PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, September 23, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, M.P. and Party Chairman Mr. Winston Murray, M.P. have returned from their visits to North America.
• The People’s National Congress Reform wishes to express its sincere condolences to the Government and people of Haiti over the tremendous loss of life and the damage caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne.
• The PNCR extends greetings to the G.T.U.C as it holds its fifth Triennial Delegates Conference which commenced at the Critchlow Labour College yesterday.
• The PNCR has repeatedly stated that our position on shared/inclusive governance has absolutely no relationship to “achieving office through the back door”.
• Guyana and Disaster preparedness.

PNCR LEADER AND CHAIRMAN RETURN FROM OVERSEAS VISITS TO NORTH AMERICA

The Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, M.P. and Party Chairman Mr. Winston Murray, M.P. have returned from their visits to North America. The Party had earlier informed the public that Mr. Corbin had been participating in an outreach programme in New York and Toronto. In New York Mr. Corbin attended functions organized by the Linden Fund USA and the Guyana Folk Festival Committee. In Toronto Mr. Corbin, Mr. Murray, Mr. Stanley Ming and Dr. Max Hanoman participated in a fund raising dinner and a public forum at the Toronto Civic Centre which were organized by UGO of Canada. Mr. Winston Murray had earlier that week been a member of the Guyana delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference held in Ottawa, Canada.

PNCR EXTENDS CONDOLENCES TO THE GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF HAITI

The People’s National Congress Reform wishes to express its sincere condolences to the Government and people of Haiti over the tremendous loss of life and the damage caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne. This latest tragedy, where more than six hundred persons have reportedly lost their lives, adds to the grief already being experienced by CARICOM over the recent natural disasters in Grenada, Jamaica, Barbados and Bahamas.

We extend our solidarity with the people of Haiti during this time of mourning and hope that with the support of CARICOM and other friendly nations there will be speedy rehabilitation and reconstruction in the affected communities.

We commend the people and organisations in Guyana that have so far responded to the disaster relief effort for Grenada and other affected territories and we encourage all Guyanese to provide what ever assistance they can to ensure that this project is a success.

PNCR EXTENDS GREETINGS TO THE GTUC ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR FIRST TRIENNIAL CONGRESS

The PNCR extends greetings to the G.T.U.C as it holds its fifth Triennial Delegates Conference which commenced at the Critchlow Labour College yesterday. The obvious attempt to further undermine the labour movement by the contrived power outage just a few minutes before the official programme began did not succeed in preventing the labour leaders from proceeding with their programme.

The Guyana Power and Light Company should be made to explain why they choose to remove and repair a transformer outside the CLC just twenty minutes before the start of the GTUC programme when they obviously knew that the repair job would have affected the power supply for the CLC. No one could be fooled by the explanations offered to date for what ever may have been the emergency the CLC was in receipt of power supply until the transformer was removed. One wonders, therefore, who was affected by the so-called emergency. The consequences of this obvious sabotage were that the Welcome address and greetings from overseas delegates from the Caribbean Congress of Labour, Antigua & Barbuda and Suriname were presented in darkness and without the aid of a public address system. GPL must explain why the GTUC and Guyana had to suffer this embarrassment.

This Delegates Conference occurs against the backdrop of heightened division in the trade union movement, encouraged by the machinations of the Government that has spared no effort during the last two years to destroy the labour movement.

The Government's hostility to the G.T.U.C is evidenced by its continued withholding of the annual subventions traditionally granted to the Critchlow Labour College and the G.T.U.C. The conditionalities which the Government is now attempting to place on the payment of these subventions are clearly designed to frustrate the movement and a breach of Trust. Several decades ago the Government of Guyana made the decision to provide these subventions to the Labour movement as part of an arrangement to prevent foreign funding of the movement and to emphasise the importance of workers education. These acts of Government must be seen in the context of their desire to undermine the independence and effectiveness of the movement. Naturally the withholding of these subventions has severely curtailed the work of these institutions.

The Guyana Government was however not satisfied with the withholding of subventions and also proceeded to break with convention by excluding the representative identified by the G.T.U.C from being part of the country's delegation to the 92nd Annual Conference of the ILO and unlawfully choosing a representative of their own to represent the Labour Movement.

They emasculated the Trade Union Recognition Board, robbing it of it's intended independence, by maintaining as it's secretary the sitting Chief Labour Officer of the Ministry of Labour who is employed on a contractual basis.

They have relentlessly undermined the collective bargaining process and evinced a callous disregard for the Union’s right to pursue improved salaries and conditions for their members.

This G.T.U.C Delegates Conference is, however, being convened at a time when the PNCR is calling for all well intentioned parties, groups, civil society, political parties and other organisations to join in a discourse of shared or inclusive governance for Guyana. We therefore welcome the remarks of both the Principal Assistant Secretary and the President of the GTUC at yesterday’s opening session.

The PNCR reiterates its solidarity with the G.T.U.C and the workers of Guyana in their relentless pursuit of a better life, society and country. The PNCR remains committed to playing a leading role in this quest.

PNC REFORM AND INCLUSIVE GOVERNANCE

The PNCR welcomes the very lively public debate on the merits and demerits of the various proposals and ideas of reforming the nature of governance in Guyana and believes that this is a good and necessary foundation for real change. We wish to encourage all Guyanese, whatever their political persuasion, to discuss these matters so that we can have a broad national consensus.

