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Last week, the APNU+AFC joined the rest of the international community to mark International Anti-Corruption Day (on Friday 9th December) and International Human Rights Day (on Saturday 10th December). Given the dire situation in Guyana, citizens must give due attention to these observances.
On International Anti-Corruption Day, our message called on Guyanese TO UNITE TO FIGHT CORRUPTION IN GUYANA. We stated that “as corruption becomes more entrenched in Guyana, fighting it now demands a united approach. Decent and patriotic citizens and organizations must all join forces against corruption.”
We also alerted Guyanese that corruption extends not only to bribery and the embezzlement of public funds, but also to trading in influence, abuse of public office, money-laundering, obstructing justice and private-sector corruption. Our message emphasized that corruption is a plague that stunts economic development, impoverishes people, perverts the rule of law, turns public institutions into bribe-taking bureaucracies, deters foreign investment, and erodes democracy and human rights. It is in this context we must condemn the condoning of corruption by SOCU and the PPP elite, family, friends and favourites.
We warned that corruption is increasing (and worse, normalizing) in Guyana. One of the main causes continues to be the purposeful weakening or sidelining of anti-corruption institutions by the current government. For example: the PPP government politicizes anti-corruption institutions (such as SOCU and the police force in general). It stalls and stymies the work of other institutions (such as the delayed reconstituting of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC); the non-confirmation of the Chief Justice and the Chancellor of the Judiciary; and reducing the schedule of and its attendance at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)). Further, the PPP degrades or sidelines institutions, such as the Commissioner of Information and the oversight Parliamentary Sectoral Committees.
We wish to point out to the Guyanese people that the PPP changed the quorum of the Public Accounts Committee to ensure that when it stays away from PAC meetings their accounts cannot be scrutinized. The Opposition condemns this deliberate sabotage of the Public Accounts Committee by this corrupt PPP regime. The PPP’s approach is dangerous.
But just as dangerous is the government attitude that signals that it condones corruption within its own inner circle and among its political cronies. The Su-gate scandal, for example, exposed ample and credible allegations of corruption against Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and other high officials, yet the government still refuses to investigate.
Our anti-corruption day message urged citizens, “to come together as a people to fight corruption in all its forms and against all enablers and perpetrators. With every success against PPP corruption, we will gradually remove the major obstacles to a better quality of life for ourselves, our families and for all Guyanese.”
On International Human Rights Day, we urged our fellow citizens to join the international call TO STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. For us in Guyana, this call comes at a time when our political, social, and economic rights are increasingly disregarded and assaulted by an arrogant and dictatorial government.
We took the opportunity to remind citizens of the human rights guarantees in our constitution. In particular, Article 40 (1) states: “Every person in Guyana is entitled to the basic right to a happy, creative and productive life, free from hunger, ignorance and want. That right includes the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual.”
Indeed, the constitution guarantees us over thirty fundamental rights and freedoms, inclusive of (i) freedoms of expression, conscience, movement, association, and assembly; (ii) freedoms from discrimination, inhuman treatment, and deprivation of property; (iii) rights to life, personal liberty, and free education; and (iv) equality of women, Indigenous peoples, status, and of all persons before the law.
Our message advocated that “as we strive towards the full realisation of these entitlements, we concurrently must protect our gains and restore our losses.” We stated that under the current government, several rights and freedoms are in crisis—such as our freedom of expression and conscience (note the fear of many persons of being victimized should they openly criticize the government); freedom from discrimination (such as in contract awards and cash transfer); freedom from deprivation of property (such as the seizure of ancestral and communal lands by government); right to personal liberty (as seen by the abuse of police powers of search, arrest, and detention—with the Opposition Chief Election Scrutineer Carol Smith-Joseph being the latest victim); and the rights of the Indigenous People (as witnessed by the government’s disrespect of their rights to be consulted on matters of direct concern to them).
We invited Guyanese to also recognise that in STANDING UP FOR THEIR RIGHTS, our constitution guarantees not only political and social rights, but also economic rights. As our oil wealth makes us one of the richest countries in the world, this right can and must be realized. But only a government that cares about people can deliver these rights.