SARU: Crossing the line between recovery and reprisal?

first_imgDear Editor,The recent outburst of Major (Rtd) Aubrey Heath-Retemeyer, CEO of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU), is the latest example of the constant denouncing of groups and individuals who have expressed reservations about aspects of the SARU Bill. This behaviour reinforces an impression that the agency is not overly concerned about putting in place the impartial, broad-based national anti-corruption programme that Guyana so urgently requires.Indeed, SARU’s constant and excessive allegations are fragmenting the broad national consensus on anti-corruption which contributed significantly to the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition electoral victory. From what ought to be the easiest issue on which to generate formidable national support, SARU has succeeded in politically polarising the society, as reflected in the heavy list of speakers that forced consideration of the SARU Bill to be postponed in the last session of Parliament.SARU by these and related actions is succeeding in creating the impression that it seriously lacks the political judgment and skills needed to assure the success of the technical and legal aspects of its mandate. The price of the evangelical animosity towards the major Opposition party employed by the head of SARU since its inception and taken up recently by its CEO will be counted in terms of constitutional reform, electoral issues and all matters that require cooperation of the major Opposition.Major Heath-Retemeyer’s criticism of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) in questioning “where the GHRA was when hundreds of young men lost their lives with no steadfast commitment to pursue justice…” is a trite and quite misplaced response to the GHRA’s comments and criticisms of sections of the SARU Bill. For his information, while acknowledging the need for the nation to confront those deaths, the GHRA is at least on record at the time as having denounced them. Which prompts the question as to where the zealous Major and his military organisation were at that time. This new-found sensitivity to “the tears of parents and wives and children” stands in marked contrast to its silence when the deaths were generating the tears.The GHRA collaborated closely in the early stages of setting up the SARU. This civil society organisation continues to fully support a vigorous anti-corruption programme, incorporating preventative measures as well as asset recovery and criminal action.However, the anti-corruption drive is contaminated when corruption is effectively interpreted as beginning and ending with the last Administration. Rehabilitating the impartiality of SARU will be an up-hill task, notwithstanding Major Heath-Retemeyer’s belated assurance that members of the current Administration suspected of corrupt acts would also be pursued.There are many imaginative and indeed successful anti-corruption programmes in existence around the world. Guyana does not have to re-invent the wheel. The common feature running through them is that while anti-corruption is a crowd-pleaser, it requires shrewd political skills to achieve.Sincerely,Executive CommitteeGuyana HumanRights Associationlast_img read more