PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, May 12, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

 The PNCR salutes the contributions of two distinguished Guyanese, Ronald (Pryor) Jonas and Lloyd Piggott and extends sincere and deeply felt sympathy to their love ones.
 The PNCR notes the wide range of events which are being arranged to honour the memory of the outstanding Guyanese academic and writer, Walter Rodney. We believe that these memorials to the 25th anniversary of his death are most appropriate.
 The crime spree continues as the Jagdeo government sits idly by as if they are mere observers in Guyana’s decline. Unless Guyana can defend itself against drug interests’ efforts to turn the country completely into a new operations base, it will very likely succumb and become a fully-fledged “narco-state”.
 The PNCR calls on the Government to support the efforts of the Region 4 RDC in its preparations for the May/June rains.
 The PNCR is calling upon GECOM to establish a work programme for the timely holding of the elections with a framework of reasonable timelines of its best case scenario. The PNCR sees the elections of 2006 as an occasion for the country to rid itself of post elections discontent and an opportunity for the country to be able to turn its attention to issues of development.
 The PNCR wishes to restate its commitment to the principle of Shared Governance and expresses its willingness to work with others for its achievement.

TRIBUTES

The PNCR notes with sadness the passing of two distinguished Guyanese in the last few days.

Ronald (Pryor) Jonas has served Guyana well in his capacity of a surveyor, a teacher, a public servant, a sports coach, a soccer referee, a cricket umpire, a sports journalist and a community leader. Mr. Jonas was an intensely patriotic man who felt deeply for his country and was committed, to his last days, to its development and the development of its people.

Lloyd Piggott was an outstanding corporate leader with a long and singularly noteworthy career in the fishing industry. He was also a leading voice and respected figure in the wider business community. We note that Mr. Piggott was committed to public service as evinced by his myriad memberships and leadership roles in service and community organizations and in his contribution to many civic causes.

Guyana is the poorer for the sudden deaths of these sons. Our Party salutes their contributions to our country and wish to assure their loved ones of our deeply felt sympathy.
DR WALTER RODNEY

The PNCR notes the wide range of events which are being arranged to honour the memory of the outstanding Guyanese academic and writer, Walter Rodney. We believe that these memorials to the 25th anniversary of his death are most appropriate. Dr Rodney had a distinguished career and has made seminal contributions in the fields of African and Guyanese history. He is perhaps most noted, however for his work on the historical elements of development studies and is regarded in the third world in general and in the third world academic community in particular as an original and trail blazing thinker. The PNCR also notes the renewed calls for a resolution of the circumstances surrounding his tragic death and supports the calls for an international inquiry to put this matter to rest.

THE JAGDEO GOVERNMENT IGNORES CRIME SPREE

The PNCR wishes to draw the nation’s attention to what is now clearly another re-escalation of the level of violent crime in this country. We are saddled with a discredited lame duck minister whilst the crime spree continues and the Jagdeo government sits idly by as if they are mere observers of Guyana’s decline. The spate of awful crimes and gangland killings confirm what we knew instinctively: that Guyana’s stock of social capital is diminishing and that government is unwilling or unable to introduce policies to deal with this deteriorating situation. The Government has so far done nothing to implement the 164 recommendations and suggestions contained in the Disciplined Forces Commission Report of May 2004. Instead of putting teeth to this well thought-out document the regime has studiously ignored it.

This is more than a failure of political will. Government’s unwillingness to invest in our Police Force, beyond the token gestures and empty speeches we are all familiar with, has weakened its capability and resolve to combat crime in a systematic and formidable way. As a result crime and criminality have got ahead of the capacity of the system to defend the overwhelming majority of decent, law-abiding citizens. Government’s inaction and its cavalier attitude to the rise in crime means that our Police are using the same old-fashioned methods and equipment against different and more sophisticated types of crime; the same limited strategies to tackle a more desperate and determined type of criminal, while the needs of victims, witnesses and whole communities are being ignored.

Over the last 42 days at least ten (10) murders were committed. These amount to one (1) murder every four (4) days or roughly two (2) per week. They remain unsolved. It must by now be clear to all persons living in Guyana that there exists in the present Jagdeo administration a vacuum in new thinking about how to tackle criminality or to respond to the increasing threats of organized crime.

