Address By Mr. Robert Corbin Leader of the People's National Congress Reform At the After-Congress Rally at the Square of the Revolution On Saturday, February 1, 2003
This evening my first duty is to thank you for responding to the call of the People's National Congress Reform in such large numbers. Your presence here at the Square of the Revolution, supporting your Party, gives me strength and courage to carry on the fight.
My second duty, comrades, is to report to you that the People's National Congress Reform is not only alive, but well and ready prepared to continue the struggle for a just and humane society. A society where all Guyanese can live together in peace and harmony, where there is no discrimination and victimization in the conduct of state affairs; where every village, community and citizen all over Guyana can enjoy an equitable share of the national pie; where our economy has real growth to bring prosperity and hope to all our people; where our private sector is encouraged to expand its production and make bold investments; where our farmers on the coast and the hinterland enjoy guaranteed markets for their produce; where our taxi drivers and operators can carry out their work in safety; where there are jobs and business opportunities for the thousands of our young people who leave our educational institutions annually; where Guyanese youth abandon hopelessness and despair and look to the future with hope and expectation; where the society can guarantee that our women can play in all sphere of national life; where our people are not burdened by the spiraling cost of living that despite working and earning they barely survive; where the Guyanese consumers are not oppressed by rapacious and insensitive companies like GPL; where our crime and security situation is brought control and citizen can sleep safely in their homes without fear and insecurity; where our youths are not gunned down in the streets like dogs under a state-sponsored policy of “terminate with extreme prejudice”; where morale can be restored in the Police Force and other discipline services and innocent young policemen will not be destroyed with impunity; where decency can be returned to national political life and the Parliament can function in accordance with the letter and spirit of real democracy.
Yes comrades, I have to report that not only is the People's National Congress Reform maintaining the struggle for these objectives but we have the capacity, the personnel and the support to form the next government of this country and the sooner the better. Today comrades, the People's National Congress Reform held a Special Delegates Congress in the wake of the sudden death of our late Leader, Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte. Our members came from all parts of Guyana. Many of them are still here tonight at this rally. They came from the rolling savannahs of the Rupununi to the mountainous regions of Potaro/Siparuni. They came from the riverain areas of the North West District, the mighty Essequibo and Pomeroon. They came from Kwakwani, Linden and the Upper Demerara River to the Corentyne Coast; and from the entire Atlantic Coast to the hinterland. Yes Comrades, they came in thousands to ensure that the torch lit by the Founder Leader, LFS Burnham, and carried so ably by his successor, Hugh Desmond Hoyte, was formerly handed to the new generation of leaders to advance the noble struggle that they had waged.
Our congress was also summoned out of a desire to build on the legacy of our late Leader and to approach our immediate task with creativity and innovation. We recognised that with the sudden passing of our dear Leader, Mr. Hoyte, the sense of loss and the possible despair which our members were likely to be feeling, the serious crises facing our nation and the challenges which our Party face, it was necessary to quickly reach out to our members country-wide to ensure that there was absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind about the road ahead. This is why we are also here tonight to speak with you, our supporters, so that you too can understand the direction in which we are headed and give your whole-hearted support. You are the strength of the People's National Congress Reform. Without you, we would not be the mighty Party of the people. We thank you for your support in the past and tonight we again invite you to join us in a mighty army in the struggle for change in this beloved country of Guyana. Can we depend on you comrades? Are you sure we can depend on you? Thank you comrades.
Our congress was also intended to send a strong signal to all and sundry that the People's National Congress Reform in the face of its loss remains strong and resilient, organised and unified and determined to carry on the struggle “Resolutely forward together”. The transition arrangements specified in our constitution were completed. I humbly accepted the leadership of our party and with the help of the Almighty God and with your commitment we will now advance this struggle.
Our late Leader, Hugh Desmond Hoyte, paid the supreme sacrifice in many ways for his dedication to service. We all know that since 1992, after restoring Guyana to solid economic progress, liberalizing our country and economy, ensuring free market practices were introduced, he was graceful enough to hand over the reins of Government based on the announced results of those elections. He believed then and he believed until his death that this country has room for all Guyanese. And he served this country to the end. He served his party with distinction. He made Guyana proud.
Comrades, in his lifetime he dazzled his enemies so much that they could not know whether he was coming right or left. And even sometimes he dazzled us because we could not sometimes call him in advance. The fact is that in his death many critics were silent. The demon had become a saint. The man who was encouraging criminals had suddenly again becomes the peacemaker. The man who was a terrorist was suddenly the greatest thing that Guyana had produced. The moral of the story, Comrades, is that we should not be dissuaded or distracted when our enemies seek to destroy our leadership. The more they criticize, the more they attack; we must know we are on the right track. The more they attack we must know that we must increase and accelerate our advancement.
