PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. Robert Corbin, M.P. Chairman Of The Peoples National Congress Reform To The Press Conference On Thursday 28th March 2002 Congress Place, Sophia.



Tomorrow, Friday 29th March 2002, there will be a happy coincidence which has deep symbolism and meaning for Guyanese. On that day, we will be celebrating the Hindu festival of Phagwah. It will also be Good Friday, the first day in the Christian festival of Easter. Phagwah highlights the triumph of good over evil and Good Friday commemorates the sacrificial death of Jesus.

The PNC Reform extends best wishes to both our Hindu and Christian brothers and sisters and hope that the deep moral and spiritual significance of these festivals will have influence on all Guyanese at this time.

THE 2002 BUDGET:

If you read the budget statement of the Minister of Finance carefully, you may have noticed another example of mendacious propaganda on page 42 where the Minister alleges that ‘, the government has been pursuing initiatives to promote good governance and accountability in the society. . .’ If the consequences of this attempted deception, and we hope that it is only the Minister’s self-deception, were not so serious and worrying for the future of this nation, Guyanese could treat such a statement as extremely comical and a line worthy of adoption by the cast of the link show.

It is widely recognised by all Guyanese that the standards of governance and levels of transparency and accountability, under the PPP/C regime, have sunk to new depths of degeneration. Administrative irregularities, corrupt practices and sleaze have become the order of the day. This is well known to even the most blindly partisan supporter of the government and should also be evident to the international financial institutions and the rest of the International Community.


THE BK CONNECTION AGAIN:

On Saturday 23rd March 2002, we had further evidence of the level to which the governmental system has declined. The Stabroek News had, as its front-page story, a summary of the report of the probe team appointed by the government to investigate the breach of the East Demerara Conservancy that flooded Cane Grove and large areas of East Coast Demerara in November of last year. The conclusions of the investigation as reported by the Stabroek News tell a story of incompetence and irregularity which confirms our worst fears. The management of the Stabroek News must be congratulated for their diligence and courage in obtaining and bringing this scandalous situation to the attention of the Guyanese public lest this report become buried in the darkness as happened to the report on the Mon Repos breach.

The breach occurred during the life of the contract given to BK International worth G$150,888,126. Some of the conclusions of the Probe Team were:

1. The contract was not executed by BK in accordance with the general conditions, technical specifications and bill of quantities;
2. BK International’s manner of execution was in complete divergence from that specified in the Method Statement;
3. Correspondence and other documents related to the compliance with the rules and conditions of the contract were not provided by the government’s engineers or the contractor;
4. The probe team was unable to obtain from BK International the pre and post construction survey drawings of the dam;
5. BK international did not supply logs, drawings, photographs;
6. The probe team found that there were substantial irregularities committed by the technicians working on behalf of the government.

According to the Stabroek News, the probe team concluded ‘that little investigation and thought was put into the design of the works and preparation of the tender documents’

Most important, it appears that there was strong evidence to suggest that the entire project was ill advised and possibly unnecessary. Several important questions arise:

 Why was the government so anxious to have this work carried out even though many studies had advised against raising the dam?
 Why was BK International given further large projects in the face of mounting evidence of their poor record?
 What legal or other recourse will the government apply to obtain compensation for the great pain, suffering, damage and losses inflicted on the residents and farmers of the Cane Grove area?
 When will the government take steps to black-list the firm and stop the rape of public and aid-donor funds by BK International?
 Why is the government so much in love with BK International?
 What secrets do they hold for the PPP/Civic?

It is well to recall that BK rejected any notion of culpability and alleged that sabotage was the cause of the dam failure.

We call on the government to take swift and decisive action to put an end to the BK scandal and the evident plundering of state resources. In the interest of transparency and accountability for the expenditure of Guyanese Taxpayers’ funds, we recommend a forensic audit of all the BK contracts by reputable international experts.

ANOTHER STONE SCAM?
The PNC Reform has come upon evidence that point to the strong probability that the cosy BK connection with the government is responsible for yet other scam on the public purse. The firm was awarded contracts for several sea defence projects in the year 2000, at Bush Lot/Reliance, Good Hope/Reliance, Mon Repos, Hague, Stanleytown, and Cornelia Ida.

