OPINION: Guyana’s human rights record is stronger now than at any time in our history

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2024, 22:47 by Denis Chabrol

By Dr. Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus

Human rights are central not only to quality of life, but to the core of who we are as human beings. Because of this salient fact, one would think that human rights in Guyana would not be tinkered with by any responsible party. Unfortunately, this expectation has proven to be too high for many who are bent on ruining our national image in order to earn political mileage. For this bunch, truth has been sacrificed for politics. Human Rights matter less than ego.

It must be noted that some sections in the media are engaged in a flagrant assault on our national conscience. Evidence for this is easily culled from a mischievous little deposit by GHK Lall in which distortions and irresponsible representations abound. Mr. Lall and his fellows should know that the Government of Guyana will not be bullied by the operatives who have fed the disturbingly inaccurate information to the UNHRC.

Let us get down to the mechanics behind the gross distortions that surfaced in the form of questions at the UNHRC. While the UNHRC is made up of experts, it does not mean that the questions asked are the result of their technical training. The experts simply re-ask question sent to them. Keep in mind, anyone can make a complaint. The complaints are called “communications.”

Based on the questions posed to the Guyana delegation, it is clear that the “communications” are mostly the work of APNU-AFC and OGGN type activists. There is a very high probability that most of the “communications” are from those 25-30 people who usually sign letters to the editors in two well-known outlets in Guyana. Let us go through some of the questions.

A question on oil and gas is a good place to begin. Here is the question – “Whether a thorough investigation had been conducted into Exxon Mobil Guyana’s allegation of corruption, following the government granting of a license to exploit oil fields?” As asked, it is not clear who is accusing whom of corruption. I guarantee you that Mr. Helfer, who is an extremely well qualified law professor, or other experts, could not have come up with this nonsense. This is rant you are more likely to find on a radio show on the waterfall station. It made it in as “communications!”

Then there is this – “There were report that the State party [Guyana] implemented a carbon credit trading scheme without consulting with indigenous peoples.” This bit is based on standardized lies by an organization that claims to represent Amerindians in Guyana. The truth is that the PPPC government consulted with all 242 Amerindian villages. 15% of the revenues earned from carbon credit sales have gone to these villages. The villages submit development (or spending) plans, which are reviewed and funded. You should know that there were lengthy consultations with the National Toshaos Council on all aspects of carbon credit sales, revenues, and disbursement.

A few questions were on the access of “civil society” in preparation of the Guyana report to the UNHRC. Two things are important here. First, in all likelihood, many civil society groups in Guyana are linked to the PNC led APNU+AFC. Secondly, there is no civil society complaint at the Ethic Relations Commission on many of the questions presented in the “communications.” If I may say so without being accusatory, “communications” to the UNHRC are not supposed to be allowed if they did not first go through a domestic process.

A question concerning discriminatory killings between 2002-2006 were, without doubt, the work of politically motivated activists who tend to racialize everything. Readers who want to know who were killed and what led to the deaths should consult a report by Stabroek News (11/19/2019) by clicking here. My quick count came up with 129 Indians killed, although from the question, you would think none were killed. Of the 420 killed, 151 persons were murdered by bandits, and 30 were security officers.

As for race-biased killings the victims of Lusignan and Bartica did not stand a chance through the “communications”. At Bartica, the victims were – Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir, Constable Shane Fredericks, Constable Ron Osbornes, Irving Ferreira Dexter Adrian, Abdool Yassin Jr, Deonarine Singh, Errol Thomas, Ronald Gomes, Baldeo Singh and Ashraf Khan. And at Lusignan the victims were- Clarence Thomas, Vanessa Thomas, Ron Thomas, Mohandai Gourdat, Seegobind Harrilall, Seegopaul Harrilall, Shazam Mohamed, Shaleem Baksh, Seecharran Rooplall, Dhanrajie Ramsingh, Raywattie Ramsing.

A reasonable “communication” here could be – who were the political operatives that encouraged and publicly defended the perpetrators?

The most egregious, contemptuous, sickening, but also laughable and downright outlandish “communication” was this – “90 per cent of mass media were reportedly either controlled by the State party or owned by Indo-Guyanese who supported the Government, and that Afro-Guyanese faced censorship as a result.”

Let me be clear about something. I am a strong supporter of multilateralism. In fact, my first academic publication was with the United Nations University Press. I worked on such things as curtailing small arms and light weapons, and the banning of land mines. Yet, I must now tell you that the “communication” on the mass media allowed in this instance is unforgivable. Shouldn’t there be a minimum standard for these questions to be permissible?

The UNHRC process is generally a good one. Numerous question to the Guyana delegation were probing, but were also expertly answered by Min. Gail Teixeira and her team. This is something lost on GHK Lall, who, for whatever it is worth to him, is basking in some undeclared victory. To boot, the man seems to have lost his mind that Bharrat Jagdeo has responded so forcefully to the innuendos, distortions, exaggerations, and to “communications” that are clearly the work of Freddie Kissoon’s usual suspects.

Guyanese should put the politics aside and acknowledge that human rights have never been stronger in this country. Much more needs to be done. That would take constructive engagement, not destructive disturbance.