New Year Message By Hon. Robert Corbin, MP Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform And Leader of the Opposition--Friday, January 1, 2010

Fellow Guyanese,

Happy New Year!
To every home, family and community across the far-flung regions of our country.

New Year Greetings are also extended to all Guyanese in the Diaspora, whether in North America, Europe or wider afield. Modern communication and internet technology have indeed brought us closer together, despite the miles that physically separate us.

The holiday season provided a welcome respite from the rigorous challenges that we all faced in the past year, but we must now be prepared to overcome them in the New Year, 2010: One that I would like to name, “The Year of Opportunity”.

The Opportunity to correct the many ills facing our beloved country; Opportunity to remove many of the fundamental obstacles that have halted the development of our country and ourselves; and, Opportunity to place Guyana on the path to national harmony and real progress.

On this the first day of the New Year, it is my hope that all of us will realize a measure of prosperity in our personal lives and that each of us, wherever we may be, will endeavour to make some contribution, however small, to the development of our country.

I wish to reflect briefly on my New Year messages over the past three years. In my 2007 New Year’s message, I emphasized that the unilateral approach to governance resulted in the continued flawed and prejudiced judgment on critical issues, which negatively impacted progress in our country. In that year the economic hardships suffered by the working people of Guyana – people of all races and political persuasions – worsened dramatically. The crippling impact of the high cost of living was felt by all in our country, but the cries for relief fell on deaf governmental ears. Crime, in all its various forms, persisted: from worsening official corruption to the inexorable increase in drug trafficking and money laundering. It is no exaggeration to say that 2007 saw the further erosion of the confidence of the Guyanese people in the capacity of the Government to provide security and protection for its citizens.

2008 was another year of extreme difficulty for citizens which saw the implementation of the draconian Value Added Tax (VAT); the continuing deterioration of the economic situation; the torture of our citizens; disregard for the poor and powerless; increasing and continued executive lawlessness; the growing scourge of illiteracy due to our collapsing education system; the inadequacies and fragility of our medical services; the calculated destruction of the Trades Union movement; and the growing disenchantment of our young people with the lack of opportunities and politics of our nation.

Consequently, in my 2009 New Year message, I warned that the arbitrariness and dictatorial tendency of the Jagdeo Administration posed a serious threat to the rule of law in Guyana. WE can now judge for ourselves what transpired.

Fellow Guyanese!
We need to remind ourselves of the various trials and tribulations that we have had to endure in 2009.

The cycle of unsavoury events persisted and, in most cases, worsened: Executive lawlessness; lack of transparency; corruption and a plethora of scandals; disregard for the rule of law; decline in morality at the highest levels of the land; interference with the independence of the Judiciary; harassment and victimization of opponents of the Government, including the media; the intensification of the assault on the Trades Union movement and workers generally; lack of tolerance for differing opinions; arrogance, vindictiveness and high-handed behaviour by those in authority; the unreliable and unstable electricity supply; decline in the productive sectors, as exemplified in the Bauxite and Sugar sectors, including the historic inability of GUYSUCO to pay its workers; escalated human rights abuses, marked by the increasing use of torture by the Police and GDF, as most recently illustrated by the torture of a fourteen-year old while in Police custody; and the shameful exposure, in a New York Court, of the hidden Administration hands behind the drug trade and the murder of over two hundred of our citizens over the past years.

The year ended with the GRA boasting of the collection of billions in excessive revenues, but with public service workers receiving an arbitrarily imposed paltry 6% increase in wages and salaries – this was like a cube of ice in the Atlantic ocean and, alarmingly, a clear violation of the principles enshrined in the Collective Labour Agreement with the Public Service Unions. It is evident, for all who have eyes to see, that, despite the steep increases in collected taxation revenues, the Administration has been doing very little to give relief to the thousands of Guyanese workers, across our country, who have joined the growing army of the working poor that find it difficult to provide for themselves and their families.

