PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. E. Lance Carberry, MP People’s National Congress/ Reform Opposition Chief Whip To The Press Conference Thursday April 25th, 2002 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.

Public Statement By Amnesty International On Regime’s “Terrorist” Accusations:

The People's National Congress/Reform welcomes the statement by Amnesty International condemning government's intemperate response to criticisms of the deadly and confrontational approach of the Target Special Squad or 'Black Clothes' police and reiterating their demand " for an immediate review " of the unit's activities. It is a well thought out and incisive statement based on AI’s evidently careful, ongoing monitoring and understanding of the situation in Guyana.

AI's sentiments are in full accord with those of the PNCR and other concerned segments of Guyanese society. Amnesty International has confirmed what the PNCR has been saying all along and that is that extra-judicial killings by certain out-of-control elements of the Guyana Police Force cannot be justified in the fight against crime and are in fact undermining the crime fighting capability of the Force. The PNC/R has been branded anti-police, pro-criminal and terroristic by PPP/C mouthpieces, because it has consistently pointed this out and continue its call for a Commission of Enquiry into the operation and functioning of the GPF. Will Freedom House now similarly categorise Amnesty International. We shall see!

The regime has already reacted with its usual bombast and shrillness. But the PNCR wishes to caution that it would be ill-advised to ignore the exhortations of such a reputable and respected international organisation. To do so would be to inflict incalculable harm to Guyana's national interests and international standing.

For this reason it is quite alarming to learn from the AI statement that the regime has rejected their previous requests for the review of the activities of the 'Black Clothes' squad in much the same way that it has disdained similar demands by the PNCR and others enlightened bodies in Guyana. The calculated sloth and evident unwillingness of the regime to investigate or hold Coroner's inquests into police killings is well established and known by all.

The demonstrated failures of the regime have resulted in yet another instance of a private citizen being forced to exercise his constitutional right to bring private criminal charges of murder against the police officer alleged to have fired the fatal bullet(s) that killed Tshaka Blair. The PNC/R is fully supportive of this laudable initiative. But it really bespeaks a sorry state of affairs when a private citizen has to act in this way because the government cannot be relied on to discharge its moral and constitutional responsibility to the citizenry.

No doubt acting on the instructions of the Freedom House gang, all indications suggest that the Director of Public Prosecutions will, as he has done in the past, take action to frustrate the quest for justice and the maintenance of the rule of law. Shame! The regime seem to have given the 'Black Clothes' carte blanche to carry out their murderous designs and, where this Squad is concerned, has adopted the posture of ' hear no evil, see no evil'. Anyone who dares to criticise their excesses is branded anti-police, pro-criminal and terroristic. The regime and all concerned Guyanese should take careful note of AI’s caution:

''We recognise the duty of states under international human rights law to protect their populations from violent criminal acts. However crime fighting must not be undermined through the deliberate failure to adhere to international principles on the use of force and firearms. Human rights standards are not simply legal niceties. Rather they provide the framework through which all human rights may be protected.”

The Guyana Trades Union Congress has now been branded terrorists for speaking out, like the PNC/R and now Amnesty International may also be similarly branded a terrorist organisation. The TUC has been vilified by Presidential aide Robert Persaud and threatened with the loss of its government subvention. This is nothing short of bullyism and pettiness on the part of the regime. The government subvention to the TUC should not be used to muzzle that body and compromise its independence. But clearly that is how this regime, incapable of making a distinction between Freedom House and the Office of the President, views it. Persaud, a nondescript former reporter for the PPP mouthpiece, Mirror, and other PPP/C lackeys have joined the baying pack, led by Roger Luncheon, in vilifying critics of the Black Clothes in the most crude and defamatory manner. So much so that AI felt
compelled to warn the regime against the resort to inflammatory language "that may undermine the right of freedom of expression and lead to further human rights violations".

Dr Luncheon’s adamant assertion that no Commission of Inquiry will be set up to look into extra-judicial killings is clearly unacceptable and the reasons he proffered for not acceeding to this eminently reasonable demand are untenable except to the most politically obtuse. What has the regime got to fear from such an Inquiry except that the ‘hidden hand” guiding the activities of the “Black Clothes” will be exposed much to the embarrassment of Dr Luncheon? Clearly in this instance the public good is being subordinated to narrow political and personal considerations.

