Corruption Remains Entrenched in Guyana

 - Ralph Ramkarran

Despite the rhetoric from Government in regard to combating corruption, and notwithstanding the laws that have been passed empowering institutions like the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) to act, corruption still remains entrenched in Guyana.

Former Speaker of the House, Ralph Ramkarran


Much more needs to be done, according to former Speaker of the House, Ralph Ramkarran, SC, who in his latest missive has said Guyana is about to experience a massive increase in its resources — a reference to the burgeoning oil industry, which is expected to commence commercial production of oil in 2020 — but still retains an inexperienced regulatory environment, with corruption still existing.

“Challenges (the country faces include) continued corruption and disquiet about the next elections,” Ramkarran stated in his column, Conversation Tree. “Despite the loud talk, new policing laws and institutions, no dent in corruption has been noticed. It is as pervasive as it was in the past, though less noticeable because there is less government spending.”

He also spoke about the elections, and the continuing delay in appointing a chairman for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to replace outgoing Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally.

President David Granger, having rejected the first list submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, has been furnished with a second list since May 2; but sources close to the People’s National Congress (PNC) have related that the President has in mind a favoured person whose name has not appeared on either list.

Government has since denied this assertion, but Ramkarran has said that if the second list is rejected, serious questions would emerge.

“On the elections’ front, the rejection by President Granger of the first list for Chair of the Elections Commission, submitted by Leader of the Opposition, was unexpected and surprising. If the rumours that the second list is also to be rejected prove to be true, serious questions will emerge as to whether the APNU+AFC coalition government wants an independent Chair; and if not, why not,” Ramkarran expressed.

Ramkarran notes that it was against this backdrop and the continuing lack of social cohesion that the Carter Centre had called for constitutional reform. He has accordingly expressed his complete support for the position taken by the Carter Center.

“It (the Carter Center) said that the anticipated influx of oil revenue has the potential to exacerbate ethnic and political conflicts. It recommends separate presidential elections, possibly with candidates ranked by voters in a preferred scale, with the person gaining the highest total votes being the winner,” Ramkarran explained.

Last year, the United States Department of State had reported that corruption continues to be among the leading human rights problems facing Guyana. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015, released by that department in 2016, had also chronicled other human rights violations.

“There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and the judiciary,” the report said. It noted, however, that Government had responded to these reports, but it did not elaborate on that response.The report also stated that while the law requires public officials to declare their assets to an Integrity Commission, that commission has not yet been constituted.

It added that the law sets out both criminal and administrative sanctions for public officials who do not disclose their assets to the commission, but said neither disclosure of assets nor conviction for nondisclosure of assets occurred during the year.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has called on the Government to have an international firm investigate whatever assets are held by both current and past Government officials, but this call that has gone unanswered by the Government.

The latest U.S. State Department report on human rights in Guyana had also mentioned alleged Government corruption, including among police officials, as among Guyana’s continuing human rights problems.

According to the Department’s annual report, which examines human rights conditions in countries throughout the world, the law provides for criminal penalties for corrupt officials, and Government generally implements the law effectively. However, it noted that “there were isolated reports of government corruption during the year, and administration officials responded to the reports.

There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and the judiciary.”

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