PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, March 24, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

• The PNCR extends Easter and Phagwah Greetings to all Guyanese and hopes that these religious Festivals, which are being celebrated around the same time this year, will in some way contribute to the moulding of our multi-religious and ethnically diverse society to make a reality of our motto, “ One People, One Nation, One Destiny”;

• With General Regional and Local Government Elections not far away, the PNCR will not allow the PPP/C to succeed in their attempts to politically control Georgetown through the unilateral, undemocratic, illegal action by President Jagdeo with the aim of manipulating public revenue for political use in the Capital City;

• The PPP/C Government’s response to the PNCR’s demands for a proper compensation and rehabilitation program for Flood victims is far from satisfactory and is inadequate to deal with the reality of the losses suffered by victims of the flood. Moreover, the proposed approach by the Government is a clear indication that there will be manipulation of the Flood Relief programme for political partisan purposes in the same manner that the Flood Relief food operation was managed. Donor Agencies and contributors to the Guyana Flood Relief Fund must demand transparency and multi-stakeholder management;

• The PNCR has again been proved correct that, contrary to their public utterances about democracy, the PPP/C Government has no intention of seriously implementing Parliamentary and other Constitutional Reforms in keeping with their commitments. The latest example is the attempts being made by the Government to undermine the Sir Michael Davies’ Report to avoid implementing its recommendations. The Commonwealth would have therefore wasted scarce resources on Sir Michael Davies and Mr. Pinder. The International and Donor Community ought to take note.

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL GUYANESE

The People’s National Congress Reform extends greetings to all Guyanese, but particularly the Christian Community, on the occasion of the Christian Festival of Easter, which is considered the anniversary of the birth of the Christian Church Worldwide.

For the members of the Christian Community, the Easter story represents the fulfillment of God’s prophesy, that mankind would be offered hope of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ and His subsequent resurrection. It is this faith, which has kept the Christian Church alive and enabled its followers to make significant contributions to making the earth a better place for all mankind. It is hoped that the message of Easter and the life of Christ will continue to be a source of inspiration to all people and help us all to be better persons in our challenging world.

The Easter season in Guyana is best known for the widespread kite flying activity that is seen by many as representation of the theme of resurrection. Whatever may have been its origins, kite flying attracts widespread participation of Guyanese from all walks of life regardless of religion, ethnicity or culture. It therefore offers another opportunity for Guyanese to share common experiences and understand each other better. As our kites soar to the heavens, it is hoped that the experience contributes to renewed hope for the future development of our Dear Land of Guyana.

A HAPPY AND BLESSED EASTER TO ALL

PHAGWAH GREETINGS TO ALL

It is significant, this year that the Hindu Festival of Phagwah will be celebrated during the Christian festival of Easter. The People’s National Congress Reform expresses sincere good wishes to the Hindu community of Guyana in particular and Guyanese in general, on the occasion of the celebration of the festival of Phagwah.

Phagwah has both religious and secular significance. Its secular significance lies in the advent of the season of spring and its real and allegorical implication of fertility, rebirth, renewal and regeneration. The religious significance of Holi lies in the conquest of good over evil, manifested in the destruction by Prahalad of his demonic father King Hiranyakasyapu.

Several demons are now abroad in our embattled land. Phagwah comes this year at a time when most Guyanese are still reeling under the effects of the recent floods. Increasing unemployment, violent crime, deepening economic recession, entrenched discrimination, partisanship and governmental ineptitude, characteristise our society and economy.

The People’s National Congress Reform hopes that the festivals of Holi and Easter will provide some spiritual inspiration to the Guyanese people, to fight against these demons that are abroad. It is also hoped that these religious festivals will contribute to the moulding of our religious and ethnic diverse society to make a reality of our motto, “One People One Nation One Destiny”.

