Bhagwandin questions political agenda of US delegation leading fact-finding mission into racial discrimination claims
Dear Hon. Dr. Dee Dawkins-Haigler and Hon. John King et.al,
I am writing in relation to your delegation’s visit to Guyana, which is purportedly described as a “fact-finding” mission into the allegations of racial discrimination and extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the sitting Government.
You would agree that the stated mission of your delegation’s visit raises legitimate concerns and questions among a wide cross section of Guyanese stakeholders surrounding the delegation’s modus-operandi for such visit, and whether or not this activity is tantamount to meddling in the internal affairs of Guyana.
Moreover, you would also agree that a one-week in-country visit aimed at engaging in “constructive dialogue” as you termed it, with multiple stakeholders [presumably], particularly the Political Opposition and their extended operatives, cannot by any means equate to a “fact finding” mission. According to your delegation’s press release, it is stated that “the delegation will investigate allegations of extra-judicial killings and racial discrimination against African Guyanese and other citizens who do not support the PPP/C Government”.
First and foremost, on what authority, **local or international, since this is not an official U.S Government mission,**is the basis for your delegation to carry out any such “investigation” in Guyana? Notwithstanding, it would be interesting to ascertain and/or learn from you of the investigative methodology your delegation intends to employ in so doing. For example, is it reasonable to expect that your delegation will:
i) Be summoning witnesses and will those witnesses be cross-examined in respect of the extra-judicial killings and allegations of discrimination?
ii) Will there be some sort of International Commission of Inquiry into these allegations? If so, under what jurisdiction or international convention, law, or treaty?
iii) Is there any International Law / Convention that may be invoked, subject to the veracity of evidences into those allegations, if any?
iv) How will the delegation engage in such vague investigation in one-week, which is highly likely to yield inconclusive findings**,** but fraught with opinionated and/or unsubstantiated claims?
v) The Opposition tends to throw around a number of 4,000 extra-judicial killings. That number, however, is inflated…the actual number is reportedly lower in the region of 400 over a period of time. It included criminal elements who were killed and police officers. Thus, will the visiting delegation conduct interviews with the 400 families/relatives of those victims?
With the foregoing in mind, I am nonetheless inclined to apprise you of a number of interesting historical facts central to Guyana’s political, economic, and social environment, that you should give due consideration to independently ascertain the veracity thereof. These are relevant to your delegation’s purported “fact finding” mission to Guyana.
In the pre**-**1992 (post-independence) era, Guyana was characterized as a centrally command, socialist, planned economy that ultimately plunged Guyana into bankruptcy, leading to economic and social devastation. During this era, thousands of Guyanese fled the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere. This, by and large, explains the massive human capital deficit the country has currently wherein less than 5% of the local labor force possess a tertiary level education (Guyana Labour Force Survey, 2021). In the post-1992 era, there was a regime change (the current government having been elected through a free and fair elections), and restoration of democracy, the economy at that time had just begun its transition to a market economy, inter alia, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) economic reform program. From 1992–2014, Guyana suffered many periods, short and long in some cases, of political instability which largely stymied the country’s development and ability to achieve its true economic potential.
Periods of Political Instability
Ø 1992–1997: there was a short period of street protests and violence having restored democracy, following which the economy took off (short period of stability).
Ø 1997–2001: prolonged street protests and disruption.
Ø 2002–2003: prison break, crime wave spiraled out of control and politically motivated disruptions.
Ø 2004–2008: unrests, politically motivated disruptions
Ø 2008–2012: Lusignan, Lindo Creek, Bartica massacre, violence erupted when protestors blocked the Wismar Mckenzie bridge.
Ø **2011 – 2014:**for the first time, a new political dispensation emerged following the 2011 elections where the Government was a minority Government, and the Political Opposition controlled the National Assembly having had a one seat majority. Under this dispensation, it was difficult for the Government to obtain budget approvals, many major development projects were disapproved by the Opposition controlled National Assembly. As a result, snap elections were held in 2015 which resulted in a win for the Opposition.
Ø 2015–2020: Though this period was relatively stable–that is, no violence, crime wave, unrest, and disruption, and until the No Confidence (NCM) motion that was brought against the former government in December 2018, the former government failed to implement any major development projects despite expending over $1.2 trillion in five years. Much of this was expended on current / consumption or non-productive expenditure.
Additionally, almost every national elections in the 1990s and early 2000s―ensuing the elections results/outcome, violence and unrest erupted which were all fueled by the Political Opposition. These events occurred in 1992, 1997 and in 2001. The only elections that did not ensue in violence were 2006, 2011 and 2015. There is a rich body of academic literature on Guyana’s political and economic history which confirmed empirically that these periods of political instability were designed to, and to a large extent, cause the State to becoming dysfunctional and ungovernable. Effectively, out of 29 years (1992-2021) since Guyana transitioned to a market economy, there were several periods of political instability that hindered the country’s development, having transitioned out of a bankrupt State.
