Home Letters Response to enquiry from the press on the exclusion of the Carter...
We respond to an inquiry as regards our position on the Carter Center’s exclusion from the Recount Process.
We had to take some time to respond, since the answer should be almost self-evident. We had to take the opportunity to examine the nature of these requests from the press, and at least the expectation from others for TIGI to comment on issues.
While it is reassuring to know that our opinions are sought, our mission also includes advocacy for change in laws, policies, and procedures that would eliminate corruption, regardless of which party forms the Government and practises it.
We had to ask ourselves why the press is eager to report what we say, and others what we do not say when we are silent; but take no action to follow up on exposures we make that have national implications.
During 2019, TIGI made several exposures on the oil contract that should have made the press push for comments from others – like the Bar Association. We are not aware that this has occurred. TIGI brought to the awareness of the nation certain issues about the contract that did not require a lawyer to understand. The press should have pressed for answers from other organisations. For example, the clear implication that was made was that the Procurement Commission did not know its job insofar as its officials claimed that the Procurement Act did not include petroleum exploration services in its scope, making Guyana the first country in the world to exclude petroleum, the mother of all corruption, from its scope.
Since those articles were published, coincidentally perhaps, SARA has claimed that two contracts signed since 2016 were in breach of the Act. Clearly, the Procurement Commission (PC) should be made to explain the consistency between the two. Either the Procurement Act includes petroleum services in its scope, or it does not. And the Bar Association should have been asked for comment.
The question as to whether the Carter Center should have been allowed to witness the Recount Process relates to a bigger problem – constitutional breaches. We refer you to a report in KN of March 13, 2019 whose title says it all: “Our politicians only want to obey the law and the Constitution when it suits them”
(https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2019/03/13/our-politicians-only-want-to-obey-the-law-and-the-constitution-when-it-suits-them-sanjeev-datadin/) Ditto for the Carter Centre. They only want the Carter Centre to visit, and in general, want the attention of foreigners in our affairs when it suits them.
As TIGI grappled with a position on the electoral developments since December 2018, we were astonished by what we found. We asked the simple question as to why our partner Caricom countries did not have such problems with no-confidence motions. The answer was simple. Their constitutions vested another functionary other than the head of Government and head of the party in power with the authority to put the head of Government out of office. The constitutions of our partners do not carry provisions that require the head of Government to fire himself as it were.
Clearly, whoever were the politicians and legal minds who put the revised draft of the Constitution together, they wanted the kind of arrangement that was going to await the day when the failure to separate the roles would explode in our faces as it has now.
Will you ask the great constitutional minds, such as are still alive, why they allowed this?
Guyana’s Constitution (Article 38A) requires that such actors of civil society that have mobilised be supported by Government. Article 32 puts a duty upon every citizen to combat violations of the law and protect public property. Surely, the Bar Association should be expected to take the lead in such a duty when there is a claim of breach of responsibility by state actors that have obvious national consequences.
If you are the press, you should press them for answers to the questions we have raised, rather than continually ask us to make comments which might fill pages for a time and then fade away.
Electoral impasses have been with us for decades. In fact, that is what brought the Carter Center here in the first place. Why you would feel that we would have any answer other than they should be allowed to extend their vigilance to this round of observation if they require it is a puzzle.
We end by pointing out that the failure of the Guyanese society to even appear to be following its own rules which it has set for itself trivialises our society before foreigners. If we cannot follow our own laws, how do we expect foreigners to be inclined to follow them?
But worse, TIGI has shown where successive Governments of Guyana have bent and broken our laws and Constitution to accommodate foreign multinationals. We see constitutional compliance as a continuum – a necessary habit; not a failure to be attended to only as it applies to electoral issues.