PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, June 10, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
• The people of Fyrish and Gibralter villages on the Corentyne have had no significant relief to their continuous flooding problem.
• The PNCR stands ready, however, to work towards an amicable resolution of this matter of the Gajraj issue in the interest of Guyana.
• There is already evidence available to the PNCR that the Government and the PPP/C have commenced a series of actions aimed at terrorizing and bribing potential witnesses to the proposed Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Death Squads in Guyana.
• The attempts to divide and humiliate the Trade Union Movement continue. The workers of Guyana must consider appropriate responses to preserve their integrity and ensure their survival.
FYRISH AND GIBRALTER VILLAGES STILL FACE MAJOR PROBLEMS DESPITE PPP/C PROPAGANDA
On Sunday May 16, 2004 when the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, visited several areas on the Corentyne, including Fyrish and Gibraltar, the residents of these areas expressed grave concern over the visibly depressed conditions in their communities and outlined the myriad problems being experienced. At the time of the visit these two villages were inundated with flood waters, which had already resulted in the destruction of small livestock and cash crops on which many residents depended for their livelihood. Many of the persons present were very vocal in their condemnation of the Government’s failure to act on the commitments given in the Communiqué signed by President Jagdeo and the Leader of the Opposition. They pointed out that they had been waiting for several months for the delivery of the drainage pumps, which, if installed, would have averted the existing appalling conditions of flooding. This visit was not only reported in a PNCR Press Release dated May 17th 2004, but video footage was shown on several television News Programmes in the following days. On Thursday May 20th, 2004 page 4 of the Stabroek News covered the story under the caption, “Corentyne residents face serious plight – PNCR”. A photograph was also published with that story, showing the flooding of the villages.
It is instructive that, some two weeks after this visit and the subsequent wide publicity given, the residents had to resort to protest action to get the attention of the Government. This is indeed a sad reminder of the behaviour of the PPP/C Administration over the last 12 years. What is, however, tragic is that after this embarrassing exposure of non-performance under the Communiqué, the shameless General Secretary of the PPP/C, Donald Ramotar, resorted to the usual propaganda exercise rather than ensuring that the problem was given the serious attention it deserved.
Despite claims to the contrary, the people of Fyrish and Gibralter villages on the Corentyne have had no significant relief to their continuous flooding problem that, for several years, has hampered beneficial economic activity in the village.
The fact that some frustrated residents took action to expose the misrepresentation of their plight by the Government forced the PPP/C to engage in their usual tactic of the blame game rather than making any serious effort to find permanent solutions. The PPP/C’s response was predictable since the failure to implement the Depressed Needs Committee project at Fyrish Village is one of the glaring examples of Jagdeo’s bad faith in honouring the agreement between himself and the late leader of the PNCR Mr. D. Hoyte as well as a breach of the May 6th Communiqué between the Leader of the Opposition and President Jagdeo.
Instead of redeeming themselves by bringing relief to the residents, the PPP/C bulldog Ramotar sought to blame the PNCR Leader by suggesting that the action by the Villagers started shortly after the PNCR Leader visited the area.
Ramotar and the PPP/C are insulting the residents of these villages by suggesting that they are unaware of the discrimination the residents have experienced over the last 12 years of the PPP/C Administration and that they need others to advise them on their response. Perhaps Ramotar and the PPP/C are also unaware that this village, one of the oldest villages on the Corentyne, was also without telephone communication until recently and it took independent action by the villagers, including picketing the Georgetown Office of G. T. & T and blocking the said road while the Prime Minister was visiting Corentyne, before action was taken to provide some temporary relief.
If the facts surrounding the Fyrish project do not embarrass Jagdeo and the Government, one wonders what will. Since June 4, 2002 the Depressed Communities Needs Committee submitted to President Jagdeo and then Opposition Leader Mr. Desmond Hoyte,
“recommendations on measures to relieve the problems facing Fyrish? Gibralter, Hogstye/ Lancaster, Blue Berry Hill and West Watooka”
It is significant that this report was signed by all the members of the Committee: Philomena Sahoye-Shury, MP (Co-chairperson), Andy Goviea, MP (Co-Chairperson), Clyde Roopchand, Clement Corlette (The new Co-Chair), Harrynarine Nawbatt, Shirley Edwards, MP, Randolph Blackett and Abdool Rahim (Resource Officer). In that report the Committee submitted several documents to support their recommendations, including a letter dated February 13, 2002 from Samuel Persaud, a Drainage and Irrigation Engineer, to Ravi Narine, Chief Executive Officer Drainage and Irrigation Board, which stated inter alia,
“I refer to the above subject and wish to inform you, the Fyrish Courtland, Gibralter Area is a declared Drainage and irrigation Area, comprising 2,418 Acres.
