Ram and McRae says minister’s comments point to discriminatory hiring practices
Accounting firm Ram and McRae has denounced recent comments by Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence as “shocking and disgraceful,” saying it amounts to an admission of discriminatory hiring practices.
In an epilogue to its review of the government’s 2019 national budget, the firm also sounded its concern that there is a serious possibility that the planned public spending will be used for discriminatory employment practices.
During a presentation at the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Region Four District Conference, held at Congress Place last Sunday, a recording of which has been made public, Lawrence, who is the party’s Chairman, can be heard telling attendees that they should not be afraid to give jobs or contracts to party comrades. “Well I got news for you: The only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I could give work to is PNC. And, right now, I looking for a doctor who can talk Spanish or Portuguese and ah want one that is PNC,” she is heard saying.
Ram and McRae said it should be recognised that a Senior Cabinet Minister of the APNU+AFC government is admitting to “discriminatory employment with an undisguised hint of ethnic preferences.” “This is unconstitutional, shocking and disgraceful,” it further said. “With the major political parties each having a strong ethnic base, the statement reinforces the public racism narrative, and leaves the most apolitical, objective observer in Guyana with little option but to question whether this is an embedded policy among party leaders,” it added.
Noting that Lawrence’s Ministry of Public Health, which has been allocated a total sum of $25.223 billion in the 2019 budget, has already been implicated in a number of tainted procurements amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, in violation of the law, the firm questioned the extent to which the budget may contain disguised political spending.
“This raises the serious possibility that the 2019 Budget, potentially the last full year Budget before the 2020 elections, will be used for discriminatory employment practices and other spending, not only in Ms. Lawrence’s Ministry but in the Government as a whole,” it added.
Also of concern to the firm is the fact that there is yet to be any public condemnation of Lawrence’s statement either by the President, her Cabinet colleagues or any of the leaders of the coalition parties.
“This is ominous and may set the stage for one of the most confrontational campaigns for what her colleague Minister described as the “mother of all elections,” it added.
Also condemning Lawrence’s statement as an admission of discriminatory labour practices was opposition leader and PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo.
“This is illegal. Volda Lawrence could be charged for this because our labour
law says that you cannot discriminate against people on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, whatever else. She is making it clear that she is going to discriminate on the basis of their politics. I hope we can see some private criminal charges being filed against Volda Lawrence for a statement like this,” he told a press conference on Thursday.
On the same day, Lawrence responded to the reportage on her comments but did not address the specific comments in relation to hiring party members.
In a statement Lawrence said she stands by her views on the issue of jobs and unemployment, and that measures are being put in place for the young and industrious to be afforded the opportunity of becoming selfemployed or gaining meaningful employment.
Meanwhile Minister Joseph Harmon has declined to say whether government has spoken to Lawrence about her statements.
During a post-Cabinet press briefing on Friday, Harmon was asked whether anyone from the government, inclusive of President David Granger, has spoken to Lawrence about her comments.
In response, he reiterated that he would not be commenting on matters which are within the realm of the PNCR, which is the main constituent of APNU. He added that in this particular case, he is “sure that the party would review the statement that Minister Lawrence made and the explanation which she gave subsequently and if there is need for any further elaboration then the party will do so.”