BELIZE CITY, Wed. Aug. 16, 2017–Leaders of two prominent Garifuna organizations, the United Garifuna Association Inc., representing Garinagu residing in the United States, and the National Garifuna Council (NGC), representing Garinagu in Belize, have expressed their disapproval of the decision by the Council of Management of the Public Service Union (PSU) to rescind the suspension of their president, Eldred Neal, which was effected in May in consequence of a recording on which he was heard to be making derogatory remarks against the Garinagu in general, and specifically, against Garifuna members of the union.
Neal, elected in 2015, came under fire over allegations that he intended to “purge” the executive of the union of its Garifuna members. It was also alleged that anti-Garifuna comments were made by him — that the Garifuna people would do anything to ascend to power and are by so doing claiming high ranks in the public service.
“I think they let him off the hook and let him off the hook at a strategic time; and it’s an election year. He got away and I am not happy about that,” NGC president Sandra Miranda told Amandala.
“This is a slap in our face as Garinagu and [it is] sending a message of continued discrimination towards the Garifuna members of the PSU,” Miranda said.
Neal’s return to the presidency of the PSU came a week before the union’s annual general meeting, at which elections will be held for his office and a few other posts.
“I appeal to all Garifuna public officers who are members of the PSU not to support his presidency in the upcoming election this weekend,” Miranda told us.
In the Tuesday edition of Amandala, we reported on the latest development, which Miranda said came to her as a surprise. We have been told that Neal did apologize to the PSU’s Council of Management, and that he has been tasked with apologizing to the wider membership at the upcoming AGM, which he will not chair, as is customarily done by the president. A condition of the lifting of his suspension is that Neal will only present the president’s report.
Miranda believes that an apology to the PSU members does not suffice, and a public apology to all Garinagu is warranted.
“He might have apologized to those in PSU, but we are all aware of what was said. The apology should be to the entire public, not just PSU members,” she said.
Meanwhile, Joseph Guerrero of the United Garifuna Association has issued a statement to the media saying: “Garinagu of the United States have expressed grave concerns about the reinstatement of Eldred Neal to the presidency of the PSU. The reinstatement sends the wrong message to many of its own members.
“After Neal was caught red-handed not only making disparaging remarks as concerns Garifuna, he was caught plotting to undermine us from ascending to the top positions in the PSU.”
The association says that this amounts to denials of the basic fundamental and constitutional rights on the basis of one’s ethnicity.
“The PSU missed a golden opportunity to send the right message [that] it is looking out for all its members by removing Neal from his position as president of the PSU. How can the Garifuna members have any confidence he will act in our best interest and not try to stop us from reaching high positions in the Union?” the release went on to state.
Guerrero suggests that rather than the reinstatment of Neal, a legal process should have ensued, from the Director of Public Prosecution’s office (DPP), to investigate him for conspiracy to deny Garifuna members of the PSU their full rights to participate in the PSU and to ascend to its presidency.