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The Government of Guyana issued a statement last Saturday stating it will not be meeting the United States (U.S) Fact-Finding Mission that will be in Guyana from today, November 13, 2023. The government has stated its refusal to meet with the team is premised on their perception the Mission has the backing of Rickford Burke, President, of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID). According to the government “this delegation and the intended visit appear to have resulted from a conference organised by Rickford Burke, a Guyanese residing in Brooklyn, New York.” GCID has nothing to do with the team’s visit and has since issued a statement making this known.
Lead organiser of the 12-member delegation Dee Dawkins-Haigler, President President/CEO, Organisation of World Leaders, in an interview Saturday with Mark Benschop, host of ‘Straight Up’ programme, expressed surprise at the Government’s decision. According to her, the team is very “disheartened” the President will not meet them.
Dawkins-Haigler said she has had personal interaction with the President and kept him abreast with the team’s plans, and would have preferred him to reach out to her personally. Dawkins-Haigler said Ali was kept abreast with every press statement the team issued, and he informed her he was looking forward to meeting the team. But a read of the Government’s statement gives the impression a relationship was never established. The Government’s release stated, “The Government of Guyana notes from publications on social media that a delegation from the United States of America intends to travel to Guyana on Monday, November 13, 2023 for a ‘fact finding mission’.”
Dawkins-Haigler also clarified the team has no relationship with Burke, his organisation and none of the delegation has ever met or spoke with Burke, and the allegation made by the government is malicious and impinge their integrity.
The U.S delegation made known they “want to do the best for Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity,” they wanted to hear what Guyanese have to say and stated that “we are all in this thing together.”
Govt criminalising citizens
Veteran trade unionist General Secretary of Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and Chairman of the Institute For Action Against Discrimination (IFAAD), Lincoln Lewis, told Village Voice News the President’s behaviour is most unfortunate and Guyanese must be concerned how easy the President finds deception a clutch. According to him, the government has repeatedly claimed there is no discrimination and if this is so the regime should only be too willing to prove its claim.
Addressing the issue of Burke as a “Wanted Man” in Guyana, Lewis said this is what the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime does to Black Guyanese. He queried how Burke could be a wanted man in Guyana for freely speaking in the United States where he resides, and that country’s constitution, like Guyana’s, protects the right to freedom of expression.
According to Lewis, “Burke is an upstanding citizen in his country, up to the time when he left, a young man who associated in the high corridors of this country and played a political role with the highest politician of this country, President Desmond Hoyte, as an assistant.” Burke, Lewis said, is also an upstanding citizen in the USA and representative of Caribbean people, in particular Guyana.
Therein lies the PPP problem, Lewis said, and pointed out this is “how they (PPP) can demonise people and craft a narrative to suit their agenda, and use this narrative to try people in the court of public opinion.” Going further, the trade unionist said it is because of the PPP’s reign of discrimination and people live in constant fear, persons like Burke, Benschop and a few others, mainly in the diaspora, have taken the fight to the PPP “because Guyanese locally can’t speak for fear of harassment, victimisation and other dangerous consequences.”
Lewis also touched on Benschop’s incarceration. According to Lewis, Benschop lost five years of his life being bars on trumped up treason charges and released on a so-called pardon from President Jagdeo inspite of not being convicted. The PPP is good at criminalising, he contended.
“Let me also remind this nation of cases like Colvin Heath-London, Keith Lowenfield, Roxanne Meyers, and others who have been accused by the PPP, and their matters are languishing in the courts, as these persons remain unemployed because no one wants to employ them while these accusations remain against them.” The PPP, Lewis said, has criminalised these persons with accusations, without a trial and tried them in the court of public opinion. “That is all they can do,” said an upset Lewis, who also stated “we must not allow them to continue to get away with it.”
The trade unionist also said it is important to point out while the suffering of Africans may be worse under the PPP, it is not only Africans who are suffering but anyone who dares to oppose the PPP, has a different opinion to the PPP, sides with the Opposition or is part the Opposition. “Right and wrong, good and bad is how the PPP defines it and one dare not have another view without consequences.”
‘The PPP is nervous about the visit’
VVN also reached out to Benschop for a comment. He told this publication the PPP wants to hound the resistance movement in Guyana and deny freedom of speech, and Guyanese have to depend on voices like his, Burke and others to represent them.
Benschop also touched on the alleged violation of an Amerindian female teen by a minister, the death of 20 Amerindian children under the age of 17 in a dorm fire due to government negligence, the 19 fraud charges against Irfaan Ali and the revocation of his Canadian visa. Charges were dropped after Ali became president and the visa restriction lifted.
The talk show host said cases of PPP discrimination, wickedness, cruelty and mismanagement are too many to mention. He said, he, is however happy for the opportunity to partner with others in Guyana in making the Fact-Finding Mission possible, stating the PPP “is nervous about the visit.”
The people of Guyana must do whatever is legally necessary to rid the country of the installed Ali regime, Benschop asserted.
The 12-member U.S team will be in Guyana between November 13- November 19. The team is a “Fact Finding Mission: Promoting Bilateral Relations and Addressing Concerns of Discrimination,” and has made clear it is not a formal U.S government mission, but an independent unbiased fact-finding mission, whose intent is to use insights gained from meetings with the Government, Opposition and other stakeholders in society “to inform and guide discussions with relevant leaders in Congress and the White House upon their return to the United States.”
The delegation comprises:
The Honourable Dr. Dee Dawkins-Haigler President/CEO, Organisation of World Leaders Former Chair, Georgia Legislative Black Caucus
- The Honourable John Richard Christopher King South Carolina House of Representatives Former Chair, SC Legislative Black Caucus;
- The Honourable Dr. Amber M. Baker North Carolina General Assembly Member, Appropriations & Commerce Committees;
- The Honourable Debra Bazemore Georgia House of Representatives Minority Caucus Chief Deputy Whip;
- The Honourable Hillman T. Frazier State of Mississippi Senate Chair, Senate Interstate and Federal Cooperation Committee;
- The Honourable Rhetta Bowers Texas House of Representatives Member, Criminal Jurisprudence, Homeland Security & Public Safety Committees;
- The Honourable G.A Hardaway Tennessee House of Representatives Former Chair, TN Legislative Black Caucus;
- The Honourable Annie E. McDaniel South Carolina House of Representatives Vice Chair, Operations and Management Committee;
- The Honourable Gerald Neal State of Kentucky Senate Minority Floor Leader;
- The Honourable Dr. Michael Rhett Georgia State Senate Member, Finance & Judiciary Committees;
- Mr. Marcus Coleman Founder and CEO, Save OurSelves (SOS) Human Rights Activist;
- Dr. DeAndre S. Pickett Principal Consultant, 357 Education Group Educational & Social Justice Advocate Civic Leaders;
- Mr. Latron Price Managing Operator/Co-Owner, Westside Community Market, LLC