By Gary Eleazar
The United States has on several occasions received invitations by Guyana to come and clarify what Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, calls erroneous reports on Guyana as it relates to Trafficking In Persons (TIP).
According to Manickchand, the invitation remains open to the Americans which is a friendly State.
She was adamant that again this year the US State Department report on Guyana is wrong.
Manickchand, speaking with media operatives yesterday, said that in 2004 Guyana had attracted the uninvited attention of the US on TIP, and this was shortly after they had passed their own TIP legislation.
She noted that at that time they had said that Guyana had trafficking on a large scale to warrant their attention and Guyana was placed on a Tier 3 rank. “I believe that information was scarce both on their part and on ours.”
Given that lack of information at the time and the consequences inherent, Manickchand said that the Government set out to ensure that this was not the case, firstly enacting in 2004 the Combating in Trafficking in Persons Act, “and thereafter a whole menu of measures were taken.”
She noted that these very measures that Guyana has taken to curb whatever presence of TIP there is in Guyana has been recognized by the US as if reflected in its very own report.
“They themselves have said that we have done a lot of work to protect, prevent… and we have taken all these measures and awareness campaigns.”
She did point out that the one complaint that the US seemingly has with Guyana was the fact that persons were not being convicted in Guyana for TIP in large numbers.
The Human Services Minister was adamant that any report of TIP will be investigated and persons will be prosecuted but following that it is up to the courts to preside over the situation, given that the Executive and the Judiciary were separate entities and the Executive will not interfere in the affairs of the Judiciary.
“Never has a case come to us about TIP that we have not addressed…The US has never said that we failed to charge people.”
She noted too also that in Guyana a person was innocent until proven guilty.
Manickchand was adamant that Guyana does not have a large number of TIP cases, drawing reference to the US law which states that a country must have a significant number of TIP cases for the country to be included in the yearly report.
“Guyana kept saying that we don’t have significant numbers…You (USA) come here and show us where those numbers are…forget what we say you (USA) have no evidence that we have significant numbers so we ought not be in the report.”
Manickchand also drew reference to the fact that the USA has amended its laws to remove the requirement for significant numbers, “that could well lead one to think justifiable that here is the US State Department recognizing that all along they may have been including countries without significant numbers….the decent thing to do would offer an apology to those countries that were dragged into the report when they ought not to have been in the report.”
She noted, too, that Guyana does not fit the criterion that the US Secretary of State has to take into consideration before ranking a country.
Although the Guyana Government enhanced its assistance to victims, augmented training for law enforcement officials, and initiated a nationwide network of community focal points for victim identification and criminal investigations, the government has not yet convicted and punished any trafficking offenders under its 2005 anti-trafficking law.
According to the US report, the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
The US alludes that despite these overall efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in prosecuting and punishing acts of trafficking warranting Guyana being placed on Tier 2 Watch List.
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