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Human Rights Assoc recommends sweeping changes to State Asset Recovery mechanism or it “risks prolonging ethnically polarized politics”

Co Chairman of the Guyana Human Rights Association, Mike Mc Cormack speaking at the public consultation on the State Asset Recovery Bill.

Co Chairman of the Guyana Human Rights Association, Mike Mc Cormack speaking at the recently held public consultation on the State Asset Recovery Bill.

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is calling for a range of measures to be implemented to ensure that the proposed State Asset Recovery legislation and the agency win broad-based political support.

The association cautioned the APNU+AFC government against using its one-seat majority in the House to pass the State Asset Recovery Bill and establish the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA), arguing that do so without a serious effort to obtain genuine broad-based political support “risks prolonging ethnically polarized politics.”

Already, the East Indian-dominated People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has been persistently accusing the Afro-dominated A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government of using the Recovery Unit (SARU), SARA’s precursor, and the Guyana Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to witch-hunt political opponents.

In an effort to avoid such a pitfall, the GHRA recommended that the SAR Bill be broadened from asset recovery alone to a more substantive incorporation of the aims of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). The Association also urged government to create a mechanism that brings a range of civic and private sector forces into the process of promoting the Bill. “Anything less will inevitably prompt the question whether ‘anti-corruption’ for the ruling party ever meant more than pursuing those now in opposition for corrupt acts committed while in power,” said the GHRA which has a history of being harshly critical of all governments in post-independence Guyana.

On the thorny issue of the appointment of the Director and Deputy Director of  SARA, the human rights body said it supports the anti-corruption agency being a parliamentary agency but expressed concern that “the proposed procedure is not sufficiently ring-fenced from partisan political influence.” The GHRA recommended that a two-thirds parliamentary majority system be used to ensure  the decisions related to SARA establishment cut across party lines. “Genuine bi-partisanship would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority.  Achieving this in the current atmosphere is remote…The SAR Bill effectively concedes the un-attainability of bi-partisan support by opting to create the Agency on a partisan basis,” the association said.

The GHRA said its concerns about SAR’s impartial image are rooted in the sweeping powers available to the Director of the Agency and the manner of his/her appointment.  The human rights watchdog explained that with respect to the powers, the following private and state institutions are only a selection of those which must comply with any request from the Director of SARA for information they hold-the Commissioner of Police, the DPP, Head of CANU, the Bank of Guyana, private banks, and the Chairperson of the Gold Board. “Rather than the established procedure whereby other agencies provide the Guyana Revenue Authority with information on which if can act, the new Bill requires the opposite: the GRA must provide information on which the SARA will act. The Director of SARA is effectively a political commissar exercising enormous powers.”

The GHRA said it was not challenging the wisdom of this accumulation of powers, but recommending safeguards against the ample mischief such an accumulation invites.  T

The envisaged procedure set out in the First Schedule to the Bill requires that “the National Assembly shall:  a) by a simple majority; and b) on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments, appoint a Director and Deputy Director of the State Recovery Agency”.  Similarly, both officers may be removed from office by the same combination of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee. “With the Coalition Government enjoying a majority both in the Appointments Committee and in Parliament, as well as holding the Chairmanship of the Appointments’ Committee, this is effectively a Coalition Government appointment, dressed up as bi-partisan,” said the GHRA.

“The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is urging the Coalition Government not to sacrifice the powerful platform of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption on the altar of partisan politics,” said the association.

The GHRA says it welcomes the reference in the Explanatory Memorandum that the draft Bill explicitly seeks to give effect to the non-conviction-based recovery provisions of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). At the same time, the association said unfortunately the same attention was not paid to the strong provisions for Governments to promote the participation of society in these matters. Article 13 of the UNCAC explicitly states that:

Each State Party shall take appropriate measures, within its means and in accordance with fundamental principles of its domestic law, to promote the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, in the prevention of and the fight against corruption.

  • Col123

    Who is lacking foresight here?…What goes around does not go anywhere in Guyana?.., Is karma a male dog?…

    • rs dasai

      Col
      DAAG.

  • Emile_Mervin

    The Coalition regime ran as an Opposition party on a platform that included going after corrupt elements of the PPP regime. And one of the reasons the Coalition beat the PPP was precisely because of the corruption issue.

    Ralph Ramkarran, a former PPP House Speaker, was forced to leave the PPP for literally highlighting endemic corruption in the government, and audits confirmed this claim, so there is no dispute that corruption existed under the PPP.

    Now that the Coalition regime is trying to fulfill its campaign promise to go after the thieves and hustlers in the PPP, we have folks hollering about witch-hunting and ethnic intimidation.

    Well, too bad for the PPP, because it appointed mostly Indians to top spots and many (not all) Indian appointees allowed themselves to be caught up in the Jagdeo-Ramotar Era of systemic cortuption. No race has a monopoly on cortuption, which is why the law against corruption has to be color blind.

    Guyana is caught in a spot: enforce the law against corruption or protect members of an ethnic group that broke the law against corruption.

  • Col123

    How many of those grievances were taken by the then opposition to the UN for relief?…Good governance requires a strong opposition to prevent the same end result of “polarized politics” the “GHRA dicks” is pontificating …

  • Col123

    Referencing Freddie is like breathing polluted air…it kills brain cells..etc..and shows that you are clutching at straws…the Mc Cormick guy did not say a thing for 23 yrs was enough…the brotha Freddie still has some stuff in his ead…

  • Col123

    Wading?..Up the creek without a paddle?..don’t let Freddie throw you a life line or anything at you bro ..it could be miasmic….look for the drowning Guyanese fellow… with the turban.. he is clutching at something…

  • Col123

    Listening to me is costly bro…A simple consultation for fifteen mins will run you up to a grand…

  • Col123

    Not so..take your blinders off bro…you need to stop seeing colors in humanity…just a heads up…if you believe that the average “native” African see us as their even, you should get check out for a macular hole…

    • rs dasai

      Col
      There are also ‘white’ persons in Africa. They are also Africans. NO?

      • Col123

        You are right smarty…I meant the original Africans..not Caucasion origin…. and don’t give me the story about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden in Africa..

        • rs dasai

          Col.
          Should we then refer to persons of ‘Negroid’ origin, since African (Morocco to South Africa) refers to a geographical location and not to ethnicity.
          Likewise, we should refer to persons of East Indian origin,since we also have Indigenous Indians of the West Indies and Americas. I am not of Eden , but more of Ganges and Niger.

          • Col123

            Hey .. I insist that we stick to that human thingy…that makes us all equal

          • rs dasai

            Col
            Agreed. Physically and mentally. We have the Mensa, we only have to use it. LOL

  • Col123

    That would put you in the category of not worth a fart…

  • Col123

    Then it was my honor to dispose of you in with the morning dump..