David Granger now heads a de facto government; all pretense and the cover of legality have been stripped away. Granger speaks of a Cabinet and empowered Ministers in open contravention of law and norms of civilized, lawful societies; the sheep’s clothing has been abandoned and the Dictator is there for all to see. Now comes the phase of this game which is most dangerous for all; the rule by decree in the absence of a parliament, will there be resistance and attendant repression? I can point to where the repression will come from as outlined by Granger to date.
The COVID-19 outbreak has provided authoritarian regimes around the world cover for repression, this was noted by American organization Freedom House’s President, Michael J Abramowitz “In recent weeks, we have observed a number of concerning signs that authoritarian regimes are using COVID-19 as a pretext to suppress independent speech, increase surveillance, and otherwise restrict fundamental rights, going beyond what is justified by public health needs,” certainly Granger’s use of a 1945 ordinance to allow his de facto Public Health Minister, Hon. Volda Lawrence, to “take measures to “restrain, segregate and isolate persons suffering from the disease, or who may be likely from exposure to the infection suffer from the disease” to “remove to the hospital and provide curative treatment of persons suffering from the disease” and to “remove, disinfect, and destroy the personal effects, goods, buildings and any other article, material or thing exposed to infection from the disease” would fall under the most repressive methods on record in the world.
Already there have been many troubling issues with the way the pandemic is being handled by Granger’s Junta. We had the issue of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) having sole authority over who would be tested for the virus; then Volda Lawrence was given the results before and instead of the treating physicians, which prompted an official complaint from the Guyana Medical Council, there are instances where doctors and patients alike are being informed by news outlet who has an apparent inside source.
News that Deryck Jaisingh was in self-quarantine with his immediate family filtered out my way almost two weeks before his death, I like others assumed that he was under medical supervision and was being monitored by the MoPH; to find out after his death that he was seeking help from the Ministry hotline to no avail is simply devastating. It adds to the speculation of what the criteria might be for testing and care; Volda Lawrence’s words of 2018 haunt me “Well I got news for you: The only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I could give work to is PNC” one can only hope these sentiments do not apply to COVID 19.
Politicizing of the pandemic is not limited to MoPH; Granger’s Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootto posited that GECOM would need to approach the government for permission to recount votes as decided by the Commission. The Ministry of Public Infrastructure is collaborating with other agencies to place persons in a makeshift quarantine facility at Camp Madewini. This quarantine facility places persons in dorms on bunk beds, one infected person will defeat the purpose of the exercise; it also placed military personnel in harm’s way as they deal with possible Coronavirus victims without adequate training or Personal Protection Equipment; guns have only worked as a defensive measure in North Korea.
Granger’s de facto regime is now quasi-isolated, cut off from much-needed aid. An application to the World Bank for USD 5M is procession whilst USD 14B is being disbursed. De facto Finance Minister Jordan has also applied for left-over funds from an IDB funded road project to be utilized for the COVID-19 battle only to be told ‘hold strain, it is being processed’ by the Office in Jamaica. The obvious message is lost on the oblivious, the good news, however, is that the applications have not been dismissed and should Guyana’s electoral process be concluded in a credible, fair, transparent and open manner, the international financial institutions will also be able to reach an end to their ‘process’.
There have been recent developments; the MoPH has caved to public pressure and will allow private hospitals and labs to conduct COVID-19 tests and the MoPH has also launched an app to assist with reporting, identifying and tracking possible COVID-19 cases. The first is positive; the second is not, for me.
Guyanese don’t just have to worry about the Coronavirus, we have to take into account our political affiliation before we use the MoPH app; the lessons of the period immediately before 1945 are instructive; laws such as those operationalized by Granger were used by politicians to place persons in camps, similar to Granger’s edict, persons were picked up and never heard from again and eerily the inmates of camps were also subject to cremation after death. Should I cough, I will self-quarantine and cross my fingers, I will not go willingly into the ‘de-lousing chamber’.
Editor, it is not by coincidence that Granger has used the 1945 Health Ordinance that predates the UN adoption instead of the 1953 version which places authority in the hands of the Chief Medical officer and even then limits him to permanent regulations related to treatment and prevention of the disease. The situation and circumstances Guyanese have been placed in by David Granger and his de facto cohorts are a clear violation of our human rights as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1947. The Preamble is instructive:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”
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