As such, with all those years of instability combined, Guyana suffered from 17 years of political instability characterized as politically motivated disruption, unrest, violence, and crime. In addition, despite having 4 years of stability (2015-2019), viz-a-viz, a regime change, yet, there was no substantive development and progress. These, altogether, gave rise to a total of some 21 years of stymied and disrupted progress and development of Guyana albeit the latter was due to, arguably and evidently, imprudent fiscal and public financial management.
Despite the challenging political landscape described above, the Government at the time(which is the current Government) nonetheless managed to achieve the following before the discovery of crude oil offshore Guyana:
v From 1992–2014 (22 years) since Guyana transitioned to a free market economy and restoration of democracy, the then Government (which is now the current Government) only had 5 years of stability out of 22 years in power in which Guyana moved from a bankrupt State, regarded as one of the poorest country in the western hemisphere, to a GDP of US$4 billion by the end of 2020 from US$300m in 1992, representing 1200% growth in GDP, or 13 times 1992 GDP,
v Per capita income of US$5,000 from less than US$300,
v Debt to GDP ratio came down to less than 50% from a position of more than 600% in 1992,
v Total public debt service to revenue ratio came down to 30% of revenue from a position of more than 150%,
v More than 60% of the population lifted out of poverty, down from nearly 90% in the late 80s and early 90s, and
v By the time there was a regime change in 2015, that Government inherited about $100 billion in liquid cash in the Bank of Guyana and by the time they left office in 2020, there was $147 billion overdraft/deficit in those accounts.
Contrary to the views propagated by the Political Opposition, the empirical evidence largely contradicts their narrative as demonstrated herein, which could be verified by any independent researcher. Consequently, the Political Opposition’s track record speaks for itself, whereby its policies and economic governance model can be evidentially characterized within the framework of_destructionism_, when they were in Government, and obstructionism, when they are out of Government.
(Attached to this letter please find a more detailed report compiled by the undersigned on allegations of discrimination etc., which was a critical review of IPADA-G’s Guyana strategic plan and their activities. I have also attached an authoritative study on “Gangs and Criminal Networks in Guyana”, by Taylor Owen and Alexandar Grigsby, published in Switzerland by the Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva 2012).
Suffice it to state, it may be useful in the spirit of a “constructive dialogue” on the subject matter, to draw some degree of contextual comparison of racial discrimination and the like, in the United States of America versus Guyana.
Citing Solomon, Maxwell & Castro (2019), in their report on “Systematic Inequality and American Democracy”, the authors contended that “the United States founding principles embraces the ideals of freedom and equality, but it is a nation built on the systematic exclusion and suppression of communities of color”. For example, the authors cited a new Center for American Progress Analysis, in 2016, 9.5 million American adults―most of whom were people of color― lacked full voting rights. Here in the case of Guyana, this is precisely what the Political Opposition attempted to do while they were in Government in 2015-2020, ahead of the 2020 General elections. In this respect, the APNU/AFC Government wanted to disenfranchise thousands of eligible Guyanese voters under the pretext of a clean voters list because the list, they argued, was somehow bloated. However, the Chief Justice ruled that disbanding the existing registrants database would be unconstitutional. There is evidence to this effect, viz-a-viz, the High Court’s ruling.
Citing another credible report on “discrimination in the United States: experiences of black Americans”, published by Health Services Research, 2019, the principal findings of the report stated that “about one-third of blacks (32%) reported experiencing discrimination in clinical encounters, while 22% avoided seeking health care for themselves or family members due to anticipated discrimination. A majority of black adults reported discrimination in employment (57% in obtaining equal pay/promotions; 56% in applying for jobs), police interactions (60% reported being stopped/unfairly treated by police), and hearing microaggressions (52%) and racial slurs (51%). The report concluded that “the extent of reported discrimination across several areas of life suggests a broad pattern of discrimination against blacks in America, beyond isolated experiences. Black-white disparities exist on nearly all dimensions of experiences with public and private institutions, including health care and police. Evidence of systemic discrimination suggests a need for more active institutional interventions to address racism in policy and practice”.
In the case of Guyana, there are no such evidences of the level of widespread and deeply institutionalized discrimination against African Guyanese in contrast to the United States of America. Guyana’s public sector, for example accounts for about 10% of the labour force and is predominantly of African Guyanese. African Guyanese are the holders of top positions in the judiciary, joint services, the Government at the Executive level, the health care sector, and all the other public sector agencies.
The Constitution and the laws of Guyana prohibit all forms of racial discrimination in Guyana. If there are legitimate cases of discrimination of any form, the victims can pursue legal recourse. Furthermore, the Constitution of Guyana established a number of Constitutional Agencies to address matters of such, for example, the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Public Procurement Commission, etc. Ultimately, there is the legal system through a Court of Law that can be invoked as a last resort. Therefore, if the Opposition has evidence of any credible cases of discrimination, then why have they not utilized the system, which, had they exhausted the system, therein would have been the evidences to corroborate their claims.
Against this background, it is reasonable to conclude that considering the failure of the Opposition or any stakeholder to properly utilize the system in place that would have given credence to any legitimate claims of discrimination, the lack of evidence that currently exists, would arguably render your delegation’s visit an exercise in futility, and / or a “fishing expedition”, or a partisan politically motivated endeavor.