Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Human Rights Report 2003
(Aired 10 April 2003)

   On March 31st 2003 the US state department submitted their human rights report for Guyana.

    For those who consider my commentaries one sided I will compare some of the areas of concern in the commentaries over the past 2 years and how the international community sees us in 2002.

    I have told you repeatedly that our legal system is politicised and as it functions on behalf of the Guyanese people it does not exist. The report says and I quote it "the judiciary, although constitutionally independent, was inefficient and often appeared subject to government influence"

   I have told you that the senior functionaries in Police and the GDF have been marginalised and that civilian politicians have taken control of it and are micro managing it by using the Target Special Squad, phantom gangs etc. the report tells us that the GDF and the police force were under effective civilian control, the target special squad which has some paramilitary training has been given authority to make arrests and was responsible for maintaining law and order throughout the country. The report condemns the fact that police officers charged with abuses end up before a magistrate with trained prosecutors who are themselves police officers and who are apparently reluctant to prosecute their fellow officers.

  I have told you that corruption and incompetence have led us to the sorry state we now find ourselves in today. The report tells us that there were severe shortages of skilled labour, and the economy was constrained by an inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure for transportation, power distribution, flood control and communications. In 2002 the economy grew by 1 percent compared to 1.9 percent in 2001.

    I have told you about the excesses of the police force and I quote "the police continued to commit unlawful killings, and police abuses of suspects continued to be a problem, the authorities took steps to investigate abuses, but in general the police continued to commit abuses with impunity" "The inefficient judicial system resulted in long delays for trials and police infringed citizen's privacy rights" The report tells us that "The government continued to refuse to recognise police killings as a problem and did not conduct any special investigations into the operations of the Target Special Squad".  

   During 2002 the police killed 24 civilians compared with 16 in 2001.there were clear cut cases of violence against women and children and societal discrimination against women and indigenous Amerindians.

   We are all aware of the excesses of these special killer police squads under civilian [political] control we all know about the numerous arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life by the police force, so tonight I will not labour you with the numerous examples the international human rights report identifies as having been perpetrated on the Guyanese people by the police especially Afro Guyanese.

     There are other areas of this report that disturbs me. Areas where even I did not appreciate that the situation had escalated to the stage where it was engaging the attention of the international community.

    Ladies and gentlemen this human rights report identifies child labour in the informal sector, trafficking in persons and violence against our women as major problems.

  It is the area of trafficking in persons that I want to address first. This report tells that an abundance of evidence exists that our country whilst not having any specific laws that prohibit trafficking in persons is becoming a major problem within our society and we should inform ourselves about it since it is apparent, from this 2002 human rights report, that the process of making people bonded slaves, is alive and growing among us. it is becoming big business, Brazilin women are being brought here in bondage to work in clubs and bars, women from Columbia and the Dominican Republic were trafficked though Guyana to Suriname where they are reportedly trained to become sex workers in Europe, that trafficking of persons of Chinese and South Asian origin are immigrated through Guyana to the US illegally, under conditions amounting to debt bondage.  

  The report tells us that even though the ministry of labour is aware that child labour existed in the informal sector, it did not employ sufficient inspectors to enforce existing laws effectively.

    Isn't it hypocritical that we who have special holidays to commemorate the freedom of slaves and the huge national hype about the coming of indentured labourers to this country and the atrocious conditions they met when they came here, can now, as a nation, turn a blind eye to, and participate in, child labour, bonded sex workers and bonded Chinese and Asian workers smuggled into the US? It would be ludicrous if it were not so tragic.    

    We are told that in June 2001 parliament provided for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission [HRC] the HRC was charged with promoting the observance and respect of rights outlined in the constitution, and protecting and investigating violations of these rights and any other law relating to equality of opportunity and treatment. The HRC comprised a chairperson and the four chairpersons from the women's, children's, indigenous peoples, and ethnic relations commissions in parliament; however these commissions did not have a staff or a budget for operations and could not function.