Hugh Desmond Hoyte served the Party and country as well and tonight at this Rally, I want to pay tribute to him. I want to express my gratitude for all that I have learnt from him and his predecessor and hope that we will be able to live up to his expectations of making this country, Guyana, a better land for you and for me. He is gone but we must carry on and we have seen that the People's National Congress Reform has to fulfill again, one of his misunderstood prophecies. Some years ago you would recall that he said “I would not be Leader come my next birthday”. You remember that? We could not understand, we thought he was resigning, so when he ran back for office at the last Congress, people began to wonder, well this is not possible, he has changed his mind. But lo and behold, on the 22nd Day of December, our dear Leader passed on.
We gave him the respect he deserved. He is now resting in peace. He has done yeoman service to our country and we will remember his sterling contribution in this direction. So today, Comrades, as we reflect on his contribution, we can do no more than our pledge to carry on the struggle he has begun and to ensure that we take the People's National Congress Reform ship unto victory.
Our Congress had frank and fruitful discussions and we have left our Congress more united than ever. There are those like prophets of doom who believed that our Party would crumble and fall into disunity with the death of Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte. Comrades, they have been dumbfounded. Our Party has always prepared a reserve of Leaders. Since the days of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, he warned them at the national Park, “Killing me is a waste, another Rasta will tek he place”. And as soon as he departed, High Desmond Hoyte picked up the mantle and carried on the struggle. Our Leader departed and there were many who felt, “well, the People's National Congress Reform sleeps”, and they actually tried to ferment strife using the papers to think they could set up the members of the Party’s membership. But the People's National Congress Reform has a mighty team of leaders. They understand the realities that we must work together in unity, as one force, to ensure that there have been the mobilisation and organisation of the Party for this Congress, and this Rally this evening, in so short a time, is ample evidence of the competence of this Party which, no doubt, is an unshakable Guyanese institution.
Comrades, we are in a desperate political struggle, on this we must not be fooled. The struggle, however, is not between Guyanese brothers and sisters of various ethnic groups, this is a struggle against incompetence, corruption, nepotism, discrimination and the many ills that characterize the practices of those in government. This is a struggle for jobs, for inclusiveness, for a proper system of governance that will serve all our people. This, comrade, is a struggle for justice.
We must not be side-tracked. We must not allow our just cause to be transformed into an ethnic struggle. We must pledge to work assiduously to develop a society that is characterised by tolerance with each other and a strong sense of solidarity as we seek to develop a prosperous and united Guyana.
It is for this reason that our Congress decided that we need to accelerate our efforts towards inclusiveness within the nation and within our own Party. How else could we survive as a people? A nation that fails to learn from its history is bound to make the same mistake again. Those of us comrades who are old enough must tell your children of the dark days of the 60’s. Those of us who are old enough must tell our children of the dramatic effects which the difficulties between our racial groups in 1963 and ’64 created in our country. If we think of those who died senselessly, the only victor in those disturbances was the grave. We were all the poorer for internal conflict. And therefore we must understand the war we are fighting, the war that we are fighting must be understood and the enemy properly identified. But most of all, comrades, political struggle demands discipline. I urge you, everything you do we must seek to win the support for the People's National Congress Reform and not provide the opportunity for our detractors to use it towards divisive ends. This regime is dependent upon perpetuating ethnic division. We must understand that everything we do must be done constructively to win support for our Party. How else could one justify their social and economic programmes if it was not to divide this country as it is being divided on a daily basis. A People's National Congress Reform victory is dependent upon us working together as Guyanese. This fact must give guidance in our every act and utterance in the future.
Comrades, it is an understatement to say Guyana is in a political, economical and social crisis just as the PPP/C brought our country to ruins in the 1960’s, they have again placed this country in a similar position. Politically, Guyana has been heading in this direction since independence where ethnic policies were introduced. The impact of this situation on an electoral system that has been called by some as an “ethnic census” has led to political discrimination in government administration creating racial tension in our country.
We have now reached a crisis that imposes upon us decisions that may affect the very existence of peace, justice and democracy in Guyana for a whole generation. But if we are to make a healthy departure from the mistakes of the past, a special responsibility lies on those who wheel executive authority over there. A responsibility to deal openly and honestly with the realities of constituting legitimate interest in this country. In this respect, Comrades, there are a number of attitudes in the past of this administration that has prevailed. For example, they refuse the Opposition any mere interest of the exercise of authority, but then they turn back and attack us when we start to barter when that seems to have been the only language this government understands. They defend to the limit the senseless the murder of young suspects by a section of the Police Force called the “Tactical Service Unit” which answers to the Presidential Secretariat. But then, they blame us the Opposition for the inevitable response of the ghetto guns. They marginalize the most professional officers in the armed forces and then they turn around and complain of the ineffectiveness of the Army.
