PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, May 19, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
It is now quite evident that the failure of Government to account for billions of dollars spent in alleged flood relief operations is part of a deliberate plan to politically discriminate and to channel funds to garner support for the PPP/C Election Campaign.
It is now clear that the Jagdeo government’s vision for Guyana’s economic development is being articulated in its own National Drug Strategy. This National Drug Strategy is premised on the anticipated growth in an underground economy driven by narco-enterprise and other illegal activities.
The Independence of the Judiciary is being put to the Test by Opposition Leader Robert Corbin who has filed a Writ in the High Court requesting a determination on whether the President complied with the Law and Constitution in the appointment of the present Integrity Commission.
Today the PPP/C intends to conclude the final chapter in the act of deception. The PNCR however will not be silenced as the Constitution mandates that this matter be concluded in a proper manner.
The PNCR remains resolutely committed to the objective of having GECOM conduct an election of an acceptable standard, which would instill voter confidence in the system.
GOVERNMENT FAILS TO ACCOUNT FOR BILLIONS OF FLOOD MONEY WHILE DISCRIMINATION CONTINUES IN FLOOD RELIEF
It is now quite evident that the failure of Government to account for billions of dollars spent in alleged flood relief operations is part of a deliberate plan to politically discriminate and to channel funds to garner support for the PPP/C Election Campaign. The PNCR had predicted during the Budget Debate of 2005 that the refusal of Government to include the 2005 Flood Activities in the Estimates of Expenditure was a deliberate plan to manipulate State Resources and Flood Relief from Foreign Donors in a discriminatory manner and also to avoid accountability. The Minister of Finance at that time stated that a supplementary Budget would have been presented by June. In the meantime, however, the Government has spent more than one and a half billion dollars without any details of that expenditure being available for scrutiny.
At its sitting on May 12, 2005 the National Assembly considered Financial Paper No. 1 of 2005. One item in that paper was the sum of $1,370,000,000 with an explanation in the remarks column that the money was to meet expenditure associated with the National Flood Relief Efforts. The first thing that struck the PNCR was the paucity of information to the Assembly about where, how and on what was such an enormous sum of money spent. When questioned about why more information was not provided to enable an informed vote on the request, the Minister seemed concerned with assuring the Assembly about the legality of the expenditure and could not care less about the transparency of and accountability for the monies already spent in the name of the people of Guyana. Further no unequivocal commitment could be extracted from the Minister as to when the much-touted supplementary budget would be forthcoming to the National Assembly for its scrutiny and debate. What we have been able to discern from the Minister’s garbled mutterings is that the almost 1.4 billion dollars already taken from the Contingencies Fund is but a fraction of what is being spent in the name of flood relief while the people’s representatives in the National Assembly are treated with contempt, i.e., bereft of knowledge of, or input in, what is being, or should be, done.
There was also a most frightening admission by the Minister of Finance that Monies received from friendly bilateral and multilateral sources are not being paid in to the Consolidated Fund of Guyana. This is in flagrant violation of the requirements of the Supreme Law of the Land, the Constitution, which states at Article 216 that “All revenues or other moneys raised or received by Guyana ……shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Fund.” There is one exception to this requirement but that does not apply in this case. We were told in defense of this brazen illegality that the donors of the monies wanted to have the monies put in some separate account or accounts. The PNCR knows that our traditional donors have always respected, and acted both in the letter and spirit of, our Constitution. The Government must therefore tell the Nation who are the donors who have required it to flout the Constitution.
We can tell the nation with certainty that resources not put in the Consolidated Fund are not subject to the scrutiny and approval of the National Assembly, where the representatives of the people are supposed to superintend the nation’s affairs. We know of the continuing unconstitutionality of retaining the Lotto funds outside of the Consolidated Fund, which enables the President whimsically, and for partisan political purposes, to dole out the resources, which should be subject to Parliamentary accountability.
Against this background it is not unreasonable to conclude that by keeping the National Assembly in the dark the Government is able to play partisan politics with national resources that should be transparently and equitably distributed with full accountability to the National Assembly. The Government must be held to higher standards.
Meanwhile reports of serious anomalies in the distribution of the so-called flood relief compensation package continue to be made from several communities. Many persons who submitted their names during the Assessment period have found that they are not yet in receipt of their $10,000 dollar cheques, albeit their neighbours have received theirs. The Relief Secretariat in the Office of the President has provided no proper explanation and speculations are rife that monies from this flood relief exercise are being channeled to the PPP/C Election Fund at Freedom House. Despite the publicity being given to this alleged flood relief exercise several farmers in the Mahaica Branch Road are yet to receive any assistance in relation to their economic loss. The President had boasted that rice farmers were to benefit in the form of financial assistance and seed paddy. To date however some farmers in this area have received none and are worried that they may be unable to continue cultivation in the present planting season. Is their discrimination in assistance to rice farmers on the Mahaica Branch Road? The PNCR will continue to monitor and expose these discriminatory practices.
