PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, November 11, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




Summary
• PNCR extends Deepavali and Eid-ul-Fitr greetings.
• The PNCR Leader and Executive continue their visits to communities around Guyana as the Party holds Regional Conferences.
• On Sunday the 14th November, 2004 a medical outreach team which was promised by PNCR Leader, Robert Corbin while he was on a previous visit to the West Coast Berbice will become a reality.
• The PNCR rejects the PPP/C’s contention that the PNCR’s criticism of the Bill is merely an attempt to sow confusion.
• In 1999 the PPP/C said “we have no objection to a return to the First Past the Post System with constituencies”. Now, they are vehemently opposed to expanding the mixed system with more constituencies.
• The PNCR position on the Death Squad Inquiry is vindicated: evidence of some allegations now before Commission.

DEEPAVALI GREETINGS

The People’s National Congress Reform extends greetings, best wishes and Divine blessings to our Hindi Community as well as to Guyanese generally on the National Holiday “Deepavali”. This religious festival is unique in its spiritual context and in the significance, which it holds for our nation.

As the rows of Dias are lit, it is time to focus on changing the lives of all Guyanese for the better. Falling standards and moral decay must be arrested in order to bring our nation to a level acceptable to the world and to Heaven.

On this occasion it is hoped that the lighted Dias will usher in light, love, prosperity and happiness to all Guyanese especially the underprivileged.

Let Deepavali this year, be a time of deep reflection, and the making of a solemn resolve to bring our nation out of the darkness into the light.

A joyous and happy Deepavali, and prosperity to all Guyanese.



EID-UL-FITR GREETINGS

The People’s National Congress Reform embraces this opportunity to salute and congratulate our Muslim Brothers and sisters on the joyous occasion of Eid-Ul-Fitr, which is the culmination of the month of Ramadan.

By subjecting themselves to long days of fasting and abstinence, devout Muslims would indeed have increased their closeness to the Creator, awakened their sensitivity towards the needs of their fellowman, built bridges of friendship and strengthened self-discipline.

These qualities are fundamental to the development of a strong, healthy and progressive society where social justice and mutual respect abound.

We of the People’s National Congress Reform believe in striving to create such a nation and we share these noble ideas of our Muslims Brothers and Sisters and therefore, exceedingly pleased to be able to join them in saying Eid-Mubharack!

PNCR LEADERSHIP TEAM CONTINUED VISITS TO COMMUNITIES AROUND THE COUNTRY:
Visiting West Berbice, Essequibo Islands, New Amsterdam and areas of Georgetown; while the Party regions are preparing to hold their annual regional conferences.

The PNCR leadership team continued visits to communities around the country, visiting West Berbice, Essequibo Islands, New Amsterdam and areas of Georgetown; while the Party regions are preparing to hold their annual regional conferences.

On Sunday the 7th November, 2004 the PNCR's Regional Committee of Region 5, Mahaica/Berbice, held its Annual Regional Conference at the Ithaca Primary School, on the West Bank of Berbice. This conference was held under the theme of "Building a Platform for Peace, National Cohesion and Reconstruction".

Leader of the PNCR and Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition Robert Corbin delivered the feature address to a packed hall of delegates, who welcomed his admonitions about the state and future endeavours of the Party. The Conference was declared open by PNCR Member of Parliament and Central Executive Member, Amna Ally, and the installation and charge to the newly elected Regional Executive Committee members were given by PNCR Vice-Chairman and Member of Parliament, Basil Williams.

Elected members of the new executive committee include Chairman, David Black; Vice-Chairman, Wilfred Gravesande; Secretary, Carol Joseph and Treasurer, Gloria Lindo.

The Regional Conference was well organised and well attended by delegates from groups throughout Region 5, as well as many Central Executive members of the PNCR.

