PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Wednesday, July 15, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The President’s assault on the UNDP diplomat could signal the beginning of a dangerous isolation from the values and principles of the international system in an attempt to escape from scrutiny of the regime’s deteriorating human rights record.
• The PNCR is not fooled by the offering of sacrificial scapegoats when these scams are exposed. The real issue is the systemic encouragement of irregularity by the political bosses of the state. We have seen the milk scam, law books scam, the IAST scam, the EPA scam, the remigrant vehicles scam, the Dolphin scam, the Mon Repos scam, the stone scam, the Charity wharf scam, the visa scam.
• We are convinced that the restructuring of the sugar industry itself must be realistic and transparent giving the people of Guyana, in general and the workers in the industry in particular a truthful version and vision of what they can expect in the near future.
• The PNCR will continue its outreach across the country and with all stakeholders as it continues to seek consensus on the way forward for Guyana in the face of PPP/C’s intransigence, double standards with the diplomatic community and downright contempt for good governance and accountability.
PRESIDENT JAGDEO SHOULD RESIGN

The Guyanese public cannot be but alarmed at the recent troubling signs that the leadership of President Jagdeo has become erratic and reckless. Were his wild behavior a matter of personal business that affected him alone, the PNCR would not have commented. But as the President of the country, Mr. Jagdeo’s thoughtless and irrational statements and actions can cause deep injuries to an already fragile nation and, as such, bring further hardships to all its citizens.

In late June, the Jamaican press and public were up in arms over the disparaging statements Mr. Jagdeo made about this friendly and supportive Caricom partner. At a meeting for overseas Guyanese in Atlanta, the President accused the Jamaican government and media of being deceitful in reporting on crime and the HIV/AIDS situation in an attempt to keep its tourist industry afloat. Not satisfied with the damage his statements already caused to Guyana/Jamaica relations, the President rather than making a straightforward apology to the Jamaican government and people, attempted flippant explanations, which made matters worse.

While the People's National Congress Reform does not see the European Union proposal to reduce prices offered to ACP countries earlier than anticipated as reflective of the interest of Guyana. Mr. Jagdeo’ intemperate attacks on the European Union must be seen as undiplomatic and harmful to Guyana’s national
interest. It is unfortunate that Mr Jagdeo descended to the level of accusing the EU, in naked terms, of being untrustworthy and deceitful. The EU is one of Guyana’s largest donors and economic partners. The PNCR believes we should fight our case vigorously in the international Trade arena. However, this should be done in the accepted mode and language of international diplomacy. To do otherwise would be to do our case more harm than good.

To make matters worse, the President has begun a campaign for the removal of the UNDP resident representative Mr. Sorensen, whom the President accused of meddling in the internal affairs of Guyana. It is a known fact that the diplomatic/donor community acted as intermediaries between the government and the joint Opposition in many of the controversies which have arisen in Guyana, most recently on the issue of the existence of politically controlled death squads. Mr. Sorensen was delegated as the spokesperson for the diplomatic and donor community in Guyana and on behalf of the entire UN system. Mr. Sorensen’s statements reflect, therefore, the collective views of the international community. The President’s assault on this diplomat could signal the beginning of a dangerous isolation from the values and principles of the international system in an attempt to escape from scrutiny of the regime’s deteriorating human rights record. We expect that the international community will behave correctly in this matter. We believe that the international community must take stock of its engagement with Guyana to determine to what extent its engagement with Guyana is being manipulated by the PPP/C regime to suit its own narrow sectarian political interests.
THE IMPACT OF CORRUPTION

As the number of corruption scandals continues to mount, it is quite evident that many in the PPP/C administration are governing for personal enrichment. The latest scam, the wildlife scam, has exposed the fact that the government has facilitated the enrichment of its supporters through the sensitive trade in tropical wildlife. The most recent public exchange, which accompanied the dismissal of a public officer, reveals both the extent to which political interference in the work of a public institution and the extent to which the government is willing to allow such corruption to continue. The PNCR is not fooled by the offering of sacrificial scapegoats when these scams are exposed. The real issue is the systemic encouragement of irregularity by the political bosses of the state. We have seen the milk scam, law books scam, the IAST scam, the EPA scam, the remigrant vehicles scam, the Dolphin scam, the Mon Repos scam, the stone scam, the Charity wharf scam, the visa scam. None of these have generated any reform of the corrupt practices and even when reports have been made in these matters, no action is taken against the politicians implicated. When the history of this government is written, it will make very sordid reading.

Though the current spate of scams is an indication of desperation by politicians conscious that there days are numbered, this loss of billions is still money that could have gone to develop our economy and to fight poverty.

It cannot be expected that in the current environment, where high-level fraud is rampant and is encouraged by a President through his non-action, that donors will continue to pump money into the country as before. It is unreasonable for us to expect that the donor community will continue to forgive the prevailing level of irregularity. Given that President Jagdeo’s economic development strategy is pivoted totally on accessing donor funds, his recent diplomatic gaffs and his encouragement of corruption take on added dangers. He should spare his government and the country further pain and demit office in the national interest.

CRISIS IN THE SUGAR INDUSTRY

The People’s National Congress Reform has noted with grave concern the proposals contained in EU Commission staff working paper for the reduction in the internal price of raw sugar that is “guaranteed” to ACP sugar producers. If this proposal is adopted it spells disaster for the sugar industries in the ACP sugar producing countries. The PNCR has also noted that GUYSUCO has reported that it stands to lose approximately 30% of its total earnings or US $35M per annum, if the internal prices are reduced as is proposed in the EU Commission Staff Working Paper.