   Ladies and gentlemen this is typical of our country today, and the people who perpetuate these atrocities do not seem to understand that there are people with functioning brain cells and a conscience looking on, we understand that the PPP's contempt for the Guyanese public is total, they believe that they can commit these abuses and it will not impact significantly on their votes, but the international community is looking on and they perceive that whilst this government agrees to have these commissions to protect the rights of women, children and the indigenous peoples, and are even prepared to go to the parliament and put on a sham to pass all sorts of high profile laws to show the population and the international community that they have established these commissions to protect the rights and privileges of those who continue to be abused daily, they have no intention of allowing them to function, since they starve the commissions of funds thereby making them completely dysfunctional.

     This report identifies that violence against women including domestic violence, incest and rape as widespread and NGO's reported that domestic violence crossed racial and socioeconomic lines, despite the efforts of the NGO's however, the police were generally reluctant to interfere in cases of domestic disputes. The abuses to our children and our women is reaching crisis proportions, we pass fancy laws which we have no intention of implementing since we are starving them for funds and the poor abused women and children are left at the mercy of their abusers.

    In March 2002 the United Nations human rights committee criticised the lack of information about the effect of The Domestic Violence Act in reducing the level of violence against women, seminars were held, police officers were trained, they were sensitised to the issues and seminars were given about procedures on how to police this problem in our society, all to no effect. Typical of the PPP take the UN's money but do not put it where it is supposed to go.

   Help and Shelter alone disclosed that by February 2001, 3,872 women were counselled for abuse during the period 1995 to 2001, 79.2 percent of the cases reported involved spousal abuses. Rape particularly of young girls was a growing problem, but were infrequently reported or prosecuted. Health professionals and NGO's also reported a high incidence of incest none of these problems have been addressed. Some of these women and children would be safer walking on the East Coast road than in their own homes.

   The government has long maintained that it was committed to demarcating lands that traditionally have been the home of Amerindians. But the government continue to hold titles to almost all the lands in the country and was free to act as it wished without consultation. According to the Amerindian Peoples Association, the government demarcated over 30 Amerindian communities since 1998; however most communities rejected these demarcations because they did not conform to community-defined boundaries, they claimed that the government often reduced their land size or transferred land to other communities. In October 2002 six Amerindian villages filed a formal land claim seeking legal recognition of land titles, but the government failed to respond to their petition.      

    Amerindian NGO's regarded government consultations as mere public relations exercises, and demarcation exercises as a means of confining Amerindian communities, so that the remaining areas Amerindians considered to be their land, could be offered as concessions to miners and loggers. The Amerindian NGO's claimed that Amerindian leaders were not properly consulted and were being pressured into uninformed decisions.

   In March 2000 the United Nations human rights committee expressed regret that the government had not yet amended the Amerindian act which dates back to colonial times and expressed concern that Amerindians did not fully enjoy the right of equality before the law, since the Amerindian act, designed to protect Amerindians from exploitation, allows the government to exploit them by determining who is an Amerindian, what is an Amerindian community, appoint Amerindian community leaders and annul decisions made by Amerindian Councils, it also prohibits sale of alcohol to Amerindians and requires government permission before any Amerindian may accept formal employment. Even though these laws are not enforced today, they remain in the statute books depriving the Amerindians of basic human rights and even though the government have expressed a commitment to update this act, they have not done so.

    As a consequence, the right of Amerindians to enjoy their own culture is threatened by logging, mining, delays in the demarcation of their traditional lands, and in some cases insufficient lands are allocated to enable them to pursue their traditional economic activities.

    Our children, our women, our Amerindian brothers and sisters are all being marginalised by this government which offers them no protections from exploitation, abuses, incest, rape and injustice in the allocation of Amerindian lands and shows no interest whatsoever in the fact that this country is fast becoming a major part of an obscene international market, trading in human bondage.