My proposal for UN involvement should be considered
Stabroek News
October 6, 2001

Dear Editor,

Recently, a Mr. Balram Chaitlall [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] regurgitated the dismissal by several PPP spokesmen of my calls, since 1998, for the UN to deal with post-elections violence in Guyana (SN 10/02/01). I had earlier tagged the PPP's derisory rejection of UN involvement as their normal campaign politicking but it has slowly dawned on me that the PPP is telling us that it is not serious about putting a halt to post-elections violence. After all, not being seized by an "ignorance in international affairs" [as Mr. Chaitlall claims I am] the PPP must be fully aware of the UN's recent emphasis on "peace-building" -not just "peace keeping"- but has yet not requested UN assistance.

We in ROAR believe that after the post -elections violence of 1992 and especially of 1998, it was foolish not to take all possible steps before the March 2001 elections, to prevent a recurrence. The inevitable ethnic orientation of any political violence in Guyana, we felt, should lend a special urgency to effectively head off or contain any possibility of violence. No stone should be left unturned in the attempt. The violation of even one citizen must not be countenanced; we are poised on a very slippery slope. We cannot simply accept violence as inevitable and due to a few miscreants. The hostilities reverberate in too wide a swathe not to be taken seriously.

In terms of possible UN involvement, on June 7th 2001, the Secretary General of the UN presented his report on the "Prevention of armed conflict" wherein he summarized the UN's position on that topic. He declared that he had "pledged to move the UN from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention," but that "the primary responsibility for conflict prevention rests with the national governments...[and]...preventive action should be initiated at the earliest possible stage of a conflict cycle in order to be most effective."

Pointing out that the UN assists in both short term "operational prevention" and longer term "structural prevention", he promised that "the role of the UN is principally to assist national finding solutions to their problems by offering support for the development of national... capacities for early warning, conflict prevention and long term peace building. Such assistance is premised on the principle of consent of the affected member states".

The UN, right after our riots of 1998, established a Conflict Prevention Team (CPT) within the new Policy Planning Unit of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA). This team independently monitors events for "potential crisis areas" from four geographical divisions within DPA. The PPP tried to discredit Mr. Hugh Cholmondeley when he pointed out, back in 1998, that the UN had Guyana on a "country watch" for possible ethnic violence. The UN was forced to say that there was no such list. With our subsequent violent history, if we were not on such a list then the CPT would have been derelict in its monitoring duty. We wonder what the PPP has gained by denying that Guyana was a possible flash-point for ethnic violence?

In terms of our recommendation for UN forces to Guyana, the Secretary General further pointed out that UN Preventive Deployment Forces (UNPDF)have been used in three instances during the last decade-Macedonia, Central African Republic and Haiti - and were effective in preventing armed conflict. He spelled out the criteria for the UNPDF's involvement, "Apart from the shared feature that their host countries were not involved in a violent internal or international conflict, the common features included the possibility or even the likelihood of armed conflict, consent of the states concerned to the peacekeeping operations as the form of prevention, and the authorization of the operation by the Security Council." With the latter requirement, we should note the statement of the President of the Security Council on the "Role of the Security Council" (Nov.1999) in the prevention of armed conflicts" wherein he committed the Security Council to steps such as "preventive deployment." In his Recommendation #12 the Secretary General most unequivocally

pleaded, "I encourage Member States to make more active use of preventive deployment before the onset of conflict, as appropriate."

The question arises as to why the PPP has fought such a rearguard action to prevent any UN involvement to address our potential for widespread civil violence. Do they feel that once again, they have "solved" the problem?? Does Mr. Chaitlall really believe that the "vanquished" are ready to roll over and play dead?

Yours faithfully,

Ravi Dev, ROAR MP