The first round of village council elections was held this past weekend; we’ll get to the result in a few but first, we take a look at a press release issued by the National Garifuna Council on Saturday. The release said (quote) “The National Garifuna Council does not support partisan politics because it has never positively impacted our people. As such, we are concerned about reports of non-Garinagu vying for office in one of our communities.” (end of quote) The NGC encouraged its members and the wider community to exercise their rights and choose leadership that will represent the best interests of the Garinagu. The release says (quote) “Let us not allow anyone who does not put the best interests of our people first to take control of our Garifuna communities.” (end of quote) Those who read the release said it contained racist comments. Tonight, the executive of the National Garifuna Council told Love News that there isn’t anything racist about its position- they say it’s all facts. Here is how they explained it.
Sheena Zuniga, President, NGC: “The Council felt the need to put out that press release in order to encourage our Garifuna members to support Garifuna persons on the slate.”
Sandra Miranda George, 1st VP, NGC: “These are traditionally Garifuna communities. We are not practising or initiating or promoting racism. What we are asking is that these communities, if we want them to remain traditionally Garifuna communities then they need to have Garifuna leadership but the right leadership. We are not campaigning for any party. We are not campaigning for any individual. What we are asking is that the community, the members, if they want to keep these villages as predominantly Garifuna then they need to make the right decision when voting during the elections.”
Ifasina Efunyemi, Assistant Secretary, NGC: “We’re not talking about partisan politics here. We want the yellow, white and black to be what we are promoting as Garinagu because we are the ones that have to look out for our best interests and that is what we want our people to understand. This is not against anybody. “Au Bun, Amürü Nu.” This is we for we. I for you, you for me. That’s the bottom line. Now when people are working for each other, why is that being automatically interpreted as working against others? We are not in opposition to Mennonites working with each other. We are not in opposition to Mayas working with each other. We are not in opposition of expats working for and in the interest of each other. We’re not opposed to Chinese and other Asians working for and in the interest of each other. Why now do we have an issue because here we have an afro descendant indigenous population that is saying that we want to work with each other and we want to promote that kind of unity. All of a sudden now it’s such a problem/ There is so much criticism. I saw so many of the comments under the press release and it’s so sad to see that level of ignorance really within our nation manifesting when we bring forth something that is a reality. We know that there is discrimination in this country and afro descendants in this country cannot afford to be racist if you understand what the term means. We don’t afford it because we do not have the economic power to disenfranchise anyone. We don’t have it and so we cannot be racist.”
Assistant Secretary for the NGC, Ifasina Efunyemi, says the NGC will always stand up for and promote the Garifuna community and culture and for that, she makes no apologies.
Ifasina Efunyemi, Assistant Secretary, NGC: “It is because of decisions made by the state, regardless of which colour, red or blue. Decisions made by the state many years ago that changed the economic landscape of those communities and made it difficult for Garinagu to even remain in their communities. We are trying very hard as a council to ensure that our communities are preserved. It’s a part of our mandate as a council. That is the reason I have been active in this council for a very, for many years. From the age of 14 as a matter of fact because I am interested in seeing the preservation of my communities, for the preservation of my culture and if it means having to make a statement as profound as that because we see the threat then I’m making it because without apology, Hipolito, because at the end of the day, it is my people that are under threat. It is my Garifuna communities that are neglected year in year out, party in party out.”