Office of the President (OP) Press Officer Kwame McCoy has accused two parliamentary opposition parties of racial attacks on him as an Afro-Guyanese supporter of the ruling party, a charge they deny as baseless.
In a statement responding to concerns about the suitability of his nomination to the Rights of the Child Commis-sion, McCoy characterised the concerns raised by the PNCR-1G and the AFC as disguised attempts to malign him as an Afro-Guyanese supporter of the PPP/C, while saying his credentials and activism as a youth leader cannot be challenged.
“It is to be noted that many Afro-Guyanese who have come out in open support of the PPP/C have been subjected to similar attacks before,” he said, describing the arguments as being “fundamentally racial and discriminatory in nature.” He added that the parties were more intent on “denigrating” him as an Afro-Guyanese supporter of the PPP/C than challenging his credentials as a member of the Commission. However, the charges were dismissed by main opposition PNCR-1G MP Debra Backer and leader of the AFC Raphael Trotman, who both called them baseless.
In voting last Thursday to approve the 15 nominees, including McCoy, for appointment to the commission, there were heated exchanges between the government and opposition on his nomination. Speakers for the PNCR-1G and AFC openly called on the government to withdraw McCoy’s nomination, on the grounds of his close affiliation with the PPP/C as well as concerns about the contentious aspect of his character. Although the two parties supported the motion for the approval of all nominees, its speakers indicated that they did not support the inclusion of McCoy.
When contacted yesterday about the basis of his accusation, McCoy said the PNCR has a history of going after Afro-Guyanese supporters elected to particular levels, not necessarily limited to government structure. “That is the only reason you will find,” he declared, “Look at Bishop [Juan] Edghill-although I’m not saying he is a supporter of the PPP-and look at Professor [James] Rose.”
The two parties raised concerns about his political activism, including statements made in his capacity as OP Press Officer and his activities as an elected representative for the PPP/C on the Region 4 Regional Democratic Council. “So what?” he responded, when asked about his activism. “There are only two government representatives [on the commission], all the rest are people from civil society; that is democracy in action.”
Before approval of the nominees, the PNCR-1G issued a strongly worded statement opposing McCoy’s inclusion, while the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) condemned his nomination and urged all civil society nominees to refuse to accept membership on the body until his name was withdrawn.
In his statement, McCoy said he has been an activist for social change since his school days and has continued his advocacy in various youth and community groups. “The argument that I am not suitable to sit on the commission because I am sometimes controversial is bereft of any foundation and based on spurious allegations and rumour,” he contended. He added that the opposition needs to realise that the public has come of age and would not be fooled by its shenanigans.
“It is time for us to move forward and go on to appoint the Rights of the Child Commission and focus on improving the lives of children in Guyana, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
PNCR MP Backer yesterday described McCoy’s claim as “an absolutely ludicrous assumption,” adding that there was no basis in reality to support it. She, however, added that she was not surprised at the claim since a member of the government took a similar line during the deliberations of the Appointive Committee of the Parliament. “If we feel that a person is incompetent- irrespective of race or irrespective of gender-if we feel that a person is unsuitable we will not support that person.” Backer added that the party has never challenged anyone on the basis of race and pointed out that the party has not said anything about the recent appointment of Pastor Kwame Gilbert as a PPP/C MP or targeted Ministers Jennifer Webster or Jennifer Westford for anything other than their job performance.
Meanwhile, AFC leader Trotman said the intention behind rights commissions was to create another level of checks and balances on governance. In this regard, he said the placement of controversial, activist-type politicians on them would offend the letter and spirit of the entire constitutional reform process, out of which the commissions were conceptualised. “It has nothing to do with race,” he said, adding that if the nominee had been any other person who was a political activist and elected representative of a political party, including the AFC, the objection would remain. “This could not been what the framers of the constitution intended,” he said.
The other nominees to the commission are Kaloutie Nauth, Yvonne Fox, Sarojanie Rambarran, Aleema Nasir, Colleen Anthony, Marissa Massiah, Michelle Kalamandeen, Suelle Findlay-Williams, Sandra Hooper, Rosemary Benjamin-Noble, Vidyaratha Kissoon, Hyacinth Massay, Banmattie Ram and Shirley Ferguson. The Rights of the Child Commission is one of four rights commission recommended during the constitutional reform process to strengthen social justice and the rule of law. The other commissions are the Woman and Gender Equality Com-mission, the Human Rights Commission and the Indi-genous Peoples Commission.