PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, May 20, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR has been consistent in its requirement that any Commission of Inquiry established must meet at least the minimum internationally acceptable standards and norms which guarantee its independence and impartiality.
• The breakdown in the rule of law under the PPP/C confirms in our minds that no longer can the destiny of this country be left solely in such callous and corrupt hands. By 2006, there must be a new system of governance in place to protect and serve the interests of all Guyanese.
• The PNCR will outline more clearly the way forward at the PMJ’s Public Rally on Saturday May 22, 2004 at the Square of the Revolution. We invite the wide Guyanese public to attend.
• The PNCR calls on the government to act immediately to reduce the consumption tax on fuel so that the businesses will not suffer dramatic losses or consumers face extreme hardship by increased prices.
PNCR REJECTS FARCICAL JAGDEO COMMISSION

The PNCR and the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties – WPA and ROAR – issued a joint Statement, on Saturday, May 15, 2004 totally and unanimously rejecting the farcical Commission of Inquiry which has now been established by President Bharrat Jagdeo, after four (4) months of agitation - by the Parliamentary Opposition Parties, the People’s Movement for Justice and other key Civil Society organizations, major members of the Diplomatic and Donor Communities, influential as well as ordinary members of the public - for the holding of an independent and impartial public Inquiry into the serious allegations and revelations of state-sponsored Death Squads under the direction of Mr. Ronald Gajraj, the Minister of Home Affairs.

As a consequence, the Parties have, on May 18, 2004 sent a joint letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations urging him to employ every means at his disposal to persuade the President and Government that it is important that there should be the timely establishment of an independent and impartial Inquiry which is endorsed by the Parliamentary Opposition Parties and other key stakeholders.

The PNCR has been consistent in its requirement that any Commission of Inquiry established must meet at least the minimum internationally acceptable standards and norms which guarantee its independence and impartiality. Long before President Jagdeo’s announcement, the PNCR made it public that we expected that such an Inquiry should:

 Be conducted by highly-regarded and respected persons of unblemished integrity and acceptable to major stakeholders in Guyana;
 Be accompanied by a credible and secure witness protection program;
 Allow a role for Caricom and other international organizations;
 Have the power to take evidence in camera as well as in public;
 Have the authority and resources to take evidence both inside and outside of Guyana.
 Have the authority to receive information and memoranda from foreign governments, agencies, and individuals;
 Further the process of prosecution if that is deemed desirable;
 Have the power to grant/accord amnesty and/or immunity from prosecution for specified witnesses/informants on matters which are the subject of the inquiry;
 Make recommendations for the course of action to be taken against any person found responsible or involved in murder, extortion, kidnapping and abduction and the protection and perpetuation of organized crime; and
 Be empowered to subpoena persons to give evidence under oath when, it is determined by the Commission, that such persons have been, or are likely to have been, in a position to have knowledge of events pertaining to the matters which are the subject of the Commission of Inquiry.

The Jagdeo’s announcement failed to address these matters.

The PNCR has stated repeatedly that the existence of State-sponsored Death Squads represents a profound violation of, and attack on, the rule of law and the fundamental constitutional rights of citizens. They, therefore, pose a clear and present danger to the stability and existence of the State.

Accordingly, the PNCR and the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties agreed that any credible Terms of Reference for an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry should be endorsed by all major stakeholders. In this regard, the Parties consulted and had drafted proposed Terms of Reference which would have been made available if consulted

The PNCR cannot and will not accept President Jagdeo’s contemptuous and insensitive unilateral establishment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry for reasons already stated in the joint Press Statement of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties.




The PNCR repeats that:

 The Terms of Reference are derisory, totally unacceptable and provocative. They are woefully inadequate, narrow and not intended to ensure that the truth will be unearthed and the guilty bought to justice.

 The Terms or Reference are restricted to the culpability of the Minister and does not include the issues which contributed to the violence which engulfed the society, since 2002, including violent crime and manifestations of insecurity and communal violence in communities such as Buxton, Annandale, Enterprise and others.

 The President has not consulted the Parliamentary Opposition Parties or any of the Social Partners on the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Inquiry or its composition.

 The President has pronounced on the innocence of Minister Gajraj thereby exercising undue influence over the Commissioners he has appointed.

 The President’s statement does not make clear whether Mr. Gajraj will be unable to exercise any executive or other influence on the work of the Commission. Mr Gajraj must not be able to intervene in the work of the Commission.