JAGDEO’S NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
It is now clear that the Jagdeo government’s vision for Guyana’s economic development is being articulated in its own National Drug Strategy. This National Drug Strategy is premised on the anticipated growth in an underground economy driven by narco-enterprise and other illegal activities. Jagdeo as much as admitted that the GDP figures, for the last few years showing low or negative growth, do not truly reflect the activity (read “narco-activity”) in the country and that this should be borne in mind by analysts. Amazingly, the President then went on to mention several sectors of the economy newly penetrated by narco-investors seeking to launder huge sums of money acquired through narco-trafficking activity. He was in fact confirming what the PNCR has previously stated and which Minister Texiera had wanted PNCR MP Jerome Khan to provide details about.
Various international organizations now put the size of Guyana’s underground economy at 50-60% of GDP. In chiding his own administration for failing to communicate its vision for the Guyanese economy, Jagdeo is acknowledging his dilemma. How can he explain to a largely law abiding population that his party’s economic vision is based on the tacit approval of narco-criminality and on turning a Nelson’s eye to penetration by drug barons in every sector of the economy? Jagdeo glibly mentions that the financial and retail services sectors as well as the construction sector are among industries that have grown rapidly and now make up a substantial part of the economy. He however forgot to mention that considerable funding for this rapid growth came out of the proceeds of crime. In fact international security observers and analysts now openly refer to “Guyana’s POC sector”, or “POC enterprises and businesses in Guyana”, POC being the acronym for Proceeds of Crime. We are reliably informed that the Wildlife business in Guyana has now fallen prey to POC investment and exploitation. Concerned agencies believe illegal practices that are unsustainable and eco-hostile will soon be the order of the day.
The PPP/C regime has to take full responsibility for transforming Guyana into a narco state since Guyana in 1992 was given a clean bill of health as it relates to drug trafficking and money laundering. In 1992 the United States government sent US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Special Investigator on narcotics and money laundering, Mr. Jack Blum on a high level visit to Guyana. The Stabroek News of October 24th 1992 reported Mr. Blum as stating “in terms of drug trafficking and money laundering, Guyana is on the fringe”. Mr. Blum further stated that “the country is in a position to protect itself and that the Police Force needs the training and information required to combat these crimes”. The fact however is that the Government has failed miserably in this area.
Guyana’s diminishing foreign direct investment (FDI) (only US$35 Million in 2004 as opposed to an average of US$195 Million during the PNC’s last administration) and the growth in the underground economy may seem disparate universes – but they are profoundly linked. The PNCR predicted some months ago that our legitimate economy would be displaced by drug money and that legitimate foreign investors would turn away from increasing insecurity, corruption and illegitimacy. US State Department recently gave figures showing FDI dropping from US$43.5M in 2002 to US$35M in 2004 of which US$25M was in the telecommunication sector alone. We predict that in 2005 FDI will drop even further, probably below US$20M depending on the degree to which government marinates and cooks the figures. To this extent we disagree with the US State Department when they say that Go-Invest was not fulfilling its mandate. Saddled with a mandate to spew out spurious information on inward investment and painting a rosy picture of a grim economic reality – we feel that Go-Invest have performed.
The PPP/C promised to enact a liberal investment code and publish a forward-looking national investment strategy. However, these promising initiatives have not materialized. In their place we have loose and degenerate policies that foster and encourage money laundering, drug trafficking smuggling, back-tracking and other aspects of organized crime being added to the enormous underground economy as proper state planning and the National Development Strategy are rolled back.
PNCR LEADER CHALLENGES LEGALITY AND CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE INTEGRITY COMMISSION IN THE HIGH COURT
The Independence of the Judiciary is being put to the Test by Opposition Leader Robert Corbin who has filed a Writ in the High Court requesting a determination on whether the President complied with the Law and Constitution in the appointment of the present Integrity Commission. In the Writ the Opposition Leader claims that the President failed to take into consideration the requirement of the Law as it relates to the criteria to be used in identifying persons for appointment and that there was no meaningful consultation as required by the Law before the appointments were made. The failure of the President to observe the law had been drawn to the attention of President Jagdeo by Mr. Corbin in a letter dated November 10, 2004. The PNCR Leader had also made several public references to this matter. However, the President, in his usual disregard for the Rule of Law, failed to take any corrective action resulting in no other recourse but to the High Court. The question now is whether the Judiciary has the strength to make an early determination of this matter. The requirements of meaningful consultation is a matter of extreme importance at this time since it is known that meaningful consultation is also required in appointments to the Judiciary and other Constitutional bodies.
