PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. Raphael Trotman, MP People’s National Congress Reform Press Conference, Thursday May 02, 2002 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.



THE MAY DAY 2002 FIRE IN DURBAN STREET, LODGE:

The PNCR expresses its sympathy to many persons who were displaced from their homes as a result of the fire on Durban Street yesterday. The failure or inability of the Guyana Fire Service to render any real relief demonstrated how shabbily the government has treated with the provision of adequate resources to these services. The government ought to be indicted for the loss of those buildings in the fire.

THE NON-FUNCTIONING OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND THE USE OF EXTERNAL CONTRACTORS FOR DRAFTING DOMESTIC LEGISLATION:

Since the recalcitrance of the PPP/C forced the PNC/R and the other Opposition parties represented in the National Assembly to bring to the attention of the nation the decadent state of affairs within the Parliament, the regime has continued to frustrate the establishment of the Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC) as the mechanism
for the structured and orderly management of the work of the National Assembly.

The Opposition Parties proposed the eminently reasonable membership for the PMC of 5 PPP/C, 3 PNC/R, 1 GAP-WPA and 1 ROAR. The PPP/C argues that this would place the Government in the jeopardy of the Opposition bring the Assembly to a halt. Therefore, they are justified in demanding 6 PPP/C members.

The PPP/C’s argument is nothing short of being ingenuous, since the composition proposed by the Opposition already gives them a majority. In any event, Parliamentary Committees, by custom and practice, conduct their business on the basis of “consensus” and not by “voting”. All of the antics of the Government, as confirmed by the most recent outburst of the PPP/C “pit-bull”, Dr Luncheon, are designed to ensure “business as usual”. This is unacceptable to the Opposition!

Amply evidence of the regime’s dishonourable intentions is revealed by the scrutiny of the 2002 National Budget which reveal that, contrary to its clumsy attempts to deceive the Guyanese public and the international community, it has made no provision for staffing and other resources to expand the capacity of the Parliament Office to discharge its responsibility to service and support the work of the 7 new Standing Committees and the increased scope of work of the Public Accounts Committee (which will oversee the work of the Auditor General’s Department), as well as the expected increased intensity of activities of the National Assembly.

The National Assembly, under this incompetent and corrupt regime, had been correctly diagnosed as “comatose”. The complaints of the Opposition include:

 Parliament meeting only infrequently, or not at all, at the whim and fancy of the Government;
 The agreed seven new Standing Committees of the National Assembly have not been established due to unsupportable obstacles being used by the Government to prevent their establishment;
 Opposition Questions and Motions not being placed on the Parliamentary Order Paper;
 The refusal to institute an Opposition “members’ day” – this is supposed to be Wednesdays - when Opposition members may present legislation and/or have their questions answered and motions debated.

An illustrative example is the following: In May 2001, The People’s National Congress Reform submitted for debate, a Motion on the general workings of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and that of the Black Clothes squad in particular. This Motion was not meant to judge, ridicule or embarrass anyone but was meant to have a unanimous resolution of the members of the Assembly that Policing in Guyana was in need of urgent review. Therefore, what was needed was a Commission of Enquiry set up to review the operations of the GPF and to present its findings and recommendations, which should inure to the overall benefit of the GPF. The fact is that, after one year and a continuing downward spiralling of the image of the force, numerous extra-judicial deaths at the hands of the police, the dangerously low morale within the ranks and its evident inability to cope due to being starved of resources, the PPP/C regime has not found it convenient, expedient or proper to take urgent action to correct these problems.

Instead, the regime has sought to demonise all those who speak out by branding them as criminals and terrorists. Dr Roger Luncheon has declared with his usual bombast, that the government has absolutely no intention of setting up any Commission of Inquiry into the working of the Police Force. This statement when properly analysed, apart from revealing disdain for the views and opinions of the Guyanese public, reveal a much deeper and chronic problem. That is, that the PPP/C regime has no interest in, or use for, a National Assembly. Parliament, after all, should be the “watchdog” on behalf of the People!

On Monday 2002 April 8, a delegation of Members of the Central Executive of the PNCR met with the Minister of Home Affairs and, besides driving home the point that extra judicial killings had to stop, the issue of a Commission of Inquiry was raised as it was recognized, that the public’s opinion of the Police Force was at an all time low and needed to be urgently addressed. The Minister was given to say that once the Motion on the Police Force comes up for debate he had no difficulty. This is commendable. However, a few days later Roger Luncheon announces that there will never be such a motion brought for debate in the House. This is yet another example of the “bad faith” with which the regime operates. This should be the cause of serious worry for those who profess to be concerned about national peace and stability.

