PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, April 14, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

 The Parliamentary Opposition Parties consider the reinstatement of Gajraj as Minister of Home Affairs an insult to all Guyanese. The PNCR will not recognize him and will orchestrate a programme of public disrespect.
 The PNCR calls for an investigation into recent appointments at NCERD.
 Time is running out for GECOM and the PNCR will not accept excuses of insufficient time to implement minimum requirements for free, fair and transparent Elections.
 The PNCR’s continued outreach programme around Guyana confirms the serious state of the economy and the dissatisfaction over the PPP/C’s performance.
 The failure of the Government to adequately consult on the proposed introduction of VAT in Guyana is yet another example of the total disregard by the Government for the people of Guyana.
 Opposition Leader, Mr., Robert Corbin, MP, has accepted an invitation from the new President of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

THE REINSTATEMENT OF GAJRAJ IS AN INSULT TO THE PEOPLE OF GUYANA

The Parliamentary Opposition Parties, after recent consultations, have stated that the reinstatement of Ronald Gajraj as Minister of Home Affairs is an insult to the people of Guyana and another manifestation of the PPP/C’s total disregard for the Constitution and the norms of decency in Government.

Concerned and patriotic citizens, human rights activists, religious organisations and opposition political parties have for a very long time been concerned over the existence and operations of death squads. The large number of unexplained murders and other crimes, including extortion coupled with the allegation that the Minister of Home Affairs and other government functionaries may have been involved in the operation of these squads continue to haunt the nation. The PNCR, like many of these organisations, had called for the establishment of a properly constituted and structured Commission of Inquiry with broad and sufficient powers to get to the root of this evil thereby providing the basis for cleansing our land.

The PNCR subscribed to and supported the press release of the joint opposition parties on May 15, 2004 which rejected the Commission of Inquiry set up by President Jagdeo and though we undertook not to stand in its way, we argued, then as we now do that:

• The unilateral establishment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry was a travesty.
• The Terms of Reference were derisory, totally unacceptable and provocative; were woefully inadequate, narrow and not intended to ensure that the truth will be unearthed and the guilty bought to justice.
• The Terms or Reference did not include the issues that contributed to the violence, which engulfed the society, since 2002, including violent crime and manifestations of insecurity and communal violence in communities such as Buxton, Annandale, Enterprise and others.
• The President had not consulted the Parliamentary Opposition Parties or any of the Social Partners on the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Inquiry or its composition.
• The President had pronounced on the innocence of Minister Gajraj before setting up his Commission of Inquiry

The report, however, does not exonerate or exculpate Mr. Gajraj for malfeasance and wrong doing as the government controlled media is trying to assert. The report states, inter alia:

• The “Minister… exceeded his ministerial authority” (3.2)
• “The exigencies of public safety and security at the time did not necessitate or justify the decision of the minister to involve himself in the sphere of operational policing” (3.3)
• “the special relationship which developed between Minister Gajraj and Axel Williams was very unhealthy” (3.5)
• “Minister Gajraj also deviated from the normal practice and on several occasions signified his approval for the grant of firearm licenses to persons even before any police investigation was conducted.” (3.11)
• “Minister Gajraj failed to give any or sufficient consideration to the fact that Axel Williams armed with an upgraded firearm, posed a real danger to the lives of others.” (3.15)
• “Records of numerous telephone calls between Minister Gajraj’s telephones and Axel Williams’s cell phone tended to confirm the development of a special relationship between them.” (3.16)

Nothing in the report substantiates by corroborative evidence Mr. Gajraj’s claim that he had retrieved guns or intelligence from Axel Williams. Our best legal advice of the information presented to the tribunal suggests that there may be sufficient evidence to support charges of criminal conspiracy, accessory after the fact, counseling and procuring. The PNCR will continue its public disclosure of the contents of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry.

The decision to reinstate Mr. Gajraj as Minister, therefore, flies in the face of all that is decent and honourable in good governance and respect for law, order and ministerial propriety. In any other country, with few possible exceptions, the Minister would have been quickly dispatched in the light of such a damning indictment. The haste to cover up the matter by announcing that the decision had the unanimous approval of cabinet does not remove the fact that several ministers and high PPP/C officials are extremely unhappy with the decision and are saddened and embarrassed by these developments.

Mr. Jagdeo clearly has no respect for some of his colleagues, for decency or for the Guyanese people. He also clearly has no respect for international opinion and he clearly does not recognise that this decision is a slap in the face of the rest of Caricom, the democratic world and those who have tried to persuade him of the error of his ways.



Though you wash yourself with lye
and use much soap,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,
says the Lord GOD. [Prophet Jeremiah]

The PNCR therefore rejects the appointment of Gajraj as Minister of Home Affairs in Guyana and calls upon all Guyanese to do so. We will not recognise him and will take appropriate action when the need arises. The PNCR believes that this and other recent actions by the PPP/C are deliberately orchestrated to provoke a response that would undermine stability and provide a diversion from major issues of concern such as their inaction over and tacit encouragement of, narco trafficking in Guyana; their refusal to accept the Sir Michael Davies Report; the preparations necessary for the holding of free, fair and transparent Elections in 2006 and the dissatisfaction being expressed by some of their own supporters. The most recent act of governmental lawlessness, however, will neither distract nor divert the PNCR from its programme to secure the removal of the PPP/C from office, come the next elections.

