Office of the Prime Minister, Guyana, November 15, 2016
Founder and Convener of International Conference of Chief Justices of the World, Dr. Jagdish Gandhi.
Chancellor of the Judiciary of Guyana, Mr. Justice Carl Ashok Singh
Prime Minister of Mauritius, Rt. Hon. Sir Anerood Jugnauth and Lady Jugnauth
Former Presidents of the Republics of South Africa, Mauritius, Croatia and Sudan
Governor General of the Republic of Tuvalu
Esteemed and Honourable Chief Justices,
Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze, President of the World Federation for Peace and Love
Beloved children of the City Montessori School
Excellencies, teachers, ladies and gentlemen
When I shook hands with Dr. Jagdish Gandhi three days ago in New Delhi, I felt that I have known him all my life. His sincerity of purpose shone through his warm, confident smile but little did I know that I was meeting a kindred soul, a modern-day revolutionary who seeks to change the world for the sake of our children and generations yet unborn.
So, without hesitation I join with all Guest Speakers who have spoken before me, in congratulating Dr. Gandhi for his progressive, pioneering vision and work, and to let him know that the world owes him gratitude for his consistent and unwavering advocacy of a new, peaceful, world order based on the Rule of Law.
Dr. Gandhi reminded me of another visionary, Cheddi Jagan, late President of Guyana, whose Resolution for a new human global order has been adopted by the United Nations. His global Order is premised on cuts in military expenditures and re-distribution of funds for the socio-economic and ecological advancement of developing countries.
I have come from a country with an area of 83,000 square miles. Guyana is larger than England, the former “Mother Country”. Guyana sits on the shoulder of South America and is also linked to the Caribbean Community, which makes us both a South American and a Caribbean nation.
We are also a newly independent country. We are celebrating this year our Golden Jubilee of Independence from Great Britain.
These years have not been without challenges, the greatest of which is the security of our territory from Venezuela, which claims five-eighths of our country. I sincerely appreciate earlier remarks by Guyana’s Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, who exposed the spurious and unlawful nature of Venezuela’s contention. We firmly believe that our borders have been defined and settled under Treaty that goes back to 1899, and any challenge to it must be settled by juridical means, not by military intervention, threats and bullyism. This is why we need binding judicial decisions and strict enforcement of international law to curb aggression.
It is in this context that we warmly embrace Article 51 of the Constitution of the Republic of India, which we also adapted in the Guyana Constitution.
The Preamble of the Constitution of Guyana enjoins people of all races to live in harmony and peace, and to see themselves as part of the inter-dependent world.
It states: “the finances, industry, communications, education, business and technology of the world are global factors affecting all in which all must engage and from which all must benefit”.
I salute the role of the City Montessori School (CMS) in organising these Conferences of World Chief Justices and prominent State leaders. It is laudable that CMS embraces the vision of a modern school being a Lighthouse of Society, and to highlight the cause of a safe and secure future for the estimated two and a half billion children of the world.
Over these few days, it has been both a learning experience and a journey into nostalgia as I viewed the enactment of the Children’s World Parliament, inspiring and emotional cultural programmes, and a peace march – the like of which I have not seen anywhere else in the world. Montessori children are re-inventing and re-enacting protests for peace, and the yearning for a safe world. Guyana salutes you!
Those events brought back memories like a photographic album flashing in my mind. I remember when, at age 14, I joined the struggle for Guyana’s independence, and then spent almost three decades after that to fight for majority rule and restoration of democracy in Guyana through free and fair elections. I remembered my involvement in protests for an end to the Vietnam War, and my modest efforts in promoting the cause of national liberation in various parts of the world.
My fight was then AGAINST many violations of law and justice. But, here in Lucknow, the fight is FOR some specific goals, primarily world peace.
Much has been said about the consequences of wars and violence, and I agree with the main premises. However, we also need to place the light inwards and look at the local or native sources of conflicts and violence, such as corruption by public officials, meagre allocations for social sectors, the plunder of natural and national resources, destruction of our environment, denial of human rights, subversion of the free press, and interference with the judiciary.
It is my submission that many governments that could potentially become members of a “world parliament” or “world government” are guilty of crimes against their own peoples. Therefore I urge that the fight for peace should be taken to national governments, to get them to walk the talk about freedom and security for their peoples, including children, which is the essence of domestic peace.
At the world level, if peace means the preservation of our planet Earth, then it presupposes not only the absence of war but the cessation of the destruction of our ecosystems, the unmitigated pollution of our atmosphere, the reversal of climate change, the combatting of the narco-trade, trafficking in persons, and other serious problems that have been identified at this Conference.
Guyana is fully committed to these goals. Article 36 of the Guyana Constitution states that the well being of the nation depends upon “preserving clean air, fertile soils, pure water and the rich diversity of plants, animals and eco-systems”.
Though we cannot dictate what other governments should do, Guyana wishes to share the gains we have made to address the major issues on the Agenda:-
Protection of Children:
Guyana has free public education from nursery schools to colleges. Student access loans for university education on 15-year, pay-back terms.