THE FARCE IN PARLIAMENT TO BE EXPOSED TODAY
The National Assembly of the Parliament is today expected to debate a motion by PPP/C MP and General Secretary, Donald Ramotar calling on the Assembly to adopt a Report of the infamous Select Committee on the Geographic Constituency boundaries. It will be recalled that the appointment of this Select Committee had caused great controversy as all Opposition Parties had contended that it was an attempt to usurp the work of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform. All Opposition Parties voted against the motion to establish the Select Committee and had pointed out that the matter was also listed as a priority issue on the Agenda of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform. The PPP/C, however, proceeded to pass the motion and unilaterally establish a Select Committee of only PPP/C Members of Parliament that recommended that the Geographic Constituency boundaries remain unchanged from the last Elections of 2001. It is known that because of time constraints before the 2001 Elections the boundaries of the Geographic constituencies were not demarcated and as a temporary measure the Regional Democratic Council boundaries were used for the 2001 Elections. It was agreed that this and other Electoral issues would have been concluded after the Elections with the activity of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform. The PPP/C adamantly refused to have this matter proceeded with and the Constitutional Reform finally committed itself to having it done. No sooner had the CRC agreed to deal with this matter Ramotar introduced his motion to set up a separate Select Committee. Recently ROAR Member of Parliament, Mr. Ravi Dev, succeeded in having the National Assembly approve a motion accepting the Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform which included an intention to consider and make recommendations on the Constituency Boundaries. The PPP/C supported the motion and it was the general belief that they had recognized the error of their ways and were about to abandon the work of their Select Committee. It was however evident that despite their support for that motion they were still hell-bent on imposing the recommendations of the PPP/C-Imposed Select Committee. This matter had caused the Leader of the PNCR to write a Letter to the Editor under the caption, “The Farce in Parliament”. Today the PPP/C intends to conclude the final chapter in this act of deception. The PNCR however will not be silenced as the Constitution mandates that this matter be concluded in a proper manner.
The PNCR along with the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties have maintained a constructive but resolute approach in their relationship with GECOM with regard to the preparations for elections 2006. In that regard, the Parliamentary Opposition Parties met with GECOM on Monday, May 16th, 2005 to be updated on GECOM`s preparations for the elections. The Parliamentary Opposition Parties had previously submitted, at GECOM`s request, their views and recommendations on electoral matters, including their call for a house-to- house verification of the eligible voters as the basis for compiling the voters list; and cross-referencing of finger-prints as the basis for eliminating multiple registration.
While a general picture is now emerging as to how GECOM proposes to proceed, indecision on the issue of biometrics is still of major concern since, by itself, biometrics is still seen to be an important condition for the production of a voters list of an acceptable standard. GECOM, by its own admission, has not proposed any alternative approach to deal with the problem, which the biometric feature is intended to address. Additionally, in the absence of a decision on biometrics, many other decisions cannot be implemented because of the inter-related nature of the various elements of the electoral process.
The PNCR continues to be concerned that time is slipping by while fundamental issues remain unresolved and the process of implementation is severely set back. At the same time there are many out there who are wallowing in their ignorance and making unhelpful and unsubstantiated statements about electoral matters. Fortunately, GECOM, while being indecisive, is aware of the complexities and intricacies of the task, which confront it. There is still hope of GECOM finding an acceptable way forward. The PNCR remains resolutely committed to the objective of having GECOM conduct an election of an acceptable standard, which would instill voter confidence in the system. The Jamaicans have done it, why can’t we?
PNCR TEAM MEETS WITH UNITED NATIONS NEEDS ASSESSMENT MISSION
On Friday 13th, 2005, a PNCR leadership team met at Congress Place with Mr. Patrick Bradley, who is in Guyana to conduct a Needs Assessment Mission to evaluate the conditions for holding elections in Guyana. Mr. Bradley's presence in the country is the outcome of a request by GECOM to the UN for electoral support. His specific terms of reference include: (i) an assessment of the existing conditions for the conduct of elections in Guyana, including the legal, political, human rights, material and institutional situation; and (ii) an assessment of existing activities and plans of international donors in providing technical and financial assistance to the electoral process in order to facilitate the coordination of external assistance.
The seven-member PNCR team was headed by party Chairman, Winston Murray, MP; and included General Secretary of the PNCR, Oscar Clarke; Vice-Chairperson of the PNCR, Deborah Backer, MP; Head of the PNCR Election Unit, Vincent Alexander, MP; Charles Corbin; executive member Joe Hamilton; and Sherwood Lowe.
In the cordial and open exchange of views, the PNCR expressed to the UN mission its concerns over the slow pace of preparation for the 2006 elections. In addition, the party presented in some details the rationale behind its calls for a national house-to-house verification process and fingerprint biometrics.
People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, May 19, 2005
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