They said before they won the Election in 1992 that the winner must not take all, but after the win in 1992 55% suddenly became 100%, and 35% became zero. And more recently, if we are to believe what we saw on television, they reject even the proposal of shared governance. Comrades, a vast majority of our citizens cry out for peace but Comrades, there can be no peace without justice! There can be no peace without justice! Many respectable people, particularly in the situation of intensified criminal activity do not consider do not consider official executions by suspected criminals as a vital matter that they should speak out about, they consider that quite normal when the police executes young men who are defenseless and who can be arrested and taken before the Courts to be tried, and they remain silent. But the murder by the State of such young men goes to the very root of injustice.
It is fundamentally safe in the very justice system that hangs the robber that kills and turns its back on the policeman that murders. But that is not the answer. The answer is for us to restructure our society in such a way that people can have confidence in our system of justice. If we all reveal a willingness to change our attitude, what contribution we can make today? I would say as one who has just been placed in the position where I represent the members of that 45%, that we will be prepared to work providing there is social justice in this country.
The Guyanese economy, Comrades, has been in recession for the last five years. According to one of Guyana’s leading economists, I wouldn’t call his name, and he is not a PNCR economist. He said that growth between 1998 and 2000, had averaged below what he called 0.5% - he mean it gone below zero, gone down. One of our economists, not a PNCR man said so, and he said that it failed in comparison to the 7% which was achieved between 1991 and 1997 and he was saying further that that advance was due to the economic recovery programme which was initiated by the People's National Congress Reform under the leadership of Hugh Desmond Hoyte. But he further pointed out that the so-called Poverty Reduction Program which was touted as a relief for the suffering people of this country and failed to deliver the results which were expected and there was little success in that program. Further, he said it didn’t increase the welfare of people but much had been lost thanks to corruption, incompetence and lack of vision.
The regime has destroyed all its association and good faith with the International Financial Institutions that could give Guyana any assistance and those organisations which have been bailing out and rescuing this government have become very impatient and intolerant of that very incompetence, duplicity and corruption. And therefore, the result of lack of vision for the beauty of this country has placed Guyana on the brink of disaster. Although the economy is almost in ruin our government tells us that things are fine. You think things are fine? Jobs and job opportunities are non-existent in this country.
We were told that there would have been 100,000 jobs available to our young people after 2001. Where are they? While thousands of young people are roaming through the villages on the East Coast, including Buxton, with nothing to do, there is no sign of investment while thousands of our youth leave our educational institutions yearly in despair. The cost of living continues to spiral daily and indeed, as I told our Comrades at the Congress this morning, only Christ knows the answer to the increased burdens which the impending intended electricity increases will impose on us if GPL is allowed to bring about any increase. But I say to you Comrades, that is the first issue that we must stand up for in this country.
We have been mamagying, fooled, lied to on this issue. This government proceeded to sign agreement and with all their boastings of transparencies they entered into agreements which now, with all the evidence before us, have no benefit for the people of this country. Comrades, I want you to understand, let us not be fooled by certain statements we heard because we heard them before. On two occasions previously, this company decided they were raising electricity rates., and a certain gentleman properly described by the Chairperson this evening, I leave her to give the descriptions, she knows how to do descriptions. A certain person placed in high responsibility to manage the affairs of this country came and told us that this company would not be allowed to make any increases in our electricity rates, that it will be postponed, and the next thing the consumers of this country knew was that your light bills had increases on it. Isn’t that so Comrades? Then we heard they might work out a rebate and give you a credit on your account. You remember that too? Did you ever get back that credit? And then there came time for another increase, and what happened then?
So Comrades, now that the GPL decided that they were going –imagine they synchronized their increase with the same day of the PNCR Congress, you don’t think that is eye-pass? When we are supposed to be mobilising all our members? So those who have ear to hear let them hear. The people of this country cannot afford the increases which this company is proposing at the moment.