But the regime must know that the PNC/R cannot and will not be cowed. We will continue to speak out against and adopt appropriate measures to curb extra-judicial killings and other forms of executive abuse and bad governance, such as the now endemic corruption and the continuing blatant acts of discrimination against citizens not perceived by the regime as supporters. We renew our demand for the standing down of the Black Clothes and the conduct of a comprehensive enquiry into the operations of the GPF. The PNCR has been vindicated by AI's unambiguous stance against police excesses. We expect that other international organisations, financial institutions and bi-lateral aid donors will take note of AI's public statement, in their relations with this regime. We also expect that AI's unequivocal statement will cause local bodies such as the GHRA, religious and civic organisations to be more forthright and courageous in their condemnation of police excesses.

Police Commissioner Orders Enquiry Into Shooting and Death of Selwyn Shepherd:

The PNCR has taken note of a welcome departure by the acting Commissioner of Police in respect to the most recent incident in which an allegedly wanted man was reported shot in the leg by a policeman. He died shortly after being admitted to the Georgetown hospital. The Commissioner has quickly and publicly promised an inquiry by one of his senior officers. We believe that this approach, which is being belatedly adopted by the Commissioner, should have been standard operational procedure all along. We look forward to a speedy, professionally competent and transparent inquiry with the findings being made public without undue delay.

Announcement of Commissioner of Police Designate Mr Winston Felix:

The PNCR congratulates Mr. Winston Felix on being named Commissioner of Police-designate. The PNCR is satisfied that Mr. Felix is well equipped to fill this position with credit and distinction.

There are, however, some other troubling aspects to the announcement of Mr. Felix's preferment. Why has Mr. Felix got to wait until some unspecified time next year to substantively assume the position of Commissioner?
Mr. Felix is a well trained and long serving and experienced Police Officer. It is noteworthy that, according to the Press Release from the British High Commission, dated 2002 April 20, “…[Mr Felix] went to the United Kingdom
last year for intensive training, with the emphasis on leadership, excellence and integrity. His appointment will greatly assist the programme of criminal justice reform, to which the UK and Guyana governments are committed.”

What other training programmes has he got to go through? The government must let the public know what specific additional training is planned and the duration, as well as definite the time-frame for the completion of the transitional arrangements for the full assumption of the office of Commissioner by Mr Felix. The process must be transparent and demonstrated to be in the best interest of the GPF.

The professionalism and competence of the new Commissioner and his commitment to undertake the difficult task of reintroducing the culture of professional policing can be easily frustrated if the PPP/C regime continues its destructive policy of denying the GPF adequate financial and other resources, and a free hand to guide the force without the unenlightened political interference which has only served to corrupt its development.

The PNCR is not overly optimistic that under the present incompetent Minister and, given the mindset of the Freedom House managers of the government, that this will happen.

The PNCR will continue to closely monitor this process.

The PUC’s Reproach of GPL:

Despite its emasculation by the machinations and instrumentality of the Prime Minister, the Public Utilities Commission, unlike the President, the Prime Minister and the Government’s two Directors on the GPL Board, have come out in unequivocal condemnation of the performance of the GPL.

According to the report in the Sunday Stabroek of 2002 April 21, the PUC wrote a letter, dated 2002 April 19, to the CEO of GPL in which it told him that GPL “… is engendering consumer dissatisfaction with its deplorable billing system and that, instead of a decrease in losses, these have increased since it took over the power company.”

GPL confirmed that it has failed to meet the benchmarks enshrined in its agreement with the Government. Their excuse is their inability to raise adequate debt finance.However, in spite of this, GPL has insisted on its right to the 23% rate of return.

Instead of its tacit participation in the deception and choke and robbing of consumers by GPL, there is ample justification for the government to insist on the re-negotiation of the GPL agreement. What is preventing the Government from taking decisive action? The widespread public belief that the GPL deal has been mired in corruption may help to explain why the government has been so weak-kneed in its dealing with GPL.

It is obvious that the Government and GPL see the Guyanese Consumers as milch cows.

Guyanese will not accept being robbed of their hard earned funds to finance the ridiculous Management fee which GPL pays to itself, while presiding over the on-going deterioration of system performance and failure to deliver stable and reliable power to them. Why must the Consumers continue to be oppressed by GPL because of the Government’s incompetence and cowardice?

