albeit
false, publicly targeted education and other social institutions for implementing
the socialist transformation process. Education and the economy were specially
beleaguered for participation in this charade.

Marginalization of both east Indian & African working class
The PNC party with a history of defeats at all democratically-held elections,
knew that its political power was only sustained through rigged elections. But
even the rigged elections needed an antithetical grassroots base to give
credibility to the PNC's notorious and fraudulent electoral victories between
1968 and 1985. Application of the African/ East Indian race card to consolidate
this foundation was the answer. Education and other institutions were exploited
as the catalyst and conduit to exacerbate and sustain the racial cleavages
between East Indian and African working class. Let's see how education
functioned as a medium and an agent to attribute credibility to the PNC regime.
The creation of the community high school and the multilateral secondary
school was intended to provide a new concept in education. However, their
locations impugned the integrity of the intention. Most of these schools were
distributed according to a racial pattern. In fact, there was a skewed distribution
of these schools in areas where only Africans predominated.

However, the presence of only six multilateral secondary schools at that time,
indicated that they were unable to cope with the flow of successful community

high school students at the Secondary Schools Proficiency Examination (SSPE).
In effect, many community high school students terminated their education at
the SSPE point, as many did not secure a place at the multilateral secondary
schools. Both working-class East Indian and African children, in this sense,
were educationally marginalized.

This resultant educational policy, represented by multilateral and community
high schools, therefore, retarded the educational growth of both working-class
East Indian and African children. In addition, these school leavers' competition
for jobs was practically non-existent because the occupational structure still
favored skills taught by the elite high schools. Job non-competitiveness as
experienced by these working-class youngsters over a sustained period,
considerably reduced their life chances and, indeed, their socioeconomic status.

The community and multilateral educational structures symbolized a conscious
and deliberate policy to promote elitism in education, as the elite schools'
outcomes were congruent to the demands and requirements of the job market.
The multilateral and community high schools were mainly frequented by
working-class children, and not by children from the upper middle and upper
classes. What eventually emerged was a streaming of schools, that is, a division
between schools mainly for elite children and schools essentially for workers'

It must be noted that ethnic imbalance in the locational distribution of the
community and the multilateral high schools and non-competitiveness of their
school leavers from both working- class East Indian and African groups for jobs,
were significant ingredients for massaging and sustaining ethnic cleavage
between the two major races. However, both major ethnic groups in the early
1980's developed a class-consciousness of the PNC's manipulative race card,
and in this consciousness, the seeds of unity between working-class East Indians
and Africans. were born. Eventually, this unity acted as a catalyst for the
restoration of democracy in 1992.

PNC working-class supporters and the East Indian working class were
trivialized and made insignificant further, through the activities of an essentially
African PNC elite.
Working-class PNC supporters' marginalization was reinforced through the
power wielded by an African PNC elite. The formation of this PNC elite started
in the post-Independence period. Hintzen (2000) pointed out that the middle
class' accession to power as the new elite after Independence was accompanied
by the retention of the structures of colonial domination and exploitation,
including the preservation of an expanding colonial bureaucracy.

This growing bureaucracy became the foundation of a power base for an
evolving African PNC elite. Hintzen believed that African-Creole nationalism

was the basis for struggle against colonial mobilization and colonial hegemony,
simultaneously. But he contended that African-Creole nationalism eventually
created neo-colonial control through the persistent retention of colonial
structures of domination that resulted in the abandonment of a nationalist
domestic agenda. The PNC elite, in effect, became tied to international
capitalism through the comprador class. The comprador class, according to
Andre Gunder Frank (1969), are local elites who profit from the system of
exploitation and whose interests become closely intertwined with their
counterparts in the developed or metropolitan countries.

The PNC elite in post-Independence Guyana until 1992 were facilitators for the
development of this comprador class, tied to and operating in the interests of the
core of international capitalism. The consequence of comprador activities meant
an abandonment of domestic nationalism and a domestic agenda by the local
PNC elite.

The PNC elite frequently applied coercion and exploitation of working-class
PNC supporters and other people on the lower rungs of the class ladder. This
coercion and exploitation were effected to sustain the PNC elite's power base.
In this way, the African PNC elite clearly ensured a consistently unequal
distribution of resources to all the working and lower classes, including

All working and lower classes were placed within caste structures, controlled by
PNC power holders, meaning that the working classes were unable to improve
their socioeconomic status. The caste structure, by definition, stagnates the
social mobility of all working-class groups who were not part of the PNC, as
well as those who supported the PNC Party, but not linked to the comprador
class activities.

