Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Homelessness is one of Guyana’s most serious and obvious problems. The enormity of the issue is evident from the moment one goes outdoors; people — human beings — can be seen sleeping on pavements, or, just trying to find somewhere to be — somewhere where they may be safe and un-abused by heartless people who often douse them with water and pelt them with stones. Housing and shelter, though, are human rights, a fact that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime appears to be unaware. Never mind the government’s claims to be doing everything possible to provide housing; the fact is, authorities are neglecting to honour this fundamental right on numerous fronts. And government must be called out on this egregious failure and dereliction of duty.
The right to housing is articulated in countless international human rights instruments. The fundamental right to shelter is seen as a free-standing, basic human right. And a human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — the instrument adopted by the United Nations General Assembly — recognises the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living. It states that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” The United Nations has declared, too, that “Housing is a right not a commodity.” Obviously, Guyana’s government fails to meet those obligations despite Guyana being a signatory to this UN declaration.
Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) also guarantees the right to housing and shelter. Additionally, the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights affirm that: “Everyone has the right to adequate housing, including protection from eviction, without discrimination and that States shall (a) take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure security and access to affordable, habitable, accessible, culturally appropriate and safe housing, not including shelters and other emergency accommodation, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or material or family status; (b) take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to prohibit the execution of evictions that are not in conformity with their international human rights obligations, and ensure that adequate and effective legal or other appropriate remedies are available to any person claiming that a right to protection against forced evictions has been violated or is under threat of violation. The right to housing is also enshrined in Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 16 of the European Social Charter, Article 31 of the Revised European Social charter and in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It is therefore unequivocally established, beyond any doubt, that housing is a basic right to which all human beings are entitled.
The PPP regime has failed to meet its obligations in this regard. If the regime had been doing its job there would simply be far fewer people sleeping on cardboard on Georgetown’s pavements. While PPP officials spout a lot of rhetoric about “giving away house lots,” many persons who cannot afford the millions of dollars needed to get a house lot or basic turnkey home remain on the street. Another huge problem is faced by people who rent apartments and rooms. Such persons may be living from payday to payday, and, those poor souls may be one single rent payment away from eviction. This publication is unaware of any protection whatsoever from such eviction. A landlord in Guyana can go into a tenant’s apartment and put their belongings into the street. And the tenant has no recourse.
While PPP officials enjoy the comforts of their Pradoville mansions, or the perks of free government housing, they need to be told in no uncertain terms of their failure to honour the human rights of ordinary Guyanese. It is time for the PPP regime to start looking after the basic needs of citizens instead of focusing only on its own enrichment and elevation.