Last Updated on Thursday, 25 May 2023, 20:40 by Denis Chabrol
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday said he told a European Union 2020 Election follow-up observer mission that he was worried that if Guyana adopts a number of international conventions into domestic law, politically motivated civil society organisations could use them to target the government.
“I pointed out to the EU mission that when you sign on to some of these international conventions how they could be manipulated against small countries,” he told a news conference. Mr Jagdeo said he used the example of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI), a local associate of Transparency International, report and other examples of how local civil society had been captured politically. TIGI, which is an anti-corruption advocate, has been often criticised by PPP administrations whenever Transparency International issues unflattering rankings.
Mr Jagdeo said the EU recognised that civil society in Guyana “is heavily politicised”, even as he reminded that civil society organisations whose focus is on children, disabled, underprivileged and drug rehabilitation. “I pointed out about the partisan nature of some civil society members when and how they can influence global rankings or report,” he said.
Recently Mr Jagdeo attributed the slump in Guyana’s press freedom rating to advocacy by the Guyana Press Association (GPA). Several loosely-knit civil society activists, who had penned a letter to the newspaper, Amerindian People’s Association and the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) have been accused of having hidden political agendas whenever they speak out against perceived bad governance and other violations. Without reference to Transparency International’s methodology, the Guyana government recently urged sister Caribbean nations to wage a campaign against the authenticity of Transparent International’s corruption rankings, saying they were not scientific for media houses to use them to publish largely questionable stories.
The PPP General Secretary, who is also Guyana’s Vice President, said he raised similar concerns on Thursday with the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro during his visit to this member state, arguing that the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) was waging its political campaign in the international arena. “I pointed out that APNU doesn’t find resonance in Guyana for its divisive politics any longer. They can’t push the race message with the same potency as they did before so it is seeking out all of these organisations and conventions that we have signed on to, to basically hope that we’ll get adverse reports that they can then quote, although they have influenced the reports, here to make it seem that their arguments have merit,” he said.
Mr Jagdeo said provision should be made that the international conventions and institutions should be a mechanism of last resort after exhausting domestic means such as the Ombudsman and the Ethnic Relations Commission. He said the overwhelming majority of claims by APNU do not have merit.
The EU follow-up electoral observer mission is expected to submit its report in another month.