On Sunday the 14th November, 2004 a medical outreach team, which was promised by PNCR Leader, Robert Corbin while he was on a previous visit to the West Coast Berbice, will become a reality. The team will include Dermatologists, Dentists, Ophthalmologists and General Practitioners, and will provide medical services for the residents of the Region, at Lovely Lass Nursery School, West Coast Berbice.

On Sunday, 21st November 2004, PNCR Region 3 Regional Committee will be convening its Annual Regional Conference at the Vreed-en-Hoop Community High School. The theme of the Conference is "Enhancing the platform for Peace, National Cohesion and Reconstruction". The Party Leader, R.H.O. Corbin will deliver the feature address at the Conference.


PNCR VISIT TO PHOENIX, LEGUAN

On Saturday the 6th November, 2004 the PNCR Leader Mr. R.H.O. Corbin and a team of Party officials visited Leguan an Island in the Essequibo River, in Region 3, to examine the state of the river defences in the Phoenix area and to observe works being done to correct a recent breach there. Residents pointed out areas of imminent failure and expressed concern that they maybe flooded again if urgent works were not effected.

The Party Leader also inspected the area where remedial work had commenced and discovered that even though the Government announced large sums of money for works in the area, no activity, materials or personnel could be seen at the location save for a dilapidated excavator. Temporary works done to seal the breach had already begun to show signs of deterioration. Residents also raised problems relating to social assistance and flood relief. The residents alleged blatant political discrimination where some persons with links to the ruling Party, benefited from social assistance and flood relief, notwithstanding their affluence, while a number of poor people, not perceived to be supporters of the PPP/C, were left out.


INFRASRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT FUNDING MEANS PPP/C PARTY SLUSH FUND

Despite the protestation of the PPP/C and misleading information by the General Secretary, Mr. Donald Ramoutar, it is obviously clear to all right-thinking Guyanese that the purpose of the Infrastructure Bill is to create a slush fund for the PPP/C to facilitate corruption, money laundering and graft. The PNCR condemns this blatant move towards institutionalised corruption. The Party calls on the Government to repeal this Slush Fund Bill (Act) and to sit with stakeholders to develop a Bill that would serve the purpose for what it is intended. It is not too late for President Jagdeo to prevent his name from being linked to condoning corruption in his administration.

In the Party’s next Press Conference the PNCR will present its proposals on infrasturcture development and the proper establishment of a fund for this purpose which must include the scrapping of the Ministry of Works.


PPP/C ELECTORAL MACHINATIONS

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in its paranoia about elections has taken to the airwaves, television screens and the newspaper columns with half-truths and distortions on Guyana’s electoral history and the current situation with regard to electoral reform.

In his latest attempt to evoke sympathy for the PPP/C on electoral matters, Mr. Donald Ramoutar resorted to distortions of history. For example, he stated that the British gerrymandered the electoral boundaries prior to 1964, in their attempt to oust the PPP from Government. While the PNCR holds no brief for the British, the facts reveal that in 1957 with 47.6% of the votes, the PPP-Jaganite received 65% of the seats as against the PPP-Burnhamite, which obtained 39.4% of the votes but received 28% of the seats. Similarly, in 1961 the PPP with 42.6% of the votes received 57% of the seats while the PNC, which obtained 41% of the votes and received only 31% of the seats in the National Assembly.

Those were the results under the system of First-Past-the-Post. However, Proportional Representation (PR) redressed that imbalance in 1964 when the PPP with 46% of the votes received 45.2% of the seats and the PNC with 41% of the votes gained 41.5% of the seats. It is however, noteworthy that during 1961 – 1964, which was the most troubled period in the country’s history, when the country was torn apart with racial strife, the PPP’s percentage of the votes which was previously on the decline increased from 42.6% in 1961 to 46% in 1964. it is evident, that the interventions of the British and American governments, so often criticised by the PPP/C, resulted in an electoral benefit for the PPP.

The position of the PPP/C has taken a remarkable shift. In their submission to the Constitution Reform Commission on May 17, 1999 they stated that, “If the concern is to generate more accountability of parliamentarians, we have no objection to a return to the first past the post system with constituencies”. Now, however, they are vehemently opposed to expanding the mixed system by creating more constituencies.