The PNCR and other Parliamentary Opposition Parties held discussions on this matter regarding an appropriate response to this development and have subscribed to a joint program of action. A Joint Statement will be issued shortly.

INVESTIGATION NEEDED INTO RECENT APPOINTMENTS AT NCERD

The PNCR is calling on Minister of Education, Henry Jeffrey, to launch an investigation into the recent filling of vacancies for Assessment Officers at NCERD. The facts, as the PNCR knows them, are:

1. The Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) held a workshop on measurement and evaluation techniques, at which approximately 25 senior teachers attended and passed. Participants were drawn from schools across the country and included School Heads, Assistant Masters, and Lecturers of technical institutes.

2. At the end of the training program, several participants were considered and interviewed for the position of assessment officers. As the proposed salary was only $60,000, all of the candidates turned down the offer, as their current salaries were higher than that on offer and their promotional prospects better.

3. At some later stage, the salary of the position was upgraded to US$1,000. The Director of NCERD then proceeded to interview four persons, none of whom had done the training. Three of these four persons were siblings (two brothers and a sister) from one and the same family.

4. None of the 25 persons trained for the job was recalled, in light of the improved remuneration on offer.

5. In an effort to give the appearance that several persons were up for consideration, five other persons were subsequently called for an interview. Again, none of these persons had attended the workshop.

6. The foreign consultant attached to the project penned letters to the Education Minister, Permanent Secretary and the Chief Education Officer complaining about the recruitment process, and pointing to the fact that none of the persons selected had done the costly training program. The PNCR understands that the Director of NCERD has proposed that a special training program be conducted for the new appointees.

It is against this background that the PNCR is calling on the Education Minister to review these appointments and to ensure the new appointment process is rooted in decency, transparency and fairness. These acts of deception and manipulation would only serve to further demoralize and deplete the stock of teachers remaining in the system. The Minister must act now to remove any suspicion of his own involvement in this nepotistic process.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR GECOM. THE PNCR WILL NOT ACCEPT EXCUSES OF INSUFFICIENT TIME.

The PNCR has over the last two years done everything possible to assist GECOM in its preparation for the 2006 elections. It has also taken the trouble to keep the public informed, through the media and other for a, on its efforts to contribute to the timely preparation for an election of an acceptable standard.

Last year alone, the PNCR responded to GECOM on the following issues:

1. The improvement of the security environment of and for GECOM`s IT operations. This was done in the aftermath of the dislocation of the names of many voters at the 2001 elections; the verification by the IDEA and Vedovee reports that the IT operations had serious security loopholes, some of which had been breached after GECOM`s IT operations had been sealed off; and in response to the Mc Dermont report, which sought to address the security shortcomings.
2. The improvement in the system for the efficient and effective declaration and transmission of the results from the individual polling stations through the divisional and district Registrars to the center ( GECOM`s secretariat). This was done in response to the Mike James report.
3. The Elections Commission concept paper on Continuous Registration, which covered three major issues: house-to house verification of the potential voters, the introduction of finger-printing that can be electronically cross-referenced so as to eliminate multiple registration and ultimately multiple voting, and for the compilation of the voters list to be an ongoing process.
4. GECOM`s request for our position on a monitoring mechanism for the elections.

In addition the PNCR both individually and together with the other parliamentary political parties met with GECOM in an effort to clarify positions and to receive a feedback on GECOM`s responses to our proposals as well as its progress in preparing for the elections.

Of concern to the PNCR and other Opposition Parties has been GECOM`s continuous deferral of its promised deadlines to decide and report on matters generally and those addressed in the concept paper in particular. The PNCR therefore reiterates that it cannot be held responsible for GECOM`s slothfulness and will not condone the non-implementation of the essential elements outlined above since they are critical to the holding of elections of an acceptable standard.

The PNCR notes the PPP/C’s continuous attempt to use the Office of the President to determine an agenda for GECOM, which is devoid of the aforementioned essentials all of which were originally placed on the agenda by GECOM. Recent outbursts and baseless accusations by PPP General Secretary, Ramotar, can only be interpreted as another attempt to undermine the conduct of Free and Fair Elections, for which the PPP constantly claims credit, and creating a lack of confidence in the electoral process.

The PNCR has also noted with disquiet a letter in the Stabroek News of Sunday 10th April, written by GECOM consultant, Michael Yarde. Mr. Yarde's purported letter, sought to discredit the call made by the PNCR and other political stakeholders for the introduction of biometrics in the registration process.

The PNCR strongly disapproves of such unprofessional and thoughtless conduct on Mr. Yarde's part.

Mr. Yarde has been a long-time consultant to GECOM, having worked there also during the 2001 election. He therefore cannot be unaware of the political dynamics and sensitivities involved in the country's electoral process. In any event, as a hired consultant attached to GECOM, it is most unprofessional for him to make his views public. Mr. Yarde should restrict himself to giving his opinions to his GECOM employers, who can then decide how his reports should be publicly disseminated.

