PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Wednesday, July 7, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

• The PNCR will do nothing to disrupt the functions of the Commission of Inquiry but expects that good judgment will prevail and that the President or the Commissioners will take into consideration the recommendations of the combined Opposition Parties.
• After much resistance, the PPP/C Government finally yielded to the establishment of the Discipline Forces Commission.
• The PNCR has noted the President’s disclosure and the wide press coverage about President Carter’s acceptance of Jagdeo’s invitation to visit Guyana.

THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

The recent pronouncements and actions by President Jagdeo on the so-called Presidential Commission, to investigate whether any credible evidence exists to link the Minister of Home Affairs to death squads in Guyana, are insufficient to cause any change in the PNCR’s position on this issue.

The swearing in of two of the originally named members of that Commission of Inquiry and the naming of a new member, Mr. Keith Massiah, have not altered the fact of their unilateral appointment and the President’s refusal, either to consult with major stakeholders or, to consider the position of the opposition political Parties with respect to the criteria to be used in identifying members of the Commission, the prerequisite necessary to facilitate a proper inquiry, such as witness protection, and the enlargement of the Terms of Reference.

What is more reprehensible, however, is the President’s attempt to deceive the nation during the Press Conference at which he announced the swearing in of the two Commissioners. The President also deceived the nation about the contents of the Opposition Parties communications with the Secretary General of the United Nations. In addition the mixed signals sent by the President during that Press Conference are a deterrent to any potential witness.

First, the President informed the nation that his delay in appointing the Commission was due to his attempts to consult with the Opposition Parties to ensure, according to him “a comfort level”. He further inferred that such consultations failed. No such consultations were ever held, or even attempted, with the PNCR and as far as the PNCR is aware with any other Parliamentary Opposition Party.

It is therefore mind boggling how the President expected to achieve “comfort level” without such consultations. The position of the Opposition political Parties with respect to the criteria to be used in identifying members of the Inquiry, the prerequisite necessary to facilitate a proper Inquiry such as witness protection and the expansion of the Terms of Reference, including criminal activities on the lower East Coast Demerara were well known and communicated to the President through the diplomatic community as well as during the recent visit of Sir Paul Reeves. The willingness of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties to engage in consultation, including participating in any Parliamentary process to facilitate its recommendations were also communicated to President Jagdeo. There was no effort by President Jagdeo to engage the Opposition on any of these matters. For President Jagdeo therefore to state in his Press Conference that the delay in the appointment of his Commission was out of a desire to bring the Opposition on board is a gross misrepresentation of the facts unbecoming of some one who holds such high office. Why did President Jagdeo mislead the nation? If he insists on his position then the nation must call upon him to give details of such consultations.

Retired Chancellor of the Judiciary, Mr. Keith Massiah is an eminent and distinguished jurist held in high esteem by the PNCR. However, despite his personal qualities the work of the Commissioners would be seriously handicapped by the limited Terms of Reference and by the absence of mechanisms and structures to make such an Inquiry effective.

The PNCR assumes that the members of the Commission would have been fully aware of the challenges and difficulties that they would have to face once they accepted their appointment. The members of the Commission have nevertheless accepted their appointment, though we are yet to hear from Mr. Massiah. The public therefore can justifiably conclude that these gentlemen believe they can properly and effectively fulfill their obligation. The public must conclude that the Commissioners would not knowingly engage in an exercise in futility. Indeed, the public must expect that should these gentlemen see the need, they may propose to the President suitable changes to their Terms of Reference or to the legislation to allow them to do meaningful work. The Commissioners may therefore find it useful to examine the suggestions made by the joint Opposition Parties on this matter.

Indeed, the President has indicated that he had given the full scope for them to determine their modus operandi.

The PNCR, therefore, remains unconvinced about the sincerity of President Jagdeo in fulfilling his constitutional obligation as it relates to the citizens’ fundamental right to life in Guyana. Despite, his public announcement of Gajraj’s proceeding on leave last Thursday, Ronald Gajraj entered the Ministry of Home Affairs building, around 9:50 am yesterday (Tuesday 6 July). He was followed by the Commissioner of the Police and the Heads of the Prison and Fire Services where it was obvious to all that he was conducting a Heads of Services meeting. The presence of Gajraj at the Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday exposes the farce announced by Jagdeo that Gajraj was proceeding on leave and requires an urgent explanation from the government as to the exact role of Gajraj during the period of their proposed inquiry.

