PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, June 30, 2005 Hall Of Heroes, Congress Place Sophia




SUMMARY:
 The National Assembly passed a motion paying tribute to the memory of Dr. Walter Rodney and calling for an international enquiry to be conducted without delay into the circumstances surrounding his death.

 It is very instructive to note that at no time has the government found it either useful or necessary to brief the PNCR on the issue of sugar.

 The PNCR reiterates house-to-house verification of the voters’ list, the finger printing and cross checking of those finger prints and the access to the media as the minimum conditions for the holding of free and fair elections; and elections of an acceptable standard.

 The PNCR calls on the Minister of Health to tell the nation what immediate plans he has for the continuous improvement of care at the A&E Unit, and the GPHC at large.

 The importance of sports to the creation of a rounded Guyanese youth embodying academic, intellectual and athletic abilities among others cannot be overstated.

WALTER RODNEY
Yesterday, the National Assembly passed a motion paying tribute to the memory of Dr. Walter Rodney and calling for an international enquiry to be conducted without delay into the circumstances surrounding his death. The motion contained an amendment by the GAP/WPA MP, Ms. Sheila Holder to the original motion moved by the Minister of Home Affairs. The PNCR voted for the amended motion and now looks forward to the speedy implementation of the decision to hold an international enquiry.

EU PROPOSALS ON ACP SUGAR – A WAKE UP CALL FOR GUYANA

Over the last 5 years (2000-2004) the economy grew at an average rate of 0.6% per year as against a targeted rate under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) of 4 – 5 percent per annum. Under the recently promulgated progress report of the PRSP it is projected that in both 2005 and 2006 the economy will contract by 2.6 % and 1.2 % respectively.

The foreign trade aspect of our economic activities highlights the magnitude of our economic problems. Our Balance of Payments deficit in 2000 was US$113.4m and this is projected to increase to US$149m in 2005 – a more than 31% increase. This means in effect that our net foreign exchange earnings would have been in substantial deficit.

Within that overall deficit our merchandise trade deficit (i.e. the difference between our foreign exchange earnings from commodities we export and the foreign exchange we spend on the commodities we import) will increase from US$80.2m in 2000 to a projected US$153m in 2005 – an increase by over 90%. The foreign exchange cost of importing fuel alone will increase by over 40% during the same period.

As if that condition was not dire (bad) enough there is the real possibility that commencing in 2006 our foreign exchange earnings from the export of sugar to the European Union would progressively decline and ultimately reach a cut of 39% per annum by the marketing year 2009/2010. This will add a further loss of foreign exchange of some US$40m annually or approximately G$8000m annually.

This situation is being brought about by a proposal from the European Commission to the European Parliament and the European Council of Ministers for Agriculture to impose cuts on the price paid to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries of which Guyana is a part, for their supply of sugar to the European Union under the sugar protocol between the European Union (EU) and the ACP.

As a major stakeholder in the nation’s affairs the PNCR is concerned about this development and is of the view that the price cuts proposed are too sudden, too steep and too contracted and the PNCR backs the call of the ACP countries that the price cuts should be capped at between 16 – 20% of the current prices and be implemented over a period of eight years commencing in 2008.

To do otherwise would not only severely further affect the viability of the sugar industry in Guyana but would also have a significant negative impact on the Guyana economy as a whole.

We therefore urge the EU and its Parliament to consider positively the request of the ACP countries and mitigate the plight likely to be faced by countries like Guyana if the proposals of the Commission were adopted.

Of course, the stark prospects which face us must also be seen as a wake up call for Guyana. The medium to long term message is clear. Preferences of all sorts are on their way out. Speaking very recently at a joint forum of the Caribbean – Britain Business Council and the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce, the UK Trade Minister Ian Pearson said “The Caribbean must prepare for end of preferences” and that the British Government could not promise the Caribbean any protection from globalisation.

What this inevitably points to, in the view of the PNCR is that Guyana has to intensify its efforts to attract private sector investments through a persistent and aggressive campaign to seek out such investors within a better defined and more equitable framework of incentives of all sorts. We have to cease playing politics with the private sector.

Speaking recently at the Caribbean Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Business Initiative held in Georgetown the Chairman of the Private Sector Commission noted that the private sector was supposed to be the engine that drives growth but added that government had to be the facilitator. He went on to say that the private sector was determined to do something towards the achievement of the MDGs but that “This could only be done when growth and development were taking place.”

Against the background outlined above the PNCR, yesterday, handed over to the Clerk of the National Assembly a motion dealing with the European Commission’s proposal to cut the price of ACP sugar exported to the EU. In that motion we urge the National Assembly to call upon the EU to accept the ACP countries’ proposals referred to earlier, we highlighted the loss of foreign exchange to the Guyana economy and the fact of negative impact thereon; but we also emphasise the need to restructure and diversify our economy and we urge the government to be more proactive in seeking private capital and to create a more conducive environment for such capital.

We hope, indeed we expect, all parties in the National Assembly to support this motion once it is put on the Order Paper for debate. It is very instructive to note that at no time has the government found it either useful or necessary to brief the PNCR on the issue of sugar. We have had to rely on information via the media and on our own resourcefulness to obtain information. But that has not caused, and will not cause, us to shirk our responsibility to the people of Guyana.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

In recent times, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has publicly come alive with a number of advertisements in the newspapers for field staff. At the same time, there are signs that some internal work is ongoing at the level of the Secretariat. At face value, these are welcome signs.