AGAIN HAPPY HOLI TO ALL GUYANESE

PPP/C ATTEMPTS TO POLITICALLY CONTROL GEORGETOWN WILL NOT SUCCEED

The President’s attempt to impose an IMC on the people of Georgetown is part of a wider plan hatched by the PPP/C to use State Resources for partisan political purposes in order to shore up their chances at the forthcoming General, Regional and Local Government Elections. It is also an attempt to divert attention from the Government’s fiasco in dealing with the East Demerara Water Conservancy Dam and the overtopping that was partly responsible for the flooding of Georgetown. The PPP/C is also attempting to score pre-election points, given that large sums of money must be spent in Georgetown by the central government, if flooding is to be avoided during the anticipated May/June rains.

The PPP/C’s first attempt to exercise political control over areas where they lost local and General Elections was by the formation of several Community Development Committee Groups, (CDCs), in areas where PNCR or Non-PPP/C Regional or Local Government Councils were elected. Mrs. Philomena Sahoye Shury, the point-person for this activity, even established new CDC groups and superimposed them on Communities where there were already existing Groups. After the formation of these groups the Government then bypassed the Local Government bodies and representative groups and began providing their politically established CDCs with financial resources to undertake projects in their areas. The groups or their hand-picked leaders had to pledge loyalty to the PPP/C and, as happened in Sophia and in one section of West Watooka, Linden, financial support would be withdrawn if political loyalty was ever in doubt. The funding and other activities were never properly monitored, leading to widespread corruption and inter-group conflict in several areas. Despite PNCR’s exposure of these blatant acts of political discrimination over the last two years, the use and abuse of State Resources for partisan political benefit continues.
The second step in the PPP/C plan for political domination in certain areas is the refusal by the Government to hold the annual Elections for Mayors and Deputy Mayors in the various Municipalities as required by Law, even though the Law, passed to postpone the Local Government Elections, makes no reference to the postponement of those annual Elections. Repeated efforts by the PNCR in the Parliament to have the law clarified have been met with total resistance by a Government which falsely claims to be promoting Democracy. Efforts by Councilor Llewellyn John to have this matter as it related to the Georgetown City Council, determined in the Court took years before it could see the light of day. By stifling the democratic process, the PPP/C Government deliberately undermined the functioning of many of the Local Government Councils. Because of the prolonged postponement of Local Government Elections, several energetic Councilors became frustrated and resigned while others migrated or died. The PPP/C, instead of allowing the democratic process to prevail waited for the best opportunity, as they have done in several parts of the country, to dissolve the elected Councils and establish Interim Management Committees comprising of PPP/C Hacks.
It is well known that both the PNCR and the Councilors of the Linden Municipality had petitioned the Government to hold the annual Mayoral Elections for several years but the Ministry of Local Government adamantly refused to permit those elections to be held. The call by the PNCR for the establishment of an IMC at Linden was therefore a matter of last resort as a result of the intransigence of the PPP/C administration. The PNCR, however, predicted the action of the Jagdeo Government and initiated its own action which resulted in the PNCR naming members of the IMC in direct proportion to its elected representation on that Council. The plans of the PPP/C were therefore foiled
The attempt by the PPP/C to use Linden Town Council as an example to support their devious plan for Georgetown is therefore a red-herring. The PNCR won 27 of the 30 seats on the Linden Municipality and was entitled to speak on behalf of that Council. In Georgetown the PPP/C won only 8 of the thirty seats on that Council. It is therefore a minority. One would therefore have expected that a prerequisite for any action in Georgetown would have been consultation with the elected representatives, but that is not culture that the PPP/C understands.
It is therefore obvious that the PPP/C is running scared and will do anything to hold on to power, a la clutching at a straw. The move to displace the M& CC of Georgetown is a desperate one, but the PNCR will stand firm. They, the People of Georgetown must also reject the blatant attempt by PPP/C to seize control of Georgetown for partisan political purposes.


Section 3:05 (1) of the Municipal and District Councils Act specifies that “If the Minister is satisfied upon inquiry held by him that-

a) a council has exceeded or abused its powers or has made default in the performance of any duty imposed upon it;

b) the council has failed to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of efficiency and progress in the discharge of its function;

c) the expenditure of the council has generally or on any particular head of expenditure been excessive or unreasonable having regard to its financial resources and other relevant circumstances of the council area;

d) the council has failed to observe any financial instructions,


he may by order, declare the council to be in default and ….

dissolve the council, or suspend the council for such time as he may think fit from the performance of such of its functions as may be specified”.

