The European Union (EU) Wednesday night urged Guyana to abolish the death penalty and decriminalize same-sex relations but President Donald Ramotar swiftly urged Europe and North America to reduce demand for narcotics because they are tied to homicides.
Ramotar reiterated that Guyana could not easily remove sodomy and other laws that impinge on sexuality without listening to the voices of Guyanese.
Addressing a reception to mark Europe Day, EU Ambassador Robert Kopecky lobbied Guyana to scrap the death penalty. “We have been working with the Government and civil society in Guyana on a range of issues, and on this note I would encourage the Government of Guyana to abolish the death penalty, to decriminalise same sex intimacy, and to strengthen their efforts to combat domestic abuse and trafficking in persons,” he said.
President Ramotar, in his remarks, noted that the drug trade was a major cause of the high crime rate in the Caribbean, a situation he hoped could change if Europe, United States and Canada reduce their demand for narcotics. If that is done, he reasoned, public sentiments in favour of the death penalty could eventually wane over time.
“If that market in Europe and North America can be curbed then the violent crimes that we see could be curbed and the sentiments in population who still feel that death penalty is a deterrent to crime will change,” he said. The President recalled that Guyana’s law has been amended to rule out mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of murder.
“As a democrat I must take into account the views of my people,” said Ramotar.
Guyana and other Caribbean countries are regarded as major transhipment points for South American cocaine to Europe, North America and in recent times Africa and parts of Asia and the Pacific.
Touching on the issue the decriminalization of same-sex relations, the President noted that several years ago the National Assembly had approved a constitutional amendment to include sexual orientation but that led to a virtual revolt by a section of the society and eventual non-assent by his predecessor, Bharrat Jagdeo. The President said his administration must consider the sentiments of Guyanese in handling the controversial issue of same-sex relations. “I wish to state that in relation to the death penalty and the sex relations you will find sympathy with your views but I am sure you will agree with me that as a democracy we have take the opinion of our people into consideration as well,” he said.
The President added that Guyana has passed laws to deal with Trafficking In Persons and Domestic Violence as well as establish a task force on TIP in the Ministry of Home Affairs. He further noted that Guyana’s judges have to take into account regional and international human rights, treaties and conventions.
Responding to the EU’s Ambassador’s call for local government elections to be held, the Guyanese leader only said “As far as local government election is concerned I cannot be oblivious to the political situation that exist in this country and further I say not.”
The governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) appears hesitant to call local government elections or early nationa elections for fear that it has not yet regained enough ground to clinch a simple majority in the House or take control of most villages and towns.