PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, July 1, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

 The PNCR congratulates those children who performed well at this year’s SSEE.
 George Bacchus had spoken to several prominent citizens about the involvement of Gajraj in the death squad operations long before his brother was gunned down.
 The PNCR will intensify its campaign locally as well as internationally to raise awareness of all stakeholders, friends and well wishers to rescue Guyana from the path of the PPP/C’s destruction.
 The PNCR once again reaffirms its commitment to the holding of local government elections, as early as possible, once it is not to the detriment of timely national elections and the complete implementation of the constitutional provisions on local government.
 The PNCR takes this opportunity to call on all stakeholders to show their abhorrence of the death squad activities by joining the campaign for the justice to be served.
 PNCR and Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert H O Corbin will leave Guyana on July 9, 2004 for visits to Antigua and the United Kingdom.

PNCR CONGRATULATES THE NATION’S CHILDREN ON THEIR SSEE PERFORMANCE

The PNCR congratulates those children who performed well at this year’s SSEE. The Party also reserves a special word of praise for those teachers in the government school system who, despite their low salaries and other poor conditions of work, continue to toil and give of their best.

While it may be natural for the news media and others to focus exclusively on the top performers at this year’s SSEE, the PNCR advises that a true picture of the level of performance could only be obtained from a comprehensive analysis of the results. Statistical and other techniques must be employed to provide an objective picture of, and to detect trends in, our children’s performance as a whole. Moreover, it would be useful to breakdown the results by urban and rural areas, by administrative regions, and by private and government schools which would enable a better assessment of the situation.

As a nation, we have an obligation to ensure a bright future for these children; to ensure they grow up in a country that provides them the opportunities to develop their talents and to realize their dreams and aspirations and to guarantee these young Guyanese their full rights and entitlements as citizens. To these objectives the PNCR remains committed.

THE BACCHUS MURDER AFFAIR

The PNCR continues to monitor developments in the police investigation into the murder of George Bacchus last Thursday, June 24th. Our Party is encouraged by the statement of Police Commissioner, Mr. Winston Felix, that the force will follow the evidence wherever it goes. The PNCR will continue to offer its cooperation in whatever way it can to advance the investigation since our Party is confident that the trail will eventually lead to senior functionaries in the PPP/C Administration.

The PNCR has noted the numerous areas on which the nation must now focus so as to ferret out the truth behind the death squad affair which include:

• the obvious attempts (on the basis of their own public pronouncements) at witness tampering, and/or attempts to pervert the course of justice by PPP/C MP, Shirley Edwards, and NCN journalist, Michael Gordon;
• the issuance of firearms licenses to known felons and deportees;
• the previous cases of killings and executions by the death squad; and
• the allegations that point to the involvement of Gajraj and others.

The PPP/C, instead of hanging its head in shame and trying to redeem itself, has launched its usual propaganda attack against those who stand on the side of justice and decency. Freedom House has this week released the ten-million-dollar tape on which George Bacchus is seen saying that he accused the Minister of being in charge of the death squad out of anger over the killing of his brother, Shaffeek. Obviously, the PPP/C did not put much thought into this cartoon production. Apart from the fact that the main character, George Bacchus, appeared to be strained and under duress, the plot itself is deeply flawed. George Bacchus under oath stated that he had spoken to several prominent citizens about the involvement of Gajraj in the death squad operations long before his brother was gunned down. Forcing George Bacchus to say otherwise therefore has convinced no one especially since in his affidavit on June 11, 2004 and in several television interviews he outlined the circumstances under which the statement was extracted from him.

Before his brother was killed, some of the prominent citizens George Bacchus spoke to about the Gajraj Affair included high-ranking PPP/C members. Clearly, their advice was not sought prior to the production of the ten-million-dollar tape. The entire production has exposed the plot to pervert the course of justice.

AFFIDAVIT AND TAPES IN THE POSSESSION OF THE PNCR WERE INTENDED FOR THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY AND NOT THE POLICE COMMISSIONER.

Since the death of George Bacchus some questions have been raised by letter writers and columnists about the timing of the PNCR delivery of the affidavits and video tape to the Police. These writers appear oblivious to the realities of the death squad phenomena and the fact that all the information revealed in Bacchus’ affidavit of June 11, 2004 were made public by Bacchus himself and were the subject matter of extensive television coverage. These writers also seem to have forgotten that the new Commissioner shortly after assuming office had publicly stated that the investigation of death squad allegations was not a matter for the Police Force, since members of the Force were alleged to be involved.

On what basis then would the affidavit of Bacchus sworn on the June 11, 2004 been submitted to the Police. In any event Bacchus only formally came to the PNCR and made available those affidavits after he alleged he was threatened by agents of the Minister of Home Affairs Gajraj, offered $10 million dollars and forced to make a tape recording recanting his earlier statements.

One wonders why these previously silent voices that are only now concerned about submission of evidence to the Police and/ or whether the PNCR should have protected Bacchus were not vocal before his death demanding the independent and impartial inquiry into allegations Bacchus had made since January, 2004.

Irrespective of where the police investigation into the murder of Bacchus leads, the PPP/C administration and President Jagdeo cannot escape responsibility for Bacchus’ death. Had there been a prompt and expeditious establishment of an independent and impartial inquiry into his allegations, Bacchus would have long ago completed providing all the necessary evidence to that Inquiry and would have also been available for cross examination.