The available information suggest that the stone actually supplied by BK International for these projects represent a shortfall of 34, 695 metric tons from the quantities specified in the Bill of Quantities.

The PNC Reform consider this allegation to be sufficiently serious that we will be writing the Auditor General requesting that an investigation be immediately undertaken.

PARLIAMENTARY PROTEST

At our last Press Conference, we had signalled our intention of demonstrating our unhappiness with the dialogue process by acts of protest in the National Assembly and by our cessation of the dialogue process. The PNC/Reform members of parliament walked out of the reading of the Budget and subsequent sessions of the debate. We will not participate in the continued farce.

We have to report that there has not been any improvement in the situation nor any signal that the PPP/Civic is willing to implement the outstanding constitutional and parliamentary reforms. Instead, as is usual when they are publicly exposed, the PPP/C have resorted to lies and deliberate distortions as part of its propaganda assault on the PNCR. A good example is the rambling National Assembly contribution by Clement Rohee. It does appears that rather than showing a willingness to reach an accommodation, the PPP/C is now bent on justifying its actions and further delaying the implementation process.

The fact that Mr Rohee was deputed to make the presentation on this issue is in itself symbolic for it is a fact that he openly defied the President and refused to attend a single meeting of the inter-party committee to which he was appointed. We understand the significance of his selection and will respond appropriately. We wish it to be known that our position is one of ACTIVE NON-COOPERATION with the government. Our responsibilities and obligations are to the people of Guyana and not to provide face-saving for the PPP/Civic regime.

We wish to remind you of some of the concerns which must be resolved before the contemplation of any return to normalcy:

• The implementation of the Constitutional and Parliamentary Reforms including the establishment of the Parliamentary Management Committee
• The submission of the Policy paper on the Distribution of Land and House Lots to the National Assembly. We have noted that the President has given 31st March 2002 as the new deadline.
• The honouring of undertakings for negotiations on the future of the bauxite industry, starting with the Cambior proposals for control of Linmine.
• Completion of the appointment of PNCR nominees to state boards, commissions and committees.
• The implementation of the agreements reached in the joint committees as well as their recommendations.

In the meantime, as part of our discharging our responsibilities to the Guyanese people, we have implemented a comprehensive media programme to inform the public of our position on the 2002 Budget. In that context we held a very well received Town Hall meeting, where the Leader of our Party and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr H. Desmond Hoyte, addressed those attending last evening. This work will continue as we take parliament to the people and leave the PPP/Civic to play with themselves. If there is no early progress, we will be forced to step up our extra-parliamentary activities to bring more pressure to bear in the interest of ensuring good governance for all the people of Guyana.

THE 2002 CENSUS:

It appears that the government is bent on proceeding with a national census by stealth. There has been no transparent public communication on the conduct of the 2002 Census. Meanwhile we are aware of clandestine activities being undertaken by PPP/C and Government operatives.

In addition, the government still has not taken the appropriate steps to appoint the PNC Reform nominee to the board of the Statistical Bureau. This only confirms our suspicions that the government is up to no good and that it intends to use this means to cover up its dirty work in the enumeration of citizens. We will not stand idly by and allows this administrative lawlessness and deception of the Guyanese people to continue.

THE GUYANA FORESTRY COMMISSION SCANDAL:

The regime's shenanigans at the Guyana Forestry Commission remain a source of great concern. Our information is that the professional and administrative staff of the Commission have stood firm in defence of their integrity and the adherence to lawful procedures in the matter of the dismissal of Mr Dexter Cummings. Nevertheless, we understand that the HPS, Dr. Roger Luncheon, and the Minister of Crops and Livestock, Mr Sawh, have persisted in their attempt to violate the role of the Commission and the law by extracting illegal retroactive promotion and unearned gratuity for this gentleman.

It is encouraging to note that the Commission’s legal advisor and noted PPP/Civic parliamentarian, Mr Khemraj Ramjattan has proffered legal advice to the Commission in which he stated very plainly that the actions of the HPS and the Minister of Crops and Livestock are unlawful, illegal and improper. He further advises of the dire political and administrative consequences that will flow from this precedent of politicians interfering unlawfully in the operations of Statutory entities and Public Corporations.

We congratulate Mr. Ramjattan for his decency, courage and refusal to condone the continued perpetration of administrative lawlessness and illegalities.


PNC Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
March 28th, 2002