PRESS STATEMENT By the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform Robert H. O. Corbin MP To The Press Conference, Thursday, February 11, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

 The PNCR wishes on behalf of the people of Guyana to express our gratitude to the Government and people of Brazil for their contributions and their continuing support in the current disastrous floods.

 The PNCR wishes to extend heartfelt condolences to all of the families and friends of the victims who have died as a result of the recent flood disaster.

 The Government is yet to admit truthfully the danger posed by the Eastern Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC), even though this could result in more drastic flooding and decimate whole villages.

 We wish to congratulate and thank all Guyanese Organizations, Guyanese and friends of Guyana at home and overseas that have responded readily to flood relief efforts without being formally invited. The PNCR and the people of Guyana owe them all a depth of Gratitude.

 The PNCR had previously expressed its concern about the slothful manner in which the Commission seemed to be operating and its indecisiveness in relation to the numerous issues which require urgent action if elections, of an acceptable standard, are to be held by March, 2006.

 The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo Government to extend the time and ensure that there is true meaningful consultation with the Indigenous People of Guyana, their representatives and other stakeholders.

PNCR WELCOMES PRESIDENT LULA

The PNCR welcomes President Luiz Inàco Lula da Silva of the Federative Republic of Brazil to the Republic of Guyana. The PNCR has always promoted and continues to promote and cherish the excellent friendly and cooperative relations that exist between our two peoples. The PNCR wishes on behalf of the people of Guyana to express our gratitude to the Government and people of Brazil for their contributions and their continuing support in the current disastrous floods.




THE FLOOD DISASTER
PNCR EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES TO FAMILIES OF FLOOD DISASTER VICTIMS

The PNCR wishes to extend heartfelt condolences to all of the families and friends of the victims who have died as a result of the recent flood disaster. It is now reported that there are some thirty three known flood related deaths. Among the deceased are friends and supporters of our Party including Mr. Thomas Sandiford, the late Chairman of the Plaisance / Industry Neighbourhood Democratic Council, NDC, and former Calypso Monarch, Joseph Thomas aka “Lil Joe”. Their passing has brought great sadness to us all. Several others are afflicted with water borne illnesses and our prayers are with those who still remain hospitalized.

The true extent of our health dilemma remains unknown to Guyanese as the Government continues to feed the citizens a diet of mis-information and half truths. It is evident that the Government by its irresponsible approach to the present disaster must be held accountable for the deaths of these persons.

PRESIDENT JAGDEO AND THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE HELD LIABLE

Today marks 27 days since the Flood Disaster occurred. After such a prolonged period several villages on the East Coast remains inundated with floodwaters. Hundreds of persons still remain trapped and traumatized in their damaged homes. The death toll mounts daily and the danger of life threatening diseases is ever present. To compound matters further, professional persons have lodged reports warning of the instability of the East Demerara Water Conservancy Dam (EDWC), which is in a very fragile state. The Government is yet to admit truthfully the danger posed by this situation, even though this could result in more drastic flooding and decimate whole villages.

Ignoring the call by the PNCR at the onset of the crisis for a professionally run National Disaster Task Force whose operations would be transparent in every way, the Government instead opted for a series of ad-hoc maneuvers under central control by President Jagdeo and operated by PPP/C officials. In the Health sector, the inability of the regime to provide alternative professionally organized, safe accommodation has resulted in persons remaining in the floodwaters and falling victim to deadly diseases. This is totally unacceptable to the people of Guyana.

 The inability of the regime to put in place the equipment and the logistics to drain the flooded areas after 27 days;
 the ignoring of the serious warning of flooding given in November 2004 by the Regional Chairman, Mr. Alan Munroe;
 President Jagdeo’s refusal to accept help offered by the International Community at the beginning of the Disaster;
 the ad-hoc planning, the total disrespect for professional opinion and refusal to involve competent experienced professionals who may have been able to bring speedier relief to suffering citizens;
 the self-serving Party propaganda and the use of the State television Station to unashamedly feed the nation a diet of half-truths; and
 the irresponsible manner in which the President continues to deal with the Flood Disaster in a political partisan way,
make the Government liable and answerable to the people of Guyana. It may now be appropriate to consider whether the time is not ripe to hold the Government as criminally negligent and culpable for the associated deaths and human suffering experienced by thousands of Guyanese during this period.