The PNCR notes, however, that in Mr. Yarde’s letter, he is forced to concede the fact that biometrics have been successfully used in Jamaica. The successful use of biometrics has therefore occurred right in Guyana's backyard. Our party's position has always been that GECOM must seek to learn from the Jamaican experience. Antigua, another Caricom member, has done so successfully, using biometrics in its last general election. Why can't Guyana?

Mr. Yarde must desist from any further public utterances. If he continues with his narrow-mindedness on the use of biometrics and other issues, then his tenure at GECOM must be called into question.

THE PNCR CONTINUED OUTREACH PROGRAMME.

In recent weeks the Leadership of the PNCR has continued its outreach programme around the country during which the party has been discussing issues of concern to various communities and assessing the gravity of problems being experienced by citizens.

Over the weekend, April 1 – 3, 2005, Party Leader, Robert H O Corbin, MP and a high level party delegation visited various communities in Region #8. Among the communities visited were Mahdia and the Amerindian communities of Princeville, Campbelltown, Micobie and Tumatumari. Among the problems outlined by residents in these communities were:

• The shortage and absence of teachers in schools
• Inadequate health care
• The deplorable state of their roads
• Absence of potable water systems
• Poor communications
• The failure of the government to settle Amerindian land issues.
• Indiscriminate mining as well as unavailability of land to small miners to carry out their mining operations.

During the month of March several wards of Georgetown were visited and Community meetings held. These areas included Albouystown, Werk-en- Rust, Wortmanville and Fields D and E Sophia. It was evident that the residents of Georgetown were fully up to date on the machinations of President Jagdeo to control the city and were ready to reject his plans to establish an IMC in the capital City.
Last weekend the team visited East Berbice where discussions were held with residents from No 63 to 68 Villages, No 53 Village, Crabwood Creek, East Canje and New Amsterdam. The residents of Berbice expressed grave disappointment with the performance of the Jagdeo Government and even in former PPP/C strongholds they complained of neglect and corruption. It was therefore evident why Jagdeo chose to hold his Ministerial retreat there at the same time of the PNCR’s long announced outreach programme. Regrettably the response to the President was very disappointing and embarrassing. Observers have stated that the real intention of that Retreat was to do damage control as a result of that Party’s recent action against Khemraj Ramjattan and to avoid proposals for his reinstatement at the next PPP/C Congress scheduled for July next.

Accompanying the Leader of the Opposition and Party Leader on these outreach activities were Central Executive members and Party Regional officials, including, Mr. Winston Murray MP, Chairman of the Party, Ms. Amna Ally MP, Director of Party Organisation, Dr. George Norton MP, Director of Hinterland Affairs, Ms. Melanie Cornette, National Secretary of the GYSM, Ms. Rajcoomarie Bancroft, Regional MP, Region #8, Mr. Senor Bell, Regional Chairman of Region #8, Ms. Clarissa Riehl MP, Mr. Aubrey Norton, Chairman, Georgetown District, Mr. Nasir Ally, MP, Party’s Chairman Region 6, Mr. Claude Henry, Mayor of New Amsterdam, Mr. Basil Williams MP, Vice-Chairman of the PNCR, Ms. Volda Lawrence MP, Director Human Services, Mr. Sherwood Lowe, Mr. Jerome Khan MP and others.

The PNCR’s outreach Programme will continue. Meanwhile, the PNCR will hold a public meeting in Albouystown on Sunday April 17th to deal with the Gajraj affair and plans by Jagdeo to appoint an IMC in Georgetown.

FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY CONSULT ON VAT IS ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE TOTAL DISREGARD BY THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE OF GUYANA

Today, April 14th, 2005 the National Assembly of the Parliament is expected to debate a Bill to introduce Value Added Tax in Guyana. The PNCR had requested that this Bill, which was originally scheduled to be debated on March 31 last, be deferred to give more time for members of Parliament to study this complicated piece of Legislation and to have wide consultations. In the pursuit of this exercise the PNCR consulted widely and was astonished that, despite the government’s previous claims, several private sector organizations complained of not being adequately consulted on this new and highly technical measure. Separate statements have been made by those Organisations, including a request by the Private Sector that this matter be further postponed. The PNCR will pursue this matter further today in Parliament in the hope that good sense would prevail. However, the failure of the Government to adequately consult on the proposed introduction of VAT in Guyana is yet another example of the total disregard by the Government for the people of Guyana

OPPOSITION LEADER TO ATTEND OPENING OF CCJ IN TRINIDAD

Opposition Leader, Mr., Robert Corbin, MP, has accepted an invitation from the new President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, The Honourable Michael de La Bastide to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the CCJ scheduled for Saturday, April 16th at 9:30 AM. The PNCR in and out of Government has always worked for and supported the strengthening of Caricom and its Institutions. The Party has already applauded and welcomed this new institution in the region and hopes that the judicial process in the Region would be strengthened and the people of the Caribbean have greater recourse to justice and the preservation of the rule of Law.

During his absence from the country, Mr. Winston Murray, Chairman of the Party will carry out the functions of Leader of the PNCR.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, April 14, 2005