NEW YEAR’S ADDRESS TO THE NATION By Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, M.P.--1st January 2011
This New Year 2011 is significant in many respects for Guyana and countries with a similar colonial history and record of poor governance. First, The United Nations has identified this year as International Year for People of African Descent. Second, this is the year that the constitutional life of this dictatorial Government comes to an end. In a very real sense, therefore, this year offers us an opportunity to reflect on both the distant and immediate past and take relevant action. We must remember the oppression and exploitation suffered by our ancestors during the brutal and inhuman system of the slave trade and slavery as well as the marginalisation, discrimination and injustices meted out daily to Guyanese by the present oppressors. This Administration has usurped the trust placed in it to govern Guyana for all Guyanese and, instead, has imposed a dictatorship. 2011 is, therefore, a year when the priority of all Guyanese must, of necessity, be to break the chains that have hindered Guyana’s progress towards genuine human, economic and social development in an environment of peace and freedom. It is a year that must be for Guyanese, “The Year of Redemption”.
On this first day of the Year of Redemption, I extend New Year Greetings to every Guyanese home, family and community throughout our eighty three thousand square miles: From Pakaraima peaks of power to Corentyne lush sands; from Pointa Playa through our Atlantic Coast to Konachen the undulating savannahs of the Rupununi, dissected by the majestic Takatu mountains, across our hilly sand and clay belt to Linden, and on to the upper regions of Berbice through Kwakwani to the New River Triangle.
New Year Greetings are also extended to all Guyanese in the Diaspora, whether in North America, Europe or wider afield.
As we welcome the New Year, there is much for which we, as a people and as a Nation, ought to give God thanks. We have been spared the devastating effects of natural disasters such as the earthquakes, massive floods, tsunami, hurricanes, cyclones, and volcanic eruptions that Haiti, China, Indonesia, New Zealand and many other Nations experienced during the past year. Guyanese have, however, experienced the disaster of poor governance that has resulted in so many of our citizens, particularly our Youth, losing faith in the future of their homeland.
The holiday season has provided a welcome respite from the major challenges that we have all faced in the past year, but these will increase unless we as a people resolve to act collectively and decisively to overcome them. It is my wish, nay my prayer, however, that the New Year brings with it continued Divine blessings to us all as we confront the challenges before us in 2011.
A Nation that is inattentive to its history is bound to repeat the mistakes of the past. As we welcome the New Year, therefore, it is imperative that we analyse the errors of the past year and use that knowledge to make this year a better one for all of us.
Looking back on the year just ended, there can be no disputing the fact that the absence of good governance was our country’s major problem. Indeed, this has been the case since October 1992. The manner in which this Administration, more specifically, the President, presided over the erosion of the worker’s rights at RUSAL in Kwakwani and for political expediency, callously disregarded the health of the citizens of Georgetown by creating the garbage crisis in the city as represented by the notorious Mandela Dump site, is indicative of the manner in which they have treated citizens in almost every aspect of life in Guyana.
In the area of industrial relations the year ended worse than it commenced. The Ministry of Labour has abandoned its legal and constitutional obligations to the dismissed Bauxite workers. The issue of the illegal de-recognition of their Union has not been resolved. The precedent having been set, GUYSUCO felt confident to threaten similar action with respect to the sugar workers and their union, the Guyana Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU). As we have regularly seen, however, the partisan treatment of various categories of workers by the PPP/C Administration was evident in the action taken by the PPP to stall GUYSUCO’s action.
The shameless and discriminatory treatment of Mrs. Genevieve Whyte-Nedd, who served as Chief Education Officer (Ag.) for five (5) years, is another example of the type of discrimination that Guyanese have experienced under the PPP/C.
The crime and security situation in our country remains precarious with no respite in narco-trafficking, execution style killings and brutal murders. The brutal slaying of Neisha Gopaul, Shema Mangar and the torture of a sixteen-year old, Twyon Thomas, at Leonora Police Station and the recent kidnappings are constant reminders of the failure of the Administration to provide basic protection for our citizens. The failure or intransigence of the Jagdeo Administration to have an international Inquiry into the murder and execution of hundreds of our youth will continue to be a stark reminder of the collusion and collaboration of the State and criminal enterprise; Organised crime and criminality, along with the now pervasive narco-enterprises, thriving in the environment of endemic corruption, seem to have taken control of the State.
The continued lack of transparency and accountability, particularly in the financial affairs of the nation and in the award of contracts, has revealed the arrogance with which the Administration has managed the affairs of State. This callousness was displayed as late as the last Sitting of the National Assembly of the Parliament when the Government approved over $3B in supplementary provisions under the dubious heading of housing development without providing any details or coherent explanation of how these funds will be spent. It is obvious that the PPP had already begun to plunder state resources for the expressed purpose of electioneering in 2011.