It is clear that uncertainty is the order of the day. This Government has responded to one of the greatest catastrophes this nation has ever faced in an irresponsible manner. It continues to unashamedly feed the nation a diet of half-truths, giving the Nation and the international community the impression that everything is under control. It is evident that the Government wants to ignore this suffering and direct the Nation’s attention to other matters, in reality thousands of Guyanese continue to suffer daily. This is totally unacceptable to the People of Guyana. How can this Government be trusted with the task of rebuilding the shattered lives and communities devasted by the Flood?

The PNCR calls for the urgent assessment of losses suffered by citizens and the implementation of a programme to render assistance in rehabilitation. This programme must enable citizens to restart their lives, to provide economic and other assistance to replace items lost and recommence their economic activities to ensure survival. This programme must be coherent and transparent and not politically manipulated by the PPP/C as is clearly evident in the present flood relief operations. The PNCR also proposes to meet very shortly with the Private Sector to find out what support the Party can render to them at this time.

FAILURE TO SUMMON THE PARLIAMENT

Any self respecting Nation, faced with such a tragedy, would have considered it essential for its Parliament to meet to consider the serious state of affairs of the Nation. GAP/WPA Member of Parliament, Ms. Sheila Holder, wrote to the Speaker requesting that the National Assembly be summoned to discuss this matter. She received a terse response by the Speaker, which stated that the matter was one for the Government. The Leader of the Opposition further wrote to the Speaker also requesting an urgent Sitting of the National Assembly on Tuesday February 1, 2005. To date, no response has been received. The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament requested an urgent meeting of the Management Committee of Parliament to consider this matter and at that meeting she urged the Management Committee to request a Sitting of the National Assembly on the Flood Disaster. The long serving Member of Parliament, Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud, reiterated that it was a matter for the Government and obviously did not consider the suffering of Guyanese an urgent matter for the National Assembly to discuss.

After days of callousness the Government has now considered it fit to summon the Parliament for the visit of the Brazilian President on Tuesday February 15. Recognizing that the Parliamentary Sitting could result in embarrassment to both their visitor and the Government, Parliamentarians were belatedly informed last night (February 10) that the Government proposes to summon the National Assembly on Wednesday February 16, to discuss Guyana’s Flood Disaster, after it has already met to be addressed by the Brazilian President.

The People of Guyana can now judge how important the suffering of citizen’s rank in President Jagdeo’s and the Government’s priorities. The question, which the citizens must now answer, is how long we will allow this state of affairs to continue? The PNCR had offered its unequivocal support to the Government in the flood crisis. The Party has done it best to contribute to flood relief efforts. However, the Party has a wider responsibility to the people of Guyana and it will not stand idly by while the people of Guyana continue to suffer.

We wish to congratulate and thank all Guyanese Organizations, Guyanese and friends of Guyana at home and overseas who have responded readily to flood relief efforts without being formally invited. The PNCR and the people of Guyana owe them all a debt of gratitude.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

