A group comprising mainly Indo-Guyanese nationals in Richmond Hill, Queens on Friday night officially launched the International Center for Democracy (ICD) at an elaborate ceremony at Russo on the Bay in Howard Beach.
Several elected officials including Brooklyn Guyanese-born Sen. Roxanne Persaud, South East Queens Sen. James Sanders and Brooklyn Assemblyman Jamaican Nick Perry were on hand at the gala launch.
Former Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo delivered the keynote address.
“If there is a time to figure out what democracy is, now is the time,” said Sanders in addressing the huge gathering.
“Tonight, we’re showing the world that we’re taking back democracy,” said Persaud, who represents the 21st Assembly District in Brooklyn.
She added that democracy includes women, noting the all-male group and urging the ICD to include women in its membership.
The group, which includes prominent Guyanese lawyer Kawal Toteram, agreed, stating that it invites the senator, as well as “all progressive women,” to join.
But, perhaps speaking for Persaud, Perry said that she may not be able to become a member because of a plethora of ethics rules that govern the state legislators.
“We have a lot of ethics rules we have to comply with,” Perry told the ceremony. “So, don’t be discouraged if she does not join you.”
“As you embark on this journey, I want to comment you,” added the representative for the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, noting the ICD’s “very high goals — not only for Guyana, but also for my little country (Jamaica), and especially what’s going to happen to our democracy in this country.
“So, I thank you for the challenges in making this a reality,” Perry continued.
The ICD said it will focus initially on Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti.
After reading the group’s mission statement, Jagdeo noted that it is “very profound, far reaching.
“I think democracy is a precondition for sustainable development,” he said in his keynote address. “And if you go back to Guyana, you’ll see our history — and a turbulent history it was. You would see a very different origin — to see what you have today.”
The ICD’s mission is aimed at promoting and implementing programs, and sustaining and strengthening freedom and democracy.
The group said it also seeks to empower vulnerable groups to “effectively participate in national and regional development, end hunger and poverty and establish social justice as nonâ€negotiable national goals and obligation.”
The nonâ€governmental public policy and advocacy organization said it will “support the development of a democratic infrastructure and sustainable mechanisms for human rights protection in developing countries.”
Additionally, it said it will seek ways to maximize citizen participation in governance and policy decisions, and “will target national legislatures, and seek to expose citizens and engage citizens in more actively monitoring of Parliaments and legislative actions, particularly through a human rights perspective.
“ICD will participate in the monitoring of election to ensure that the democratic process is free and fair,” said the group in its overview. “ICD will promote freedom, democracy and a social justice system that protects and empowers vulnerable groups such as women, children, youth, Indigenous Peoples and marginalized groups i.e. LGBT.
“ICD will encourage and promote Transparency and Accountability as pre-requisites for freedom, democracy and development,” it continued. “ICD will encourage and promote free, fair and equitable media coverage as a requisite for any and all election processes.”
The ICD is headquartered at 126-03 Liberty Ave., Suite 2, Richmond Hill, NY 11419.