The PNCR intends to put this right. Our Five-year Crime Reduction Plan (CRP) sets out our approach to cutting crime. It describes where Guyana is now and our plans to drive crime down. The CRP summarizes our approach in eight main areas under Section ‘A’. Section ‘B’ deals with the greatest threat to Guyana’s sovereignty, citizens and political system – the growing drug problem. The PNCR feels that unless Guyana can defend itself against drug interests’ efforts to turn the country completely into a new operations base, it will very likely succumb and become a fully-fledged “narco-state”.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The PNCR wishes to bring to the attention of the Nation the development of a most alarming situation.

Since the Great Flood of January/February, the Regional Democratic Council of Region No. 4 has undertaken several drainage and irrigation projects in the Region in order to improve the drainage system before the dreaded May/June rains. These works involved weeding, cleaning, desilting and rehabilitating a number of drains, trenches and canals in the villages of the East Coast of Demerara. Twenty four projects were completed in a number of villages including Bee Hive, Better Hope, Buxton/Friendship, Mahaica and Beterverwagting. Another eight projects have also started in Enmore, Mon Repos, Strathspey, Bare Root, Vigilance, Victoria, Enterprise and Buxton.

Unfortunately even though these projects were officially sanctioned funds have not yet been released to the Region to pay Contractors and there is much concern over the delay in making such payments.

Regional Chairman Mr. Alan Munroe wrote Minister of Local Government, Mr. Harripersaud Nokta informing him of the problem. In his letter Mr. Munroe stated that:

“This appears to be the ‘modus operandi’ – to starve the Regional Administration of funds and thus put obstacles to prevent it from carrying out its tasks.”

The Chairman also stated that:
“ … only a few weeks remain before the deluge of water … The Regional Democratic Council is determined to do all that is necessary to cope with it – with or without the support of the National Drainage and Irrigation Board or the Task Force.”

The RDC has established three sub committees to address various aspects of the effort of ensuring an efficient drainage system. The areas of focus are:

a) The drainage outlets on the seawall.
b) Drainage canals between the crown dam and the seawall.
c) Conservancy dam and crown dam.

These committees are headed by Latchman Sammy, Ernest Elliot and Thakur Persaud respectively and involve all of the Councillors of the RDC.

The PNCR wishes to express its concern over the cavalier approach of the Government towards the preparation for the May/June rains. It appears that the PPP/C is still trying to use this situation to score cheap political points instead of ensuring full inter-agency cooperation that would result in an optimum effort to prepare for the May/June rains.

The PNCR wishes to take this opportunity to call on the PPP/C Government to behave responsibly. The images of the suffering of our people during the “Great Floods” ought to be fresh in our minds. This should motivate all Government officials to do all in their power to ensure this does not happen again. It is unpatriotic for anyone to attempt to orchestrate lack of preparation merely to apportion blame. How could a Government put the people at risk merely to score cheap political points?

ELECTIONS UPDATE

In recent times, statements and publications about the 2006 elections have been on the increase form many sources, which seek to misrepresent and even malign the positions publicly taken by the PNCR.

For the sake of truth and clarity the PNCR wishes to reiterate its position. In our view there is nothing to be gained through misinformation and the misrepresentation of the PNCR’s position.

In 2001, leading up to the elections, the PNCR expressed reservations about the preliminary voters list and the possibility of it having large numbers of persons, who were either overseas, dead or multiple registrants. As a consequence, a photographic exercise was undertaken and 89,000 names were removed from the voters list because the persons did not present themselves. However, those names were retained on the National Register of Registrants from which the voters list is extracted.

At the 2001 polls, a number of persons, whose names were correctly listed on the printed preliminary voters list, were dislocated on, or completely omitted from, the printed final voters list. They were therefore disenfranchised. The PNCR expressed its concerns about those occurrences and various experts ran checks on the electronic voters list. Those checks did not reveal any error in the content of the list, but did however, reveal that the entire system, the database, was vulnerable and could have been broken into. What it did not reveal was how the dislocations occurred on the printed voters list. In response to the vulnerability of the system, recommendations were made to eliminate them and to deal with other weaknesses in the system.

