PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, March 31, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

• In welcoming both cricket teams, the PNCR trusts that they will have ample opportunity not only for personal and collective interaction but help to bring a greater understanding between the peoples of South Africa and the Caribbean.
• The PNCR wishes to extend its sincere congratulations to Shivnarine Chanderpaul on his richly deserved appointment as Captain of the West Indies Cricket Team.
• At a recent Press Conference, President Jagdeo, in his now usual habit of putting his foot in his mouth not only indicated his displeasure with GT&T and Cell Star, but publicly berated their performance.
• The PNCR’s call for a public inquiry into the causes of the recent flood would have provided essential information for drafting a National Disaster Response Plan.
• The PNCR has already exposed the lack of transparency in the management of the recent flood disaster and expressed its concerns about the arrangements that were being put in place for the assessment and distribution of the miserly amount announced as Flood Relief.
• The PNCR awaits the reaction of the Donor Community that has expended such large resources on the improvement in the functioning of the Guyana Parliament.


PNCR WELCOMES THE WEST INDIES AND SOUTH AFRICAN CRICKET TEAMS TO GUYANA

The People’s National Congress Reform is particularly pleased to welcome the West Indies and South African cricket teams to our shores. The Party has followed with keen interest the various contests between these proud cricket playing nations and is confident that this 5th Test Series will produce entertaining as well as absorbing cricket.

The significance of cricket in the development of the societies of the Caribbean and South Africa is not unknown. It has been an important medium for fostering national cohesion and racial harmony. The game at Bourda will therefore assume a significance that extends well beyond the traditional boundaries of cricket. It will have an enriching and salutary effect on the peoples of this region, especially those in Guyana, as well as those back in South Africa who will be watching this game with keen interest. In welcoming both teams, the PNCR trusts that they will have ample opportunity not only for personal and collective interaction but help to bring a greater understanding between the peoples of South Africa and the Caribbean.

THE PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM CONGRATULATES SHIVNARINE CHANDERPAUL ON HIS APPOINTMENT AS CAPTAIN OF THE WEST INDIES TEAM

The PNCR wishes to extend its sincere congratulations to Shivnarine Chanderpaul on his richly deserved appointment as Captain of the West Indies Cricket Team. This appointment has come after more than a decade of sterling service to regional Cricket through his consistent batting, fielding and his demonstrated commitment to and understanding of both the game and the important social role that it plays in the multi-ethnic societies of Guyana and the Caribbean. The experience acquired, as Captain of our national team and over the years he has played for both the West Indies and Guyana, will stand him in good stead as he takes on the onerous responsibility of Captain of the West Indies Team at a very difficult time in the history of the regional game. Consequently, the Party is convinced that he will be no less vigorous in discharging his duties than previous captains, especially his five compatriots who have been privileged to hold this honourable position. The PNCR therefore wishes Shivnarine Chanderpaul every success as he embarks on this important phase of his career.

PRESIDENT JAGDEO CONTINUES TO UNDERMINE GUYANA’S INVESTMENT CLIMATE AND SERIOUS QUESTIONS ARE BEING ASKED ABOUT MOTIVES.

Whether by accident or deliberate design, the President continues to make public utterances which can only lead to the undermining of investor confidence in Guyana. At a recent Press Conference, President Jagdeo, in his now usual habit of putting his foot in his mouth not only indicated his displeasure with GT&T and Cell Star but publicly berated their performance. He used these statements to provide an explanation for his announcement that he expected at least another competitor to enter the telecommunications market in Guyana. This statement by Jagdeo comes approximately three months after the commencement of the commercial operation of Cell Star’s U-Mobile service. The nation will recall that Jagdeo was loud in praise for this new service at its launching and at that time used the opportunity to attack GT&T.

The PNCR is already on record as supporting competition in every sector of business activity and holds no brief for either of the two telephone companies. However, we cannot understand the logic of the President’s statement, at a time when it is public knowledge that Cell Star and Digicel are locking horns in an apparent turf war over theft of confidential information on the local telecommunication market. It has been reported that the war has taken on the form of a dirty tricks game and is now the subject of litigation. How unwholesome it is, therefore, for President Jagdeo to enter the fray as he did against GT&T when Cel Star was about to enter the market. How are investors to interpret these developments, especially when one of the President’s chief interviewers and senior member of the state media are identified as one of the conspirators, quite reminiscent of the manner in which another state media operative found himself in the middle of the George Bacchus debacle.

There are, however, some more disturbing reports circulating in Georgetown which suggests that these recent developments may not have been accidental but an integral part of a devious scheme. Consequently the PNCR will soon conclude its investigations and report its findings to the nation. In this regard the PNCR proposes to table a question in Parliament with regard to the source of the four million dollars ($4M) that Presidential Adviser, Lumumba announced that the President was donating to the Georgetown Football League. This nation may recall that in the not too distant past, an investor who was still weighing further investment options in Guyana chose to make a donation for the rehabilitation of the fence of the President’s residence. It also raises eyebrows about the President’s recent announcement about positive developments in the forestry sector especially since the discovery of the mysterious aircraft on an airstrip, which services the forestry sector.

It would be of no concern to the PNCR if the President’s actions did not impact negatively on the nation but ultimately, it will be the people of Guyana who will face the consequences of his irresponsible actions.

PNCR CALLS FOR A NATIONAL DISASTER RESPONSE PLAN TO BE PUT IN PLACE URGENTLY

One of the PNCR’s deep convictions is that for a nation to progress, it must ensure that previous mistakes and misfortunes do not recur. In this light, one of the major failures of the current administration has been its inability and/or unwillingness to tackle national problems so that they do not return to plague the Guyanese people. Consequently, the nation continues to experience the same political, social and economic problems in their full intensity and frequency.

