New York Institute dismisses complaints by Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo
New York: The New York based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) has dismissed claims by President Bharrat Jagdeo that the Institute's President, Rickford Burke, has been hurting Guyana's image by his harsh criticisms of the Jagdeo administration.
Jagdeo who held three meetings with Burke during the Caricom Heads of Government Conference at the Brooklyn Marriott in New York on June 19, later told the press that Burke was biased against his government and was therefore inconsequential.
CGID's Director of Communications, Jevon Suralie, confirmed that Jagdeo and Burke met for about four hours and scoffed at Jagdeo's seemingly contradictory comment that Burke and CGID were inconsequential. He said Jagdeo's subsequent public demeanor and comments contradicted his temperament in the private meetings with the CGID leadership.
"This schizophrenic- like bluster is a quibble which does nothing but pander to his political base." Suralie suggested. He noted that Jagdeo nevertheless had chosen to skip a dinner the Caricom Heads had with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to engage CGID. "I doubt that a Head of State would engage an individual for four hours during a Heads of Government conference if that person was inconsequential," he posited.
Suralie said the discussions were amicable and meaningful, and observed that although Jagdeo and Burke disagree on many important political issues, there seems to be no personal animosity between the two as they have been acquaintances since high school but just have genuine political differences. "What is important is not Jagdeo's political rhetoric, but CGID's ability to ventilate and promote the issues for democratic governance in the Caribbean and elsewhere, at the grass-root level as well as at formal institutional levels, including that of Heads of State level. President Jagdeo knows that CGID matters. He himself stated that he has previously had to address CGID's representations to his colleagues Heads of Government," he added.
"President Jagdeo must acknowledge that in spite of the disagreements with CGID, there are many issues on which he can work with the Institute to foster the development and security of all of Guyana, and to improve the standard of living of the Guyanese people, in accordance with the principles of democratic governance and respect for the Rule of Law. However, the significant issues of governance, human rights and conformity to the rule of law are impediments that must first be resolved or removed."
Suralie noted that CGID supports, in principle, Guyana's efforts to get carbon credits for it's pristine rain forests and in their meeting Burke, encouraged Jagdeo to adopt a nonpartisan approach by including the views of civil society and the political opposition into his positions, so that there can be a national consensus and a unified approach on this important issue.
He contended that Burke informed Jagdeo that CGID also supports Guyana's principled positions on the Surinam and Venezuela border disputes. Additionally, CGID supports its announced initiative in oil and natural gas exploration, as well as developmental projects like the hydro-electric project, the highway to Brazil, the Takatu and the Berbice River bridges, etc.
"President Jagdeo was told that CGID obviously wants to see Guyana and every other Caribbean nation develop but what we are critical of in Guyana, is the many aspect of bad governance - questionable contracts, underhanded, sweetheart deals and cronyism, as well as the continuous infringement of the basic fundamental rights of the citizens and an abject repudiation of the Rule of law, the CGID executive stressed."
Suralie brushed aside Jagdeo's protest of CGID's classification of his government as an "ethnocracy" labeling Jagdeo's complaints as "propaganda." "The issue of race is self evident" he argued. "Mere complaints about CGID is adolescent and wouldn't move us. We wish to see genuine inclusiveness, equality and social justice. If President Jagdeo does not want to be judged by his government's actions, then he must change course on the issues of race, crime and corruption. His denial of racial polarization is ludicrously contrary to reality and is condescending to the victims of racial and political discrimination. So we wish to see concrete action to defuse racial tensions and enhance race relations. When this is evident CGID would be willing to review its assessment of the Jagdeo administration's policy on these matters. Mr. Burke made this clear to Mr. Jagdeo," Suralie asserted.
Burke also asked Jagdeo to facilitate dialogue and compromise as a function of government, which is essential in Guyana's multi-cultural, multiethnic society. "Mr. Burke suggested to Mr. Jagdeo that at some point he will have to meet with individuals and groups who have concerns about racism and racial discrimination to seriously address their concerns and benefit from their recommendations, in order to repair and enrich Guyana's national polity. This, Suralie said, must be the first step in a process of national reconciliation and the fashioning of a political culture in which there is mutual trust and respect, and where all of the people feel represented not only at the table of decision making, but as beneficiaries of the national largesse."
Suralie said Burke had a contentious exchange with Jagdeo on the Roger Khan matter and that the President continues to deny knowledge of Khan's atrocities, and contends that the US government has provided no evidence of any murders by Khan. However, Burke indicated to him that his position on Khan is neither credible nor maintainable. He said that Jagdeo told Burke that he will not appoint a Commission of Inquiry into alleged killings by Khan as Khan is a "criminal" and must therefore be investigated by the Police.
