GHRA puts forward proposal for political stability
Guyana Chronicle
July 30, 2002

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GUYANA Human Rights Association (GHRA) has said widespread criminal violence, continuing political disruptions and near confrontation between a large, armed gang and the recent People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) Congress in Berbice removed any lingering illusions that the Government alone can bring the crime situation under control and restore racial security.

“The scale of incidents, their political overtones, their impact on the business confidence, the impunity with which the bandits conduct themselves, the traumatic effects on young people and the racial animosity fuelled by all of this, points to the possibility of a complete breakdown in law and order,” GHRA warned in a July 26 statement.

It said the conclusion is irresistible that a formal political consensus between the major political parties, for governing the country on an interim basis, is the only foundation for stability and security to be re-established.

“Whatever justice there may be in the claim that the duly elected Government should be allowed to govern, the ruinous results of the past 30 or so years have proven beyond doubt that neither party has been able to govern this country without the cooperation of the other.

“Rather than examining the systemic flaws which have foiled them from governing effectively, both parties have preferred to heap blame acrimoniously on the other,” the statement said.

It went on:” The current situation has longstanding historical causes. Afro-Guyanese slaves physically created Guyana from the Atlantic Ocean, struggled for recognition as free persons and harboured legitimate prospects of one day governing Guyana as an independent nation.

“They have lived to see what they consider their birthright being indefinitely removed from their grasp by the Indo-Guyanese population, who they now perceive as controlling, to their detriment, both the political and economic life of the society.

“From its origins in indentureship (a form of trafficking in people), the Indo-Guyanese community developed the agricultural wealth of Guyanese society. Yet Indo-Guyanese have seen the legitimacy of every electoral victory challenged, from 1953 to 2001.

“From 1953 to 1964, its leadership was imprisoned, harassed and finally deposed by electoral engineering by the colonial power. After emerging from the next 28 years in opposition, the legitimacy of their electoral victories were again systematically challenged.

“Both major racial groups, therefore, see themselves historically (and legitimately) as victims, a situation which continued to fester unresolved.

“It will remain unsettled as long as the need for substantial political reform is resisted,” GHRA declared.

The statement said it is now eminently clear that the winner-take-all system in Guyana cannot protect rights, provide security for citizens, nor promote democracy and, unless immediate recognition is given to this diagnosis, this country is destined for further, possibly uncontrollable, violence.

GHRA believes that a wide-ranging political consensus, to address the crisis, is indispensable.

“The form this consensus should take and the actors who should be involved in a broad-based government flowing from it must be a priority focus for both civil and political society.

“While international assistance should be sought to facilitate or even mediate acceptance of such a proposal, the essence of the proposal should be developed nationally and quickly.

“A wide range of confidence-building and trust-generating measures are needed to overcome the resistance on all sides such a proposition is likely to generate,” GHRA recommended.

It said, in addition to interim measures, an initiative to develop a formula for a viable long-term political system for Guyana is equally urgent.

GHRA called on the Government and major opposition party to demonstrate the courage and statesmanship to set aside historical grievances, recognise shared victimhood and provide leadership for such decisive measures to promote national unity.

It said: `Other parliamentry parties and civic society organisations must demonstrate an equal capacity for rising above racial inclinations within their own traditions and work impartially for the successful implementation of a national consensus.”

GHRA also said the media must desist from the widespread practice of pandering to racial inclinations and deliberate distortions of the truth.

“Having shared in the struggles to secure free and fair elections in Guyana, GHRA shares the reticence of the vast majority of Guyanese of all political persuasion for setting aside valid elections results.

“However unpalatable this proposal may be, the consequences of not recognising that elections alone cannot deliver stability in Guyana maybe horrific. The likely alternative is almost certainly to be an increase of racial and narco-fuelled violence, further undermining institutions such as the Police Force and the Courts and pushing the society into the nightmare of political free-for-all,” the statement ended.