The recent mischievous and untruthful mutterings of secret talks between the PNCR and the PPP, by no less a person than the Leader of the AFC, Mr. Raphael Trotman, conforms with a continuing pattern of the AFC to use every political opportunity to deceive the people of Guyana while at the same time flattering themselves to gain sympathy and to satisfy their selfish and narrow political agenda. The PNCR, as a matter of policy, had refused to be critical of fellow opposition parties, since it is our view that there should be the widest possible cooperation among opposition parties to effectively confront the dictatorial Jagdeo regime. This policy was formulated even before the AFC existed and was evidenced by a joint opposition Parliamentary forum in the last Parliament of 2001-2006. The Party has never wavered from this policy and has, from 2006 to present, consistently consulted and held discussions with the AFC on matters of common interest. In pursuit of our above-mentioned policy, the PNCR had previously ignored public statements from the AFC which were critical.

The PNCR is an independent party that has been in existence for some fifty-four years and has no reason to hide or keep secret its meetings with any other political party or group. We have always met and will continue to meet with anyone or group that we consider necessary, in the interest of the people of Guyana and the development of the country. The practice of the PNCR has been to make public any intention to collaborate or hold discussions with any stakeholder and to issue press releases, where necessary, after those discussions. The Party did so only a week ago at its Press Conference during which, it stated:
“The PNCR believes that in the interest of progress in Guyana a system of shared Governance should be discussed among all stakeholders and implemented before the 2011 National and Regional Elections. This system is not, as some misguided persons have been advocating, an arrangement to determine the President and Prime Minister. In any event, there can be no discussion of changing the Constitution to extend Presidential term limits. Let me repeat for emphasis, there will be no discussion of changing the Constitution to give Mr. Jagdeo or anyone else extended Presidential term limits. Rather, this system should ensure constitutional changes that would eliminate the dictatorial tendencies that have resulted from the Westminster Winner-take-all system and that have stultified development in Guyana. The PNCR will therefore be engaged in a series of consultations with all stakeholders, including the PPP, with a view to ensuring that this matter is given priority attention.”
A responsible political party would have responded to the issue by sharing with the people of Guyana its position on the issue of shared Governance before 2011. This was particularly necessary for the AFC to do since, at a recent ACDA consultation, the Leader of the AFC, Mr. Raphael Trotman, stated that the AFC would boycott the Local Government Elections to ensure changes in the system of governance. Instead, the Leader of the AFC used the opportunity for cheap political propaganda and deception.

The PNCR has already stated categorically, that there have been no discussions or meetings secret or otherwise between either the PNCR and the PPP or the PNCR leader and the Leaders of the PPP since 2006 on any matter whatsoever, including, Shared Governance. The few consultations as required under the Constitution between the Leader of the Opposition and the President have all been well publicized. At the level of the National Assembly there has been of necessity consultation with all parties on matters affecting the Agenda items of that body and its several sub- committees.

While the PNCR has held no discussions or meetings with the PPP, the Party held several meetings, discussions and consultations with the AFC over the past three years. Mr. Trotman should, therefore, explain to the public whether he considers those meetings between the AFC and the PNCR a secret. The PNCR does not classify its meetings with the AFC, or any other political party or stakeholder, as secret. We consider these to be normal political practices of mature parties. We are unaware of the internal practices of the AFC but the Executive and members of the PNCR are fully informed of its discussions and consultations with the AFC. Mr. Trotman should, therefore, desist from making wild and irresponsible Press Statements and playing cheap political games and deal with internal problems in his own Party.

The PNCR practice of working for collaboration with all parties was only recently manifested in the initiative with the WPA, GAP/ROAR, AFC, and others under the banner of the Joint Opposition Political Parties, (JOPP). This initiative resulted in the production of a Dossier on Human Rights abuses in Guyana and agreement on a common programme to sensitize Guyanese on the atrocities committed by the Jagdeo PPP regime. In that context, the AFC should critically examine its own participation, when speaking of toned down activism. Regrettably, the AFC’s consistent and unprincipled distortion of the facts of various events to satisfy their own narrow and selfish agenda seems to be the result of what their co-Leader, Mrs. Sheila Holder, confessed some time ago as their desire, “to please some members of their constituency who want no contact with the PNCR”.
Is this why Trotman is now trying to distance himself by suggesting that the PNCR is having talks with the PPP, while remaining silent about their consultations with the PNCR?

An illustrative example of the AFC’s tactics is their public statements since 2007 regarding the Task Force on Local Government Reform and the impending Local Government Elections. They have sought to convey the erroneous impression that the AFC was excluded and that the PNCR has never consulted Opposition Parties generally or particularly, on matters of Local Government Reform.

It is now time for the PNCR to set the record straight and not allow the AFC Leader to hoodwink the people of Guyana with his shenanigans.

Immediately after the 2006 elections and until the present time, the Leader and senior members of the PNCR held meetings, discussions and consultations with the AFC and its Leaders, inter alia, on,

• Local Government elections and Guyana Elections Commission, GECOM, issues;
• Filling of the vacancies on the Guyana Elections Commission following the resignation of Mr. Haslyn Parris and later, the death of Mr. Lloyd Joseph;
• Briefings on GECOM Matters by opposition nominated members of the Commission;
• Strategy in relation to matters concerning the business of the National Assembly;
• The Petition to Caricom Heads concerning the lack of good governance in Guyana;
• Follow-up matters after the first National Stakeholders consultation on Crime;
• A Joint Meeting with the TUC and other stake holders on further action after the National Consultation on Crime; and,
• The appointment of Scrutineers to monitor the House to House Registration of 2007-2008; the Distribution of National ID Cards (2009); and, the soon to be completed Claims and Objections period, 2010.

