PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To Press Conference on Thursday, July 21, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) deeply regrets the passing of Edith Pieters;
• The high cost of living is affecting our country to the point where most Guyanese no longer speak of three square meals, for to place one on the table is a challenge;
• The problems in public transportation are a direct result of the ineptitude of the Jagdeo regime;
• The Ministry of Education polices on placement of children in schools is causing much distress in several communities;
• The PNCR is gravely concerned about the recent increase of armed robberies in Guyana;
• GECOM must urgently seek information and help from competent persons on modern fingerprint technology.


EDITH PIETERS

PNCR Leader, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin MP and members of the People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) deeply regret the passing of Edith Pieters; our country, and especially, our music world is all the poorer for her demise.

Edith lived her music and was passionate in her desire “to do it just right”. She was a perfectionist in the best sense of the word and imbued all those around her with that same intensity and passion for excellence.

Over the years of her distinguished service she taught and trained scores of teachers of music as well as students, and in this endeavour left no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored in trying to better and improve on her expertise in her chosen field.

She was a true mentor in Guyana’s World of Music. Her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice resonated and inspired many to achieve standards they did not expect in their music. Her performance on the piano served as the catalyst for many of the choirs still functioning today. Our music festivals were all the richer for her involvement and dedication.

Guyana’s music world will miss this woman who personified music and musicians and the contribution they can make to the country’s development.

The PNCR extends its sincerest condolences to her family and friends. May her soul rest in peace!

THE COST OF LIVING IS KILLING

No sane person will doubt that the most critical issue for the Guyanese people is the spiraling cost of living. What is worse is that the Jagdeo regime is proving incapable of developing appropriate policies and strategies to reduce the spiral, much less stop it. The high cost of living is affecting our country to the point where even the traditional middle class is finding it very difficult to make ends meet. As for the working people of Guyana the situation is tragic. Most Guyanese no longer speak of three square meals, for to place one on the table is a challenge – a challenge which many people are finding is way beyond their earning capacity.

The costs of the basic items needed for one’s survival have gone through the roof. A comparison of prices for basic commodities in1992 with that of 2005 reveals that the cost of living has become prohibitive.

 Parboiled rice moved from $150.00 to $300.00 per gallon – a 100 per cent increase.
 Flour from $25.00 to $60.00 per lb. - more than 100 per cent increase.
 The price of cooking oil moved from$55.00 to $130.00 per pint – an increase of more than 100 per cent.
 Onions moved from $25.00 lb. to $80.00 lb.
 Milk hiked from $110.00 to $280.00 lb. – an increase of more than 100 per cent. Many of the other items have increased well above 200 per cent. Such commodities include
 Salt which increased from $12.00 lb. to $60.00 lb.
 Kerosene oil from $135.00 per gallon to $560.00 per gallon.
 Shell gas from $854.00 to $2,300.00 per 25 lbs. cylinder.
 The price of eddoes and cassava increased from $15.00 lb. to $50.00 lb.

The foregoing has established clearly that the PPP/C which came to power in 1992 promising “to lower the cost of living with change to buy sweets for the children” has failed miserably and has exposed their inability to govern and to control the cost of living.

What is important to note, is that as the cost of living becomes unbearable, there has not been a commensurate increase in wages and salaries. The Jagdeo regime has failed to adequately increase wages and salaries to cushion the negative effects of the spiraling cost of living. While wages and salaries have increased nominally, the real wages and salaries of the Guyanese people have declined since the money they earn in 2005 is buying less than it bought in 1992. This together with the decrease in the value of the Guyana dollar from $125.00 in 1992 to $200.00 in 2005, vis- a vis the US dollar, has resulted in an unprecedented decline in the standard of living of most Guyanese and to a dramatic increase in poverty in Guyana. The reality is people just do not have money.

As poverty increases and people are having less and less money, many man hours that should have been productively utilized are wasted as people are now reduced to searching for ways and means of making ends meet. Guyana is now in a vicious cycle of poverty with survival being the order of the day.

TRANSPORTATION

As if the spiraling cost of living and its ill effects on the society are not enough, the Jagdeo regime continues to advertise to all, their incompetence and inability to formulate relevant and effective policies. No where is this more obvious than in the public transportation sector. Guyanese every where are experiencing serious problems to obtain transportation to and from work as well as to other day to day activities. Apart from the increase in the cost of transportation which adds to the burdens of the Guyanese people, the problems in public transportation are a direct result of the ineptitude of the Jagdeo regime. Since the PPP/C came to power in 1992 they have failed to initiate any policies, programmes or projects in the public transportation sector. The last time there was any policy decision or action in the public transportation sector was that implemented by the PNC in the 1980’s when a coherent transportation policy was developed resulting in the introduction of mini buses in the public transportation sector.

While those policies were useful at the time when they were developed, there is need for new policy initiatives to improve the operation of the existing system and to increase the availability of public transportation to the traveling public who are facing severe hardships .The PPP/C regime needs to recognize that their inaction is resulting in untold suffering to the Guyanese people. There is need for action to relieve the people of this transportation nightmare. As such the PNCR government will make new policies and projects in this sector, a high priority.

PLACEMENT PROBLEMS AT THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION

The Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations results have just been released and the PNCR wishes to congratulate all those students in the various regions of the country who have done well at the examination. We also salute those schools which have had outstanding results. We note that this year , the Minster of Education has elected to present the results of the examination himself, a departure from the long established procedure followed by all of his predecessors where the issuing of examination results was a professional matter to be handled by the Ministry of Education and the parents and schools concerned. While it is appropriate that the Ministry should inform the public of outstanding performances so that children and schools which have done well should be given due public recognition, this year’s intrusion of ministerial presence smacks of a blatant attempt by the government to garner political capital from any source no matter how inappropriate and betrays the desperate hunger of those now in power to hang on to any issue in a vain attempt to get credit for their failed policies.