The area was neglected for a period of years, and there was serious flooding during the heavy rains.
Some time ago, Guysuco assisted this area with drainage but I was advised by members of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council that the water takes too long to be drained.”
What the PPP/C should be explaining to the residents of these villages is the reason why an emergency recommendation made since February 13, 2002 and which had the approval of the President and Leader of the Opposition, cannot be implemented after more than two years. The Government and Jagdeo could not have forgotten. This particular matter was raised on every occasion of the dialogue and mentioned in every relevant statement of the PNCR. For example, on August 17, 2003 in his Report to the Nation on the Progress made on the Communiqué, The PNCR Leader Mr. Robert Corbin stated:
“The Depressed Communities Needs Committee has made its recommendations to the President and the Leader of the Opposition. I wish to emphasize that from the inception I made it clear to the President that I had no desire to alter the original recommendations of the Committee. Neither did I have any objection to the two projects agreed by my predecessor, that is, the Victory Valley Project at Wismar, Linden and the drainage project at Fyrish /Gibralter on the Corentyne.”
It is perhaps appropriate to note that this is only one area of non-performance. None of the other three emergency projects recommended since June 4th 2002 has been completed and, in fact, work has only commenced on the Victory Valley project in Wismar.
The failure of the Jagdeo’s Administration to honour commitments is now well known. The total control of the State media by the PPP/C, in violation of the Agreement on equitable time for Parliamentary Parties, continues and, at the same time, private Television Stations are denied permission to expand their signals. This is another glaring example of the contempt that Jagdeo and his Government have for the people of Guyana. This behaviour validates the remarks made by the Leader of the PNCR on August 17, 2003 when he reported on the status of the implementation of the Communiqué. In that Address he stated,
“Regrettably, the time and energy spent to obtain the results achieved so far suggest that deliberate efforts are being made to retard implementation. It appears that as President, Jagdeo and the Government convinced themselves that things have changed irreversibly, the wheels of progress are grinding slowly to a halt.”
THE POSITION OF THE PNCR ON THE PROPOSED DEATH SQUAD INQUIRY REMAINS THE SAME
The PNCR has seen no development that warrants a change from its original position that the proposed Presidential Inquiry is a farce and another attempt to deceive the people of Guyana. This position was reaffirmed at a meeting of Parliamentary Opposition Parties held yesterday at the Georgetown Club, after which a Joint Press Statement was issued. If, however, the Government and President Jagdeo are serious about the establishment of a truly independent and impartial Inquiry to work in accordance with international acceptable standards, then they will have the full support of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties. This has always been the position of the Parties that had made their position known to the Government and the International Community. Indeed, the Opposition parties had indicated their willingness to support any legislative changes in the Parliament to facilitate the terms of reference proposed. The suggestion by some that the PNCR and the Opposition parties were unreasonable and had closed the door to negotiation is, therefore, misleading.
The restrictive Terms of Reference identified by the President limits the investigation only to determining the culpability of the Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj. Is the President, by his action of so narrowly limiting the Terms of Reference, then confirming that the Death Squad phenomena is still a “tiny issue” and not worthy of serious investigation? It is only natural that any self respecting Government, concerned about the welfare of the citizens of the country, would be so alarmed about the unexplained deaths, kidnappings and disappearances of citizens, that no stone would be left unturned in having the matter thoroughly investigated. Does the President fear that an independent investigation would lead to revelations of the involvement of other higher officials of the State, hence the need to limit the investigation as proposed? Is the PPP/C afraid that the saga of Chowtie and the reign of terror meted out by them to their own supporters would be exposed?
The PNCR is not persuaded by the argument of the Guyana Human Rights Association and others that the present Terms of Reference provide scope for a thorough investigation into the Death Squad issue. The fact is that the Commission, despite its authority to work out its own procedures, will be unable to exceed the Terms of Reference issued by the President, irrespective of whatever imaginary perceptions they may have about the scope of their mandate.
The GHRA, in their release, stated that they believed President Jagdeo’s proposals,
“provide the basis for negotiating an acceptable Commission and call on all organisations to adopt a similar approach.
Outright rejection of the proposed Commission of Enquiry has overshadowed the significance of what was proposed.”
