PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, October 14, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• PNCR Leader visits Grenada to observe relief efforts.
• The Prime Minister should have a proper energy policy instead of mouthing hollow platitudes.
• A brief comparison of prices and the rise in the cost of goods over just a few months will show how meaningless are the claims of paradise in the October propaganda of the state media
• The treatment of the issues surrounding local government reform aptly illustrates the obscene abuse of the state run media.
• The PNCR is indignant at the sloth and callousness with which the government has handled the Ganga Persaud affair.

PNCR AND OPPOSITION LEADER VISITS GRENADA TO EXPRESS SOLIDARITY AND CONVEY SYMPATHY TO THE GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF THAT COUNTRY: MEETS PRIME MINISTER MITCHELL

Leader of the PNCR and Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, visited Grenada on Sunday and Monday last, (October 10 and 11, 2004), to make an assessment of the adverse effects of Hurricane Ivan on that country and to convey sympathy and solidarity to the Government and people of Grenada. On Sunday, Mr. Corbin traveled around the island observing the devastation caused by the hurricane and speaking with citizens in various communities. On Monday the Opposition Leader met with Prime Minister Keith Mitchell to formally convey the Sympathy and solidarity of the entire Parliamentary Opposition and the people of Guyana. In that meeting Prime Minister Mitchell briefed Mr. Corbin on the steps being taken to return the country to normalcy. Mr. Mitchell expressed his gratitude to the Government and people of Guyana for the generous assistance at this time of distress and expressed the view that the disaster provided an opportunity for the spirit of CARICOM to be demonstrated by member countries. The response of member countries in his opinion vindicated the vision of the founding fathers of the movement.

On his return to Guyana on Tuesday Mr. Corbin stated that he was extremely impressed with the rate of progress in the clean-up operation in Grenada and he commended the people of that country for their resilience. While electricity has only been restored to a section of the capital city and most of the damaged homes remain in disrepair, protected only by emergency tarpaulins, the people of Grenada have responded positively and have shown the resolve necessary to overcome their tragedy. The PNCR and Guyana wish them every success in their efforts and we renew our call to all Guyanese to continue to give generously to the Guyana/ Grenada relief effort.

Visiting Grenada at the same time was Chairman of the Association of Regional Chambers of Commerce, AARC, in Guyana, Mr. Muntaz Ali who conveyed to Prime Minister Mitchell solidarity from his Organisation and the private sector generally. Mr. Ali is one member of the private sector who has made a significant contribution in lumber to the relief effort for Grenada and he was able to witness the ship sent by the Guyana Committee entering the port of St Georges on Sunday last with relief supplies from Guyana.

SAM HINDS’ ENERGY NON POLICY

The recent increase in the price of gas which prompted Prime Minister Sam Hinds to call for conservation on the use of gas has once again exposed how vulnerable Guyana is to the vagaries of international trade as it relates to crude oil and other fossil fuel based products. The PNCR has been in the forefront of pushing to find alternative sources to lessen the dependency on fossil fuels particularly as it relates to power generation as every increase in the cost of fuel has a direct impact on the economy as a whole, but most severe against the poor and less fortunate in society.

Against this background we find that Prime Minister Hinds’ call rings very hollow. It would have been to the Prime Minister's credit had he declared that effective immediately the government will cease purchasing any vehicle over 2700 cc capacity; that the ministers of the government have been issued a directive to restrain from further abuse of government vehicles most of which have engine capacity over 3400 cc; that the gas guzzlers used by Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and other high ranking officials will be monitored for abuse and parked on the weekends instead of being driven around by various PPP/C officials as their personal toys.

It would also have been to the credit of the Prime Minister if he had announced some form of benefit package to operatives in the timber, seafood, rice, mining and other sectors which depend heavily on fuel based products for their businesses.

It would have also been to the credit of the Prime Minister if he had announced some measure of relief for public servants who are faced with increases in bus fares, and to the poor who have to endure daily, increases in the prices of cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items.

HIGH PRICES IN JAGDEO’S EL DORADO

During October, we have been bombarded with figures, purporting to show how good life is after 12 years of PPP/C misrule. We have heard of modest inflation, exploding GDP per head and miraculous infrastructure growth. A reality check will soon indicate that these claims bear no relation to the life that the majority of Guyanese are now living – barely managing to eke out a living in the face of rising cost of living and due to spiralling commodity prices and the unbearable electricity rates.

A brief comparison of prices and the rise in the cost of goods over just a few months will show how meaningless these claims by the state media are to the ordinary folk, who must exist from paycheck to paycheck as do most of Guyana. The disrespect of the sick humour from Mr. Nadir about the need for poor people and about the need for realigning their budgets is beyond belief. The reality is that flour has risen from $50 to $60 per lb; 1 gallon of rice from $260 to $400; 1 lb of milk from $160 to $190; 1 pint of oil from $230 to $260; a 20 lb cylinder of cooking gas from $1900 to $2400; 1 gallon of kerosene from $393 to $ 460; 1 lb of sugar from $33 to $38/$40; 1 lb of margarine from $150 to $190.