We have heard the President say that he is dissatisfied with the management; that these people are not performing. He didn’t know that before? He has a Minister looking at these matters and if the Minister is not performing, fire him. But like some of these Ministers can’t get fired, I don’t know why. You remember they had one on television? And he dared the President to fire him? Unto now, imagine he is a Minister and he threatens his boss in public on the television and tells his boss he will break all the rules and if his boss want to fire him the boss could fire him. So Comrades, let us not be fooled by any empty statements because we have heard statements from this administration time and time again. The last time when Mr. Sharma decided he was going to take them at their word he was disappointed and when the poor man organised a March they charged him and dragged him before the Court. Lock up Sharma and Clem David, you remember that Comrades? It was the same electricity rate. What the government should have done was give C. N. Sharma a medal because if they had any sense they would have let C. N. Sharma carry the fight, and if they had any astuteness they would have used the fight to say, well look comrades, you see the people are rebelling, you all have to go. You understand what I am saying? They don’t have any commonsense. And they should have even sent some of their supporters to join C. N. Sharma and let the people protest and that would have given them strength to act unless of course, somebody got something protecting. So they can’t tell the people anything because the thing pass already. How else could we explain a company in an agreement with government that has breached many aspects of their agreement.
To feel the pulse of the nation, to understand what you’re going through because we can’t give you leadership until we understand the issues that are affecting personnel. So they can cuss me and say anything, that I went to Buxton, I don’t care if there are problems there, I will go and find out, that is my responsibility.
The private sector as a whole faced with the incoherent or non-existent effective policies as I told our comrades today, and facing an investment or non-existent investment policy and vindictive by this administration in contracting rather than extracting. And many of our local entrepreneurs who were determined to end their lives and their days in this country have either left already or they are packing up and going up North to rest up for peace. I knew comrades, George Jardim on the East Coast. He was one who pledged that he would die in this country when all went away. Because George Jardim loved this country so much, he was Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, he could have gone to Miami or elsewhere years ago and when the PNCR was in government if you go on the East Coast you would see how big he has extended his facility there. Where is he today? When I saw him last he was almost in tears when he said “Robert, I have to go, there is no hope for his business. He left all his machinery and so on, just backball it, that’s how fed up he was with this country. The trouble is he could afford to go, you understand Comrades? You could pack up and pull you stilts and move to Miami? So the response of one sector to the crisis will be different depending on where the crisis hits and who the crisis hits.
Thousands of our professionals and skilled and un-skilled workers migrate from this country annually in search of a safer environment and a better quality of life elsewhere. I am not making up these stories, comrades, you know them. You’re looking for good technicians, you speak to the businessman they will tell you they trained these technicians and as soon as you train them, when you’re looking for them, they’ve gone. I am not saying that it is not traditional for there to be a south/north drift of skills, the metropolitan countries have always had a way of attracting skilled people from developing countries. Let them not excuse the drift that is taking place with that, this is different story, this is where professional people running from the country. But the government says every thing fine, nothing ain’t wrong.
Comrades, extra-judicial killings continue unabated despite all we talk about and a large section of our youth as I told you face termination and still we ask a number of questions. Our villages throughout the country, not only on the East Coast, and this are a mistake that we are making. The only reason we are focusing on Buxton is because Buxton has a more militant approach to their problems. But in every village in this country, each one of them is facing the same problem. No jobs for their youths, you go in the villages, travel through the East Coast any time of day, Anns Grove, all of them. The young people are liming by the corner playing games, they gambling, the next thing you know they smoking dope. The next thing you know that has happened in Linden, the AIDS epidemic begins to get higher than it is. But the government says, “everything fine”.
So this marginalisation of villages continues unabated and gloom and suffering appear to be the designed lot of the citizens of this country. While the regime is in a state of self-denial the poor people in this country punishing. The poor people in this country are dying, the youth are feeling hopeless and they are in a state of despair, and since my grandmother started to teach me the elements of good behaviour she always told me that the devil always find work for idle hands.
So if you want to understand, the crime and security situation, of this country, we have to go to the root causes of the problem so that we can address it in a responsible way as Guyanese who are concerned about our youths, our adults, and the future of our country, and comrades, that is what the PNCR has been telling this administration for years, and years, and years. But when we march on the streets, you hear them. Mr. Hoyte, for example, suggested that instead of sending guns and bullets to Buxton, what we should do is have an investment programme. What did they do, they rebuffed him, they say he holding the country to ransom. Now again, these people ain’t thinking Comrades, but I suppose you got to give them time to learn because if they learn too quick they might want to stay in, you understand, let them continue with their foolishness so that the people will feel strong enough to turf them out and put in their place the People's National Congress Reform with sensible policies for the conduct of business in this country. Because if they had any iota of commonsense, the late Leader of the Opposition made such a proposal, the man not coming to dialogue, wah you think a good sensible man would do. Say man come, discuss your proposal, you think he could refuse this? He couldn’t have refused. But they made him out to be a demon when he was making constructive suggestions as to how we can deal with the problems of Guyana.
