PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, August 18, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY

THE PPP/C AND MARXISM

Having placed his foot in his mouth at the recent PPP/C Congress, General Secretary, Donald Ramotar is now occupied with doing damage control in relation to the Party’s reaffirmation of its Marxist ideology. The PNCR will not judge the PPP/C on the basis of its pronouncements. It is its practice, which at the end of the day affects the Guyanese people. Of interest to the PNCR is that much of the practice of the PPP/C is associated with that element of Marxism (Scientific Communism), which most, if not all, political regimes have distanced themselves from. The practice of Democratic Centralism is manifested, through overt centralization of decision making in the Party and the exclusion of others from decision making, of any real consequence. Of concern is the refusal to implement decisions of the Constitution Reform Commission, the Dialogue Process and the Constructive Engagement while pursuing the Marxist position on propaganda, hence the control of the state media in a manner reminiscent of Lenin’s view of how the Party should control the Press and the propaganda with which the citizenry is constantly bombarded. The belief that the PPP/C is the source of all truth, and that truth is whatever is manufactured at Freedom House, is the issue that concerns the PNCR. How could it be true that the PPP/C appointed the first Minister of Amerindian Affairs when Philip Duncan was Minister of State for Amerindian Affairs under the PNC Government? How could it be true that Guyana under the PNC was expending approximately 90% of its revenue on debt servicing when the PNC Government had suspended the payment and much of the debt relief that Jagdeo boasts about is relief from repayment of loans acquired under the PNC Government for projects such as the establishment of the multilateral schools.

Of equal concern is the PPP/C`s approach to Trade Unions and non-governmental organizations, control them as Lenin advocated, hence GAWU and the PPP/C; or side track and destroy them as has been the case with GPSU.

Marxism is alive and well in the PPP/C but it is not Marxism as a sociological tool; it is Marxism as in Scientific Communism at the core of which is the concept of the dictatorship and the annihilation of private enterprise.

The PNC/PNCR, whose sin, according to the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, was not to have been doctrinaire Marxist, has practiced and is committed to an open and free society with the welfare of all as its major concern.

ELECTIONEERING GIMMICKS

More than any other Guyanese politician President Jagdeo is in the habit of bragging about Guyana’s constitution. He is frequently quoted as saying that Guyana has the most advanced constitution in the Caribbean. One would be hard put to believe that this same Jagdeo is guilty of breaching the provisions of the constitution or is slothful in the implementation of its provisions. The most glaring case is the way in which he manages the fiscal resources of the country.

Article 77A of the constitution states: “Parliament shall provide for the formulation and implementation of objective criteria for the purpose of the allocation of resources to, and the garnering of resources by local democratic organs.” The implementation of this provision was mooted in the 2004 Budget. It has since disappeared from the legislative agenda and Jagdeo, in the face of an upcoming election, has accelerated his practice of going from community to community announcing the allocation of funds for projects or instructing that funds be allocated for projects in those communities. The practice has become so entrenched that communities are now inviting Jagdeo to visit because of their conviction that this is the only way by which they can attract the Government’s attention and funding for their communities. On the other hand the Government uses such occasions to gain photo opportunities which are then shown repeatedly on GINA`s propaganda programmes and in particular the President’s Diary. This practice is the most ludicrous example of bad governance. For example, the Government in its 2005 Budget allocated 3.5M to each Neighbourhood Democratic Council. No formula was used to determine this sum, however the President turns up in these very Neighborhoods and announces the disbursement of large sums of money for projects, which fall within the jurisdiction of the NDC and are to be undertaken by that Neighbourhood. A recent example is the President’s visit to Den Amstel, in the Hague/Blankenburg NDC, where he announced an allocation of $25M for projects to be undertaken by the NDC which was originally allocated the miserly sum of only $3.5M in the National Budget. Similar excursions took place in Georgetown late last year when communities were allocated as much as $40M to have the municipality’s work done when City Hall was only allocated $15M for the entire city for the whole year. This is nothing short of flouting our constitution and using the Office of President to electioneer for the People’s Progressive Party. While encouraging the communities to accept these handouts, the PNCR as the alternate Government pledges to implement the provisions of the constitution and to allocate monies to local authorities on the basis of their needs rather than at the whim and fantasy of any politician.

