Latest update May 28th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 24, 2023 Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News – Is it mere coincidence that the government has discovered suddenly that the Guyana Human Rights Association is not in good standing under the Companies Act? Or is this a case, as is being suggested by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), that the PPP/C is engaged in an act of reprisal against it.
Is it per chance that mere weeks after the government sought to blame two civil society representatives – including one who is part of the GHRA – for the country’s failure to submit its 2020 EITI Report on time, that the government has suddenly discovered that the GHRA is non-compliant under the Companies Act?
Is it by accident that this discovery about the GHRA’s non-compliance with the Companies Act is taking place days after the GHRA criticized the award of the contract for the new integrated electronic national identification card?
It does appear that the government has suddenly awoken from a long slumber. Since 1992, the government did not seek to enforce this provision under the Companies Act but now suddenly has decided to do so. The GHRA has legitimately questioned this sudden discovery on the part of the PPP/C government. It has said that the actions of the government stink of a reprisal and it has queried what action the government has taken in relation to the many other organizations, including government bodies that may be similarly non-compliant.
The GHRA is quite in order to demand to know whether it is being selectively targeted. It is left to be seen whether the government would indicate whether other organizations, including government corporations, have been compliant with the very provisions which the GHRA is being accused of breaching. The actions of the government are reminiscent of the vendetta which the government launched against the Guyana Cricket Board. The same accusations about lack of accountability that are now being leveled against the GHRA were leveled against the Guyana Cricket Board. The government went as far as seizing the financial records and other documents from the Board’s office.
The actions of the government in relation to the GHRA are suspicious. It comes days after a damning revelation in the US State Department 2022 Human Rights Report. The Report expressed concerns over what it deemed as ‘credible’ reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; the non-enforcement of laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adult men; and existence of the worst forms of child labor. It is well-known that in compiling their country reports, the US Department of State relies on a variety of sources, including the GHRA.
The accusations leveled against the GHRA represent a complete turnaround to the attitude the PPP adopted in the pre-1992 period towards the GHRA. In that period when the GHRA was among only a handful of organizations condemning the human rights excesses of the then PNC government, the local human rights body was the darling of the PPP. The PPP/C seems to have forgotten that in 1981, the GHRA highlighted the fact that in the previous 18 months, there were 19 instances in which the police had shot and killed persons without any inquiries taking place. It was the same GHRA during the Burnham era which had condemned illegal random body searches of passengers, at the Timehri International Airport. These searches were done without reasonable grounds in order to ferret out foreign currency, and passengers were randomly selected for such searches. The PPPC seems to have forgotten that at one time Bishop Randolph George was the President of the GHRA and was sued for libel for a report making accusations of police excesses. The PPP/C awarded him with a national award for his contribution to the return of democracy.
At the time, the PNC government had accused the GHRA of being the camp of then Opposition. The PNC had also attacked the GHRA. At one time, one its members was forcibly abducted and questioned about her role on the GUARD movement. The PPP had itself condemned the dismissal from the University of Guyana of an executive member of the GHRA. Now the PPP/C is following in the footsteps of the PNC in accusing the GHRA of being a partisan organisation. Did the PPP not know this when in 1980 the GHRA observed that “the courts have been used as an instrument of harassment on a widespread scale”? How the PPP/C loved the GHRA then! But it is unhappy now with the GHRA over what it sees as the organizations timidity in condemning the attempt to rig the 2020 elections and its subsequent calling to account the new PPP/C government on a number of issues.
What appears however to have triggered the recent ire of the PPP/C is the criticism of the contract which they entered into to produce a new electronic identification card. The GHRA had called for the contract to be paused and taken to parliament, a fairly reasonable recommendation considering the privacy and other security concerns over this project for which there have been no public consultations. Does the PPP/C have something to hide that it would react in such a paranoid manner to the criticisms of the GHRA or is the PPP/C back to its old post-1997 ways?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
No contracts cast in stone, except Norton and Jagdeo own!
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