Amnesty degrades its reputation and image
Guyana Chronicle
April 27, 2002

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IT IS with great dismay that I read the release of Amnesty International (AI) on the crime situation in Guyana. AI has over the years done a lot of work internationally in the sphere of human rights and it has built up a good reputation for the work it has been doing.

However, the Organisation’s release on Guyana is very disappointing and depressing. It is disappointing in that conclusions were arrived at without proper investigation, and depressing in that it means that we cannot now depend on AI to offer us any help in the crisis that has been skillfully orchestrated in the country.

Since 1997 the Opposition in this country has implemented a policy of making this country unstable in pursuit of their goal of regaining governmental power. In the continuing campaign there have been terrible consequences for the people of this country, hundreds of innocent people, mostly Indians killed; business places and government offices fire bombed; workers forcibly evicted from government offices; policemen attacked and killed; etc. The list is too long for a complete documentation but suffice to say that the trauma engendered by the Opposition campaign has been shattering for peace-loving citizens of this country.

In over four years of violence unleashed by the Opposition, there has not been a word from AI. It seems that AI is giving carte blanche to the Opposition forces to carry out their nefarious designs. Guyanese anxiously looked forward to the international organisations, including AI, to use their reputation to exert pressure on the PNC to call off its violent, organised campaign. Sadly, AI let us down in our time of anguish and tribulation.

Now AI rushes in to condemn the Government for “inflammatory language.” This is the height of unfairness and insolence. For one thing the Government has been so guarded in its statements, on and actions during, the present situation that many have accused the Government of being too soft. The Government has initiated dialogue with the Opposition Leader in a bid to resolve outstanding issues between the two parties. The Opposition has been given so much representation that many now see them as a virtual Government in opposition. In every way the Government has sought to engage the Opposition in the peaceful resolution of our problems. But it has all failed. The violence has grown even worse and it is being further instigated by the PNC. In the ensuing scenario open calls to over throw the Government and to kill those who are seen as supporting this Government have been made. Consequently, members of the security forces have been targeted, and a number of them killed. What has AI to say about these strident incitements to overthrow the democratically elected Government of a sovereign state? Nothing it seems! But such appeals are against international law, is it not? How come AI is not concerned about this?

If AI was really monitoring this country, then it will know about the rabid racist incitement against a certain section of this country’s population. Things got so bad that a media code had to be instituted, but even this was ignored. Shouldn’t these matters have engaged the attention of AI? Not so it seems! But worse than that, the opposition party openly endorsed these treasonable appeals. The mobs were let loose on defenceless people in the city of Georgetown and other opposition strongholds along the East Coast. The freedom of movement was totally denied to one section of this country’s citizenry, a gross human rights violation which is internationally frowned upon. Again, not a word from AI! We have had our children chased out of school, another clear violation of the internationally recognised right to education. The right to work was also denied certain people by the unruly elements. All these internationally recognised rights were violated by the Opposition but not a word from AI.

Is not AI aware that many persons of Indian descent in this country have had to fearfully flee from their homes located in opposition strongholds to safer areas, the forces of the Opposition? Does this not constitute “ethnic cleansing,” albeit on a small scale? Come on AI, where were you when all this was going on? But what is terrorism? According to one dictionary, the word “terrorism” means, “the use of violent and intimidating methods of coercing a government” or “to dominate or coerce by intimidation.” Is this not what the Opposition has been engaged in over the last four years, by their “slow fyah” and “mo-fyah” appeals; making the country “ungovernable,” shutting down the country,” “shoot gat shoot back,” “kith and kin,” “appeals,” “we gat plenty kerosene oil,” etc? Don’t these words and appeals constitute terrorism, especially when the actions of opposition supporters have matched these words? Was AI listening at that time? Haven’t AI itself used this same definition in its normal assessment of the activities of multifarious groups in various countries? The debasing of legitimate public debate is the sole responsibility of the Opposition. No one can point out any instance of the Government using degraded language to describe the Opposition. The President himself has been at pains to call on the Opposition to eschew the path of violence and to pursue the path of dialogue. Even at a time when the dialogue has been put on “pause,” the President was enumerating the many achievements of this strategy, and appealing to the Opposition to reconsider their position and return to the negotiating table. It is the Opposition which long ago debased public debate in this country, not the Government.

How can there be unity in this country, AI, when the Opposition continues its campaign of violence towards one section of the population? Is coercion not a form of terrorism? If AI desires to make a contribution to unity of purpose in this land, it must forthrightly condemn all the depravations of the Opposition PNC. There can never be any unity when one section of the citizenry are so traumatised that they have been forced to become “refugees” in other countries in order to survive.

The whole fiasco of the AI comment on the situation in Guyana brings into question the methods that AI uses to compile its data in any specific situation. Who were the personnel that fed this questionable information to AI? Are they in any way connected to the Opposition, as seems most likely? If AI relies on partisan interests to collect its data, then of course, its analysis and conclusions will be severely flawed.

The AI release does not in any way help to improve the situation in this country. Rather, it will embolden the forces of the Opposition to commit greater atrocities against the Government and citizens. And such a scenario will only aggravate the situation in this country. AI has certainly thrown away an opportunity to make a useful contribution to resolving the problems here. It has in the process severely degraded its reputation and image.
Neville Mason