PRESS STATEMENT BY ROBERT H. O. CORBIN Member of the Central Executive Committee of the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday April 11, 2002 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.



PNC WELCOMES INDIA AND WEST INDIES CRICKET TEAMS

PNC Reform welcomes the India and West Indies Cricket teams to Guyana and looks forward to a good season of cricket. More particularly, we express our full support for the West Indies team and wish them every success.

THE RESPONSES OF THE PPP/C ADMINISTRATION TO MURDER:

The recent responses of the PPP/C Administration led by Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday evening last and followed by other PPP/C cronies on Television have provided the evidence of the utter contempt which the Administration has for the serious abuses of human rights in Guyana and their shameless attempt to divert attention from the real issues.

One would have expected that a decent Government faced with the allegations of brutal murder committed by state forces would have taken tangible steps to demonstrate to the people that it recognises the serious concerns of the people and was prepared to respond.

Instead the Government seeks to divert attention by linking the present poor performance of the economy and the present economic crisis on alleged PNCR disruption and its alleged collaboration with crime. What could be more preposterous? Is the Administration serious?

If any thing must be said of the PNCR over the past year is the wonderful climate it helped to create for the PPP/C Administration to deliver on many of its election promises, including the 100,000 jobs for young people. The results of the unique period of Dialogue is the further spiralling of the economic crisis, the rise in violent crime, escalation of discrimination in all aspects of Government administration, run-away corruption and abuse of human rights. The Government and Mr. Jagdeo must therefore not be allowed to get away with this latest act of deception.

The PNCR has always been on record as condemning crime and has over the past years called for a Commission of Inquiry into the functioning of the Guyana Police Force to enable it to efficiently carry out its mandate of Service and Protection. The Govt. has failed to act and has in fact gone on record as condoning the unlawful acts of some renegade elements of the G.P.F. The record of the PNC/R in Government with respect to fighting crime is impeccable. Perhaps we have forgotten the days of the “kick down the door bandits” which phenomena was dealt with condignly when we were in Office, including the reintroduction of hanging when things got out of control. Today we now have members of the Black Clothes Police emulating the “kick down the door bandits”.

Instead of finding scapegoats the PPP/C must inform the Nation of the date and time that the much needed Commission of Inquiry into the G.P.F. will commence. They must also inform the Nation when the Inquiry into the Buxton murder will commence and whether the Officers involved have been decommissioned pending the results of that inquiry. They must also inform the Nation when the Inquests into the many extra-judicial killings over the past three years will commence. They must inform the Nation when the Inquest Ordered by the High Court into the killing of Donna Mc Kinnon on April 9, 2001 will commence. Only when this is done will there some confidence be restored.

The latest attempt by the Government to link the poor performance of the economy on the PNC is most ridiculous. They have been dabbling recently in so much “jumbie” politics that they now appear to be seeing ghosts. Those are their own ghosts when they were in opposition and sought to disrupt the economy of Guyana for Political ends. Perhaps we need to remind them of the utterances of Janet Jagan in 1973.

“ The PPP therefore calls upon the people to resist by all means at their disposal and for the creation of a popular front to oppose the PNC at all levels and all available means; including the boycott of all who aided and abetted them in this monstrous fraud.

We must oppose them in the fields; in the factories and in the offices; we must mobilise and activate all forms of economic and social pressure; we must refuse cooperation; we must reject with scorn those who bring gifts and try to cajole and bribe; we must tighten our control of the resources; we command and we must never let up or flag or falter in our efforts to end their infamous rule.”

The PNCR has never descended to this level and will continue to work for the benefit of all the people of Guyana.

THE BREAKDOWN OF LAW AND ORDER UNDER THE PPP/C

The PNCR expects that the increasing lawlessness and banditry which has descended on the nation will cause the police to focus in a professional and determined manner on the need to capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice. The PNCR calls on all citizens to provide the police with any information and support which can lead to the speedy apprehension of the five escapees and their accomplices. They have been on the rampage for much too long. It is the PPP/C’s blatant disregard for the Rule of Law that has created this fertile environment for lawlessness and crime.

The PPP and its propagandists have been casting the PNCR’s criticism of the epidemic of extra-judicial killings by the “Black Clothes” and regular police as somehow being anti-police and pro-criminal. Nothing could be further from the truth. The PNC wishes to make it abundantly clear: our party is one the side of LAW and ORDER. The Leader of our party while Head of Government asserted on numerous occasions that ‘no one is above the law’. In fact he was rather blunt in asserting that, ‘ the law knows no big ones’. And that remains our party’s credo in and
out of government.

Quite unlike Freedom House which even now offers sanctuary to the suspected killer of Donna McKinnon, Congress Place will never be a safe haven for criminals and wrong-doers. When the PNCR asserts that no one is above the law, we mean every citizen – be it farmer, office worker, businessman, government officials and, yes, policemen. And that is why we have spoken out stridently and consistently against extra-judicial killings by the “Black Clothes” and other elements of our Police Force. The PNCR is satisfied that it has the support of all professional and decent-minded police officers who comprise the overwhelming majority in the Force.