We call upon all Guyanese to vigorously and resolutely protest this outrage!

IDB Silence on Irregular Issue of Contracts to BK:

The PNCR continues to be concerned that the IDB has remained silent, in the face of the mounting evidence of irregularities and activities which bears the hall-mark of organised and massive corruption in the issuing and implementation of contracts for IDB funded projects in Guyana, eg the Cane Grove Dam fiasco, the violation of Tender Board procedures by the issue of Variation Order No.1 for undertaking sea defence works at Vergenoegen ( valued G$189Mn) under the original contract (valued G$179Mn) for sea defence works at Hague, etc.

We sincerely hope that the IDB’s continued silence is not construed by Guyanese tax-payers as admission of its complicity in these unsavoury transactions.

We await the IDB’s early explanations otherwise we will be forced to widen and intensify our action to bring these unacceptable failings to the attention of the wider international community.

Luncheon’s Mendacity Exposed:

Roger Luncheon’s performance at the Wednesday 2002 April 24 after Cabinet Press Conference has demonstrated the depths to which the PPP/C will sink in its attempt to deceive the Guyanese people and to cast blame and aspersions on the PNC/R. Dr. Luncheon asserted that the PNC/R had boycotted the last two meetings of the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform. He further contended that, as a result of the boycott, the Local Government elections, which he claims are scheduled for 2002, would have to be postponed.

It is a crass lie to claim that the PNC/R representatives on the Task Force boycotted the last two meetings. On Tuesday, 2002 April 9, a meeting of the Task Force was called off for the want of a quorum. On that occasion, one of the PNCR representatives arrived late and was advised by Mr. Roshan Ali, the resource person to the Task Force that Minister Collymore had called off the meeting for the want of a quorum. At the time of the cancellation, Mr. Collymore and Mr. Khemraj Rai were, reportedly, the only two members in attendance.
On 2002 April 16, a meeting of the Task Force was held. How could Dr. Luncheon report that the two last meetings, prior to Tuesday 2002 April 23, had been boycotted when one meeting was held on 2002 April 16, and a PNCR’s representative arrived late for the other, which even with his presence could not have been held for the want of a quorum.

With regard to the postponement of Local Government elections, all Guyana should remember that Dr. Steve Surujballi had announced that Local Government Elections cannot be held in 2002. This announcement was made well in advance of Dr. Luncheon’s lie about a PNC/R boycott. How can a subsequent event, true or false, be the reason for a previous decision?

If anyone is to be blamed for the postponement, of Local Government Elections, it has to be the PPP/C, which procrastinated on the selection of the electoral expert. The Task Force having collectively and unanimously identified Dr. Reynolds, as the electoral expert, was told, two weeks after Dr. Reynolds had already been invited, by letter which Minister Collymore him self wrote, that Reynolds was unacceptable to Freedom House (see letter of invitation and letter of cancellation attached). The search for a new expert last another month and delayed the process by six weeks. Who else but the PPP/C is to be blamed for the delay?

These are the facts!

As for Luncheon’s contention that the PNCR’s representative’s absence was due to a pause in the Dialogue, Luncheon once again exposed his mendacity. The PNCR had made it clear that it will “facilitate Constitutional mandates and outstanding Constitutional reform.” Hence the PNCR representatives never disengaged from pursuing the work of the local Government Task Force. The PPP/C may have wished the PNC/R to do so. The PNCR challenges Messrs Llewellyn John, Khemraj Rai, Phulander, Khandi, Roshan Ali and observers Godfrey Proctor, Hugh Vandeyar and Puran Persuad, together with Minister Collymore himself to refute what is stated herein.

The Freedom House spin-doctors seem to be in their silly season and, therefore, disposed to contorting lies at the expense of the Guyanese people.

When Will a New Permanent Representative to the UN be Appointed?

In addition to the grave economic and political circumstances which the PPP/C has inflicted on long suffering Guyanese, we seem to be plagued by the multiplying instances of Executive Lawlessness at all levels of the regime.

We hope that this in not the case, given the studied silence of the Government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the long delayed appointment of a new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Administratively and legally, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was the last PR, cannot continue to perform that function.

Why has the Government been deliberately delaying this appointment?

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
April 25. 2002