Even those Africans and Coloreds, formerly of the middle class in the colonial
struggle and who subsequently fell from grace, experienced coercion, due to the
potential threat posed by their former power position vis-a-vis the then existing
PNC elite. In this context, the PNC elite's response to sustaining their levers of
political, economic, and military power, was color blind, in that working people
of all ethnic groups became victims of this internal human savagery. In effect,
class and not race became relevant to the PNC elite in protecting their power

As became clearer, the PNC Administration, in its infamous 28-year rule, not
only advanced ethnic cleavage through education, but also showed spectacular
success at creating an African PNC elite. The PNC elite was a relatively small
group of people who had political, economic, and military power. The elite used
this power for their own benefit. The three areas of power political, economic,

and military were interlocking, in that decisions in one area impacted the other
areas, and the elite members in all three areas were interchangeable.

This elite had similar class and educational origins. The similarity in origins
was important because the PNC elite knew each other, interacted socially, and
perceived themselves to be part of the inner circle of the ruling class. They
accepted each other as equals, and saw the world with similar lens. The African
PNC elite was the power elite in Guyana during the PNC rule.

This elite's power base was further strengthened through an aggressive
application of PNC party paramountcy. PNC working-class supporters never
shared nor became part of this power design. The only useful function effected
by the PNC working class was to act as the party's grassroots base, really an
electoral buffer to the East Indian working-class, in order to provide creditability
to the illegal PNC Government.

PNC working-class supporters, today, seriously need to review their life chances
under the PNC regime of the 28-year rule. Would PNC working-class followers
continue to endorse a PNC legacy, filled with the revulsion of exploitation,
coercion, and marginalization? In fact, both the East Indian and African
working-class experienced marginalization during the PNC's ruling years.

Types of marginalization
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
Africans are being presented as the marginalized people, and apparently,
according to this thinking, they experience some kind of marginalization.

Some features of the Indo-Caribbean experience may very well add up to a
profile in historical marginalization. These features include dislocation from
India, massive burden of labor in the Caribbean, ethnic victimization in the
post-colonial era, and migration to the metropolitan centers. Such
characteristics generate a double marginalization, as Naipaul would say
(Birbalsingh 1997: xv). First, there is marginalization via their relationship to
a subservient American and Euro-centered Creole-Caribbean condition.
Second, there is marginalization via their 'outsider' status as East Indians in
the Caribbean.

The marginalized person 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 (Berry & Tischler, 1978).

First, we have cultural marginalization where a minority group shares some
cultural aspects of the dominant group, but also shares other cultural facets with

one or more minority groups. In effect, the marginalized person is estranged
from some cultural characteristics of the dominant society.

Second, social marginalization 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 marginalization 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 marginalized types of
relevance here are social and cultural.

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

Methods and rationale for study
Specifically, here, we examine the levels of participation of East Indians and
Africans 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 of National Awards. In later studies, we
shall examine Guyanese participation in financial institutions, private sector
corporations, and the judicial system. Data collection involved the use of public
sector records for 2001 and 2002, observing strict confidentiality.

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 citizens at different levels of the decision-making processes.


Table 1: Senior Administrative Ranks By Ethnicity In The Public Service

Position %
Total # East # # % East
No. Indians Africans Others Indians
Ministers 20 14 3 3 64 18
Secretaries 15 9 6 0 58 42
Assts. 21 6 15 0 29 71
(Heads) 26 5 21 0 19 81
Officers 13 0 13 0 0 100

Deputy PSs,
and others 38 11 27 0 29 71
Source: Public Service Ministry Records, 2001 2002

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 70 percent of the Ministers. At the level of the Permanent
Secretary, both East Indians and Africans are in strong numbers. However,
Africans control all 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

Table 2: Ethnicity of Heads by Types of School

Schools # # # Tot % % %
East Afric Other al East Afric Other
India ans s India ans s
ns ns

High 30 45 10 85 35 53 12
Elementary 108 130 82 320 34 41 25
Nursery 61 124 24 209 29 59 12
Officers 4 5 1 10 40 50 10
Source: Ministry of Education

This Table illustrates the ethnicity of Heads in 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
schools. Only in the elementary schools do East Indians show some
competitiveness with Africans for Headships. In the People's National
Congress Administration, it was not unusual to find on average 70% of African
Regional Education Officers. Today, the ethnic imbalance has been narrowed to
the point where we have about 50% of African REDOs, followed by East
Indians with 40%.