This represents a challenge of enormous proportions to Guyana's future economic health and development. We recognize that the role of agricultural commodities in the world economy is increasingly more vulnerable and fragile. We must also accept the fact that the reliance on preferential conditions and markets based on historical association and political obligation will decrease in their importance and that countries like Guyana must base their development strategies on that reality.

The economic vulnerability of the Guyana Sugar Corporation will be compounded by this development. In fact, the entire 1999 – 2008 Guysuco Strategic Plan will be threatened since the plan requires US $85M self-generated funds over the nine-year period. However, the EU’s proposal will result in a loss of over US $90M between 2005 and 2008. This could impact negatively on the plans for the construction of the new factory at Skeldon and the securing of the other estates. The impact on The East Demerara Estates and Uitvlugt and Wales will be significant since these estates are expected to be losing US $19.2 M per annum by 2007. This is even after the Agriculture Improvement Plan that will be undertaken under the Strategic Plan. Without the AIP and subsidies that will naturally flow from a more modern estate at Skeldon there will be need to go back to the drawing board with respect to making the Demerara Estates viable. The social consequences will be horrendous if the Demerara Estates are forced into closure.

The PNCR believes that there is no alternative to a policy of major diversification of the national economy in general and the agricultural sector in particular. We are convinced that the restructuring of the sugar industry itself must be realistic and transparent giving the people of Guyana, in general and the workers in the industry in particular a truthful version and vision of what they can expect in the near future. The PNCR is in the position of having to remind the nation that we had warned that many of the government's positions on the sugar industry were intended to disguise the real situation. That attempt to disguise the truth has now come home to roost. The EU Staff Working Paper was released in September 2003, over ten months ago. However, as potential disaster loomed for thousands of Guyanese families, the PPP/C Regime failed to inform the Nation of the situation. Consequently, there was a total failure to mobilize a broad based national consensus to lobby the EU Commission. Once again, PPP/C incompetence and partisan approach to national issues have put the livelihood of the sugar workers of Guyana in serious peril. We call on the government to do all that is necessary and possible to ease the uncertainty and distrust which now clouds the industry and its future.

The PNCR has noted that the EU Commission has projected that with an internal price of €290 (EURO) per ton fourteen of the nineteen ACP sugar producing countries will be likely to cease export to the EU. Unfortunately, Guyana is numbered among that fourteen. This situation can be worst than the projected loss of US $35M per annum. The uncertainty of the market will make the local sugar industry even more vulnerable.

The PNCR wishes to publicly convey its support for the ACP Sugar Supplying States proposals for:

• An equitable quota system and a guaranteed remunerative price for the benefit of all stakeholders.
• A relatively long time frame that will provide the stability and predictability necessary for development and investment.
• The maintenance of the preferential system that will guarantee, at least, the present level of benefits.

The PNCR is also hopeful that the EU Commission will give full and serious consideration to the interests of ACP sugar supplying states.

In the meanwhile, the PNCR calls on the PPP/C Government to wake-up and do its job. The welfare of hundred of thousands of Guyanese, directly and indirectly connected to the industry, is at stake. Nothing less than a total national effort will suffice.

JAGDEO ON DIALOGUE

On March 31, 2004 Mr. Corbin announced to the Nation that:

“PRESIDENT JAGDEO BY HIS BEHAVIOUR, LUNCHEON, BY HIS PRONOUNCEMENTS AND THE GOVERNMENT BY ITS DILATORY PERFORMANCE HAVE ALREADY CONSTRUCTIVELY DISENGAGED THE PNCR AND BROUGHT THE CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT PROCESS TO AN END…
“We will NOT engage President Jagdeo in any further bi-lateral discussions save and except those required under the constitution….. Future discussions of urgent and critically important national issues must also engage the parliamentary political parties and civil society organisations.”

Some four months after, Mr. Jagdeo at a function on the East Coast of Demerara, indicated that he has no intention of re-engaging Mr. Corbin and that Dialogue should take place at the level of the Parliament. Mr. Jagdeo’s attitude to the Construction Engagement and the Dialogue has been catalogued and made public by the late Mr. Hoyte and Mr. Corbin, suffice to say that the necessity for Dialogue and Constructive Engagement was informed by the absence of parliamentary action on the part of the PPP/C with regard to constitution reform and other outstanding legislative issues in addition to executive inaction and unresponsiveness. Hence those matters only gained prominence and attention after they were placed on the Dialogue/Constructive Engagement agenda. Is it that state of affairs that Jagdeo wishes to replicate now that he has conned the international community into committing its funding to Guyana?

A careful look at the Constructive Engagement would also reveal that the two leaders engaged in pre-parliamentary processes, such as policy formulation on broadcast legislation and local government reform and post parliamentary processes such as executing works in the depressed communities and implementing the Local Government Reform inclusive of a new electoral system.

Is it to be concluded that Jagdeo is reneging on inclusion in such processes or is there an attempt to undo what has been achieved; not implement what has been agreed; and exclude others from consultative and representative processes?

It should be noted that Jagdeo has taken this stance at a time when Inclusive Governance, as placed on the agenda by him and promulgated at a State House forum to which all of the international community were invited, is the only outstanding item on the agenda.

The PNCR will continue its outreach across the country and with all stakeholders as it continues to seek consensus on the way forward for Guyana in the face of PPP/C’s intransigence, double standards with the diplomatic community and downright contempt for good governance and accountability.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, July 15, 2004