In 2002, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) proposed the introduction of continuous registration and biometrics as a way of improving voter registration and its degree of acceptability.

In 2004, GECOM proposed house-to-house verification, in addition to continuous registration and biometrics, as a way of ensuring that an accurate voters list is compiled for the 2006 elections.

The PNCR accepted GECOM’s recommendation and articulated that with 89,000 names being on the national register of registrants, which were deleted from the 2001 voters list; and approximately 100,000 deaths and migration from, 2001 – 2005, then the best way to produce an accurate voters list, for 2006, would be to do a house-to-house verification as GECOM proposed. The PNCR also articulated that biometrics (electronic cross referencing of finger prints) as GECOM had proposed would be the best way of ensuring that no multiple registration is done during the house-to-house verification.

Unfortunately, from 2004 to present, GECOM has postponed the finalization of its initiatives; failed to take decisions; and on occasions issued statements that have sent mixed signals to the citizens.

The PNCR has not attempted to impose its views on anyone. We are important stakeholders in the process who have by and large endorsed initiatives arising from GECOM itself and find it strange that GECOM could now be so indecisive and indefinite about decisions, which are necessary for timely elections of an acceptable standard.

In these circumstances, the PNCR is calling upon GECOM to establish a work programme for the timely holding of the elections with a framework of reasonable timelines of its best-case scenario. This would provide a basis for the stakeholders to meaningfully engage GECOM on the crucial issues. The time for indecision is long gone. The Guyanese people must be told now, what are the various scenarios at GECOM’s disposal.

Those who are trying to paint a negative picture of the PNCR are creating distractions and may well have an interest in elections of a less that acceptable standard which have in the past been the cause of after elections discontent.

The PNCR sees the elections of 2006 as an occasion for the country to rid itself of post elections discontent and an opportunity for the country to be able to turn its attention to issues of development.

GOVERNANCE

In recent years the People’s National Congress Reform has been leading the campaign for an inclusive, modern and improved system of governance. The PNCR lobbied for a number of constitutional and administrative changes. This process was placed on the national agenda through the Hermanston Accord and the St. Lucia Statement, both of which resulted1` from vigorous and sustained PNCR action.

These agreements resulted in the establishment of the Constitution Reform Commission. PNCR Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Deryck Bernard and Haslyn Parris continued to push the Party’s progressive agenda in the CRC. Participants in the CRC process will no doubt recall that the PNCR took a number of progressive proposals to the table, many of which were finally accepted with minor amendments.

The PNCR is still committed to further changes in the system of Governance. In December 2001 the Party released its paper on Shared Governance for public debate. As part of this process Executive Members met with a number of civil society organizations including the Guyana Council of Churches, the Guyana Trade Union Congress, the Guyana Manufactures Association, the Guyana Consumers Association, African Cultural and Development Association and the Guyana Human Rights Association. During these discussions there was general support for the concept of Shared Governance. More recently, polls have shown that a majority of Guyanese support Shared Governance.

At the moment there is a crisis of governance in the country. The judicial system, which is weak, inefficient and ineffective, is under siege by the executive as President Jagdeo is attempting to direct the courts via the media. The police force is under equipped and seemingly incapable of confronting the scourge of crime in the Nation. The influence of organized crime and the narco enterprise has crept into the mainstream of national life. The Public Service is ill-equipped and demoralized. In short, state institutions are failing to deliver predictable outcomes and this has led to total lack of public confidence in the system of Governance.

The PNCR is convinced that no cosmetic remedies can arrest the rapid slide into the abyss of despair and doom. There is need for radical intrusive surgery. We need to sit down as a nation to address our dilemma. The PNCR firmly believes that it is only through fundamental adjustment to the system and nature of governance that Guyana can be saved from the fate that is beckoning.

The PNCR therefore wishes to restate its commitment to the principle of Shared Governance which by its very nature will necessitate and facilitate fundamental improvements in the judicial system, the police force, the public service and the host of other state institutions. The PNCR stands ready to work with all stakeholders to build an environment of peace and stability that will be conducive to development.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, May 12, 2005