It is for this reason that the PNCR had demanded that he demits office to ensure that there is no possibility of interference in the Inquiry. President Jagdeo owes the nation a full explanation of the exact nature of Gajraj’s involvement at this time. Jagdeo’s outright objection of any effort at witness protection and his failure to give any assurances to potential witnesses will be an obvious deterrent to evidence being given to the Commission. The murder of George Bacchus was a sufficient wake up call for President Jagdeo to see the need for special arrangements to be put in place to protect witness. His refusal to do so is evidence of his insincerity.

However, the PNCR will do nothing to disrupt its functioning but expects that good judgment will prevail and that the President or the Commissioners will take into consideration the recommendations of the combined Opposition Parties.

PNCR TO PARTICIPATE IN DEBATE ON DISCIPLINED SERVICES COMMISSION REPORT.

The PNCR has received notification that the National Assembly will tomorrow (Thursday, July 8th) finally consider for adoption, the Disciplined Forces Commission Report submitted in May, 2004. The PNCR has for several months been calling for the National Assembly to consider the Report with a view to its adoption and subsequent implementation. In March 2004, for instance, a Motion by PNCR Member of Parliament, Raphael Trotman calling for the Assembly to debate the Report was disallowed by the Speaker who in his wisdom thought such a Motion to be misconceived.

In its mad rush to impress the International and Diplomatic Community and to make matters appear normal and regular, the PPP/C has suddenly seen it fit to bring the Discipline Forces Commission Report to the Parliament and to appoint a Commission to investigate allegations against Ronald Gajraj, after a key witness has been assassinated. The PNCR waged a three years long campaign, including several protest marches in the city, calling for an Inquiry into extra judicial killings. After much resistance, the PPP/C Government finally yielded to the establishment of the Discipline Forces Commission. Having been the leading voice calling for an inquiry into extra judicial killings, and other ills which afflicted the disciplined forces in general and the Guyana Police Force in particular, the People’s National Congress Reform in keeping with its doctrine of “selective non-participation in Parliament” considers it a fitting occasion to attend the National Assembly and to participate in the debate.

In the circumstances, we consider it imperative that we participate not merely for the perfunctory exercise of adopting the report but more importantly to ensure that the National Assembly creates the enabling mechanisms that will see the recommendations implemented. Though not in agreement with all of the Commission’s recommendations, the PNCR, nonetheless believes that the process of transparency, accountability and inclusivity has been served by the work of this Commission and as such, we would be failing in our responsibility if we stood aloof and afar from the way forward in its implementation.

PRESIDENT CARTER’S VISIT

The People’s National Congress Reform has noted the President’s disclosure and the wide press coverage about President Carter’s acceptance of Jagdeo’s invitation to visit Guyana.

The People’s National Congress Reform is aware that President Carter had indicated, several months ago, his desire to visit Guyana out of concern for the several human rights and other issues of concern to the Guyanese people at that time. It is obvious that the Government was not disposed to Carter’s visit at that time. Jagdeo’s visit to Atlanta and the Carter Centre in particular and his subsequent invitation to Carter to visit Guyana were all outcomes of Carter’s initial indication to the Government and other stakeholders including the PNCR of his interest in visiting Guyana. The fact that Jagdeo opted to visit the Carter Center in Atlanta instead of accepting Carter’s offer to visit Guyana is a clear indication that Jagdeo had much to conceal. It is against that background that the PNCR has intimated its readiness to meet President Carter and in keeping with his original focus, as indicated in Carter’s conversation with the PNCR Leader several weeks ago, since the PNCR will provide Carter with relevant information on the death squad issue and other issues of governance. Hopefully, other stakeholders will find the courage to fulfill their civic duty and to raise such issues of concern with President Carter.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Wednesday, July 7, 2004