PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, August 12, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR has once again demonstrated its commitment to the local government reform process and the holding of early local government elections by its submission of concrete proposals towards the formulation of the local government electoral system.
• GECOM’s lack of response to PNCR’s concerns.
• For progress to be made agreements must be honoured: The failure to honour commitments, under the Communiqué… has precipitated the present impasse and the decision of the PNCR to implement its policy of Selective Engagement with the Government.
• Government is soon to provide Omai with the gift of the assets of Linmine.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTORAL SYSTEM

The PNCR has once again demonstrated its commitment to the local government reform process and the holding of early local government elections by its submission of concrete proposals towards the formulation of the local government electoral system. But more importantly it has demonstrated its understanding of, and commitment to, the reformed Constitution by virtue of the content of its proposal.

The Constitution requires that “The electoral system …shall provide for the involvement and representation of individuals and voluntary groups and accountability to the electorate.” The Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform in furtherance of the Constitution agreed to the following parameters for the electoral system.

“A hybrid … system of first pass the post and proportional representation to be instituted for elections in the Municipalities and the Neighbourhoods and that the system should be configured in such a manner to facilitate as many constituency seats as possible while providing for a top-up list system that would balance the results in keeping with the proportionality of the overall votes cast.”

After discussions with the stakeholders the expert reduced the parameters to three bases:

1. Proportionality;
2. Accountability; and
3. A realistic chance for independents to be elected.

In keeping with the logical sequence founded on the constitutional provisions, the PNCR has made the following submission:

1. The system should consist of as many constituency seats as possible, in which regard 70% has been recommended as a workable percentage.
2. 30% of the seats should be used as top-up seats to facilitate a proportionate result; and
3. The list of candidates should be an open list, which would allow the voters to identify their candidate of choice along with their party of choice.

The PNCR is of the view that its recommendations, in addition to complying with the Constitution, provide the Guyanese with the best opportunity to participate in governance at the local level as well as to determine who are charged with the administration of local affairs, and who are answerable to them for the conduct of local affairs. We anxiously await the response of the PPP/C, which frequently boast of Guyana’s advanced constitution and the restoration of democracy to Guyana.

GECOM’S LACK OF RESPONSE TO PNCR’S CONCERNS

The PNCR has today dispatched a letter to the GECOM detailing our concerns and requesting an early meeting in the hope that these matters can be clarified.

FOR PROGRESS TO BE MADE AGREEMENTS MUST BE HONOURED

President Jagdeo and his Government’s dilatory attitude and abysmal record of implementation of the Parliamentary and Constitutional reforms, which were all consensually recommended by the Constitution Reform Commission in 2000 and unanimously passed by the National Assembly by the end of the third quarter of 2001, caused the suspension of the Dialogue with the late Leader of the Opposition, Mr. H. Desmond Hoyte, and the withdrawal of the People’s National Congress Reform from participation in the National Assembly in 2002 March.

In fact, there were some matters, such as the establishment of an Ethnic Relations Commission (Constitutional amendment passed in the National Assembly in 2000 December) and a Parliamentary Management Committee, which were recommended by the St Lucia Statement of 1998 July 2 as urgently necessary for implementation in advance of the completion of the work of the Constitution Reform Commission.

The Constructive Engagement process, which commenced between by the new Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, shortly after his election, and President Jagdeo was intended, in the first instance, to provide the Government with the opportunity to overcome their delinquency and thus create an environment for a constructive relationship between the Government and the Opposition. As a consequence, almost all of the matters agreed in the Communiqué of 2003 May 6 and the Follow Up Agreement of 2003 June 18 owe their origin to the Hoyte-Jagdeo Dialogue.

In the circumstances, President Jagdeo’s continued failure to fully honour his commitments, under the Communiqué, coupled with his failure to mount a credible inquiry into allegations of the existence of State-sponsored Death Squads under the direction of the Minister of Home Affairs, has precipitated the present impasse and the decision of the PNCR to implement its policy of Selective Engagement with the Government.

Illustrative examples, of the President’s unwillingness to comply with his commitments, include:

 The Executive’s obstruction of the functioning of the Parliamentary Management Committee which has undermined its exercise of its responsibility for the “business of the National Assembly”.
 Executive interference with the exercise of the authority of the Sectoral Committees to “scrutinize all aspects of the functioning of the Administration”.
 The non-functioning of the Constitutional Reform Committee which has prevented its work on urgent constitution reforms, such as the Reform of the Electoral System in time for the holding of National and Regional Elections in 2006.
 The deliberate foot dragging and obstruction of the work of the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform. This has prevented the determination of the Electoral System for the holding of Local Government Elections, as well as the System and mechanism for compulsory Fiscal transfers to Local Authorities.
 Failure to fully establish and equip the Ethnic Relations Commission.
 Obstruction of the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission.
 Failure to Table agreed amendments to the 2003 Public Procurement Act.
 Failure to implement arrangements for the Equitable Access of the Opposition to the State-owned Media.
 Obstruction of work to complete the National Broadcasting Legislation.
 Failure to implement agreement by the Joint Depressed Communities Needs Committee to install pumps in the Fyrish-Gibraltor community.
 Failure to fully implement agreement for the appointment of PNCR Nominees to agreed State Boards, Commissions and Committees.

NO TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY OR CONSULTATION ON GIFT OF LINMINE ASSETS TO OMAI

The PNCR, like the rest of Guyana, learnt from the Sunday Stabroek, of 2004 August 8, that Government is soon about to provide Omai with the gift of the assets of Linmine.

We have to complement the negotiating skills of Mr. Norman Mc Lean and the Omai negotiators who seem to have so mesmerized the President and the Prime Minister that they have quietly forgotten that Cambior/Omai had signed an MOU requiring them to mobilize US$30.0Mn to be invested for the rehabilitation of the Linmine Operations which have been decimated, as a consequence of the political spite of the PPP/C Administration, under the day-to-day direction of Mr. Samuel A. Hinds.

The public may recall that, as a reward for their failure to mobilize the US$30.0Mn investment, the President handed over the management of Linmine to Omai without the determination of any revealed contractual obligations. It was only after the PNCR went public on the matter that a retroactive contract was signed by the Norman Mc Lean team and the Prime Minister.

In the meantime Omai has continued to be engaged as the Mining Contractor to Linmine. Is there any conflict of interest here?

Now we read that Omai will be given the assets of Linmine. Is this an outright purchase? What are the terms of the agreement for the disposal of the assets owned by the people of Guyana to Omai? Is this likely to be the magic US$1.00 such as was obtained for the Wauna Oil Palm assets?

Another matter of deep concern must be the handing over of our National Bauxite Patrimony at Linden to Omai without any demonstrated financial or other ability to convert them into jobs, taxes and incomes for us the Guyanese owners.

What is the rationale for giving Omai absolute control of the bauxite reserves at Linden? Have they submitted a credible programme, backed by real investment, for the exploitation of these vast and high quality bauxite reserves within the next 10 years? What is the reason for excluding Block 37 from consideration for the RUSAL feasibility study?

It seems that the Norman Mc Lean Omai team must have convinced the President and the Prime Minister that they possess the abilities of the mythical Alchemist, since we note that they are also to be granted the right to transfer their used generating sets from the closing Omai Gold Mine Operations to Linden to succeed the Linden Power Company as the monopoly supplier of electricity to the Bauxite Operations and the Community.

Is all this what is usually described as a sweetheart deal?

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, August 12, 2004