The non-cooperation of the Guyana Police Force with the internationally renowned Argentinian expert, brought by the Guyana Human Rights Association, to assist in the inquiry of the murders of Joel and Isaiah Henry and Haresh Singh must be of concern to every Guyanese. This was an opportunity not only to solve the crimes but to settle differences between and among groups since issues surrounding these crimes are driven by rumour and not verifiable evidence.
The attack on the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) by President Irfaan Ali for starting a national conversation on race is disturbing. The ERC is an independent constitutional body and does not have to consult with the president in establishing its agenda, for its agenda and programme are clearly outlined in the Constitution of Guyana. By his attack, the President is intimating to society that this is how the ERC functioned during successive PPP/C administrations, which is a violation of its mandate and duty to the citizens of this country.
The ERC must not be viewed as serving a partisan political interest. It was established to serve a national interest for the common good. It must create the space for speaking truth to power, for this nation cannot continue to dither on race relations while the ERC akin to Nero fiddles as Rome burns. The initiative by the ERC, United Nations and University of Guyana to jumpstart a national conversation on race is most welcome. The ERC is yet to live up to expectation that birthed its existence during the Constitutional Reform process.
The President’s continued refusal to engage the Leader of the Opposition in moving the nation’s business forward in a collective approach that would assure no group feels excluded is not only unconstitutional but runs contrary to his constant talk about governing in the interest of all. The Leader of the Opposition articulates the interest of his constituents. The government needs to be reminded this is almost half the society based on the numbers declared by GECOM.
No president can govern in the interest of all when at the most basic there is refusal to have engagement with the other side, even when the Constitution requires same. This disregard for the law and disrespect for others must stop. This nation comprises several groups with similar and competing interests. The development of one hinges on the development of others which the president ought to know.
The right to freedom of association is one of man’s most basic rights and the president must respect this for those who chose to elect others to represent their interests. These are tenets enshrined in the Constitution which the trade unions and this nation’s Founding Fathers and Mothers fought for. Yet in spite of this some workers continue to be treated with contempt by the Ali government.
The basic right to treat with their union of choice and engage in collective bargaining is being trampled on. In the case of the workers employed by the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated repeated efforts to have the government discharge its duty under the Labour Law continue to be ignored. There continues to be disparity in treatment for some workers because of who they are and for exercising their right to free choice and association (political and/or trade union). This behaviour by the Ali administration is inconsistent with the laws and his commitment to be inclusive as is required of him by statutes and time-honoured principles.
For the second time under the PPP/C government, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has been denied a seat on the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TURCB). The trade unions have three seats on the Board. This administration has chosen to deny workers represented by this federation, and the Guyana Public Service Union whose interest the GTUC represented on the Board, from sitting at the table. This act violates the tenet of Article 149C that mandates the trade unions’ participation in the management and decision-making processes on issues that impact their well-being. The TURCB is the most basic of this and the other federation does not speak for the workers represented by the GTUC.
The political pettiness, immaturity and vindictiveness must cease. You do not have to like somebody to respect their right to legal justice, to participate and be included in matters of national import that affect their well-being; their right to racial, political, social and economic justice. These scenarios reflect the importance of understanding why rights and freedoms are included in the Constitution. In the absence of this these brutish and petty men escape accountability and would run roughshod over others.