Table 3: Both Schools Heads and Deputy Heads by Ethnicity

Regio # East # # Tota % % %
ns Indian Africa Other 1 East Africa Oth
s ns s Indian ns ers
1. 2 4 24 30 7 13 80
2. 13 5 5 23 56 22 22
3. 78 53 24 155 50 34 16
4. 62 169 26 257 24 66 10
5. 28 45 4 77 36 58 6
6. 74 81 7 162 46 50 4
7. 4 13 14 31 13 42 45
8. 1 2 11 14 7 14 79
9. 2 8 24 34 6 24 70
10. 2 45 5 52 4 87 9
Source: Ministry of Education

East Indians predominate in the senior positions of School Heads and Deputy
School Heads only in Regions 2 and 3. Africans 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 other Service Commissions have not been established because of the
PNC's refusal to participate in the Parliamentary process.

Table 4: School Heads by Ethnicity

Region # East # # % East % %
Indians Africans Others Indians Africans Others
1. 1 4 22 3 13 73
2. 12 2 4 53 9 17
3. 16 4 3 40 32 14
4 15 37 10 18 51 6
5. 4 6 1 31 51 4
6. 11 8 1 39 45 4
7. 0 1 0 13 39 45
8. 0 0 0 7 14 79
9. 0 0 0 6 24 70
10. 0 3 2 4 80 6
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.

Table 5: Education State Boards by Ethnicity

# %
Education East # # East %
State India Afric Other # India Afric %
Boards ns ans s Total ns ans Others
Council 12 11 2 25 48 44 8
Library 2 7 0 9 22 78 0
C.P.C.E 3 4 0 7 43 57 0
G.T.I 2 4 6 33 67

College 2 4 2 8 25 50 25
College 3 4 2 9 33 45 22
Source: GINA

Africans 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 President's
College. East Indians and Africans are present in almost similar numbers on the
University Council and Queen's College.

Table 6: Other State Boards by Ethnicity

Other State # # # Tota % % %
Boards East Afric 1 East Africa Oth
India ans Other India ns ers
ns s ns
Archives 2 5 1 8 25 63 12
Museum 2 7 0 9 22 78 0
Trust 3 6 1 10 30 60 10
House 3 4 3 10 30 40 30
Fisheries 4 1 0 5 80 20 0
Corp. 3 2 1 6 50 33 17
Guy. Water
Authority 5 3 0 8 63 37 0
Central 36
Housing & 4 55
Planning 6 1 11 9
Parole 3 6 1 10 30 60 10
Printers 4 3 0 7 57 43 0
Council 6 5 1 12 50 42 8
GOINVEST 3 1 1 5 60 20 20
Medical 33
Council 2 2 2 6 33 33
E.P.A. 3 1 1 5 60 20 20

Other State # # # Tota % % %
Boards East Afric 1 East Africa Oth
India ans Other India ns ers
ns s ns
Env. Impact
Board 1 2 4 25 50 25
Survey 8 3 0 11 73 27 0
n 5 3 1 9 56 33 11
Parks Com. 5 3 0 8 63 37 0
Parks Com. 0 4 0 4 0 100 0
Pesticide &
Control 2 2 0 4 50 50 0
National 67
Edible oil 2 4 0 6 33 0
Linmine 3 7 1 11 27 64 9
Bermine 3 6 1 10 30 60 10
G.P.O 4 6 0 10 40 60 0
Bidco 2 8 1 11 18 73 9
Guy. Gold
Board 4 2 0 6 67 33 0
Geology &
Mines 6 7 0 13 46 54 0
Source: GINA

Table 6 shows that in a review of 27 other State Boards, Africans are in the
majority on 13 and East Indians 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
Indians and Africans. Boards with predominantly Africans are BIDCO;
Kaieteur Parks Commission; National Archives; Museum; National Trust;
Parole; National Edible Oil; Bermine, and the General Post Office. Boards with
predominantly East Indians are: Guyana Fisheries; GOINVEST; EPA and Lands
& Survey.

Table 7: State Media by Ethnicity

# # # Total % % %
East Africa Othe East Africa Other
Indi ns rs Indi ns s
ans ans
GNNL 4 3 0 7 57 43 0
GTV 3 5 0 8 38 62 0
GBC 3 3 1 7 43 43 10
Source: GINA

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

Africans and East Indians are equally represented on the GBC Board of
Directors, together constituting 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.