Sadly we have noted the negative attitude by a particular stakeholder which is trying without success to devalue the debate by distorting and misrepresenting the positions of the PNCR on governance in Guyana. It is therefore appropriate and necessary to repeat our position so that the debate about our proposals can be based on fact and not on the misrepresentations which are being peddled by some who put personal and partisan interests above the national interest.

The PNCR has repeatedly stated that our position on shared/inclusive governance has absolutely no relationship to “achieving office through the back door”. Winning elections is not inconsistent with our position on shared governance. We are seeking a much more far reaching and profound political reform which takes the debate well past the old and tired propaganda of those who have no intention of changing their ways.

At our recently concluded Biennial Congress we agreed that:-
• Our political system and culture has exploited the differences and distinctions among us for partisan political gain but with no real benefit to either the individual political parties or to the Nation.

• Solving our myriad development problems cannot be the task of the PNCR alone or the PPP/C to the exclusion of all others; not the WPA or GAP or JAP or ROAR acting on their own; not the religious organizations whether Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, mystical or Rastafarian, acting separately as religious organizations; not ACDA, PAC, GIHA TAMOG acting alone as cultural or ethnic organizations; not the private sector through the GMA, AARC, PSC or Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, acting separately as business organizations or in collaboration with the GTUC and GBA as Civil Society.

• We must close the chapter on the past and give honour and recognition where it is due. Let us honour our past Leaders: Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, Cheddie Bharrat Jagan, Ptolemy Alexander Reid, Boysie Ramkarran and others. We need genuine reconciliation, and if persons still feel deeply aggrieved, we can have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

• To achieve a realistic development programme, we must be prepared to meet with all stakeholders around the table and fashion a mutually agreeable national programme that addresses the concerns of all.

• We make an unconditional offer to all Guyanese and Guyanese organizations of like mind to work for that national programme. We will work for an understanding with any political party, any political organization, any social organization, any non governmental organization; and, any group or individuals, even those from within the Peoples Progressive Party, who are willing to negotiate, in good faith, the details of our platform for the transformation of the country. We make this offer without precondition.

• We are ready to enter arrangements with other parties and groups who will share our development platform by offering to share executive authority before a general election, or after a general election.

• We believe that we must have a President for all Guyana, not a partisan one, and we will not insist that the PNCR must provide the president from such an arrangement.

• A PNCR led coalition will undertake to negotiate and implement, with all the economic stakeholders in our country, the basis of a consensual Economic Policy Framework that is based on the maximum participation and support of all stakeholder groups.

The PNCR therefore will not be side tracked. We believe that it is our patriotic duty to pursue this course and will not be distracted by political shenanigans. . We firmly believe that the time has come for the Nation to start the process to unshackle itself from the bondage of poverty and under development. We know that for this process to succeed there must be created in this country of spirit of genuine inclusiveness. This can only be achieved with fundamental reform of the present system of governance.

The PNCR will therefore proceed to reach out to all stakeholders in order to build a consensus for development. If indeed there are individuals and groups who are not interested in peace, prosperity and an improved standard of living for our people, then the PNCR will have no choice but to proceed without them. Suffice it to say that no individual or group will be permanently locked out of this process. Whenever they are ready, they will be welcomed.

IRRESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOUR BY THE GOVERNMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE LEGUAN BREACH INDCATES THAT GUYANA MUST HAVE A DISASTER PREPAREDNESS PLAN

Over the last few weeks, the PNCR has been receiving numerous petitions from the residents of Phoenix - Louisiana, Leguan whose homes are being inundated with water on a daily basis. It has been several weeks since the river defense in the area collapsed due to poor maintenance and neglect.

In recent weeks, PNCR Parliamentarians have been visiting the area to speak with residents and to observe the level and nature of government’s response to this crisis. Regrettably, we must report that when PNCR parliamentarians visited the area on Saturday, 18th September 2004, several weeks after the breech reached its present state, there was no evidence of a coordinated emergency response to the crisis.

There was evidence of attempts to block the breech with ‘mud bags’ by local labourers. However, this was to no avail since these bags were washed away with every high tide. Neither equipment nor materials were mobilized on site. In fact, the only activity on the site was a solitary tractor and trailer ferrying clay to the site. The purpose of this is not known but in the absence of equipment, it must be assumed it is to continue the senseless ‘mud bag’ exercise.

The PNCR wishes to express its disappointment over the tardy government response to the situation at Phoenix – Louisiana, Leguan. The failure to address this situation in an urgent manner is nothing short of criminal neglect. The Government must come clean since its present inaction is an indication of a lack of interest. If the Government has no interest in the sea and river defence at Leguan, it must say why. Surely the plan cannot be to abandon Leguan altogether.

The callous response of the Government to the Leguan breech is part of a course of conduct evidenced by similar tardy responses to previous breeches. The residents of Profit and El Dorado Villages on the West Cost of Berbice had similar experiences when breeches of the sea defence occurred there last year.

These examples point to the need for a well thought out National Disaster Preparedness Plan. Such a plan will provide the capability of an early response mechanism to future disasters. The effects of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean should be a wake-up call for us in Guyana even though we have been spared of being in the hurricane belt.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, September 23, 2004