Perhaps the GHRA is in possession of information not yet made available to the political parties and the public. To date, we are only aware of the statement made by President Jagdeo that he had decided to establish a Presidential Commission and that he had already set the Terms of Reference. The PNCR stands ready, however, to work towards an amicable resolution of this matter in the interest of Guyana.
PPP/C INTRIGUE AND INTERFERENCE IN INQUIRY ALREADY BEING EXPOSED
There is already evidence available to the PNCR that the Government and the PPP/C have commenced a series of actions aimed at terrorizing and bribing potential witnesses to the proposed Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Death Squads in Guyana. This evidence confirms the PNCR’s earlier stated position that the Inquiry is intended to be a farce and to hood wink the International Community. The PNCR leader will shortly make this information available to the Commissioner of Police and simultaneously release the information to the Media, as publicly advised by President Jagdeo.
The first indication of the proposed farce was the naming of Mr. Crandon as a member of the Commission when it was known by the President that Crandon would have been out of the country for medical attention. How serious could the President have been about the urgent establishment of an Inquiry? Quite apart from the other issues surrounding the appointment of Mr. Crandon, it was evident that even if all the appointed Commissioners were acceptable, there was no way that the Commission could have commenced its work. At least the President was honest when he declared that his establishment of the Commission was only in response to the International Community and that it had nothing to do with the concerns of Guyanese citizens.
It is now one month after the announced Inquiry, but that is all that has happened, an announcement of Intent. Ronald Gajraj, in the meantime, continues to function as Home Affairs Minister. It is obvious that, typical of the other commitments of Jagdeo in the dialogue and in the Communiqué, the announcement was only a stalling mechanism to fool the International Community. The implementation of the decision will suffer the same fate. Time will vindicate the position of the PNCR.
CONTINUED EROSION OF THE RULE OF LAW IN GUYANA
While the people of Guyana continue to suffer from the total disregard for the Rule of Law by the Government, the Jagdeo Regime continues to trample on the rights of the citizens of Guyana. The recent saga of the Courts’ Marshals, where the Government continues to flout the Court Order to pay them their wages, is the most recent example. After more than two years the Courts’ marshals remain unpaid and the attempt to enforce the Court Order by levying on the Residence of the Prime Minister has been stymied by strange developments in the Judiciary. What confidence can the citizens of Guyana have in the Judiciary in the light of these recent developments? We look forward to a speedy resolution to this matter so that the image of our Judiciary is not further tarnished.
The attempts to divide and humiliate the Trade Union Movement continue. The total disregard of the TUC by refusing to accept their nominee to the ILO Conference, the refusal to pay the annual subvention to the Critchlow Labour College and the withdrawal of the annual subvention to the TUC are all part of the viciousness of a heartless Administration bent only on creating a Communist dictatorship in Guyana. The workers of Guyana must consider appropriate responses to preserve their integrity and ensure their survival. The Jagdeo regime must know, however, that it will not be allowed to continue on this road. Regrettably, it is the future of Guyana that is at risk.
THE PEOPLE OF GUYANA MUST RESIST AT ALL COSTS OR OUR FUTURE IS DOOMED. HISTORY WILL JUDGE US UNKINDLY IF WE FAIL TO DO SO.
The PNCR reiterates the position stated by its Leader earlier this year:
“The only reasonable course of action is to search for new ways of working together to identify problems, to examine options, to take decisions about agreed solutions and to monitor performance in the best interests of all of Guyana’s citizens……… The plight of our country can no longer be addressed only by the leadership of the ruling party, the government and the Opposition. Future discussions of urgent and critically important national issues must also engage the parliamentary political parties and civil society organizations. We must say to Jagdeo and the Government: Thus far and no further. We must be prepared to struggle and fight with all the weapons at our disposal within the law and the Constitution to protect our fundamental right to life.
The state of terror that now pervades the land impacts directly on the free will of the people. There can be no right to choose or right of association in a country where the political party in Government seemingly has the power to kill at will. This goes directly to the core of the extent to which people feel this new situation will affect their freedom of choice in the electoral process.
I must therefore call on all Guyanese irrespective of ethnicity to stand up and be counted. This is not a partisan, political issue…… We must resist at all costs or our future is doomed.
History will judge us unkindly if we fail to do so. I invite you to join in the noble struggle for the restoration of morality, decency and the Rule of Law in our land.
Our country is blessed with rich natural resources. Guyanese talent and skills abound. We must either swim together or sink together. Let us, therefore, irrespective of race, colour or creed, join forces to reverse the downward spiral in our country and create a prosperous and united country. Let us unite for change and the future of our beloved country.”
People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, June 10, 2004
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