TODD MORGAN: Gay MacDougall, the U.N Independent Expert on minority Issues has done considerable damage to race relations and democracy in Guyana. Worst yet, she has done irreparable damage to the high U.N. office she holds. It goes without saying that she has also fundamentally compromised her own credibility. Henceforth, Gay McDougall will become known for her partially, where should be impartial; carelessness, where should be meticulous; and irresponsible, where she should be judicious.
McDougall’s Partiality – The Report filed by McDougall reads like excerpts of the racialised anti-government letters written in the Guyana press and hate blogs. If McDougall was indeed an independent Expert she would be studied the ways in which the opposition has used race-based discourses as political resource, rather than as objective expressions of injustice.
Instead of analyzing the race-based narrative of the counter-democratic forces as a strategy of political competition, McDougall treats them as ‘objectives texts’ which must be used as legitimate documents. No expert on Guyana would do this. Worse yet, no impartial Independent Expert would read one set of narratives while marginalizing others.
Any impartial expert in a conflict would take the time to present a comprehensive perspective of the factual situation that exists on the ground. In doing so, the expert would exercise a high degree of professionalism by accurately representing all dimensions of a conflict. This particular expert, however, found one side guilty. Quite fantastically, instead of presenting the complex sociological situation in Guyana, Ms. McDougall laid all the blame on Indians and the PPP. In simple language, this U.N. expert displayed clear bias for the opposition, and one ethnic group.
The expert’s bias can be clearly illustrated by looking at the way she deals with the armed forces in Guyana. Although Africans up about 30% of Guyana’s population, they make up over 90% of the armed forces. All reports prior to McDougall’s have rightfully seen this as wrong. Gay McDougall, however, uses the dominance of Africans in the Military against Indians when she says that Indians are afraid of the military because of their ethnicity. This is a particular egregious instance of this Independent Expert’s aggressive partially.
McDougall’s Carelessness – Ms. McDougall is a Yale Law School graduate. She knows the difference between hear-say and facts, and the difference between allegations and evidence. Most of all, she knows that great care should be exercised in the collection of evidence in getting a solid understanding. Despite her training, Gay McDougall spent three days in a country of 83,000 square miles separated with endless rivers and interior regions. Three days.
She was apparently ill during one of those days. It appears therefore, that her investigation lasted two days! McDougall could have only arrived at her conclusions through one of three procedures, namely – (1) the sociology and politics of country is so transparent it could be read from the most cursory of inspections; (2) she held several (round-the-clock) focus group meetings/hearings and heard pretty much the same story; (3) she arrived in the country without adequate preparation and instead of engaging in wide-ranging fact-finding, she confined her conversation to one segment of the population.
The first option is not possible. Guyana is not transparent. No matter how small, no country can be so read from the hotel window, even under Western eyes. The Caribbean is known for its complexity.
The second option, that is, several focus group meetings were held in the 2-3 days research visit in Guyana, did not happen. We know this because the government of Guyana has publicly stated that it sought consultations with Ms. McDougall but were unsuccessful. Her meeting with the President was ceremonial – a matter of protocol, not investigative.
It must be that Gay McDougall’s fact finding mission in Guyana developed through the third strategy, namely conversation with one group, or more accurately, one segment of one ethnic group.
A clear illustration of McDougall’s carelessness can be found in her representation of the spatial structure of Guyana. She complains about villages being dominated by one group without properly describing the circumstances which led to this. She also neglects to mention that since 1992, Presidents C. Jagan, J, Jagan, and B. Jagdeo have distributed about 70,000 house lots, and the most new housing schemes are multiracial. McDougall could know this because she only visited Georgetown and Buxton.
This is utter and unforgivable carelessness for anymore, but especially for an official from a High office on the United Nations.
Irresponsible Report – The last thing that United Nations should do is to allow its offices to be used to legitimize violence, albeit under the name of resistance. Gay McDougall’s report clearly gives succor to counter-democratic elements in Guyana who have been engaging in wanton killing and even in massacres. The U.N. has not been in that business before, and it should not start now. The U.N. should ask McDougall why she did not go to Lusignan, the village that was massacred. In the political logic supported by McDougall, the massacre (of Indians) at Lusignan was understandable, if not justified.
McDougall spent three days in Guyana and had some conversations with a small group of people. She obviously did so through a prism of pre-analytic and politicized dispositions. She then filed an Expert Report!
Gay McDougall will no doubt go on to another case and file another report. It might very well be better than the one she did on Guyana. But one thing is for sure. Her report will be the basis for deepening antagonisms in Guyana.
This is very unfortunate because Ms. McDougall could have really used the multilateral authority of the U.N. to move to Guyana one step forward. She chose not to do so, and for that must only be credited with rolling back race relations in a country that is trying hard to be better.
The U.N. should appoint a small team of Independent Experts to investigate McDougall’s partial, careless, and irresponsible report.