But Comrades, the problems of our youth cannot be solved by empty promises and words and that is what our late Leader was telling them. You can’t go to the young people and tell them come off the streets; don’t play dominoes unless you have an alternative to offer them. And we have been trying to suggest to this administration that if you are serious about the social problems in this country they will have to do something for the development of many villages. And people ask, “why then you don’t resume dialogue – well let me say something quickly about the Dialogue business, I know people expect a lot of pronouncements tonight, let me explain, the Dialogue was between Mr. Hoyte and Mr. Jagdeo, that’s all I am saying. Now, the PNCR Congress, I want you to understand clearly – let us look back at the Dialogue, no, we must look back at it.
Now when the Dialogue started, Comrades, there was a serious proposal to deal with what was called what the PNCR then called, “marginalised communities”. The government said they didn’t like that word; they want the word “depressed”. So we didn’t make a fuss whether they call it “marginalised” or “depressed” because is not the name we wanted, we wanted relief to be taken to our supporters and other people around the country that were feeling the hardship in Guyana. And we in good faith said, “let us set up some committees to bring about speedy developments”. Now what Mr. Hoyte and Mr. Jagdeo agreed was that at the end of the discussion, a rose by any name still smell sweet, I ain’t say Rosanne, I said “a rose by any other name still smell sweet”. Don’t tell me I say that, you notice I am conducting my meeting in a very responsible manner. So don’t put words in my mouth, I am a very civil speaker, I am not using any ‘P’ word, I am not using any bad word. So don’t tell me anything about Roseanne and Rose and all these things. So Comrades, they agreed, and I want you to understand that is why we are holding this meeting so you could understand the issues.
They agreed that they would set up four, what they call sample communities. Two would be named by the PPP/C, and two would be named by the PNC and they would start to work quickly because since then the PNCR was telling this administration that people are tired of words, we ain’t want words no more, we want action so that if we tell the people we are going to bring relief, by the next day they must see something in the community and so the plan was that they would send and make the project demonstrate to the people that the Leaders were serious and that talks were going to bring results. What happened, first of all, they delayed, and delayed, and delayed so that the people saw no action immediately. And sometimes I wonder whether it was not a deliberate ploy to undermine the leadership of our late leader so that he would look bad in front of his supporters.
So Comrades, what happened was that the government failed to deliver on time and in a timely manner the commitments which were made in respect of those communities. And what was more, the committees behaved as though those four committees were the end all and be all of the Committee for Depressed Communities when that was only the beginning and there should have been a continuous program which would have gone to all the villages of this country, look at them to see what were their immediate problems and to see what immediate and emergency relief could be brought to them. And when Mr. Hoyte decided to suspend the Dialogue or put it on pause, then they decided, that instead of performing quickly, they would use propaganda to confuse you. But we will not be obsessed with propaganda, the realities are there and if you go now to the villages, you will see that some of the things that they agreed with Mr. Hoyte, they have now done. And you know what they are trying to fool the international community about, they are trying to tell the international community, ‘Man Hoyte was only doing a lot of nonsense, we have done this thing a long time ago, and they carried the people and showed them, look you ain’t see we promised the Centre in Buxton which is the Craft Training Centre, and now they finish the Centre they are only now trying to get it started. But when the pause was instituted, they were far behind in the delivery of their commitments.
Take the village on the De Kendren, they were supposed to put in lights quickly. It took them nearly a year after the decision was made and this was supposed to be an emergency. Well I wonder, if it was food, what would have happened to that village. When you go in there you would have had to go with a lot of spray when we were burying the corpse of the people who died waiting on this emergency aid that the electricity would have provided at De Kendren.
So Comrades, when the pause came about, then there was great action and now they will carry and show you that the Dialogue has brought results because now there is electricity and the poles have been put down and they have finally delivered. But it took the PNCR to suspend the Dialogue and behave bad and say, “look, we ain’t doing anything anymore before the government performs”. Now we have two choices, we can go and we could have all kinds of empty commitments and then we will come back six months later and be embarrassed and say nothing ain’t happen. Well I can’t face you if that happened.
We must have not promises, but evidence of action because we must realise that we cannot wait until the next election or any talk of shared governance to bring relief to our comrades who are suffering now. We must be practical, and that is why we entered into discussions with the government because we were concerned with the welfare of our supporters. And so, if we are concerned about our supporters, we have to act now.