In complete breach of the Law, the President announced to the nation, that he will instruct his Minister to consult with the people of Georgetown as to whether they wish an Interim Management Committee or not. He further indicated that those consultations may result in the dissolving of the M&CC of Georgetown and the establishment of an IMC to run Georgetown. In short the President has determined the wishes of the people of Georgetown. If there is any consultation with the people required at this time, it ought to be to determine if the Jagdeo Regime should remain in Office or an Interim Management Committee established to save Guyana until the next General Elections.

No one can deny that the M&CC could and should do a better job of running the City than they are doing at present. However, a close examination of the conduct of the affairs of the City would reveal that like many other Councils:

i. The City is under funded. Exactly for this reason, the City is still to pass its budget for 2005, since its projected expenditure is approximately 1B in excess of its projected income;

ii. The undermining of the Council by the Government through its failure to pay rates and taxes promptly to the City. For example, no taxes have as yet been paid by the Government for this year.

iii. The Minister responsible for Local Government has never heeded the call of the Mayor to investigate and pronounce on the problems, which he has purportedly experienced with the senior staff, hence the Minister may have facilitated the growth of a cancer; or unfounded concerns

iv. The City has not benefited from municipal elections since 1994 and has been unable, because of PPP/C repeated insistence, to elect a Mayor for the last eight years. The PPP/C, through Central Government, has virtually imposed a Mayor on the City for eight years, although they have the smallest block of representatives on the Council.

v. There is need for urgent Local Government Reform including the rules for fiscal transfer of resources to Local Government Bodies. The answer is therefore to expedite the Local Government Reform process.

The truth about the President’s attempt to impose an IMC on the people of Georgetown is that Jagdeo wants to exercise personal control over the several hundred million dollars that the Central Government is now required to make available to the City to deal with post flood infrastructural and other works. The PPP/C sees this as an opportunity to use these resources for political benefits and to score pre-election points, given the amount of monies which will inevitably have to be pumped into Georgetown by the central government, if flooding is to be avoided during the anticipated May/June rains.

An IMC will not raise any additional revenues, nor will it change the staff of the Council. The only change will be that Freedom House will direct the show. The PNCR therefore says to the Government that the circumstances in Georgetown do not mirror those that existed in Linden and that the options in Georgetown are to allow mayoral elections or call municipal elections so that the people can decide who they wish to run the affairs of the Municipality. Anything short of that will meet with the maximum resistance of the PNCR and will inevitably fail.

The People’s National Congress Reform will not sit idly by and have Jagdeo and his henchmen run around Georgetown doling out the flood relief money while appearing to be the saviour of residents of the city.

FLOOD COMPENSATION INADEQUATE AND SYSTEM LACKS TRANSPARENCY

The PPP/C Government’s belated response to the PNCR’s demands for adequate compensation and an effective rehabilitation program for Flood victims is far from satisfactory and is not adequate to deal with the reality of the losses suffered by victims of the flood. Moreover, the proposed approach by the Government is a clear indication that there will be manipulation of the Flood Relief programme for political partisan purposes in the same manner that the Flood Relief food operation was managed. Donor Agencies and contributors to the Guyana Flood Relief Fund must demand transparency and multi-stakeholder management

The Flood-affected continue to be at risk. The chances of the means of their livelihoods disappearing totally, of their incomes falling further, of their homes being repossessed or being impossible to maintain, of their families going hungry, of their networks of friendships disintegrating, have never been higher since the last world war.

There is a new source of concern abroad. On top of the long-standing concerns about lack of transparency in the management of the flood disaster, there is an increasing awareness of a new range of risks that may bring fresh patterns of social distress and exclusion. President Jagdeo has unveiled his government’s flood recovery and rehabilitation package worth a mere $2.8 billion. Barring those who will be left partially or completely excluded from this short-term intervention some 70,000 flood affected households will receive the princely sum of $10,000 each. This sum is an insult to tax payers who witness daily the misuse and wastage of State Resources. Where are the Lotto Funds in the new scheme of things? It is no wonder that the Government refused to bring its proposals for Parliamentary scrutiny in the recent Budget Debate. As we predicted, they wanted total political control to deal with this matter from Freedom House.