Table 8: Budgetary Allocations 2002 in Some African Areas in Region 4

Sectors Areas Funds allocated ($M)
Drainage and Beterverwagting
Irrigation Ann's Grove
Bagotstown $12.9M
Melanie Damishana
Bladen Hall
Road Works Victoria
Golden Grove $14.3M
Bridges Melanie
Victoria $10.7M
Ann's Grove

Sectors Areas Funds allocated ($M)
Education Buxton Primary
Vryheid's Lust $11.9M
Buxton C.H.S
Ann's Grove C.H.S
Plaisance C.H.S
Buxton Nursery and
Primary School
Buxton Practical
Instruction Centre
Health Nabaclis
Buxton $24.3M
Agricultural Ann's Grove
Development Buxton $11.6M
Source: GINA

Region Four is highlighted because it is (a) the most populated of all 10
Regions; (b) it has a significant African population; (c) it also houses
Georgetown, the Capital City of Guyana and the seat of Central Government;
(d) Georgetown has a large number of urban African dwellers; and (e) this
Region is controlled by the PNC/R. Region 4 received a budgetary allocation of
$148M for the year 2002. The Regional Administration has now assigned
$85.7M in the areas indicated in Table 8. 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, received 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 social marginalization experienced by Africans. People
who are marginalized are not beneficiaries of sizable sums of budgetary

Table 9: National Awards 1993-2000

% % %
Award #East # # East Africa Others
Indians African Othe Indians ns
s rs
Order of Excellence 1 2 2 20 40 40
Order of Roraima 4 2 1 57.1 28.6 14.3
Cacique's Crownof 15 19 7 36.6 46.3 17.1
Golden Arrow of 29 26 8 46 41.3 12.7
Medal of Service 55 55 19 42.6 42.6 14.8
Military Service 4 26 13.3 86.7 0
Discipline Service 5 31 0 13.9 86.1 0
Total 113 161 37 36.3 51.8 11.9
Source: GINA

Over the years 1993 through 2000, East Indians and Africans were equal
beneficiaries of 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 demonstrated marginalization among
Africans. If anything, East Indians may have been peripheralized in the awards

Number of persons receiving National Awards From 1993- 2000

Table 10: University of Guyana Academic Staff By Ethnicity 2001-2002

Faculty # East # # % % %
Indians Africans Others East Africans Others
Agriculture 1 6 0 14 86 0
Arts 5 28 1 15 82 3
Education 2 13 0 13 87 0
Health 3 10 0 23 77 0
Natural 16 20 2 41 53 6
Social 10 36 0 22 78 0
Technology 3 27 0 10 90 0
Source: GINA

Table 10 shows a disproportionate number of African over East
Indian academic staff at the University of Guyana in the 2001/2002
academic year. African academics control the didactic dimension


East Indians Negroes Others

1 Order of Excellence
Order of Roraima
SCacique's Crown of Honour
1 Medalof Service
Military Service Medal

at the faculty levels. The ethnic imbalance among academics is

Social marginalization- a tall tale
Social marginalization where people are deprived of full participation in
the society unquestionably is not a characteristic feature in the Guyana
public sector. Today, with a greater ethnic mix in the public service,
comparable socioeconomic status between East Indians and Africans,
and the evolving structures of political inclusiveness through the Dialog
Joint Committees, Constitutional Amendments, Constitutional
Commissions, and the role of the Opposition, the talk of social
marginalization of Africans is totally absurd.


Berry, Brewton and Tischler, Henry L. 1978

Race and Ethnic Relations. {fourth Edition}. Boston: Honghton Mifflin

Frank, Andre G.1969 Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin
America. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Hintzen, Percy C. 2000 Identity, Nationalism and Elite Domination:
The English Speaking West Indies, in P. Misir.(ed). Ethnic Cleavage
and Closure in the Caribbean Diaspora: Interactions of Race, Ethnicity &
class. New York: Caribbean Diaspora University Press.

Park, Robert E. 1949. Race and Culture. New York: Free Press of

Published By The Government Information Agency (GINA)
Area 'B' Homestretch Avenue
D'Urban Backlands Georgetown Guyana.
Tel 231-7102 or 2317103 Fax 226-6005

Copyright C 2002 Prem Misir


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