The welfare of children is paramount in all judicial proceedings. A Constitutional Children’s Commission was established to look into all aspects of the welfare of our children.
Children in early childhood and education access free meals, books and uniforms. Buses, boats and bicycles are being made available to transport school children. And in order to boost education, a television Learning Channel was set up and all teachers are provided free lap tops to held kick-start ICT education in our schools.
Women: There is gender equality with equal pay for equal work.
One-third of Parliamentarians and Ministers are women; Most of our magistrates and judges are women. In fact, the positions of Chief Justice, Solicitor-General and Director of Public Prosecutions are filled by women.
Terrorism: Only this year, Parliament approved an Anti-Terrorist law that provides the death penalty upon convicted for an act of terrorism that resulted in the death of anyone. We condemn terrorism in all forms and manifestations. We took that decision knowing that we would be exposed to fair criticisms. But we would endure these criticisms rather than open up our country as a soft haven for terrorists, and not meet it with appropriate deterrent.
Corruption: Only this year we passed laws to deal with dirty money through money-laundering and to counter the financing of terrorism. The law provides for forfeiture upon conviction of assets of counterfeiters and other exposed persons.
Public Corruption: Only this year we passed legislation to establish a Public Procurement Commission that will review the procedures, processes and practices in the award of contracts for public works and services. We are ending the unacceptable practice where Government Ministers approved contracts which had become a source of cronyism, corruption, and bribery. It was pervasive corruption by a government that I had helped to come to power that led me to table a motion of no-confidence in the Parliament which brought down that corrupt regime last May. We have since established a six-party Coalition Government headed by President David Granger, which is reflective broadly of all the six ethic groupings of Guyana.
Code of Conduct: I will soon lay in Parliament a Bill to amend the Integrity Act that requires all public officials, including Ministers and Judges, to declare their assets every year. A revised Code of Conduct will be introduced to guide the conduct of these public officials, breach of which would attract sanctions and even imprisonment.
Protection of Minorities; we advance process of giving communal titles to indigenous communities for lands that they have inhabited for centuries. This year, I commissioned two radio stations in these hitherto forested communities so that our hinterland peoples could be linked to the rest of the society and that they could broadcast in their own languages, Our Constitution, in addition, provides protection of our peoples against discrimination on the basis of their race, their gender and their sexual orientation.
Environment: We have passed rigid environmental protection laws to protect our air, our water and our environment. We created Protected Areas Systems legislation for preservation of our flora and fauna.
Climate Change: With 85% of our country still pristine, virgin rainforests, Guyana is part of the net carbon sink of the Guyana Shields. We have created a huge national conservation park in the heart of Guyana, and will add two million hectares of our forests as a gift to humanity, of green lungs, to help in climate change mitigation.
Green Economy: Even though we stand on the cusp of being an oil and gas producing country, our Government has committed Guyana to the development of a green economy, where renewable energy through hydro, solar and wind will become dominant features.
Esteemed participants, I have come from a country which, from its ethnic composition, is a microcosm of the world’s peoples.
We are populated by peoples of six different ethnic origins – Africans, Indians, Chinese, Portuguese and other Europeans, and nine Indigenous or Amerindian tribes. Our motto is: One People, One Nation, One Destiny. We can add, One World.
Therefore, we wish for the world what we are trying to create in Guyana – social cohesion, inclusivity and resolution of conflicts by peaceful means.
As I said before, though we are on the shoulder of South America, we are also a Caribbean state. Over many years, Guyana has been in the forefront in the quest to make the Caribbean a Zone of Peace. So far, we have experienced no wars. As President Granger remarked recently: “A new security architecture is needed to make our region safe, deter aggressors, combat illicit trafficking and create a zone of peace in the Caribbean.”
We want a Caribbean where new terrorist threats are extinguished, where our children can play in parks without fear of being innocent victims of gangland violence and where our young people are not seduced into drug trafficking and gun-running, the President added.
All of us — the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary– have a role to play in the advocacy of national and regional peace and security.
We fully support the view that international laws should be codified and that the United Nations should provide for decisions of the ICJ to be binding on recalcitrant nations. We fully support the democratization of the UN especially, the Security Council to include such significant nations as India.
India stands out as a lodestar in the efforts for world peace and security. India’s Article 51 has inspired similar principles in our Guyana Constitution.
Our Article 37 states:
“The State …will establish relations with all states on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual respect, inviolability of frontiers, territorial integrity of states, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-intervention in internal affairs, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and cooperation among states.”
However, we believe that Peace would not come because there is no war. Peace must have a content and a context. Peace must bring with it plenty – plenty of everything. Plenty of food, fresh air, clean drinking water, accessible education and affordable health care.
This is what we want for our children, and for which we must wish for the generations unborn.
Again, we salute Dr. Gandhi for his great vision and share with this movement the dialectical unity between peace, social development and the safety of our Planet.
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