Jul 11, 2013 News
The Government of Guyana has made it clear that it will not be responding to the yearly questionnaires on trafficking in persons as requested by the embassy of the United States of America in Georgetown.
This follows another unfavourable US State Department report on Guyana’s position on Trafficking in Persons.
The Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons (MTFTIP) has expressed deep concern that the 2013 US State Department’s Report on TIP in Guyana has not reviewed Guyana fairly.
“The Government of Guyana regrets that the US Embassy, though it requests every year responses of the Government of Guyana to a questionnaire on TIPs, does not accurately reflect these responses in its Annual Report.
“Consequently, the Government of Guyana wishes to make it clear that in the future it will not be completing and returning questionnaires on trafficking in persons to the US authorities,” the MTFTIP said in a statement yesterday.
The task force, through the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that the Report contains several inaccuracies and misrepresentations with regard to the scope of trafficking in persons in Guyana and therefore attracts little merit on the part of the Government of Guyana.
The 2013 US State Department had painted a gloomy picture on Guyana Government’s role in combating trafficking in persons, citing a lack of will and conviction.
But the MTFTIP, which was established by Cabinet on February 6, 2007, noted that the Report ignores the efforts of the Government of Guyana in combating trafficking in persons.
In one instance the report referred to the media report that highlighted the case of a child who was murdered while working in the mines… “and reports linked his death to his attempt to collect wages due to him.”
But according to the MTFTIP, while the Government of Guyana has established that the child was indeed sadly murdered, it is of the view that the US Report has not provided a shred of evidence to link the child’s death to the offence of trafficking in persons.
The US Report further states that: “Indonesian workers were subjected to forced labor on several Guyanese-flagged fishing boats off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago during the reporting period.”
Again the MTFTIP disagreed, stating that the Government of Guyana considers this claim as spurious since it falls completely outside the jurisdiction of Guyana.
“The Government of Guyana has no knowledge of this matter whatsoever and considers it a brazen attempt on the part of the US State Department to resort to an extraterritorial issue in an effort to bring some degree of credence to a Report that is riddled with fabrications,” the MTFTIP stated.
It argued that by including the matter without providing information on it to the Government of Guyana, the US State Department has contravened an agreement between US Embassy Officials and Ministers of the Task Force to share information on trafficking in persons.
The US Report went on to state that: “The Government of Guyana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so.”
According to the task force, Government strictly adheres to and upholds the minimum standards of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, as well as its own “Combating Trafficking in Persons Act No. 2 of 2005”.
The MTFTIP argued though that Guyana, as a sovereign nation, is not a signatory of the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act and as such it is not required to follow that act.
This is not the first time that local authorities have reacted negatively to US State Department reports on Trafficking In Persons in Guyana.
A few years ago the Guyana Government continuously denied that there was widespread Trafficking In Persons.
Recently, a number of persons have been rescued from Trafficking In Persons situations in the interior, following diligent work by the Guyana Women Miners’ Association.
The head of that association, Simona Broomes, has been rewarded by the US State Department for her work in combating trafficking in persons.
The US Report claims that: “The government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable with jail time over the previous reporting period”
But in its rebuttal the MTFTIP explained that the Government of Guyana has repeatedly informed the United States that it has no control over the Judiciary and the Magistracy.
The government’s position is that the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) Chambers is a Public Office whose independence is preserved in the constitution. “The long established practice has been that the Guyana Police Force investigates and submits the case files to the DPP and the DPP in turn would advise on whether charges are to be laid or not or if the matter should be tried summarily.
The decision to convict or not is one exclusively for the Court. …the Government of Guyana does not hold persons accountable with jail time, the court does. The tangible role for Government is to ensure that the relevant legislation is in place and in this regard it has passed a very comprehensive Trafficking in Persons Act.
Another concern expressed by the US State Department is that longer term shelter and protection was not available in Guyana, putting TIP victims at risk of traffickers’ reprisals since the government also failed to punish most trafficking offenders with incarceration.”
In response the Guyana Government made it known that Guyana has never had an experience where a person who was allegedly trafficked suffered reprisal.
However, the government explained that there is provision for long term shelter and protection for alleged victims of trafficking in persons, if they so request.
Long term shelter is provided by Help and Shelter.
In its statement the MTFTIP reaffirmed that Trafficking in Persons is discussed publicly in Guyana and no attempt is made to prohibit this.
There is a Trafficking in Persons hotline number (592-227-4083) that has been publicly advertised and persons are encouraged to call.
Moreover, there are debates in the National Assembly, live television and radio call in programmes as well as newspaper reports which feature aspects of trafficking in persons, the basic objective being to sensitize the populace.
The MTFTIP said that as far as the Government is concerned, there is nothing to hide.
The Ministerial Task Force on TIP said it is of the firm view that there is no excuse for the US State Department’s Report to ignore the gains made by Guyana in addressing Trafficking in Persons.
The Task Force views the Report as lacking credibility and therefore rejects the Report.
“The Government of Guyana stands committed to the fight against trafficking in Persons in Guyana and calls upon all stakeholders in particular, and Guyanese as a whole to join in the fight against Trafficking In Persons,” the statement said.
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