He also said that Jagdeo did not answer Burke's question on why he defended the same "criminal" when he was arrested by US authorities, or why he did not take action against Khan in Guyana. "The fact is that more information continues to surface about Khan's close association with individuals in the Jagdeo administration, and it is the Institute's position that there has been government complicity with Khan,' Suralie contended.
On the Chief Magistrate's matter, Suralie observed that the President insisted that Ms. Juliet Holder-Allen's case was as a result of her reference to former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Desire Bernard, as a solicitor. However, Burke countered that the website of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) states that Bernard was trained as a solicitor; that she never filed a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and that Attorney General Doodnauth Singh offered testimony to this effect in the Supreme Court. However, Jagdeo contended that Justice Bernard must then communicate this to the JSC.
"Burke however, informed Jagdeo that it is puzzling to CGID that the President considers that Justice Bernard must inform the JSC of a fact they are well aware of , i.e. that they are not in receipt of any complaint from Justice Bernard against Chief Magistrate Holder-Allen."
Suralie reiterated CGID's call for Chancellor Carl Singh to allow Ms Holder-Allen's appeal to proceed in the courts. He said that the Institute is taking particular note of this and other matters which have been deliberately stalled before the courts and wished to caution the Guyana government that it will vigorously challenge any attempt to confirm Singh in the position of Chancellor or to install him on the CCJ. "Justice Singh demonstrates grave political biases in the exercise of his judicial responsibilities, which has adversely affected the course of justice."
Suralie said that Burke also discussed the Oliver Hinkson and Tunke Stuart cases as well as the criminalization of Buxton with Jagdeo. Jagdeo asserted that he was unaware of Hinkson's sedition charged until he read about the arrest in the newspapers, blaming the Police for making that judgment! He added that Jagdeo also claimed that Tunke Stuart carried food daily for Hinkson and has acknowledged being at a location where the Police found ammunition but confessed that the ammunition belonged to Hinkson.
Suralie said Burke made it clear to Jagdeo that his story satisfied all the elements of manufactured hearsay and was no basis for the institution of criminal charges and that according to press reports, Stuart had denied the changes and pleaded not guilty in court.
Suralie slammed Jagdeo for merely complaining about CGID's critical assessment of his governance matrix, while demonstrating an unwillingness to effectively resolve the crucial matters Burke raised, including the political opposition's petition to Caricom Heads, the crisis over electricity rates in the Linden township, the granting to Mark Benschop compensation for his false imprisonment, among other matters.
He asserted that President Jagdeo was noncommittal on taking the necessary steps towards good governance; on bringing the Phantom death squads and drug lords to justice; on neutralizing racial polarization and insecurities; on working to attain social justice and equality and addressing the epidemic of corruption in his administration.
Suralie observed that Jagdeo challenged CGID's charges that his rule in Guyana is based on ethnocracy and suggested that Ethnic Relations Commission found no evidence of racial discrimination. "What he failed to mentioned is that the ERC was setup without bipartisan support; that it was unconstitutionally extended by Presidential fiat; that it has no credibility in Guyana and that its current composition does not have the support of the political opposition.
"Now is the time for action. President Jagdeo was told that were he to demonstrate leadership and address the issues of concern to CGID, we will be willing partners in the promotion of Guyana's development, including CARIFESTA and lobbying in the international community for foreign aid; for carbon credits and environmental security assistance. But we will continue our course unless and until the President and the Guyana government satisfactorily address the menu of issues we presented to him," Suralie contended.
He stressed that the resolution of these issues can engender an environment that is conducive to hosting of CARIFESTA - one in which there is political stability, equal justice under law, national harmony as well as mutual respect, and where the rule of law is unchallenged," Suralie emphasized.
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- President Jagdeo and Minister of Trade and Industry Maniram Prashad meeting with Rickford Burke, Attorney Colin Moore, Ann Marie Adamson, Cybil Chester, Allison Butters, Bobby Vieira, Leroy Nelson and others at the Brooklyn Marriott.
- New York City Councilmember Dr. Kendal Stewart, President Bharrat Jagdeo and CGID President Rickford Burke at the Caricom Heads of Government Conference in New York
- Dr. Kendal Stewart Stuart, CGID Director of International Affairs Robert Antoine and President Jagdeo
- Rickford Burke and US Congressman Gregory Meeks at the Caricom Heads Diaspora Forum at York College, Queens, New York.