Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce “gravely concerned” over boycott threats against Guyanese businesses


Condemnation continues to increase against the recent antics of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), which attracted backlash after threatening to boycott any Guyanese business in New York that is guilty of recently welcoming President Dr. Irfaan Ali on its premises.

In a statement on Friday, the Florida-based Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) waded into the controversy and expressed “grave concern” over the boycott calls on Guyanese-owned businesses in Brooklyn, New York which hosted President Ali. According to GACC, the rationale behind the boycott threats is a baseless one.

“A call to boycott small businesses for baseless partisan political, ethnic, religious, or any other reason is downright outrageous, and the GACC urges the people of Brooklyn, New York to ignore these calls,” the GACC has said.

“Guyanese-owned businesses, especially those in the restaurant and related hospitality sectors in the Diaspora, contribute to the cultural fabric by preserving and promoting Guyanese traditions and customs, and fostering social connections and community cohesion, serving as gathering places and hubs for social interaction,” the organisation also noted.

Making it clear that it condemns any effort to target Guyanese-owned businesses in New York and deny them this crucial social role, the body noted the unfairness and injustice of a call for boycotting small businesses that are known for welcoming elected officials into their establishments, particularly a visiting Head of State from their country of origin.

“Those perpetuating calls for a boycott, while they may not have the capacity or influence to make such a boycott successful, ought to demonstrate a better sense of responsibility by taking into account the potential negative impact such calls can have on business enterprises, their employees, and the community,” GACC further noted. “Welcoming an elected official on a walkabout of a community into a business enterprise is standard in all democracies, whether an enterprise supports that elected official or not. The GACC wishes to reiterate its condemnation of this attempt to unjustly punish the Guyanese business owners in Brooklyn who displayed decency, good manners, and the traditional warm Guyanese hospitality by welcoming President Ali to their establishments.”

Meanwhile, GACC urged all Caribbean-owned businesses to stand in solidarity with those that are subject to these calls for a boycott. They noted that, in the diaspora, it is only through collective Caribbean strength and unity that the diaspora can effectively protect and promote each other. The importance of unity is especially important, considering the vital role played by micro and small businesses.

“Micro and small businesses are the backbone of a nation’s economy. These enterprises are significant job creators, often providing employment opportunities to individuals who might otherwise struggle to find work, including women and young people. Many large companies today began as small startups.

“While individual micro and small businesses may have modest revenues, collectively they make a significant contribution to the communities in which they are located, and to a country, particularly through the equitable distribution of incomes,” GACC also said.

Seawall vendors

One of CGID’s persistent claims have been the allegations of discrimination. GACC, in its statement, also urged the Government to avoid any circumstance that can have the appearance of discrimination, however innocuous. It also referenced the recent action against vendors between Camp Street and the Kitty Roundabout.

The Government has made it clear that persons who have received permission from the Sea and River Defence Board to vend along the Georgetown seawall area will be able to continue vending, but individuals who are unlawfully vending in the area will not be permitted to do so.

Public Works Minister Juan Edghill clarified that any misinformation being spread that claimed that the Government was removing vendors from the seawall was a clear sign of mischief-making.

Edghill has stated that the Government planned to ensure that every person who has a licence to vend on the seawall knows the conditions under which they must vend. GACC expressed hope in its statement that every effort will be taken to avoid confrontation.

“While not seized of all the facts about these developments, the GACC urges the Government authorities to act with fairness and compassion, and to bear in mind the devastating impact any rash and inconsiderate action would have on these micro and small businesses and their owners. We urge that every effort be made to avoid confrontation and any approach to this issue that may be perceived as discriminatory,” GACC said in its statement.