Evidently, their concern is not about accountability and proportionality. It is about as little accountability as possible. Their new found love of a purely PR system is remarkable.

THE PNCR POSITION ON THE DEATH SQUAD INQUIRY IS VINDICATED: EVIDENCE OF SOME ALLEGATIONS NOW BEFORE COMMISSION:

The PNCR has been vindicated in its position on the Presidential Inquiry appointed to investigate allegations of the involvement of the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj in directing the operations of State Sponsored Death Squad(s) in Guyana. Those who sought to malign the PNCR and its Leader for their role in demanding an Inquiry should hang their heads in shame.

The revelations so far made public at the Presidential Commission Of Inquiry and the slow rate of progress of that body validates the proposals of the PNCR and other Opposition Parties on the ‘Gajraj Affair’. The PNCR and all Guyana expect, however, that, since the Inquiry has now had some evidence of substance, the Commissioners will now vigorously pursue those leads and be truly investigative as they are expected to be in such matters. The PNCR therefore hopes that the rumours circulating in Georgetown, to wit, that the Commission plans to wind up its work rather than pursue the leads before it, are wholly untrue.

The PNCR had stated that, while it was totally dissatisfied with the manner of appointment, the composition and the terms of reference of the Commission, it would have done nothing to hinder the work of the Commission. In fact, the PNCR encouraged persons with information to come forward and make that information available to the Commission, albeit the Party was conscious that the absence of any witness protection programme or arrangements to take evidence at secure locations would hinder public participation. This notwithstanding, sufficient has been revealed to point the Commissioners in the right direction. It is not too late for them to request certain facilities and arrangements, as President Jagdeo stated they could do, to enable them to discharge their mandate in a matter that would remove earlier reservations of their capacity to carry out their mandate under such limited terms of reference.

For example, the PNCR Leader Mr. Robert Corbin presented two Affidavits to the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Winston Felix, since his appointment and it is believed that he gave them to the Commission of Inquiry. Phillip Sargeant, one of the few survivors of the death squad, swore to one of the Affidavits and it is believed that he could identify some of the members of the death squad. The PNCR understands that a summons was served at Phillip Sargeant’s residence for him to appear before the Commission two weeks ago and that his father, who bears the same name and lives at the same address, responded to the Summons. He was however not requested to give evidence before the Commission. The PNCR further understands that it was suggested that certain protective arrangements be put in place to ensure the safety of Phillip Sargeant JR. should he appear to give evidence before the Commission. It is not yet known if this has been done. A move by the Commission in this direction may yet instill some confidence in others who have valuable information that could enable them to continue their work.

On January 15, 2004, the Leader of the Opposition in a letter to President Jagdeo stated:

“Throughout this period, there have been several allegations in the public domain about:

 Irregularities in the issuance of firearms by the Minister of Home Affairs; including bribery and the granting of firearm licences to known felons;
 the formation of several questionable groups, under the guise of Community Policing groups, that have been issued with firearms;
 the existence of death squads alleged to be under the control of senior government functionaries;
 the association of some senior functionaries and these squads in criminal activity, including the narcotic trade;
 the claim that one recent victim of the death squad, Axel Williams, had revealed that a senior government functionary had ordered a “hit” on a businessman; and more recently,
 the revelations of George Bacchus, the confessed informant of the Minister of Home Affairs.

Recently, the Minister of Home Affairs in a response to queries from the media, claimed only a casual acquaintance with Axel Williams, an alleged former member of the death squad, in the context of an application by Williams for a firearm licence, which was issued. The issue of that firearm licence should by itself warrant a serious investigation in the context of earlier allegations. However, more serious were the later revelations in the media of telephone records showing that the said Axel Williams, who was gunned down on December 10, 2003, had made several calls to the Ministry of Home Affairs and to the home of the Minister and that he, the Minister, had in turn made several calls to the cell phone of the said gang member. [I may add that I have seen these telephone records] When confronted with the undisputed records, the Minister abandoned pretence and sought to cast a security veneer over the telephone conversations.

