PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, September 16, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR reiterates its commitment to the concept of LEAP and LEAF. It is however concerned about the apparent slothfulness of LEAP and the potential for its objective and purpose to be eroded.
• The PNCR unequivocally supports the aspirations inherent in the recommendations of the DFC but is skeptical whether the PPP/C government has the political will or desire to ensure their implementation.
• The PPP/C has continued to make cheap propaganda of Local Government Reform and the Local Government Elections in particular while they continue to issue and make statements about their commitment, the reality is that they are solely responsible for the delay of the entire process and elections in particular.

THE TURNING OF THE SOD FOR LEAF

Mr. Vincent Alexander, Member of the Central Executive Committee of the People’s National Congress Reform, represented the Party Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin at the Turning of the Sod for LEAF. Mr. Alexander made a ten (10) minutes presentation at the ceremony. The National Communication Network (NCN) Television in reporting on this event selectively extracted only the sentence in the statement which refers to LEAP and LEAF as sound concepts. Consequently we take this opportunity to give further details of Mr. Alexander remarks.

“The PNCR acknowledges LEAP and its component LEAF (Linden Economic Advancement Fund) as sound concepts. However, conceptualization and operationalisation and realization are different and separate elements of the same phenomenon, the latter being the real test of its worth. It is with the latter elements that the PNCR is most concerned. For us LEAP and LEAF have got to deliver. Then and only then will they be of value to the people of Linden and valued by the people’s elected representatives. In this regard, our first observation is that LEAP’s objective is to bring about the economic diversification of Linden. Its success will be measured by the achievement or non-achievement of this objective. May I, however, hasten to say that diversification and economic development are not the same. Given the capital outlay of LEAP and its various allocations to specific activities or its components, it is quite clear that LEAP can only be regarded as an element of a developmental plan for Linden and in that regard, may I remind the Government that the Development Plan is still an outstanding commitment, the conceptualization, operationalisation and realization of which the PNCR is still committed to as a stakeholder. LEAP is not and should not be seen as the panacea for all of Linden’s problems. Under the Development Plan, we envisage investments like the proposed Russal investment, which could take advantage of the vast and rare human resource of Linden and its tradition of 24 hour shift work. We also urge that the previously much talked about fiscal and other incentives schemes be articulated and implemented in a transparent manner.

Our second observation has got to do with the articulated purpose of LEAP. “To support the creation of productive and sustainable jobs”. In this regard, the PNCR has its greatest concern. Without any statement negative or otherwise about GUYFLAG, the PNCR sees the retention of a commercial and profit oriented organisation to administer LEAF as a wasted opportunity to create in Linden, and for Linden an indigenous non-profit institution that would outlive the seven years life span of LEAF and provide for a sustainable revolving fund for small to medium size businesses, not to mention the retention of skills, the human resource development possibilities, institutional and capacity building, and the economies of such an operation, all of which could redound to the benefit of Linden and enhance the achievement of the objective of LEAP, and the realization of its purpose. It should be noted that the future of the Fund after the life of LEAP is a real concern. A related concern has got to do with the extent to which local contractors and local workers will benefit from the infrastructure and inward investment elements of LEAP. In many regards these elements will attract more capital outlay than LEAF, which if allowed to circulate in the local economy can have a significant collateral impact on the achievement of the objective of LEAP and the realization of its purpose. We are aware of the stipulation that external contractors must employ at least 25% local labour. On one hand, we would prefer a stipulation that provides for exhausting the locally available contractors and skills and providing them with training, if necessary, before employing from outside of Linden. On the other hand we harbour reservations about the regulatory framework and mechanism for the enforcement of the 25% stipulation. Last but not least, we are also concerned about the application of meritocracy in the employment practices of LEAP as well as the extension of that principle into the other aspects of LEAP and in this instance in LEAF in particular. We know that the response will be that there are criteria for the determination of awards. This does not assuage us. We are aware of practices elsewhere where applicants are denied access on the basis of well articulated criteria while others are allowed in on the basis of discretionary powers, which are reposed in individuals and agencies, in addition to the turning of a blind eye when the nod is given.

The PNCR reiterates its commitment to the concept of LEAP and LEAF. It is however concerned about the apparent slothfulness of LEAP and the potential for its objective and purpose to be eroded.

We would be the first to be in the vanguard of trumpeting LEAP and its component parts if these concerns are addressed in fact and in deed.

Thank you for providing us with this opportunity, which is rightfully ours. We wish you the best of luck and are prepared to be partners in the context of the reservations, which we have articulated today”.

REPORT OF THE DISCIPLINED FORCES COMMISSION

The PNCR’s formal call for a Commission of Inquiry into the performance and functions of the Guyana Police Force began in June, 2001 when a motion seeking the establishment of such a commission was submitted to the National Assembly.

After almost two (2) years of relentless agitation by the PNCR and other organizations in Guyana the National Assembly did on the 16th day of May, 2003 pass resolution 21 of 2003 which provided for the appointment of a Disciplined Forces Commission. It is regrettable that hundreds of Guyanese including members of the Guyana Police Force and citizens of all ethnicities had to be murdered before the Government reluctantly agreed to the establishment of the Commission.

The Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission was unanimously approved by the National Assembly on the 8th day of July, 2004 and later a Select Committee of the National Assembly was appointed to examine the Report.

While the report of the Disciplined Forces Commission makes recommendations for the four disciplined forces to wit the Guyana Police Force; Guyana Defence Force, Guyana Fire Service and Guyana Prison Service, we will today focus on the recommendations made by the Commission with respect to the Guyana Police Force.

The PNC/R considers all (seventy-one) 71 recommendations worthy of implementation and wishes to share with the Guyanese people some of the recommendations which, when implemented will result in a reformed and modernized Guyana Police Force capable of carrying out its raison d’etre, as laid down in Section 3 (1) of Police Act which states:

“The Force shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the preservation of law and order; the preservation of peace, the repression of internal disturbances, the protection of property, the apprehension of offenders and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which it is directly charged and shall perform such military duties within Guyana as may be required of it by or under the authority of the Minister”

The Disciplined Forces Commission recommends that a preventative policing policy be revived. Indeed the Commission posited the view that preventative policing must always be recognized as the foremost operational function of the Guyana Police Force e.g. the focus of preventative policing in the areas of drug trafficking and back-tracking should be made in the direction of preventing the initiation rather than the completion of criminal enterprises.

Recommendation is also made that the investigative capacities of the Guyana Police Force be strengthened. We submit that it is totally unacceptable that the Guyana Police Force does not have the capacity to conduct DNA testing. Equally unacceptable is the state of the scientific laboratory of the Guyana Police Force and the paucity of experts in the fields of handwriting; fingerprinting and ballistics.

The Commission also recommends the removal of members of the Guyana Police Force from performing “non core” police work e.g. examination of vehicles for purpose of fitness; processing of passport applications; and typing and secretarial work. This recommendation when implemented will result in better human resource management.

Of critical importance is the recommendation of the Commission that Part XIV of the Police Act which deals with Supernumerary Constables be repealed. Supernumerary Constables being persons appointed by the Commissioner, to be employed not by the Guyana Police Force but by a private citizen or entity. As the Commission stated and I quote

“The Commission is of the view that police powers should be conferred in the public interest and not in private interest. The notion of private policemen conferred with public law police powers to serve private interests is not attractive to the Commission”.

The Commission also recommends a review of salary structure and substantial increases in remuneration. This coupled with the recommendation for raising the minimum educational criterion for recruitment; a revitalized cadet scheme and the establishment of a Policing Academy will, we are confident lead to policing becoming an attractive career option and the production of a better quality Police Force.

In respect of Community Policing Groups the Commission recommends that there is need to legitimize the practice of community policing with some legislative framework so as to ensure that community-policing functions are institutionalized, strictly supervised and monitored.

As regards Extra Judicial Killings the Commission states at page 108 of its report:

“Indeed, it is the unusual level of killing by the police that in part led directly to the establishment of the Commission”.

In spite of this statement, the Commission fail to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves as was pointed out by Commissioner Maggie Beirne in her minority report wherein she observed that:

“The tenor of the chapter does not, in my view, convey the seriousness of the situation that Guyana, currently finds itself in. In 18 months (January, 2002 – June, 2003) 21 Police Officers have been killed and 62 deaths were caused by the security forces…………… This level of killing is totally unacceptable……………”

The PNCR sincerely hopes that the shooting of KELVIN NERO on Wednesday 8th September, 2004 at the junction of Annandale Side Line Dam at 9:50 a.m. is not the beginning of another wave of Extra Judicial Killings by members of the Guyana Police Force. In its editorial of Sunday 12th September, 2004 Stabroek News stated;

“The evidence that has emerged in this case is sufficiently disturbing to cause one to wonder whether segments of the force have really changed their extra judicial ways”.

PPP/C’S CLOSES THE DOOR ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM AND THE EARLY HOLDING OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

There can be no Local Government Elections until the Reformed Electoral system to be used is determined.

The responsibility for making this determination is that of the joint Task Force on Local Government Reform which is jointly chaired by Minister Collymore of the PPP/C and Mr. Vincent Alexander of the PNCR.

The PPP/C has continued to make cheap propaganda of Local Government Reform and the Local Government Elections in particular while they continue to issue and make statements about their commitment; the reality is that they are solely responsible for the delay of the entire process and elections in particular. During the sessions of the Task Force on Local Government Reform, it took the PPP/C eighteen months before they could have responded to the initial proposals on an electoral system.

More recently, after trying to stymie the Task Force’s engagement with the electoral expert, the PPP/C for the last six weeks, after the presentation of PNCR proposals, has not responded to the call for the Task Force to meet and to explore the available proposals for electoral reform. The PPP/C has also refuse to engage in examining the proposal for fiscal transfers as well as the available drafts of the amendments to the local government laws. It is clearly their intentions to stymie these reforms while Jagdeo continues to mouth that Guyana has the most advance constitution in the Caribbean.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, September 16, 2004