Our Congress over the past day reinforced a decision which is made at the last Biennial Congress that the PNCR could not stand idly by and have its supporters being battered and beaten daily going in poverty and joblessness. We have to try to do something constructive to bring relief. Shooting and killing doesn’t bring relief, killing a policeman doesn’t solve our problems, it gives us the belief that we solve the problem. We have to find a way that can bring genuine improvements to lives of the young people in those communities, and we have set up a parallel economic organisation which would be independent of any political influence as an NGO that will seek funding from donor agencies that are so anxious for many things to take place in this country, and we would say to them if they are anxious for peace and normalcy to return, the real answer is to let us provide the necessary resources so that we can generate employment opportunities and help to provide a better way of life for our youths, which the present administration has been neglecting and not attempting to do. And since we must put our money where our mouth is, we are not saying anything if we ain’t putting we money deh, and I went to Buxton, but I didn’t go to Buxton to waste time, I went there and I spoke to a lot of young men and I said, “gentlemen, what really is the problem?” and you will be amazed how articulate some of those young men were. They say “we ain’t got nothing to do skipper, wha yoh want we do”? One of them told me, “skipper, meh mother ain’t got nothing to give me this morning for breakfast, ah got three sisters and they ain’t got no food in the house, how ah gon live”? That is true, imagine if the family was ten.
So there are serious social and economic problems, but Buxton is not the only community and that is why I am saying we have to go to Annandale. If you look at C.N.Sharma’s programme, look at his programme “Voice of the People” and you will see how they are treating some of their own supporters. Their villages are also depressed. That is why the next time we have to ensure that they vote People's National Congress Reform. Let us hope that the message sink home to them solemnly that the days for that kind of politics not gon help them because their villages are suffering too. So I went to this place at Buxton, I am telling you, and I am telling you this because I know when I go back to Buxton they gon tell you all kinds of nonsense that Corbin want start trouble again and all kinds of things. But I am telling you in advance, ah going back to Buxton but I am also going to the other villages along the Coast, not only Buxton, I am going to every village, but because Buxton seems to be the danger zone – you ain’t see they making it like South Africa already, we having partition in Guyana, so I must go to find if they can vote in the next elections or whether they would be declared another state. And we have a vested interest in getting all those votes in the next election, so we have to go there and find out whether they will declare Buxton another state when they barricade the place. Because the answer to the problem as I said is very deep.
I don’t want to spend long on the subject, I just wanted to say that we will put our money where our mouth is and since Mr. Hoyte’s proposal was spurned by this administration. In the past few days, I have had discussions with some big businessmen in this country and some ordinary people who are concerned about our young people and they want to set up an endowment to work for you and I told them I don’t want words, I can’t go to any meeting and tek words, and one donor told me that he will make all his tractors available to plough ten thousand acres of land behind that village at a moment’s notice. Another well-wisher has told me that he will assist me to mobilise funds to have a tractor, trailor and a plough which we will donate to the young people of Buxton before the end of this month. And another goodly comrade from Linden said he would put aside 500,000 for job creation in that community.
Now, what I am appealing for next is for a group of volunteers of technical people now who can join with me. Let us go, I will take them to let us look and see the potential of the people in the community and let us see if we can fashion a project that can gainfully employ the young people of that community. And I don’t want to talk words, so I wouldn’t say more on this tonight, so when you hear ah going to Buxton and they tell you ah going to ferment trouble you will know why I am going there and you will see delivery. I nah gon tek six months to deliver what I am talking about for you will judge for yourself. I hope that the administration will take lead because it’s not Buxton alone got problems, Annandale has problems, BV has problems, Plaisance has problems, Linden got problems, I went there the other day.
Enough has been said to suggest to the administration that the People's National Congress Reform is prepared to act responsibly in the interest and welfare of its citizens, but it will not be taken lightly and be used for cheap propaganda and photo opportunities, we don’t have time for that, we want to see results and we want to see evidence of words. Of course, we would have to talk, don’t tell me ah mustn’t talk though you know, I have to talk. But I am going into Dialogue, because that is now a bad word, we shall have to have some constructive engagement to ensure that our people’s welfare are looked after.