For ease of reference, I direct your attention to the Kaieteur News of January 7, 2004, January 9-10, 2004 and January 11, 2004 and to the Stabroek News of January 8, 2004. A review of video clips of the Minister of Home Affairs aired on the local television channels may also be instructive. Did the Minister of Home Affairs first lie to the nation on this matter, and if so, for what reason? How reliable could any further statement from the Minister be, especially in relation to these matters of concern to the Nation? Surely this must be a matter of concern to your Government.

I wish to emphasise that the issue is neither informant George Bacchus nor the police investigation of the murder of Shafeek Bacchus, even though, George Bacchus’ statements corroborate previous statements made by others and also provides a plausible explanation of the otherwise unexplained spate of killings. Rather, the issue is, about whether the rule of law is being upheld or are we heading for anarchy? ”

In that letter the Leader of the Opposition had also urged President Jagdeo to act with decisiveness:
“I wish, therefore, to encourage you to act with decisiveness to establish a truly independent inquiry, which will have the confidence of all stake-holders in Guyana, to investigate the matters which I have herein brought to your attention. Naturally, I also believe that as a prerequisite, you will ensure that the incumbent Minister of Home affairs, by whatever means, vacates office.”

It took several months, after a persistent and successful Campaign by the Peoples Movement for Justice, for Gajraj to vacate Office and a Commission to be appointed. It took ten months for evidence to surface that Gajraj indeed passed orders for gun licencees to be issued. The question is however, how far the Commission will be willing to probe.

Then there is the mystery of the changes in Axel Williams file that was in the possession of the Police. Who really authorized the change of the charge of murder to the holding of an Inquest and if this was an Official act by the then DPP, why is the original file at the DPP’s Chambers still unchanged from the first recommendation for a murder charge? Is it not time for the Inquiry to request powers to take evidence from the former DPP over seas if he is afraid to return to disclose the truth?

On May 15th, 2004, the Parliamentary opposition Parties issued a joint statement on the establishment of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. The statement outlined some basic conditions for independence and for meeting internationally accepted standards and norms. The opposition Parties stated that, at a minimum, such an Inquiry must inter alia:

“ 2. be accompanied by a credible and secure witness protection program;
3. allow a role for Caricom and other international organizations;
4. have the power to take evidence in camera as well as in public;
5. have the authority and resources to take evidence both inside and outside of Guyana.”

It is obvious that had these recommendations been accepted by President Jagdeo there would have been no difficulties in protecting Phillip Sargeant or taking evidence from him and others in camera. There would also have been no difficulty in finding Dennis Hanomansingh, the former DPP, wherever he is at this time, and taking evidence from him and others outside of Guyana. Since President Jagdeo also publicly stated that the Commission is free to make recommendations, it is now left to the Commission to test how serious he was in relation to this matter.

But are there no other persons in Guyana who are in Official Authority that can help the Inquiry and who can also be summoned? Is there no one at the Chambers of the DPP who would have access to certain information that may be of help to the Inquiry? Then there were several news reports on both TV and radio. Is there no information that can be obtained without prejudice to journalistic ethics? These are matters for the Commissioners. The PNCR has been silent on this matter since the Inquiry began, so as to give the Commission an opportunity to carry out its mandate, albeit limited, but that must not be interpreted to mean that the Death Squad issue is still not foremost on its agenda.

President Jagdeo must also be asked to clarify the position of Ronald Gajraj, who the Nation was informed was sent on leave. If that is the official position, then Mr. Jagdeo may be able to explain why Ronald Gajraj’s signature appears as the Minister of Home Affairs in the 6th November issue of the Official Gazette, Legal Supplement B declaring Friday November 12th a public holiday for Deepavali.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
Georgetown.
November 11, 2004.