There have been, however, some developments which offer rays of hope. For example:

• Amidst the negative actions of some Police officers in the performance of their duties and the daily reports of serious crimes, especially domestic violence and brutal murders, the Commissioner of Police has reported that the overall statistics showed a reduction in crime. For this achievement, those hard working members of the GPF should be commended;
• In spite of the serious reports of torture by ranks of the GDF, members of the Force were able to display remarkable courage in the retrieval of the body of teenager from the bottom of our 721 feet Kaieteur Falls, thus bringing relief and closure to her bereaved family. For this and other positive actions by the GDF we ought to salute and offer commendation to the Chief of Staff and the other brave ranks of the GDF who made us proud;
• The prolonged silence of many Guyanese stakeholders on matters of national importance was broken by the torture of a Guyanese fourteen-year old and this seemed to have been the catalyst to motivate them to recognize the need for their involvement in serious matters that affect all Guyanese;
• The security sector project was cancelled by the British Government, resulting in the loss of the millions of dollars earmarked for the improvement and strengthening of the security sector, because of bad faith and the lack of genuine stakeholder consultation on the part of the Jagdeo Administration;
• Guyana was able to gain international recognition for its advocacy of approaches – the much publicized LCDS - to combat climate change by ensuring that developing nations are adequately compensated for the conservation and sustainable management of their forests. Guyana was able to sign an Agreement with the Government of Norway, with the potential of garnering millions in financial resources, through the REDD+ mechanism, for the provision of the “carbon sink” services of our abundant forests; and internationally;
• Amidst the global depression and social alienation Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States; and,
• The declining fortunes of developing nations, developed countries finally recognized the need to provide support and compensation[e] for small developing countries for making [any] sacrifices to contribute to the mitigation [dilemma] of global warming.

Despite these glimmers of hope, the predictions by many, for the year 2010, are not promising.

I, on the contrary, would like to commence this year in a mood of optimism.

The cycle of events over the past years should alert us to the fact that, unless the fundamental issues that affect our country are addressed, we will be doomed to continue on a downward spiral. The crisis that is afflicting our country cannot be wished away by colourful propaganda. Breaking of the cycle of division and ethnic polarization in our country is an important key for unlocking the potential of our people to ensure a prosperous future.

I am convinced, however, that this will only occur if we are prepared to embrace fundamental change. Our system of Governance is pivotal. It is irrelevant whether we want, for convenience, to describe it as shared Governance or inclusive Governance. Let us take the opportunity, in 2010, to commence that journey, no matter how difficult it may seem.

Let me take this opportunity to wish President Jagdeo a Happy New Year. May he take the opportunity of his last two years in Office to leave a legacy, including:

• Making consultations really meaningful;
• Ensuring that Local Government Reform becomes a reality;
• Removing the Government Radio Broadcast monopoly, by submitting National Broadcast Legislation to establish a National Broadcast Authority;
• Passing Freedom of Information Legislation;
• Implementing consensually agreed Constitutional Reforms which were all passed into law by the National Assembly since the third quarter of 2001; and,
• Bequeathing to future generations, a society where all Guyanese will be fully involved and feel a sense of pride in being Guyanese.

I wish the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Staff a Happy New Year. May they seize the opportunity to make us proud of our security forces in 2010, including:

 Reduction of Crime and road accidents;
 The cessation of torture and other malpractices and unprofessional conduct in their ranks.

I wish the Leadership and members of the PPP as well as all other political parties in Guyana a productive New Year. May we take the opportunity to seriously discuss and implement a system of Governance that would remove the present alienation and release the energies of our people.

Happy New Year to the Private Sector. May you succeed in your efforts to contribute to Guyana’s prosperity.

Happy New year to all Guyanese. May we seize the opportunity to work together as a united people:-

• To change our system of Governance to remove all semblances of dictatorship and arrogance;
• To discuss Presidential matters, not to remove term limits, but to, perhaps, change our system of electing a President to ensure that the President enjoys more than 51% support of the entire electorate;
• To review our Parliamentary system to ensure that legislation passed enjoys the support of more than a simple majority in the National Assembly;
• To ensure the equitable allocation of state resources for the development of communities across our country and in the award of contracts to Guyanese;
• To reduce the overall costs of consumer items and, by extension, bring down the cost of living; and
• To address the many challenges of the poor, the unemployed, pensioners, single mothers and the various other categories of disadvantaged Guyanese.

Our history must have convinced us by now that, to achieve those desirable goals, elections alone will not suffice. The reality dictates that we have to exert our mental and physical energies to find lasting solutions if we are to build a better Guyana.

My wish, the wish of the People’s National Congress Reform, is that 2010 ushers in a new resolve to take Guyana forward. This, fellow Guyanese, can only be achieved if our leaders, the Jagdeo Administration, the Opposition Parties, the private sector, indeed, all stakeholders and our people alike, demonstrate a genuine and tangible commitment to this objective.

Time is not on our side!

Happy New Year and May God bless our country. May we seize the opportunities in 2010 to make us proud of our beloved nation Guyana.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 1 January 2010