Submitted by the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)
NEW YORK: In an interview with Mr. Irwin Clair, on Irie Jam Radio, 93.1 FM on Tuesday, August 4, Mr. Thomas Bailey, President of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA),
made several misleading statements regarding the allegations […]of discrimination made against WIADCA by Guyanese and other Caribbean nationals. We will not allow his mendacities to contend unchallenged.
Mr. Bailey attempted to minimize and obfuscate the issue by erroneously stating that the allegations were made by “one Guyanese organization,” which accused WIADCA of catering only to Trinidadians. He claimed that if one were to look at the Eastern Parkway on any Labor Day they would see that the allegation is not true. Mr. Bailey’s comments were misleading.
First, three organizations; CGID, One Guyana USA Inc., and Guyana Unity Movement, filed a discrimination and financial irregularity complaint against WIADCA with the New York State Attorney General. Since then, Jamaican, Haitian, Antiguan and Vincentian leaders have joined the complaint.
Second, the allegation is unrelated to patrons who show up to view the Labor Day Parade. The complaint is that WIADCA’s Board and membership are almost exclusively Trinidadians; the association systematically and consciously excludes Guyanese and other non-Trinidadians from its Board and membership, and that Jamaicans and Haitians are prohibited from participating in the parade because their culture does not involve Trinidadian-styled carnival costumes.
Third, Mr. Bailey stated, inter alia, that WIADCA met with a Guyanese delegation and agreed to:
● “Advancing more diverse participation and member initiatives that would further reflect broad composition of New York’s rich and diverse Caribbean-American community.
●“Explore a more diverse partnership and recruit new cultural partners and facilitate the development of a new one Caribbean.”
● “Discuss rules and regulations with the Chair and members of the Caribbean Consular Corps and keep New York elected officials informed and request their continued support.”
●“This basically is the outcome of the meeting we held with the Guyanese organization.” He also agreed with Mr. Irwin Clair that WIADCA has addressed the issue and has put in place “situations” to address the matter.
Fourth, the above statements by Mr. Bailey are disingenuous and false. These are the facts:
(I) On July 16, a meeting between WIADCA and a Guyanese delegation was facilitated by Dr. Roy Hastick, President of CACCI. Two Attorneys, who were not representing the Guyanese delegation, were present. Ms. Rhea Smith who was also present, claimed to be representing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. She read a purported statement from the Borough President. We subsequently learnt that she was not a representative of the Borough but was in fact WIADCA’s public relations agent. This was the first an act of deception.
(ii) The above so-called points of agreement outlined by Mr. Bailey bear no resemblance to the truth. They comprise a set of incoherent words and sentences to which the Guyanese delegation would never have agreed, as they are meaningless and unimplementable.
(iii) There was no agreement that WIADCA should seek guidance on its rules and regulations from the Caribbean Consular Corps. The Guyanese delegation is fully aware that such a proposal would be outside of the remit of Corps and that WIADCA’s Board is responsible for its own rules and regulation. Furthermore, WIADCA should be hesitant to seek refuge from the Consular Corps. A Caribbean Counsel General told the media last month that WIADCA’s “Bias towards Trinidadians was a fact of life known to most members of the Caribbean Consular Corps. We have raised with WIADCA the issue of discrimination but the question went unanswered.”
(iv) The Guyanese delegation listed instances of discrimination and noted provisions in WIADCA’s Bylaws that were deliberately designed to inhibit new membership and inclusiveness. It highlighted Article III, Section 3.01, which mandate that persons interested in membership must first register as a volunteer and serve for one year before becoming eligible to be nominated by two members for membership. The application is then subjected to approval by the Board. If approved, the new member has to wait six months to vote at meetings and five years to be eligible to be elected to the Board. Board members serve a term of ten years. The Guyanese team observed that this process seems more like an encumbrance to joining the association.
(v) The parties unambiguously agreed that the WIADCA delegation will recommend the following reforms to its Board: (1) Amend its Bylaws to facilitate immediate acceptance of new members to reflect the composition of New York’s diverse Caribbean-American Community. (2) Appoint delegates from each Caricom nation to be liaisons between their respective communities and WIADCA. (3) Meet with representatives of each country with an interest in participating in WIADCA’s Labor Day Parade/Carnival; including Jamaicans, Haitians and Antiguans, to facilitate their participation in the parade. (4) Build partnerships with organizations, individuals in the Caribbean-American community, to ensure inclusiveness and full recognition of all West Indian cultures.
(vi) At all times, the Guyanese delegation insisted on clear, precise language on points of agreement. Ms. Yolanda Lazama-Clarke took notes on behalf of WIADCA while another WIADCA delegation member made an audio recording of the meeting. Ms. Sherif Fraser and Mr. Nevlon Duguid took notes for the Guyanese delegation, which also recorded the meeting.
(vii) At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Hastick pleaded with the WIADCA delegation to honor the agreement and not be deterred detractors. The parties undertook to immediately delineate said agreement in a joint statement the following day. However, this did not occur. A WIADCA Board member, who was not at the meeting and who was apparently dissatisfied with its outcome, sought the intervention of a separate Attorney to halt the provisions agreed upon. WIADCA then reneged on the agreement.
(viii) Contrary to comments by Mr. Bailey, this matter has not been resolved. The Guyanese delegation believes that the meeting was a waste of time, as WIADCA has not demonstrated good faith or honesty, and remains intransigent. This deceptive posture is unfortunate. We are determined to pursue this matter aggressively until there is an amicable resolution.
(ix) In the interest of transparency, the Guyanese delegation will release the transcript and audio recording of the meeting so that the public can make an informed judgment on this matter based on facts.
Signed by members of the Guyanese delegation,
Nevlon Duguid, One Guyana UDA, Inc.
Sherif Fraser, One Guyana USA, Inc.
Rose October-Edun, Guyana Unity Movement
Ervin Washington, Guyana Unity Movement
Rickford Burke, Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)