We must have evidence, that we are not moving at all until we see some evidence of change of attitudes and performance. If we see the performance, then we might be in a position to review our situation. And so Comrades, our economy, as I said before, is in serious problems there are those who say that all our problems will be solved if the PNCR goes back to Parliament, so come just to hear if we going back to Parliament tomorrow, some of them come just to hear that, and then when we told them that we were about to name the Opposition Leader, which had nothing to do with Parliament – you can meet in a rum shop and name an Opposition Leader, you don’t have to go to Parliament for that – but when you read the Stabroek News that day, you thought we already gone into the House and sit down, right? Because that is what they wanted you to believe. But I have said to them that naming the Opposition Leader is not that urgent and important, because if there is no activity in Parliament, you understand, what the Opposition Leader gon do. So many people believe that the answer to the problem is just going back to Parliament without taking time to look at the issues which caused the PNCR, in the first place, to leave the Parliament. We have agreed on constitutional changes, not the PNCR alone, all the Parties, it is now law, and we don’t want to indulge the night in semantics, who wrong and who right. The fact is that the purpose of these constitutional committees is to ensure that there is good governance of our country. And if you want to have good governance of a country, they say, “you cannot put a cat to look at the milk”. So what we objected to, if the Sectoral Committees or the Parliamentary Committee are to examine the work of that Sector, how you gon put the Minister whose work you examining to Chair the same committee? That make sense to you comrades? When we have evidence of the one at Health who say he gon break the laws all the time and he don’t care what Jagdeo says. That is the example we have and we can only work with the examples that we have before us. The examples are that if you put the Minister in charge of an area to examine himself, nothing will see the light of day. You imagine me going down at Ministry of Health with a meeting chaired by that gentleman there, I won’t even call his name, I want to keep my tongue clean tonight, so I would not even call his name, but that gentleman who went on television and said he would break the law anytime, you imagine him chairing a committee, one of those Parliamentary Committees to investigate whether there was an advance to the Minister for traveling. You understand what I am telling you comrades? The Parliament set up a committee to examine what happening at Health and the Minister who take the advance is steering the Committee to find out if anything good will come out of it. That is the ridiculousness that we face and we said that no Ministers should be members of those Committees. Of course, there is room for compromise because it is not that there is no precedence for this; there is the Public Accounts Committee in which there is precedence in our Parliament, it is not true in all parliaments in the world I am told for example, in Australia the Public Accounts Committee is chaired by a government minister. But then those people got different culture. They ain’t got culture like Guyana, so in our Parliament the Public Accounts Committee is chaired always by an Opposition Member of Parliament. Why is that so? Because if you’re going to examine the accounts of the government then yoh can’t put the Minister of Finance to chair the thing because you wouldn’t get any information because he go tell the boy don’t bring up this information, don’t bring up that information. And so there is a great deal of logic in what the PNCR is saying and no amount of propaganda, misinformation and lies will change our position unless we approach this matter sensibly so that we can give meaning to the spirit of the Constitutional Amendment.
So the Parliamentary Committees need to be established and the PNCR has never refused to participate in discussions for the establishment of Parliamentary Committees. We left because we saw them pussyfooting and so it seems that it is only when we behave in this manner that we get action. Now even the Chancellor of the Judiciary say we must go back to Parliament. Well I am grateful for the advice and so we want to ask her to also ask the President, the International Community, the Commonwealth, to ask the government to let us approach this matter sensibly so that we can arrive at some constructive solution. And if those solutions are constructive, we have been authorised by our Congress today, by resolution, that the Leadership of our Party must take initiative to end the Parliamentary impasse but we must not do so if it means to the detriment of our interest. In other words, we are not going to end any Parliamentary impasse if it means that no progress has been made.
And therefore, there will be constructive engagement, the doors were never closed. Our Mr. Carberry, our Chief Whip, has always been in touch with Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud but talking, that’s why I say we can’t worry with talk, talk is cheap as the comrades say, ask Cde. Carberry, they talk regularly on the phone, but no decision ain’t coming. So the lines of communication are still open. What we want is not communication, we want reasonable approaches to decisions so that we can get on with the affairs of business of this country. If they perform and act responsibly we will reciprocate.