The need for an investigation, however, has not diminished with the death of Bacchus. It makes such an investigation more urgent and gives validity to the submission by the Parliamentary Opposition Parties in the relation to prerequisites, composition and the Terms of Reference of such an inquiry.

PPP/C’ CORRUPTION CONTINUES UNABATED

The nation continues to be mesmerized by the daily revelations of the work of the death squad and shocked by the recalcitrant attitude of President Jagdeo and the ruling PPP/C regime in failing to remove Minister Gajraj, and install a truly independent commission to investigate the handiwork of this diabolic group. And if this was not enough the various types of scams and blatant law breaking incidence by other high ranking PPP/C officials and senior functionaries are being daily revealed.

Recently there was the wildlife scam which has fingered a high ranking functionary in the Office of the President. Then there was the remigrant duty free scam, the scandal involving the trafficking of human beings, and the narcotic trade which has put Guyana on the international map as a major transshipment port among others.

The PNCR has been monitoring the government’s response to the growing scandals and scams and while not surprised at the unconcerned attitude that seems to dominate the thinking of President Jagdeo and his cabinet, find it unacceptable that little effort is being made to bring to justice those who are involved in breaking the law.

The PNCR will intensify its campaign locally as well as internationally to raise awareness of all stakeholders, friends and well wishers to rescue Guyana from this path of destruction.

PPP/C’S CONTINUED FOOT-DRAGGING ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic once again engaged in its two face politics on the occasion of the arrival of the Local Government electoral expert. This expert was invited to Guyana at the behest of the Local Government Task Force, which is co-chaired by the PNCR. However the PPP/C sought to deal with the expert to the exclusion of the Task Force. This could only be considered as another attempt by the PPP/C to stymie the reform process, since they are on record as proposing that the elections be held under the old electoral system which would be yet another transgression of the reformed Constitution, or to introduce further conflict onto the already charged political landscape thus distracting attention from the Death Squad affair and Bacchus` death. The PNCR however saved the day by its alertness to the PPP/C`s maneuvers and through its insistence that the expert should meet with the Task Force. This having been achieved the PNCR now awaits the PPP/C`s response to the expert’s recommendations. In the meantime, Local Government reform and Local Government elections, in particular, are being held in abeyance by the PPP/C`s unilateral cessation of the work of the Task Force. The PNCR once again reaffirms its commitment to the holding of Local Government elections, as early as possible, once it is not to the detriment of timely national elections and the complete implementation of the constitutional provisions on Local Government.

URGENT ACTION IS NECESSARY TO PREVENT GUYANA FROM DESCENDING INTO ANARCHY

The events of Friday, June 25th, even though undesirable is an indication of how dangerous the situation can become and a grim warning to all that unless issues of concern to citizens are swiftly and resolutely addressed by the Administration, the society can descend into anarchy.

Over the last few months, the PNCR has been advising stakeholders that the death squad issue has the potential for serious social dislocation. Meanwhile, the PNCR has expended considerable efforts in advising and convincing many citizens that the established institutions of the state should be given time to deal with this matter in a responsible manner. Generally, the response of citizens has been very commendable. Several Rule of Law marches have been held over the past four months without incidence. Notwithstanding, several attempts to malign these peaceful protest, the participants agreed to allow the established processes to work.

The refusal of some protesters last Friday to participate fully in the demonstration organised by the PMJ and embarked on an exercise on their own must therefore be a matter of concern for all right thinking Guyanese. If Guyana is to breathe again swift action is required by the Administration to save our country from anarchy.

PNCR LEADER CONTINUES OUTREACH VISITS TO GUYANESE IN DIASPORA

PNCR and Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert H O Corbin, MP, will leave Guyana on July 9, 2004 for visits to Antigua and the United Kingdom. He will return to Guyana on July 22nd in time for the General Council Meeting of the Party on July 24, 2004. This will be the last General Council Meeting before the 14th Biennial Congress of the Party scheduled for August 27 – 29, 2004 at which it is expected that discussions will begin and will be concluded at Congress.

The PNCR Leader has been invited by the Guyana / Antigua Association, “The El Dorado Club”, to participate in their 10th Anniversary Programme. On Friday, July 9, 2004, the PNCR Leader will address a gathering of Guyanese while on Saturday, July 10th, he will be the featured guest speaker at the Anniversary Dinner and will deliver an address entitled, “Regional Integration-Assessing the Past and Looking to the Future”.

In the United Kingdom, the Opposition Leader will have discussions with functionaries at the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as other senior officials in the UK. He will also address several gatherings of Guyanese to bring them up to date on the developments at home. The Party Leader will hold discussions with several PNCR party groups and friends of the PNCR in the UK. He will be accompanied on his UK visit by Mr. Winston Murray, MP and Central Executive Member Mr. Hamley Case.

These visits are part of the continuing programme of the PNCR to rebuild and strengthen relations with political parties in Caricom countries and to strengthen the Party’s overseas groups which are vital to its future programme for the development of Guyana.

In pursuit of these objectives the PNCR Leader has since February last year paid visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Atlanta, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver. In the immediate period ahead the PNCR will continue its programme of establishing contact with Opposition Parties in CARICOM. The PNCR has noted that the proposals by CARICOM, at an earlier Summit, to promote meetings of CARICOM Opposition Parties have not yet materialized even though a date was set for such a meeting during last year. Having regard to the most recent pronouncements by the Chairman of Caricom, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, on this question, it is anticipated that this decision and its non implementation will be one of the issues to be considered at the next CARICOM Summit due to be held in a few days time in Grenada.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, July 1, 2004