LET me begin with a little story. In 1997, the then Chaplin of American University, Washington DC, asked if I knew one by the name of Mike McCormack. I replied in the affirmative and informed the good gentleman that Mike was the head of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA).
Chaplin X was pleased because he knew Mike as a human rights guy. In 2022, the same person asked – how is Mike doing? I replied that he is still the head of GHRA. No need to betray further details of that conversation, but the Chaplin did exclaim – 25 years; a quarter of a century!
Well yes, not only that long, but much longer because Mike has been the real headman of the GHRA since 1979. His reign is closing in on half a century, with no sign of any change. Some wider context is needed here, something the philosopher Martin Heidegger called “worlding.” By worlding, Heddiger meant that it is important to situate things in the larger life-world in which specific phenomena develop.
In the worlding of the GHRA, we must insist that few things, if any, are more important than human rights. It is not farfetched to say that without the full, unconditional, and unobstructed practise of political, economic, and socio-cultural rights, we are less than human.
The most generalised way of actualising rights is through democratic governance at all levels, namely, at the level of world order, the state, and national.
In light of the above, the Guyanese people should have deep concerns with the institutional norms and general practices of the GHRA. The crux of the problem with the GHRA is that since its founding in 1979, Mike McCormack has been the “top dog” with no signs of change.
Transparency and accountability are key ingredients of any organisation that operates in the name of the public interest. Regular, open, free, and fair elections are non-negotiable elements of any civil-society group, not least for one that claims to be the leading voice of human rights in the country.
The GHRA has failed the test of transparency and accountability because of its clear political biases. The GHRA is always on the side of the current political opposition and has a distinct urban bias.
It is never concerned with the lives of people in the sugar and rice districts and villages of the country. Sometimes, however, the GHRA throws in a few sentences for the Indigenous Peoples of this country. Its main constituency is Georgetown, “wine-and-cheese class.”
The blatant political and cultural bias of the GHRA was recently revealed when McCormack stood down from condemning the violent, racist rant of a top WPA official, all this in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Aubrey Norton.
Further, on March 20, 2023, the Attorney General’s Chambers (headed by the Hon Anil Nandlall) revealed what appears to amount to financial malfeasance by the GHRA. A press release from the AG Chambers states the following – “…records prove that the organisation, [GHRA] which was incorporated on the 27th of September 1979, is not in Good Standing for failing to file its Annual Returns since incorporation. The company has failed to apply for continuance under Part IV, Division B of the Companies Act and therefore owes the State some $38,649,600.”
A human rights organisation should always obey the law. If it does not, it should be disbanded forthwith.
Mr McCormack should do the right thing and resign from his current position, and he should also be pleased to honour and put into practice the basic principles of human rights conduct. To return to Heidegger, the GHRA needs to wrench itself from its enclosure with the WPA and PNCR. It needs to step into the world of global human rights, to re-world itself.
Dr Randolph Persaud