Nothing that the Minister has said or done can disguise the fact that the vast majority of children who have taken the SSEE have once again obtained scores which are less than 50% which points to the fact that the government’s policies and investment in the primary sector have failed. We have on previous occasion called on the government to accept the implications of this fact and come to grips with the reality that unless this situation improves, the general standards in our education system cannot improve. The results continue to show that in several regions and in several schools in many regions, the children are not able to cope with the level of work demanded by the SSEE. This means that our Secondary, Technical and Vocational programmes, and ultimately the entire education system remain in trouble. The success of a few brilliant children from a few good schools cannot be allowed to gloss over this reality. Unless Guyana breaks the downward spiral which manifests itself in the SSEE, our development prospects in this world of knowledge driven growth is a no starter. Many of the related problems of crime and dependency are a natural result of a system in grave need of relevant reforms.

The issues related to the SSEE also bring into sharp relief the Ministry’s confused and callous policies where placement of children is concerned. The government has announced its intentions to implement geographically based placement of children at the nursery, primary and secondary levels. Localized placement of children works extremely well in countries where there is general equality in the quality of education offered in schools in all localities; where there is adequate provision of school places and where there is general equivalence of staff and teacher experience levels. In Guyana, this is not the case. Parents who seek to have their children placed in appropriate schools, primary and nursery, now find themselves forced to send their children to schools which are unsatisfactory and in which they have no stakeholder interest and parents now find that they have to transport children from the same family to different schools under the new policy. Further, at the secondary level, the inequality of provision of appropriate secondary schooling has forced many parents to seek relief for their dilemma in private education is as a result of the government’s insistence on sending promising children to unsatisfactory secondary schools. The government has made matters worse by its unconscionable delay in dealing with the state of school buildings in the Georgetown and East Coast areas.

The direct consequence of these policies is that

 Talented children of poor families are forced to pay for education whilst the children of upper and middle income families get free education in better schools.
 The talented child from a poor neighbourhood has no prospect of admission to a better school in another district.

These difficulties will only be made worse by the government’s intention to eliminate the SSEE. School based assessment will give advantages to children from better equipped schools in better off neighbourhoods.

One cannot escape the conclusion that the Ministry of Education lurches form one controversial mistake to another either because the political directorate does not seek the advice of knowledgeable professionals or the government does not understand the education process at all and its importance to Guyana’s future continues to depend on ad hoc and purely political motivation.

PNCR CONCERNED ABOUT SPIRALING CRIME WAVE

The PNCR is gravely concerned about the recent increase in armed robberies in Guyana. Current statistics show that there have been at least 645 reported armed robberies between January, 2005 and the 17th day of July, 2005, i.e. an average of 100 armed robberies per month. We note that many of these robberies were carried out in daylight in a most brazen manner and against small and medium size businesses.

The PNCR has noted and agrees with the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) Draft Progress Report 2005, in so far as it states that “crime and the security situation will have to be dealt with if Guyana is to minimize the migration of its highly trained professionals and entrepreneurs whose skills and resources are needed to propel growth.” That Draft Report also states that the crime and security situation was one of the major challenges “critical to establishing a sustainable framework for meeting the PRSP targets and the Millennium Development Goals.” The feeling of many businessmen and businesswomen was recently verbalized by a very emotive owner of one of the jewellery stores in the Stabroek Market, which was robbed earlier this month. This is what he said, “we just feel like give up everything and move out of this country ……….. that is what we feel like doing right now”. We call on the Commissioner of Police and the entire Police Force to provide a better service to all Guyanese.

Our Party is also very concerned about the death of 39 year old Eon Forrester who reportedly was accidentally shot on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 while in police custody at the East La Penitence Police Station. We expect that the promised inquiry into Mr. Forrester’s death will be speedy, thorough and truly independent.

While the PNCR accepts that police ranks have the right to defend themselves when attacked or when under threat of imminent attack the Party is also concerned with the circumstances leading to the fatal shooting of Eon Alleyne, age 22 years and Dwight McKenzie, aged 24 years on Friday, July 15, 2005 in East Ruimveldt. The conflicting eyewitness accounts of the shooting are in our view sufficient to cause the Guyana Police Force to mount an investigation into the incident and we strongly urge that this is done.

We did on Tuesday, July 19, 2005 write the Commissioner of Police requesting a meeting with him to discuss the above and other related matters. A meeting with the Commissioner has since been arranged for Friday, July 22, 2005.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

On Thursday, July 14, 2005, the National Assembly passed the National Registration (Amendment Bill 2005). This Amended Registration Act empowers the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) with the authority to conduct verification of the 2001 official list of electors (OLE), at any stage of the continuous registration process.

The PNCR hopes that GECOM would take all urgent steps to begin the house- to- house verification exercise to verify the identity and residence of all the persons, whose names are listed on the OLE of 2001 that is to be used as a base for the commencement of Continuous Registration.

With regards to the implementation of fingerprinting and the cross referencing of the fingerprints as a security tool against multiple registrations, the PNCR urges GECOM to urgently consult persons/companies with the requisite competence and technology, who can advise GECOM on the necessary time-frame and cost for the implementation of such a system.

No stone should be left unturned to ensure that GECOM conducts an election of an acceptable standard. Our expectations are very simple and clear.

1. Elections must be held by the constitutionally due time.
2. Elections must be held with a thoroughly cleansed voter’s list.
3. There must be a proper system of biometric checks.
4. There must be equitable use of the state media: on this matter the recently held General Council of the PNCR gave specific directives which the Party Leadership will be resolutely implementing.
5. The PNCR will hold the government and GECOM accountable if these conditions are not met.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, July 21, 2005