2022 Human Rights report: US State Dept says Govt made efforts to tackle corruption

– also enforced law against racial discrimination

In its 2022 Human Rights report, the United States (US) State Department highlighted the efforts of the Guyana Government to tackle instances of corruption, as well as enforce existing laws against racial discrimination.
According to the recently released report, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government “took steps to identify, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption.”
It was noted by the US State Department that the law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials and that generally, the Government implemented the law in an effective manner.
“There were isolated reports of Government corruption during the year, and administration officials investigated these reports. There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels and all branches of Government, including the Judiciary and Police,” the report states.
When it comes to racial discrimination or discrimination based on country of origin, the US State Department noted that the Government generally enforced existing laws against this. However, it acknowledged the racial divisions in the country.
“The political party system was overwhelmingly race-based, with Indo-Guyanese forming most of the Government and Afro-Guyanese forming the majority of the Opposition as well as the civil service. Members of both ethnicities held senior leadership positions in the Government.”
“A constitutionally mandated and broadly based Ethnic Relations Commission, a Government body with a mandate to promote ethnic harmony among all citizens, was not fully constituted as of October,” the US State Department noted.
An ERC was in fact sworn in by President Dr Irfaan Ali on Tuesday. Article 212 (A) and 212B (1A) of the Constitution of Guyana provides for the creation of an Ethnic Relations Commission and further prescribes that it should consist of not less than five nor more than 15 members nominated by entities utilising a mechanism determined by the National Assembly.
The religious representatives for the body will be Pandit Krishna Sharma and Shaikh Moeen Ul-Hack. Reverend Rodwell Porter will be sworn in at a later date.
Norris Witter for labour movement bodies, Dwayne Adams for youth bodies and Chandrowtie Sarran for women bodies were admitted to the Commission. Charles Ogle, representing private sector bodies, is the second person who will be sworn in later.
Joining the ERC to represent cultural and ethnic organisations are Ashton Simon, Deon Dick and Neaz Subhan. Their appointment takes effect from March 21, 2023.
The report also zeroed in on Indigenous people, noting that various laws protect the rights of this community. Additionally, the Indigenous people were able to participate in decisions that affected them, their land and their resources.
“Rules enacted by village councils require approval from the Minister of Amerindian affairs before entering into force. The Government has the authority to override village councils when issuing mining concessions,” the report also stated.
“There were reports of interference by Government officials in the affairs of Indigenous peoples’ councils, as well as of labour exploitation and harassment. Indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated. The Amerindian People’s Association reported difficulty securing meetings with Government Ministers on land titling matters.”
Only recently, 240 Indigenous community bodies received payments ranging from $10 million to $35 million, courtesy of the first set of payments from the sale of Guyana’s forest carbon to Hess Corporation.
A total of $4.7 billion (US$22 million), which is 15 per cent of US$150 million, is earmarked for distribution to these villages. In fact, this number may increase as other agreements for the sale of the remainder of Guyana’s credits are concluded.