It is preposterous that the PPP/C mouthpiece, Dr Luncheon, who is operating outside of the Parliament, could make a binding statement that affects all of the Members of the Assembly.

Is this the democracy that the PPP/C embraces – “gang of eight” rule and party paramountcy?

What in fact Luncheon was saying is that the Freedom House directorate had decided a long time ago that no motions and questions would be asked and answered in the National Assembly. This is a frightening development as it undermines the very heart of the democratic process, which so many of the apologists for the regime claim exists!

Where is the justice?
Where is the democracy?
Where is the paramountcy of the people of Guyana?

The National Assembly has become a mere talk shop where Members of Parliament are used as rubber stamps to give approval to the regime’s surreptitious dealings. Is this democracy? The PNC/R, the GAP-WPA, and ROAR have all challenged the nefarious manner in which the PPP/C regime wishes to conduct the affairs of this our dear nation.

The PNCR will never submit to being dictated to by Freedom House and its acolytes!

As if to reinforce our arguments we find continuous efforts by the regime to emasculate the Attorney-General’s Chambers by having important matters addressed by friends and cronies abroad. The nation vividly recalls the law books scandal where hundreds of thousands of US dollars were to be paid to a few externally based Guyanese lawyers with PPP connections for the printing of Guyanese Law Books! There are many competent locally based Information Technology experts and printing houses that could have done the job for a fraction of the cost. Similarly there is the ongoing unhealthy relationship with the Riechler Washington Law Firm of Foley, Hoag and Elliot. On Sunday last, 2002 April 28, our attention was drawn to draft legislation being circulated by this law firm for an Act to be known as “The Movable Property Security Act.” Ironically, as Members of Parliament, we see the draft legislation last! However, if we are to go by what is reported by Ms. Eileen Cox, then we ought to be extremely worried. This law firm has been advising the PPP/C regime for a number of years, and has apparently received a very lucrative retainer for the drafting of legislation. Guyana boasts some of the best draftspersons in the region yet we see it fit to entrust drafting to a law firm that is totally out of touch with Guyanese reality.

The nation needs to be told how much is being paid to this firm in retainer and other fees annually. We are certain that our information on the figure will be confirmed.

Legislation must be drafted in keeping with the needs and moods of a society and it is ludicrous to believe that a Washington based lawyer, even if aided by a local counterpart, could give meaning and effect to the wishes and concerns of the society. The same would hold true if a Guyanese lawyer were to attempt to draft legislation for the District of Columbia, USA. No doubt the American and local Bar Associations would vociferously object. Our Bar Association should do the same. We Guyanese are a proud and resourceful people we welcome assistance but frown on being dictated to and forced to take actions which are not naturally our own.

During the debate of the Deeds Registry and Money Laundering Bills, the inability of Foley, Hoag and Elliot to understand and express the Guyanese spirit was patently obvious. Words not found in an Oxford dictionary or understood by the average Guyanese made their way into the draft legislation, and the style of drafting left much to be desired. In fact it was believed that the regime would be thoroughly embarrassed by these discoveries but alas, it appears not to be so.


CORRUPT TRANSACTIONS FUNDED BY IDB:

The public has been privy to the mounting evidence of the issuance of IDB funded contracts, to BK International and others, under conditions which are patently corrupt. Yet, inspite of the public outcry, the IDB Resident Representative, Mr. Robert Kestell, has not seen it fit to offer the Guyanese taxpayers the courtesy of an explanation of IDB’s role in these transactions.

In the circumstances, the PNCR will continue to intensify its protest by approaching IDB headquarters in Washington, DC for its explanation and action.

PNC/R MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF PRIVATE SECTOR:

The Leader of the PNCR, along with Party Chairman, Vice Chairman, General Secretary and other members of the Party’s Central executive Committee met, at their request, with a 25 member Private Sector delegation, on Tuesday 2002 April 30, at Congress Place.

The Private Sector delegation was led by Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Mr. Brian James, and included representatives of the Guyana Manufacturers Association, the Forest Products Association and the Association of Regional Chambers of Commerce.