Further there is considered legal opinion that the appointment of Mr. Ivan Crandon, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission may be unconstitutional. The PNCR has however been informed that Mr. Ivan Crandon is out of Guyana and that it was known to the Head of the Presidential Secretariat that he would be out of Guyana for some time. The motive of President Jagdeo naming a member of the Inquiry when he knows that person would not be immediately available is therefore questionable. It exposes further the farce of the “urgent inquiry”. Meanwhile, Ronald Gajraj continues to occupy the chair of the Minister of Home Affairs in Brickdam summoning high level security officials for regular briefings. The PNCR has also been reliably informed that Gajraj’s diary is filled with appointments to meet both local and foreign officials continuously to August 2004. Who then is Jagdeo fooling?

It should be evident to all but the politically blind or naïve that the Inquiry is a farce.
THE FIGHT FOR A NEW SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE MUST BE ACCELERATED
The unilateral decisions of the Jagdeo government in establishing a Commission of Inquiry into State-sponsored death squads highlight his government's arrogance and contempt for the legitimate concerns of the Guyanese people. As if the establishment of death squads were not an atrocity in itself, the PPP/C by its recent unilateral decisions has shown that it has no intention of putting the interests of the nation first and is only concerned about its own survival whatever the costs to this country. This attitude must no longer be tolerated.
The issue of state-sponsored death squads goes to the core of governance in Guyana. The government's reaction to the revelations and allegations these last four months also point to the serious weaknesses in our governance system. After four months of protest action by ordinary citizens, after four months of calls from local and international stakeholders for an independent inquiry, this government has felt no compulsion or inclination to respond appropriately to these widespread demands.
Guyanese can no longer live under a government and under system of governance that react in this insensitive and high-handed manner to their wishes and demands. We need change. And change must come soon. While the PNCR will continue to struggle for a truly independent investigation into the Gajraj Affair, we will intensify our efforts to overturn the political system to create a new one in which the concerns, demands and aspirations of all Guyanese can be properly addressed.
The emergence of state-sponsored death squads is the final and most alarming wake-up call that something fundamental is wrong with our governance. The breakdown in the rule of law under the PPP/C confirms in our minds that no longer can the destiny of this country be left solely in such callous and corrupt hands. By 2006, there must be a new system of governance in place to protect and serve the interests of all Guyanese.
PMJ’S PUBLIC RALLY
The PNCR’s will spare no effort to realize our just objectives. The PNCR will outline more clearly the way forward at the PMJ’s Public Rally on Saturday May 22, 2004 at the Square of the Revolution. We invite the wide Guyanese public to attend.
THE UNCONSCIONABLE RESPONSE BY GOVERNMENT TO THE FUEL CRISIS

The delayed and unconscionable response of the Jagdeo Government to the present fuel crisis is typical of his Government’s behaviour since 1992. Any responsible administration would have been well aware of the escalating fuel prices and would have taken measures to cushion the impending hardship on consumers and the present confusion which has been created because of their failure to act responsibly.

This is not the first time in Guyana’s history that fuel prices have escalated and the relevant Ministry should have been prepared to implement a formula to ensure that justice is done. This would have ensured that mini bus, speed boat operators and other businesses are not forced to endure unbearable losses or, on the other hand, consumers are not faced with unreasonable prices because of government’s inaction.

Recent statements by the Head of the Presidential Secretariat that it was not easy for the Government to reduce the consumption tax and that the Government could not act unilaterally are deliberately deceiving. How long does it take to consult in an emergency situation in Guyana, if indeed consultation is the problem? It is clear that consultation has never prevented the Jagdeo administration from having its own way. The most recent evidence of this is his unilateral actions on the Gajraj Commission of Inquiry. For the government therefore to control the fares of speedboat and mini bus operators while making no serious effort to adjust the consumption tax is both unreasonable and unconscionable.

The PNCR calls on the government to act immediately to reduce the consumption tax on fuel so that the businesses will not suffer dramatic losses or consumers face extreme hardship by increased prices. The increase in fuel prices is of serious concern, particularly to poor people of Guyana. Will the government control electricity tariff increases as they are attempting to do with the speedboat and minibus operators? This must certainly be a priority since Guyanese at the moment are unable to pay the present electricity tariff. Will the government also in the present crisis ensure that the pensions for those persons at the Palms are restored? Will there be any consideration to providing an electricity subsidy for pensioners who are unable to purchase food with their pension cheques? These are matters which the government must urgently address.

The PNCR therefore calls on the Jagdeo government to move urgently to avert another crisis in our land.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, May 20, 2004