Most housewives tell of their frustrations at how much less their dollars can provide. Claims of minus 4% inflation mean nothing to the monthly pensioner and daily wage earners. Every payday agonizing decisions have to be made. Will it be rent or enough food this month? Should school books be bought or some other necessity? Which child will I keep home from school Thursday and Friday because there is no money for transportation? That is the reality in Guyana in 2004.

The PPP/C claims to being a working class government is certainly a misnomer. The only place Guyana is going is down; down to where many scavenge in garbage bins for scraps; down to where too many are jobless; down to where many others are homeless; down to where most of our youth feels hopeless.

PPP/C PROPAGANDA WILL NOT ERASE THEIR MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT IN GOVERNMENT: THE CRIMINALISATION OF THE STATE, STATE SPONSORED MURDER AND SUPPRESSION OF DEMOCRACY

After two weeks of political propaganda on the state media, the PPP/C and Jagdeo are still trying to convince themselves that they deserve to be in Government after 12 miserable years. The State media has however strenuously avoided the most significant achievements, such as the State’s involvement in criminal enterprises, especially the narco trade, the phantom killings, the organised death squads and the continuous violation of the rule of law. The PPP/C cannot be so naive to believe that the PNCR and the people of Guyana have forgotten the death squad issue and the blatant disregard by Jagdeo for the life of Guyanese citizens and his failure to mount a proper investigation in this matter. The hands of Jagdeo are so stained with blood and corruption that it is an insult to the people of Guyana for the PPP/C to believe that their propaganda campaign of “Guyana going places” will erase the memory of their misdeeds and the injustice meted out to the people of Guyana.



LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS – PPP/C PROPAGANDA HITS AN ALL TIME LOW

The PPP/C regime has announced the postponement of local government elections. However, they lack the decency to take responsibility for a postponement, which has resulted from their attitude towards the work of the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform. Having maneuvered the Constructive Engagement to a halt they continued with their plot to ensure that all related matters were halted. This is an exact replay of the manner in which they sought to treat with the Task Force when the first Dialogue Process was put on pause.

At that time the Task Force continued with its work. Yet Dr. Luncheon is on record as reporting that the Task Force had ceased to work when every member knew that it was still in session. The minutes of the Task Force attest to the fact that even Minister Collymore, co-chairman of that Committee accepted that Luncheon had misinformed the Nation and should have apologized. Of course this never happened. The Task Force eventually was however, forced to discontinue its work after Minister Collymore claimed that the time frame allotted to it had expired, even though the PNCR members of the Task Force were prepared to continue with their work. It should, however, be noted that the work of the Task Force was halted; the PNCR had submitted its initial proposal on the electoral system.

When the Task Force resumed its work it took months before the PPP/C could respond to those proposals. In fact eighteen months had elapsed from the date of submission of the PNCR proposal to the time of the PPP/C response. Yet, spin doctor Luncheon only this week once again sought to mislead the Nation concerning the work of the Task Force on local government reform. The truth is that the PNCR has been the initiator of every meeting the Task Force has had during this period. Most recently the Task Force did not meet for two months notwithstanding agreement of the Task Force at its August 11, meeting to meet on August 18, to hear from the working group on fiscal transfers and to be updated by the legal draftsman on his work. It was also agreed that on August 25 the Task Force would have met to discuss the electoral system. These meetings were never held; instead the PPP/C launched a propaganda campaign to support their claim that there was nothing for the Task Force to discuss. It is therefore in the light of this contradiction that Minister Collymore summons a meeting at short notice to deal with matters which should have been concluded had the scheduled August agenda been pursued.

It is time for seriousness if Guyana is to move forward and it is time for the PPP/C to stop making local government reform a political football.

SLACKNESS IN THE PPP/C ELITE

The PNCR has been able to confirm with some dismay that there exists credible evidence based on statements being offered by named person that the former Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education has allegedly sexually harassed and other wise assaulted numerous young women during his tenure at GECOM, the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Ministry of Education. We have reason to believe that at least some of these allegations were known to the highest authorities in the land, including President Jagdeo, and that Mr. Persaud was not only permitted to continue with his heinous acts but was indeed rewarded and promoted by this regime. The fact that the government has not come clean on this matter by initiating a fair and just inquiry is clear evidence that Jagdeo continues to condone lawlessness, corruption and crime in his administration. It tells us that:

• This government gives little thought or care to the need for the protection of vulnerable females from sexual harassment by people in authority
• This government gives little more than lip service to its claim to honour and protect the rights of women
• This regime would rather seek ways to protect an officer already convicted of malfeasance in other matters if it is not politically convenient to deal with his crimes. What secrets does Mr. Ganga Persaud possess? It is this same Officer who was involved in malpractices at the Guyana Elections Commission which came out at the elections petition case, before Justice Claudette Singh, and for which he was rewarded. It is the same Ganga Persaud who was involved in the Law Book scandal, while he was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs and for which he was rewarded with the appointment of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education. His most recent reward is now the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security.

The government’s decision to move him to the ministry responsible for women’s affairs when the heat came on him is grotesque insensitivity to the need for cleanliness and respectability in the conduct of national affairs.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, October 14, 2004