Every wrong-doer deserves his day in court. It is not for the police to pre-empt due process and act as judge, jury and executioner. If our police force is allowed to ruthlessly eliminate perceived anti-social elements as standard operational procedure and without fear of sanction then they seriously damage the underpinnings of the very law and order which they claim to be reinforcing. The PNCR is aware of the totally unacceptable situation where the police has been starved of adequate resources of manpower, finance and equipment. This is nothing short of criminal on the part of the regime. Police extermination of wanted persons can never be a substitute for sound police work and due process. Indeed, as we have said before, it is the substitution of brute force for proper investigative techniques and good community relations that has, in large measure, made the task of recapturing the five escapees so difficult.

The PNCR had hoped that the unfortunate and mysterious killing of Supt. Leon Fraser would have resulted in a re-examination of this ham-fisted and lethal approach. But the reprehensible killing by the Black Clothes police of Shaka Blair at Buxton, last Saturday, April 6 2002, suggests that for this group of uniformed thugs it is business as usual and perhaps with even greater venom and sadism.

The killing of Shaka Blair raises many troubling questions. The Police had his prints and photograph on record, yet make no mention of a criminal background. How come, if Blair had shot at a large party of policemen crowded into a cramped area he failed to hit at least one of them? And if, as the Police claim, Blair was linked to the five
escapees would he not have been of greater use to the police alive rather than dead? The police account and rationale raise more questions than answers and the PNCR demands that this incident be subject of a full scale inquiry. We have already formally made this request to both the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police. We await their response. In the meantime, the PNC/R feels that it is only right that the officers involved be placed immediately on administrative leave until the findings of such an inquiry.

RICE FARMERS

Once again the inefficiency and incompetence of the regime have placed at risk the welfare and livelihood of an important segment of our society. With much fanfare some weeks ago the regime announced a relief package to help small rice farmers meet their indebtedness to the banking system. It was far from ideal and the PNCR did indicate that a more comprehensive approach to the problems of the industry and all the key players were needed. But we were happy that at least some effort, albeit inadequate, was being made to help some of the farmers in financial straits. But lo and behold the beneficiary farmers who thought that they had earned some respite and a breathing space to place their operations on a sound footing were shocked to find the banks knocking at their doors and seizing their assets. To their chagrin they discovered that the regime had failed to put in place the legal and institutional requirements to give effect to the relief package.

Dr. Luncheon as is his wont sought initially to blame the farmers, but then had to concede that the regime was at fault. But having conceded its dereliction the regime seems to be taking its own good time to give effect to its own bail-out plan. And while the regime fiddles the farmers are literally going under. What callous indifference!

BK INTERNATIONAL

The PNCR notes that not surprisingly the regime has failed up to now to take any action on the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the breach of the Cane Grove dam. We believe that the time is long overdue for appropriate sanctions to be applied to BK and others who were found in clear breach of their contractual and supervisory obligations.

In the meantime, the PNCR has been assured by the Office of the Auditor-General that they will be examining in “more detail” projects undertaken by BK during 2001 and for which the PNCR had provided information suggesting that the Guyanese taxpayer has been shortchanged. Some of the issues raised by the PNCR have, according to the Auditor General’s Office, “been dealt with in our 2000 Report on the Public Accounts which we hope will be presented to the Speaker of the National Assembly in two (2) weeks’ time”. However, the PNC/R is reassured by the Auditor General’s undertaking that, in the light of the PNCR’s submission, his office “will be examining the issues in more detail”.

PPP REGIME CONTINUES PROGRAMME OF DESTROYING BERMINE

The PNCR has previously brought to public attention, the destructive acts being undertaken by the regime, represented by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, to fulfill his prophesy that BERMINE is not viable.

The latest and very invidious act is now being played out with shipments of Metallurgical Grade Bauxite (MAZ) and Chemical Grade (CGB) Bauxite being halted from BERMINE, as a consequence of Viceroy Shipping – the operators of the “Bulkventure” transshipment station in the Berbice River – giving notice internationally that they are removing the ship from Guyana.

Viceroy has claimed that they “own” the loading basin in the Berbice River and have “exclusive use” of it. Therefore, they will not allow any other shippers to use the basin and the mooring facilities therein. Viceroy’s shipping rates are significantly higher than those available from competitors. Therefore, BERMINE’s major customer for MAZ, ALCOA, refuses to use their ships and have activated the force majeure clause in their contract with the threat of termination of that contract if the situation is not resolved soon.

GUYANA FORESTRY COMMISSION

The PNCR notes the response to its criticism of the intervention of Roger Luncheon, under the guise of the H.P.S., into the work of the Guyana Forestry Commission Board. We remain resolute on the principle of non political interference in the work of Statutory and Constitutional Bodies. However, our criticism must in no way be understood as condoning the discriminatory promotional practices of that entity’s administration. We have in the past condemned it and will continue to do so until there is change. Mr. Dexter Cummings is undoubtedly a victim but his recourse is to the Courts, and we are aware that he was so advised, rather than a personal appeal to the Political directorate. The PNC/R, took a stand on a matter of principle since while Dr. Luncheon’s intervention in this instance might appear to be on the side of justice it has been more frequently used to punish and hound those perceived to be not politically correct. If Mr. Cummings himself is concerned about the abuses to his fellow colleagues he cannot at the same time be satisfied with the use of the very principle which harmed them because in this instance it was used for his personal benefit. We will not, however, turn the Nelson’s eye to the plight of Mr. Cummings and other GFC employees who have been similarly wronged.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place
Sophia, Georgetown
Thursday, April 11, 2002