But Comrades don’t let them fool you. They say the reason why the Commissioner of Police ain’t appointed is because the PNCR ain’t gone to Parliament. But McDonald acting, you understand what I mean? When this government gave an undertaking to the British that they will offer assistance to the Guyana Police Force and they offered that assistance on the basis that will give further assistance to this country and the arrangement was that they would send six or so officials for training and the best performing person would then be promoted to be the next Commissioner of Police. No, this is not an agreement with the PNCR you know, you understand what I am telling you? This is an agreement with the British. But what happened, the people went up and the British report that Mr. Felix did the best on the course. You understand? So the natural thing was for them to appoint Mr. Felix. But they ain’t do that because just as how Mc//Donald was acting at that time they could have appointed Felix to act. So when they get a little bit of pressure, you must understand what happened. They said well look, you see, the PNCR is out of Parliament and we have to consult with the Opposition but they didn’t know the mastery of Mr. Hoyte, is not all things the people know. So Mr. Hoyte was invited for consultation before he died and they probably felt that because we boycott the Parliament then the Leader of the Opposition will not perform its constitutional duty. But if you look back at what we said when we walked out of Parliament, we said we were withdrawing from the business of the National Assembly but the Leader of the Opposition would have carried out all of his constitutional responsibilities. That’s what we said. So they are trying to use that as an excuse not to appoint Felix. But Comrades, instead of appointing Felix they now send to say after they thought that Mr. Hoyte had refused, invite him for consultation. And Mr. Hoyte went and consulted with Mr. Jagdeo and agreed that Mr. Felix could have been appointed. But yet, when they made the announcement, instead they made the announcement they were appointing Mr. Felix right away, they announced that Mr. Felix will be Commissioner Designate and that he would be appointed till this year. Well, is this year.
We understand the kind of trickery we are dealing with. So the moment Mr. Hoyte again broke and fulfilled his commitment of his constitutional duty, and agreed with them, I would have thought that they would have acted in good faith and shown that they were appointing Mr. Felix right away and then Mr. Hoyte might have been embolden to consult on other matters. But if you invite him for such urgent consultations, and he comes in the midst of a Parliamentary impasse, he comes and he has consultations with you and then when you finish all this urgent consultations you appoint the man Commissioner Designate to be appointed in the next year. Don’t you see that somebody is trying to fool somebody or they think we stupid or is eye-pass. I don’t know which one it is.
And so they would like to make the people believe that the non-appointment of Felix has to do with anything about our being in Parliament. But let us dispel that myth. Dispel it immediately because Comrades, the Chancellor announced that they have shortage of judges in the Judiciary. You remember that? She chose a very significant occasion to announce it so that she was speaking, I hope, to all of us, all the Parties. But what has not been said is that even before the Judicial Service Commission time had expired there were recommendations for judges to be appointed and one judge who was recommended by the very official Judicial Service Commission was not appointed by this government. Now they’re saying they want judges because the PNCR ain’t going into Parliament. So tell me who is fooling who or they think you people are stupid.
They have, right now, no need to worry about the appointment of one person to be a judge because all their preliminary, and is no secret, I think now the Bar Association has taken the matter to the High Court to force this government to do the legal responsibility. You see how this government behave Comrades? Is not only against the PNCR, the Official Judicial Commission that they want us to go to Parliament to appoint that, Judicial Service Commission made recommendations, they complaining judges short and wouldn’t appoint that judge. Again, why? Political and administrative discrimination.
They have a private businessman in this country, I went to see him the other day because you see I travel around, who was victim of what I would call, “lawlessness” in this government, and so he was put nearly $25 million out of pocket because of the manipulation for political purposes because his brother broadcast View Point against the government on his private television station. So they seek political vengeance against his brother, a businessman. Is that how we are going to run this country.
The PNCR is prepared to ensure that the interests of its supporters and the people of Guyana are put first. We would like to see life in this country return to normalcy; we would like to ensure also that there are jobs for young people; that our businesses strive; and that we can all move forward in peace and harmony. We are prepared to work for this objective. To this end, I encourage you to have confidence in the new leadership team that we have put together at our Party’s Congress because the job which I have ascended to today is not a job that I can do alone. It is a job I can only succeed with if we work as a team. And we have agreed at the level of our Party Executives that we have a team approach to our work; all the members of the Executive will work together, Ming, Khan, Trotman, Clarke Alexander, Backer, Supriya Singh, Aubrey Norton, Basil Williams, you know the names, you understand, you understand the cricket team? This is a cricket team now that got good opening batsmen, good middle order batsmen, bowlers, spin bowlers, all round bowler, wicket keeper, and a good captain I hope; and we prepare to face any bowling and we intend to hit some sixes.
To do so the team will have to be disciplined and orderly and you too will also have to be disciplined and orderly because if we don’t operate in a disciplined manner, people will misuse our demonstration, misuse our activities and we will not succeed in the mission we have to achieve.
So I ask you tonight to give the team the support it deserves. We will go forward to represent your interests; if we have positive thinking and see evidence of action, we will respond. If there is no evidence of action well I will say no further. The people’s interests will take priority and I end by saying, that it is not what Corbin said, it is not what the PNCR says, history has taught us that wherever in the world people are oppressed, wherever in there is injustice, wherever in the world people feel as strangers in their own land, there can never be peace. Let peace prevail, let good sense prevail and let us march forward to victory.
February 1, 2003
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