The Party Leader shared relevant documents with the Private Sector delegation while explaining the Party’s position and its reasons for continuing its policy of active non-co-operation with the government.

The Private Sector delegation promised to consult with their members and to return with their proposals for resolving the matters which have resulted in the present impasse.

CONTINUATION OF PNC/R POLICY OF ACTIVE NON-CO-OPERATION:

The Leader’s letter to President Jagdeo, dated 2002 April 23, sets out very clearly the issues which have to be resolved before the Party is prepared to re-engage with the PPP/C.

Until the government demonstrates its seriousness and commitment to good governance the PNC/R’s programme of non-co-operation will continue.

Roger Luncheon’s weekly babblings would be good material for a comedy show if the issues involved were not so serious to the lifeblood of the nation. While extending an invitation to the PNC/R to discuss possible ways of ending
the impasse on the establishment of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committees, Dr Luncheon is heard pronouncing on the final position of the PPP/C. What then is the purpose of these talks? Is the PPP/C serious? Or perhaps we should find out whether Roger Luncheon is speaking for the President Bharrat Jagdeo or Janet Jagan. It appears that we are witnessing not only “jumbie politics” but also “Grannie politics”. Guyanese must seriously determine whether we will allow Mrs Jagan to succeed in keeping Guyana racially divided for narrow political ends as she has so frequently done in the past.

The PNC/R will continue to work for the good of all Guyana but will not be manipulated.

DPP HALTING OF CITIZEN’S CHARGE OF MERAI FOR MURDER OF TSHAKA BLAIR:

Since the vicious murder of Shaka Blair on the 2002 April, 6, the Government has done nothing to satisfy his grieving family, the Buxton community and the nation that his death will be properly and thoroughly investigated.

The Minister of Home Affairs promised that within two weeks of his death, the nation would be told the result of the Police Force’s internal investigations. Four weeks have now elapsed and we still await with bated breath for the release of the findings, which will vindicate the majority of the people of the nation that Shaka was murdered in cold blood.

Recent happenings however have caused us to further lose confidence in the system. A private criminal action instituted against Snr. Supt. Merai was inexplicably withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) who is steadily gaining a reputation for being able only to dismiss matters filed by citizens seeking justice. He needs to be reminded that private citizens are only taking action because his department continues to disappoint the expectations of the nation. This is just not good enough!

We invite the learned DPP to take a page out of the book of his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart who is a pillar of strength and an example of the independence of the Office of the DPP.

The PNCR will continue to fight for justice for Shaka Blair and all those like him who have perished at the hands of the Black Clothes murderous squad. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance! Even if it costs us our lives, we will continue to struggle for the rights of others.

Will Shaka Blair be another Monica Reece or Donna Mc Kinnon?

We will not allow history to be repeated.

If the DPP continues to ignore the calls of citizens for Justice, chaos will reign and aggrieved persons will be tempted to take the Law in their own hands thwarting progress in this land of ours.

COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY INTO MASH DAY JAIL BREAK:

Two months has passed since the infamous jailbreak of 2002 February 23 and to date the nation is no nearer to an understanding as to what transpired and why.

A Commission of Inquiry was set up by the government and the nation was assured that its report and findings would be available by 2002 March 31. To date the Commission has been unable to complete its work for whatever reasons.

The PNCR did not see this as a complex matter requiring months of inquiry. At best an Interim or Preliminary Report should have been issued.

Are we to expect that like other Commissions of Inquiry the findings of this will not be revealed as the regime will once again be exposed and embarrassed by the findings? This is the behaviour of an uncaring regime, which puts self-preservation above the needs of the suffering citizens.

IILEGAL ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSIONS:

The recent announcement by Dr Luncheon that the government proposes to establish Commissions outside those provided for by our Constitution is a dangerous development. We will vigorously challenge their validity and warn
Guyanese against participation in this farcical exercise designed to subvert the Constitution of Guyana.

GOVERNMENT’S BOYCOTT OF GTUC MAY DAY RALLY:

The boycott of the May day Rally by the Head of State, the Prime Minister, the Minister of labour and other government functionaries is most instructive about the plans to divide the labour movement. It is significant that the President found it convenient to attend only the GAWU rally.

This comes as no surprise to the PNC/R since the government in its usual stupidity had labelled all critics as terrorists.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
May 2nd, 2002