OPPOSITION PARTIES TO MEET ELECTIONS COMMISSION ON TUESDAY

After some delay, the Elections Commission has set a date for the meeting with the Parliamentary Opposition Parties. This meeting is now scheduled for Tuesday February 15, 2005. Several weeks ago, the Opposition Parliamentary Parties had requested a meeting with the entire Elections Commission to discuss its concerns about the preparations for the next Elections and to outline the minimum conditions that would be acceptable for the conduct of free, fair and transparent Elections. The Opposition Parties requested this meeting after they had made many submissions to the Commission on issues such as the implementation of continuous registration; the upgrading of the electoral system to include new biometric features in the form of finger prints, which can be cross referenced; and, the conduct of house-to-house verification as the basis for the compilation of a new National Registrar of Registrants and the eventual production of a new accurate voters list. The PNCR had previously expressed its concern about the slothful manner in which the Commission seemed to be operating and its indecisiveness in relation to the numerous issues which require urgent action if elections of an acceptable standard are to be held by March, 2006. The PNCR notes that the Needs Assessment Report is now in the possession of the Commission and that there has been no discussion to date on its contents. These concerns are even more pertinent today with the passing of time since these were brought to the attention of the Commission.



PRESIDENT SEEKING TO USURP FUNCTIONS OF ELECTIONS COMMISSION

While a meeting between Parliamentary Opposition Parties and the Elections Commission has been fixed for Tuesday, February 15, 2005, the PNCR yesterday, February 10th, received a letter from the Head of the Presidential Secretariat inviting the Party to attend a meeting on Monday, February 14th 2005 hosted by President Jagdeo with members of the Donor Community, the Parliamentary Political Parties, PPP/C & PNCR and the Guyana Elections Commission. The letter states that the meeting would specifically address:

“1. Presentation by GECOM on the Hathaway’s Report;
2. General Discussion on the Report;
3. Planning the Way Forward.”

The PNCR had previously informed the President that any meeting to discuss Elections must involve all stakeholders but, at minimum, all Parliamentary Parties. The PNCR received a similar letter on January 11, 2005 last. In his reply dated January 12, 2005, the General Secretary of the PNCR enquired of Dr. Luncheon whether all the Parliamentary Parties were invited. The letter also questioned the propriety of the President calling such a meeting to discuss matters which were within the jurisdiction of the Independent Elections Commission. Typical of the PPP/C’s contempt of the PNCR, there has to date been no reply. The new letter yesterday makes no reference to the PNCR’s earlier letter and did not provide the answers. The PNCR has since replied querying whether all the Opposition Parliamentary Parties have been invited and also requesting a response to its earlier letter.

The management of elections is the sole purview of the Guyana Elections Commission. Consequently, any meeting by President Jagdeo could only be prejudicial to the deliberate judgment of the Commission. The contempt for the other Parliamentary Parties also continues since there is no evidence that they have been invited to the President`s meeting. The PNCR is also reliably informed that the GECOM Commissioners have not yet discussed and deliberated on the Hathaway’s Report. Consequently, one wonders what kind of presentation could be made by the Chairman of that Commission to the President and the Donor Community. President Jagdeo must, therefore, be confused if he believes that he can call a meeting to plan the way forward for the independent Elections Commission. Perhaps, in the manner he has acted in the present Flood Disaster Operations, the President believes that he can commandeer the GECOM. Notwithstanding the aforementioned shenanigans the PNCR remains resolute and will not be party to an electoral process that falls short of acceptable standards.

PNCR CALLS FOF MEANINGFUL CONSULTATION ON NEW AMERINDIAN ACT

The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo Government to extend the time and ensure that there is true and meaningful consultation with the Indigenous People of Guyana, their representatives and other stakeholders. It is evident that the Regime proposes to bulldoze the new Amerindian Act through Parliament after sham consultation in the same manner it proceeded with the Procurement Act, the trafficking in persons Bill and the recent Age of Consent Bill. It is time for the people to stand up and protect their rights.

Yesterday, the Leader of the PNCR and a Party delegation met with several Organisations representing the Indigenous people of Guyana on the New Draft Amerindian Act 2004. Note was taken of the many concerns which were advanced by the representatives with respect to both the process and the results of the consultations held so far between the Minister of Amerindian Affairs and the people of the several Amerindian communities throughout the ten Regions of Guyana.

The PNCR is continuing its own examination of the proposed legislation and will very shortly make its views on the draft known.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Friday, February 11, 2005