However it is worrying that GECOM has begun its preparations without having made some fundamental decisions?

There is still no known decision on the manner in which the voters list will be compiled. No one has refuted the PNCR’s argument that the present sources from which the voters’ list can be extracted are filled with the names of persons, who have migrated or died, as well as, there are two or more names for one person in those sources.

The PNCR’s suggestion, to do a house-to-house verification of those who are eligible to vote, is the only feasible solution which has been proposed.

Similarly our proposal that finger printing and cross checking of the finger prints to ensure that multiple registration and multiple voting is eliminated, has not yet been addressed.

Of equal importance is equitable access to the state owned media. Elections cannot be fair if one party is able to use the state radio, television and news papers while other parties are starved of state media of communications.

The PNCR therefore, reiterates house-to-house verification of the voters’ list, the finger printing and cross checking of those finger prints and the access to state media as the minimum conditions for the holding of free and fair elections; and elections of an acceptable standard.

Our position is clear on these matters:

1. Elections must be held by the constitutionally due time.
2. Elections must be held with a thoroughly cleansed voters list.
3. There must be a proper system of biometric checks.
4. There must be equitable use of the state media.
5. The PNCR will hold the government and GECOM accountable if these conditions are not met.


PROBLEMS AT THE GHPC

The PNCR wishes to express its concern over the perpetual lack of care that is being offered at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and more specifically at the Accident and Emergency Unit of the GPHC.

It appears as though the citizens of this country will not be able to receive the quality of health care they deserve at this our premier health institution.

As citizens continue to voice their concerns over the lack of prompt and efficient care at the GPHC, the gross disrespect shown to patients who visit the A&E Unit of the GPHC and the long and unnecessary hours that patients have to wait to be attended by the doctors on duty who sometimes behave like “Lords” or “Gods” leaves much to be desired for a hospital which is now at its lowest ebb in terms of efficiency.

The recent death of Mr. Gilford Henry, the GDF soldier who was shot in the face and taken to the A&E Unit of the GPHC is a case in point.

According to reports this patient was taken in a conscious state, bleeding from the mouth, seen by the duty officer at the A&E who sent him for X-rays, without providing him with the necessary resuscitation essential for life. This patient, however, gave the GPHC sufficient time to take care of him and save his life.

In spite of repeated guarantees by the doctor on duty, that the patient would have been well, Mr. Henry succumbed.

The following questions now arise:

1. Why does it take so long to be seen by the doctor at the A&E Unit of the Georgetown Hospital?
2. Is the A&E Unit adequately supervised by a senior practitioner capable of giving the necessary guidance and direction on patient care?
3. Is the duty doctor attached to any hospital on a full time or part time basis, and benefiting from supervision by senior practitioners?
4. If a doctor sends a patient for lab studies and x-rays, isn’t it expected that the same doctor should be on hand to review results? At minimal, if he or she has to leave his post for whatever reason, the patient should have been handed over to another colleague at the Emergency Unit.
5. Why was this patient not resuscitated before being sent for investigative studies?
6. Why was the surgeon on call not summoned to the A&E to assess the patient and give more relevant and definitive instructions on care?

The PNCR joins with the relatives, friends and other citizens in calling for an urgent and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Gilford Henry.

We also call on the Minister of Health to tell the nation what immediate plans he has for the continuous improvement of care at the A&E Unit and the GPHC in general.




NATIONAL SPORTS POLICY

The PPP/C Government's failure to develop and implement a coherent sports policy continues to inhibit the development of our Guyanese youth.

The importance of sports to the creation of a rounded Guyanese youth embodying academic, intellectual and athletic abilities among others cannot be overstated.

Every enlightened student will know the value of predicating academic and other pursuits upon a solid sports regimen. Sports engender fitness, and fitness gives one the winning edge.

Youths who participate in sports would have less time for participation in crime. Sports teach a youth discipline.

The Government's obsession with controlling the National Sports Commission (N.S.C) a body corporate designed to be autonomous with responsibility for the promotion of sports in Guyana, has severely undermined its ability to carry out its statutory functions provided for in the National Sports Commission Act, No. 23 of 1993.

As a result the N.S.C has been unable to promote properly the organisation of sports; advise the Minister on the development and promotion of sports generally, or encourage the conduct of sporting activities in accordance with the national policy on sports.

Simply put, there is no discernible national policy on sports! Sports associations are left to meander on their own. They are hardly ever supported financially by the N.S.C, even though the Act makes provision for it to make grants to these bodies.

The PNCR recommends that any national policy on sports ought to include: - physical education being compulsory in schools - including primary and secondary, physical education teachers being appointed to every school and being exposed to coaching courses for the various sports; an annual subvention being given to every sports association subject to any requirements as to accountability; and the re-institution of 'Guyana Games", the only occasion where Guyana's athletes have the opportunity to participate in sporting competition on a national scale, at the same event.

In light of these recommendations, the appointment of a full time Sports Minister is also imperative.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, June 30, 2005