Despite the huge expenditure in the Health Sector, the construction of alleged modern health facilities and the significant increase in trained health personnel, particularly doctors from Cuba, the year Two Thousand and Ten left the citizenry of our country feeling more and more insecure about the foundations of a just and equitable health service delivery system. The death of a Government Minister at the Georgetown Hospital after being admitted for injuries in an accident and the recent phenomenal increase in maternity deaths, have exposed the fact that our health services are continuing to fail the Guyanese people, notwithstanding, our nation’s health care providers work hard to provide life-saving and life-improving care to us.
The farce of National consultation was exposed by the perfunctory and short lived stakeholder consultation on the Security Sector Plan and in the state managed consultations on the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). The miners and the indigenous people of Guyana have also exposed this farce. More worrying is the absence of any consultation on how the funds to be obtained from the Norwegians is to be allocated and the lack of any mechanism to ensure proper accountability. It is obvious that the Administration intends to use these funds as another political slush fund for the PPP/C Election Campaign in 2011. Guyanese must ensure that this does not happen.
These are just some of the disturbing features of life in Guyana during 2010. There are many more such as,
• The continued abuse of the human rights of our citizens;
• The continuing Campaign by the Administration to destabilize the Georgetown City Council and undermine the Local Government System;
• The reluctance to complete the Local Government Reforms and the postponement of Local Government Elections;
• The continued failure to enact Freedom of Information Legislation despite the many promised deadlines, the latest being October 2010;
• The failure to establish the National Broadcast Authority promised since 2003;
• The continued existence of an unconstitutional Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and the Integrity Commission;
• The failure to establish the Public Procurement Commission and the resultant lack of transparency in several matters including the award of the Amaila Falls Hydro Power Road Project to Synergy. This particular project has exposed the corruption and nepotism with which the business of the People of Guyana is being conducted by the Administration;
• The continued refusal to follow the directions of the Auditor General and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 (FMAA), and ,the misuse of Lotto Funds;
• The infamous G$500M Supenaam Stelling, the latest example of the PPP incompetence and corruption throughout its period in Government since 1957;
• The callousness and arrogance in the imposition of the Hope/Doch Four Canal against all professional advice ;
• The absentee status of our President who spent more time out of Guyana during 2010 rather than making efforts to correct the many problems that exist in our country today.
Finally, we have witnessed the Mr. Jagdeo’s un-presidential behaviour with regular unprovoked and vulgar attacks on outstanding citizens leading to national embarrassment in circumstances where the he finds it difficult to observe the standards of decorum which are expected of the Head of State.
I take no pleasure in reminding you of these matters on the first day of this New Year. However, I am confident that we will be regaled by the biased and one-sided state media with propaganda about the allegedly great progress that Guyana made in 2010. We will be told of all the new buildings constructed, roads and highways built, the LCDS and much more. If, however, our aspirations for 2011 are to be achieved, we must be clear on the obstacles that need to be removed to ensure progress in our country.
This is Guyana and our history has shown that we are a resilient people. After more than a century of slavery and indentureship, we were able to achieve emancipation, and, eventually political independence. Despite the harsh conditions of slavery, our African ancestors were able to purchase villages and establish an independent livelihood outside of the plantation system while our African and East Indian ancestors have laboured to develop our sugar and rice industries. The genes for struggle are still in our DNA and I am confident that with united and resolute action we can overcome our present challenges. The New Year must bring about a resolve to do so.
Guyana will not develop unless there is a peaceful environment within which to do so. It cannot be denied that the PNCR has, despite provocative actions of the administration, created those conditions for progress. Regrettably, it is evident that the Administration itself wants to undermine that peace. Just think how much further, we could have progressed if together, as a Government and Opposition, we had tackled the many problems confronting our various communities through the Constructive Engagement process? How much more harmonious our society would have been if instead of unilateral action there was meaningful consultation?
Our country needs a Government with a programme to seriously tackle our worsening crime and security situation, including the rampant narco-trafficking. One that will offer clear investment guidelines to attract foreign and local investment; one that will pursue educational social and recreational programmes for our youth, including the reintroduction of the Guyana National Service; a Government that will ensure that public sector workers are paid wages and salaries that enable them to enjoy a decent standard of living; a Government that will take care of its senior citizens; in short, a Government capable of demonstrating the qualities of good governance and managing the affairs of our country in the interest of all Guyanese irrespective of race, religion or creed.
It is with this in mind that our Party has resolutely pursued the establishment of a broad partnership of like minded political forces as a first option to face the challenges in 2011. In this context I make bold to say that with all our efforts we can and will succeed in transforming Guyana. A new Government of National Unity including the People’s National Congress Reform will be able to put Guyana on a sustainable path to development.
As Guyanese let us in this significant year 2011 make it indeed, a Year of Redemption.
On behalf of my dear wife and family, the family of the People’s National Congress Reform and on my own behalf, I wish you good health happiness and peace for the New Year. May your heartfelt resolutions be fulfilled!
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!
Robert H.O. Corbin, M.P.
Leader of the PNCR &
Leader of the Opposition
1st January 2011
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