The system to be used to identify the beneficiaries remains unclear especially since the Government has refused to accept data and other information collected during the flood by several NGO. The PNCR’s concern is that the Secretariat to be established will not be inclusive thus leaving ample room for the exercise of political patronage, favoritism and bias. If the PPP/C government behaves characteristically, and we have no reason to assume otherwise, for many needy households the risk is that poverty will turn into an inability even to subsist, and that marginalization will change into complete social and economic exclusion. In the absence of a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan for flood relief, Government’s action will continue to be ham-fisted, arbitrary and ineffectual. While pressure from the PNCR and other groups has caused government to finally address the needs of flood affected communities, we will nevertheless continue to call for proper compensation for flood victims so that lives and standards of living can be restored to pre-flood levels.

The fact remains that government is not without blame for the tragedy that has altered so many Guyanese lives in such a profound and immutable way. Chronic incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and a cavalier attitude to public safety, security and well-being are at the core of the recent flood disaster. Attempts to cover up, blame others and manipulate the facts of the disaster can only be described as pathetic and churlish. We will continue to lay blame where it ought to be and remind flood victims that they are not without legal recourse.

The worrying figure of a total $6B to be spent in the long term on flood rehab is grossly inadequate to meet the needs of a population in excess of 200,000, many of whom are now economically inactive. We call on government to review this figure upwards and to put in place proper systems to ensure that all the needy throughout the entire geographical area recently under flood water benefit. The $10,000 assistance must be immediately upgraded to better reflect the average loss per household. The amount of $10,000 can barely suffice for a deposit on a replacement stove or feed a family of five for two weeks but only with considerable help from relatives and friends. Surely Guyanese deserve better than this.

In a few weeks government’s attitude to accountability and transparency will be vividly on display. It has promised to present an audited account of the total assistance received and a list of donors together with the names of the sources of the procurement of goods. We hope this means the introduction of some critical changes and safeguards to limit the more outrageous abuses long associated with the present administration.

Inequality and corruption are here because the PPP/C wants it, and because within its ranks the moral and social forces that normally forestall such abuses are so weak or sadly missing.

THE MICHAEL DAVIES REPORT

In the PNCR last weekly Press statement we stated that, “there is justifiable skepticism that nothing will be done by the PPP/C administration on the Davies’ Report.”

The PNCR has again been proved correct that, contrary to their public utterances about democracy, the PPP/C Government has no intention of seriously implementing Parliamentary and other Constitutional Reforms in keeping with their commitments. The latest example is the attempt being made by the Government to undermine the Sir Michael Davies’ Report and avoid implementing its recommendations.

After weeks of evaluation of the functioning of the Guyana Parliament at the expense of the Commonwealth, Sir Michael Davies presented his findings to the Speaker of the Parliament, who later released it to the Media. On the basis of this report, another Consultant, again at the expense of the Commonwealth, spent several weeks making recommendations on the most expeditious way of implementing the Davies’ recommendations. It was therefore shocking that the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud, would suggest, as he did at the last Parliamentary Management Committee, that Sir Michael Davies should return to Guyana to speak again to the PPP/C. The arrogance of the PPP/C Administration knows no bounds. The Davies report reveals nothing that the people of Guyana do not already know or that the PNCR has not already stated. The only difference this time is that the comments have come from an independent observer with no political agenda to serve. The truth has therefore hurt the PPP/C and they seem bent at all cost to undermine the work of this distinguished gentleman. The Commonwealth would have therefore wasted scarce resources on Sir Michael Davies and Mr. Pinder. The International and Donor Community ought to take note but it is ultimately the responsibility of the People of Guyana to ensure that true democracy is achieved and our Constitution is honoured.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown. Guyana.
Thursday, March 24, 2005