Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
In spite of the international spotlight being focused on Guyana – owing to the power of oil – the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime continues along the path of brazen democratic backsliding. The PPP routinely disregards or flouts basic democratic principles while pushing the country towards a state of autocracy. This remains the stated view of numerous local and international observers. At this point, Guyana’s democratic credentials are highly questionable to say the least.
Experts refer to the process of democratic backsliding as autocratization. It is defined as a process of political change towards autocracy that makes the exercise of political power more arbitrary and repressive and that restricts the space for public contestation and political participation in the processes of government. Democratic decline involves the weakening of democratic institutions, or the violation of individual rights that underpin democracy, especially freedom of expression. Autocratization usually includes political corruption.
Political corruption is the is the use of state powers by government officials, or their network contacts, for illegitimate private gain. Such may include bribery, cronyism, nepotism, and influence peddling. Political corruption may make a government indistinguishable from a criminal enterprise. Indeed, at some point, they become one and the same.
Guyanese are familiar with the facts of the matter, and the international community should be as well.
In 2022, Transparency International assigned to Guyana a rank of 85th out of 180 countries, and a score of 40 out of 100 in its Corruption Perception Index. That score places Guyana in the bottom half of the global corruption scale.
It must be emphasised that a high score usually correlates with strong democratic systems of government. At the top of the scale was Denmark with a score of 90, followed by Finland and New Zealand, both having scores of 87. Those countries are known to have strong democratic values. Given the facts, Guyana’s poor score is not surprising.
In April 2023, the World Justice Project (WJP) reported that bribery – a form of corruption – was notably high in Guyana. The report examines perceptions of and experiences with corruption across 14 Caribbean territories including Guyana.
Findings from the report show that bribery victimisation within the private sector is low in other Caribbean territories. The exception to this is Guyana. The data in the report show that of the 39 percent of Guyanese who responded to the WJP’s surveys, those who had contact with the private sector in the last 12 months, 18 percent had to pay a bribe. The only other countries reporting private sector victimisation rates above 5 percent were Haiti – 8 percent, and the Dominican Republic – 7 percent. The average rate of private sector bribery victimization across the Caribbean is 3 percent.
With multiple agencies reporting high levels of corruption in Guyana, the PPP government should be made to answer questions about its democratic credentials.
The United States also monitors conditions in Guyana. The following are excerpts from a report by the US Department of State on human rights abuses in Guyana:
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; harsh prison conditions; and laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adult men.
Prison and jail conditions, particularly in police holding cells, were reportedly harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions.
The state provides legal counsel for indigent persons only when such persons are charged with a capital offense. The Legal Aid Clinic, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), provides legal counsel at a reduced fee in certain circumstances, as determined by the clinic. Police routinely required permission from the senior investigating officer, who was seldom on the premises, before permitting counsel access to a client.
Delays and inefficiencies undermined judicial due process. Shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, occasional allegations of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and police slowness in preparing cases for trial caused delays.
Unfortunately, it has been established that there is corruption and human rights violations in Guyana. Guyanese are aware, too, of the erosion of press freedoms, the “above the law” attitude of PPP officials, and other anti-democratic practices. Guyanese may be well advised to take all necessary actions to prevent the further autocratisation of our country, and restore it to a state of democracy.