Saying that the government exploited flaws in the nomination process for members of the Rights of the Child Commission, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) yesterday criticised the parliamentary opposition parties for failing to expose the situation.
The GHRA said the government’s bid to secure approval for its list of proposed members of the Commission could have been exposed as opportunistic had the opposition been less ill-prepared and complacent. “Rather than expose the procedural flaws in the nomination process the main Opposition settled for a diatribe against the nomination of Mr. Kwame McKoy,” it said.
The GHRA also continued to call for civil society representatives not to accept nomination to the commission until McKoy’s name is withdrawn. “We wish to make clear our opposition to him is based on his ineligibility as a politician and on the violation of the constitutional requirement that Government nominees come from the named Ministries,” the GHRA said. “We reject any insinuation that our position is prompted by race or any other personal characteristics which some parliamentarians and McKoy are introducing into his controversial nomination.”
According to the GHRA, the Constitution is quite explicit in section 212U (2) (a) that government has no discretion from where its nominees to commissions are to be drawn, noting that one should be nominated by the Ministry of Human Services and one from the Ministry of Education. McKoy was nominated by the former. The GHRA noted that both Ministries submitted nominations of acceptable persons-Banmattie Ram, the Chief Child Welfare Officer in Education and Shirley Ferguson, a long-standing administrator of the National Commission for the Rights of the Child. Ferguson was still included among the final nominees and the GHRA said the question of whether any of the three nominees would be withdrawn was one of the key issues that could have been raised.
Moreover, it added that every organization invited to nominate members of the commission received a letter that stated that the process used to nominate the person must be demonstrated to be “unbiased and transparent.” In light of these provisions, the GHRA said the opposition could have raised several issues, including the rejection by the Youth caucus of McKoy. It said if the opposition read its own files, its members would have noted that the Youth organizations were less than thrilled by the idea of having McKoy represent them on the Commission.
The Youth Caucus Report submitted to Parliament contains a table showing Kwame McKoy secured only 4 out of 24 votes for his nomination in that Caucus, the group said, describing it as clear a signal of rejection as any reasonable person would require.
It added that another criticism of McKoy’s nomination could centre on his being an elected representative of a political party in the Region 4 Democratic Council, which it said should alone preclude him from nomination to any of the Commissions.
Additionally, the GHRA said if the opposition representatives had gotten over the McKoy nomination, they might also have noted that another member of the commission was nominated by the Ministry of Health, where she is an employee. The Ministry of Health is not designated in the Constitution to make nominations to any of the Rights Commissions, the organisation pointed out, though it did not name the nominee.
“With all of this evidence available to challenge this lamentable exercise, the major Opposition party apparently chose the line of least effort by mounting a small picket outside of the Parliament, then proceeded inside of the Parliament to focus almost entirely on McKoy as a person,” the GHRA said, adding “While acknowledging that the Parliamentary Opposition operates under seriously irritating conditions, this does not excuse passing up opportunities to expose Govern-mental shallowness and cynicism, especially when dealing with constitutional reform and civil society.”
Last Thursday, the National Assembly approved the 15 candidates nominated to serve on the constitutional commission, despite a major dispute between the government and opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) on the inclusion of McKoy among those for appointment. Speakers for the PNCR-1G and AFC openly called on the government to withdraw McKoy’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 McKoy.
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 Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Indigenous Peoples Commission.