The main opposition PNCR has endorsed the findings of UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues Gay McDougall, calling it a clear reflection of the views of the people of Guyana in general and the Afro-Guyanese community in particular.
“The Party has warned, on repeated occasions, that, if the [government] does not govern for all Guyanese, our future would be in jeopardy,” the PNCR said at its weekly press briefing, while reiterating the caution that ethnic polarization could lead to despair and violence. “The PNCR has called for shared governance, as a vital political and governance mechanism to contribute towards resolving the problems which are perpetuated by the existing system,” it added. It said too that it has publicly recognized and advocated that all political and social stakeholders must reach across the political divide, if we are to bring healing to this nation.
In a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in February 2009, McDougall, who visited Guyana between July 28 and August 1 last year, said although the government has taken commendable steps to address issues of ethnic tensions, there is urgent need for further effective action to restore confidence in good governance and the rule of law in all communities and prevent a slide into further polarization and possible violence.
In particular, she expressed concern about the stigmatisation of young Afro-Guyanese males and entire communities in her report, noting that they reported feelings of being excluded, discriminated against and victimised.
McDougall, the party noted, engaged in widespread consultations with members of the government, NGOs, civil society groups, political parties, religious leaders, academics and others working in the field of minority issues and anti-discrimination. She also visited several communities, including Buxton, and talked to residents about the problems affecting their lives. McDougall focused her attention “on the relations between, and comparative situations of Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese,” while indicating that she considered the situation of the indigenous peoples to fall within the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.
Through its Permanent Mission to the UN, the government has submitted an official response to the Human Rights Council, registering its “profound concern” about the scant regard with which it was treated, while arguing in detail against her conclusions. It has also questioned McDougall’s focus on the Afro-Guyanese community to the exclusion of others that constitute real minorities. The government said Guyana is an emerging democracy and poor developing country that has taken quantum leaps in the last sixteen years, radically altering the architecture of the state through comprehensive constitutional, legislative and parliamentary reform.
“The political architecture of the state has established inclusive governance as the methodology of the state’s modus vivendi and modus operandi as enshrined in the Constitution,” it explained, adding that McDougall’s apparent advocacy of shared governance flies in the face of comprehensive constitutional provisions, including the leader of the opposition’s veto on key appointments.
Last week, the PNCR said the report has exposed the PPP/C administration for its discriminatory practices and poor governance. Although the party said it would issue a comprehensive statement at a later time, it condemned the government’s “raw and angry’ response to the report as being “misguided.” It said: “Rather than looking objectively at the recommendations of the report, the [government] has opted to do what it has done in similar circumstances: it has attacked the messenger rather than the message.”