As far back as 2007, Mr. Trotman, and on occasions Mr. Ramjattan, was fully involved in several breakfast meetings at the Water Chris Hotel with the PNCR to agree on joint approaches on various matters of mutual concern. At some of those meetings, we invited opposition nominated Commissioners to GECOM who briefed all Opposition Political Parties of developments at that forum. The parties subsequently, made joint representations to GECOM on several of those matters and issued several Joint Opposition parties statements on several issues.

True to form, the AFC, despite those agreements, on several occasions over the period made public statements that conveyed the impression that they were excluded and, subsequently, pursued independent representation without the knowledge of the PNCR. The PNCR never complained, since we considered that the AFC as a separate Party was free to take any action considered in its best interest.

On 17 November 2007, at one of the meetings referred to earlier, the AFC and PNCR arrived at an agreement on the appointment of scrutineers to monitor the House-to-House Registration. The agreement was that each party would be entitled to appoint scrutineers in proportion to their seats in the National Assembly of the Parliament. The Alliance For Change should have submitted their nominees to Mr. Oscar Clarke, General Secretary of the PNCR, and Mr. Trotman should have met with him to settle the details of the allocation of such persons for submission to GECOM. Despite reminders from Mr. Clarke, no submissions were made by the AFC, and no attempt made to facilitate a meeting on this matter. Consequently, the PNCR, in the interest of ensuring proper scrutiny of the house-to-house registration, was forced to find opposition scrutineers for the entire country. In spite of these facts, the AFC later issued a public statement that the PNCR and PPP had excluded them from the registration process.

The PNCR, for reasons already stated, refused to respond.

At the same meeting on 17 November 2007, the AFC indicated that they were interested in taking legal action to force GECOM to allocate the money voted for scrutineers directly to the Opposition Parties in proportion to their seats in the National Assembly, notwithstanding the agreement to have the joint submission of names proportionate to seats in Parliament. .

The PNCR, at that meeting, supported the AFC’s position since we were of the view that the successful pursuit of the litigation would not have prejudiced the agreements already reached by the parties. At that time, we were only concerned with the appointment of persons since the practice was that GECOM paid the scrutineers directly and no money was paid to parties.

The PNCR was again surprised at the AFC’s public statements after the success of their case, which ignored the reality of our discussions on November 17, 2007, and suggested that there had been a conspiracy between the PNCR and the PPP to suppress them.

The PNCR has also ensured that the constitutional and legal requirements for consultations between the opposition Parties were observed. The Leader of the Opposition consulted with, then Leader, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, and Mr. Paul Hardy, Leader of G.A.P./ROAR on the filling of the vacancy on the Guyana Elections Commission, created by the resignation of Mr. Haslyn Parris. The same was done with Mr. Trotman et al for filling the vacancy, which was created by the death of Mr. Lloyd Joseph. The Parties also recently held consultations in November of last year, 2009, with respect to the appointment of Opposition scrutineers to monitor the ID Card Distribution and the Claims and Objections Period. Consultations were held at Congress Place as late as December, 2009 with Mr. Trotman leading the AFC team and Mr. Franklyn of GAP/ROAR participating.

Like the 2007 experience, the AFC was late with the submission of their nominees and some of those identified failed to show up to monitor the ID Card Distribution after appointment. The situation was worse for the current Claims and Objections period. Despite discussions, it was only until the period was close to its end that the AFC displayed any interest by submitting a few names but failing to complete discussions on the allocation to specific centers. The PNCR would not be surprised if, as happened in the past, the AFC soon issues a statement claiming exclusion from the Claims and Objections process by the PNCR and the PPP.

The recent statement by Mr. Trotman about Local Government Reform is again disingenuous. During our breakfast meetings and publicly, the AFC expressed their interest in participating in the work of the Task Force on Local Government Reform. The PNCR publicly supported the inclusion of the representatives of the other Opposition Political Parties to the Task Force but this proposal was rejected by the President. The PNCR, however, made available to Mr. Ramjattan, a copy of the Task Force’s report and its recommendations to enable the AFC to be informed of matters, which were settled prior to their inauguration as a Political Party. The PNCR later included representatives of that Party on an Advisory Local Government Committee of our Party to provide an opportunity for them to express opinions and make suggestions to the members of the Task Force. Their representatives attended several meetings and were fully aware of all the maneouvres of the PPP to frustrate the implementation of the task force recommendations. Mr. Trotman’s recent statement is therefore far from the truth.

The recent JOPP’s initiative to expose the human rights abuses of the Jagdeo Administration was given wide publicity. Regrettably, the work on this initiative has been stymied. In this context, the PNCR finds amazing, the statement by Trotman about demands being made by the PPP to tone down activism, and aggressiveness. Trotman may better have spent his time explaining the absence of the AFC at the planned activities of the JOPP. The PNCR will make no further statement on this matter since other political Parties have been involved in this initiative and they are aware of the facts.

• Where were the AFC leaders during the Cost of Living Marches of 2008, that is, apart from posing for photographs in front of PNCR protestors at the public buildings?
• Where was the AFC in the VAT march called by CN Sharma?
• Where was the AFC in the several demonstrations against extra judicial killings and the phantom squad?

It appears that the AFC is of the opinion that paper and media propaganda are substitutes for ground organization.

The few examples listed above, which cannot be successfully refuted by the AFC, illustrate that statements by the AFC have been deliberately self-serving and intended to deceive the people of Guyana.

The PNCR advises the AFC, that if it is interested in being considered a principled party its public utterances should reflect the truth. The PNCR, will not be diverted from its present programme of dicussing with all interested Parties and stakeholders the issue of Shared Governance, but we will no longer permit the AFC to hoodwink the Guyanese public with deceitful distortions.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 4 February 2010