The fears, traumas and sufferings experienced by the Guyanese people during the recent floods must not repeat themselves. The PNCR is resolved to ensure that the mistakes, misjudgments, negligence and unpreparedness at the level of government, that turned high but manageable amounts of rainfall into an unprecedented flood disaster, do not return to haunt the lives of the already-burdened Guyanese people.

It is against this background that the PNCR re-iterates its call for a National Disaster Response Plan. This is a call of utmost urgency, as the causes of the recent disaster still lurk around the corner: namely, (i) new rains expected in May-June, (ii) the fragile conservancy dam, (iii) an under-funded and poorly-managed drainage system, and (iv), a highly inadequate disaster response system. The PNCR, even before it gets into office in 2006, will work to ensure that the nation is prepared for any large-scale disaster and responds in a structured and comprehensive manner.

The crafting of a National Disaster Response Plan must be a process that involves community participation, including the major political and social stakeholders. It must be a process that taps into the entire pool of expert and professional human resources in the country and one that is informed by the experiences of other countries. The PNCR is convinced that, given the requisite seriousness and political will, such a plan can be prepared in 3 to 4 weeks.

Elements of the plan should:

• Extend from disaster preparedness right up to disaster rehabilitation. i.e., include aspects and systems that must be in place prior to, during and after a disaster, all in a continuum. Disaster prevention and mitigation must also be integral aspects of the plan.

• Include a developed early-warning system (for weather forecasting, checking the integrity of the conservancy dam, monitoring disease outbreaks, etc)

• Have a well-oiled emergency response structure that must include such elements as evacuation arrangements; distribution of emergency food and medicals; and reconnection of disrupted utilities.

• Include a developed public communication/announcement system.

• Cater for rapid-onset disasters, i.e., those that occur with little or no warning, such as the collapse of the conservancy dam or a breach of the sea defence) and for slow-on set disasters (flooding due to prolonged rainfall, or drought and famine in the Rupununi and elsewhere in the country).

• Decentralize operations by using the local government system where possible.

• Devise ways and means to use the services of NGOs and other civil groups in a more effective and coordinated manner.
AND
• Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all players involved (the central government, relief agencies, the military, police and fire services, other state institutions, local government bodies, professional associations, volunteer groups, etc).

The PNCR’s call for a public inquiry into the causes of the recent flood would have provided essential information for drafting a National Disaster Response Plan. Unfortunately, the Jagdeo government continues to mishandle the situation, preferring instead to use the entire flood event to seek electoral advantages.

It takes no special insight to deduce that if disaster response is mishandled, many years of development activities can be wiped out or the chances for further progress set back. On the other hand, if the response is well planned and takes a systematic approach, a disaster can provide opportunities for constructive changes to be made.

A PNCR Government will set as a priority the preparation of a full-fledged National Disaster Response Plan that extends from disaster preparedness all the way through to rehabilitation and reconstruction.

ARRANGEMENT FOR FLOOD COMPENSATION QUESTIONABLE AND STILL LACKS TRANSPARENCY

The PNCR has already exposed the lack of transparency in the management of the recent flood disaster and expressed its concerns about the arrangements that were being put in place for the assessment and distribution of the miserly amount announced as Flood Relief. One would have expected that any responsible Government would have taken steps to ensure that such concerns did not materialize. Regrettably, the PPP/C Administration is both uncaring and shameless in its behaviour.

The newly announced Secretariat under the Management of PPP/C Executive, Robeson Benn, announced recently that they had completed the assessment of the East Coast Communities in two days. Vigilant Regional officials and residents, however, quickly recognized this public deception as they knew that no assessment had as yet been carried out in the Villages from Nabacalis to Cane Grove. It meant that Nabacalis, Cove and John, Victoria, Belfield, Noot en Zuil, DutchFour, Two Friends, Anns Grove, Clonbrook, Bee Hive, Greenfield, Unity, Lancaster, and the remaining parts of Mahaica and Cane Grove would have been neglected. The residents therefore quickly drafted a petition which was dispatched to the Ministry of Agriculture and this exposure forced the organizers to do what they were required to do in the first place. This naturally raises questions about either incompetence or deliberate attempts to create further confusion.

This incident is, however, only the beginning. While there was no announcement of the commencement of the assessment in Greater Georgetown, the PNCR has discovered that operatives of the PPP/C, including Ms. Philomena Sahoye-Shury, have been quietly collecting information on losses suffered by shopkeepers in Albouystown, La Penitence and other parts of the City. The question must therefore be asked whether they are working out of the Secretariat of Robeson Benn or from Freedom House. Questions are therefore already being asked about the equitable nature of the proposed relief. It is now becoming clearer why President Jagdeo and the PPP/C refused to have these issues presented to the Parliament where more scrutiny would have been possible. The PNCR will however be monitoring these developments and ensure that the plans for partisan use of the flood relief do not succeed.

THE MICHAEL DAVIES REPORT

The Head of the Presidential Secretariat has now made public what the PNCR stated some two weeks ago, i.e. that the PPP/C Government has no intention of seriously implementing Parliamentary and other Constitutional Reforms in keeping with their commitments, as evidenced by their rejection of the Sir Michael Davies’ Report.

The PNCR awaits the reaction of the Donor Community that has expended such large resources on the improvement in the functioning of the Guyana Parliament.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, March 31, 2005