HOUSE-TO-HOUSE VERIFICATION IS THE LEAST TIME-CONSUMING OF THE OPTIONS TO PRODUCE A CLEAN VOTERS LIST

The PNCR calls on GECOM to thoroughly assess the timelines for the various options available to produce a clean and acceptable voters list for the next general election. Since the PNCR issued its call, over two years ago, for house-to-house verification, some have instinctively raised their voices in opposition without a methodical and commonsense assessment of the advantages of the proposal. The PPP/C, we know, has sinister political motives for resisting the proposal. It is planning to exploit a bloated voters list and would naturally oppose a process to remove from the database names of persons who have migrated or have died. The PNCR holds the view, however, that some within GECOM as well as the several donor-sponsored foreign consultants have erred in their conclusions on the issue because they failed to acquire adequate information and failed to thoroughly exercise their mental faculties. The several ill-founded statements by GECOM’s Chairman and the many flawed recommendations from foreign “experts” attest to this state of affairs.

The PNCR is contending, without fear of contradiction, that any detailed and honest assessment of the administrative and legal requirements and procedures for voter registration will show that house-to-house verification will be the least time-consuming and most efficient (not to mention, least frustrating from the public’s standpoint) of the available options to produce an acceptable voters list.

Let us explain why. To produce a voters list for 2006, GECOM will have to

(i) capture new registrants;
(ii) process all those who have, since 2001, changed addresses (transfers) and/or have changed names;
(iii) ensure all those who are eligible are on the list; and
(iv) remove names of those who have migrated or have died since 2001.

Without a house-to-house verification exercise, GECOM firstly will have to perform a massive amount of transactions to take care of those who have changed addresses and/or names since 2001. The PNCR averages these individual transactions can number over 70,000 -- given, for example, the continuous internal migration over the last 4-5 years. Anyone who is aware of the lengthy administrative procedures required to handle a transfer cannot deny how time-consuming, error-prone and frustrating a process it is. The PNCR is of the view that the administrative burden on GECOM to process these transactions will produce serious bottlenecks and delays.

Secondly, GECOM will have to process a large amount of claims and objections to remove names of persons who have migrated or have died. The PNCR has calculated that even if the Official List of Electors (OLE) is used as a starting point, close to 120,000 names have to be deleted. Any election commission worth its salt would recognise that these names can in no way stay on the list. Further, any rational person who studies the legal and administrative requirements for claims and objections would acknowledge that to eliminate any significant amount of these names through this mechanism would overburden and hold up the list preparation process.

Thirdly, without a house-to-house exercise, GECOM can in no way reconfirm the eligibility of those hundreds of thousands of persons who voted in 2001. We do not believe that the mere fact that no one has objected to a person’s name is a sufficient condition for that name to remain on the list. All registrants must be contacted again.

In summary therefore, any process that fails to make contact with each voter and intends instead to produce a clean and complete voters list through claims and objections and through the processing of requests for transfers and name changes will face several critical problems. It will:

• overload GECOM’s administrative systems, producing bottlenecks and time slippages;
• complicate elections management by virtue of the variety and complexity of transactions (e.g. requests for transfers and/or change of names; claims for inclusion on the list; objections to inclusion of names; corrections to specs, etc)
• place an unfair amount of responsibility and costs on citizens to get registered by forcing them to travel to far-off centres (one GECOM proposal places only two centers in Georgetown);
• place too much onus on citizens and political parties to purge the list of ineligible persons through claims and objections.
• totally dependent on persons showing up at centres to capture all registrants.

A house-to-house exercise removes all these jeopardies. By visiting each household, GECOM can simultaneously (i) register new persons, (ii) identify and remove those who have migrated or died, (iii) adjust the specs of those who have changed addresses or names, and (iv) reconfirm the eligibility of those who can vote in 2006. This approach avoids the necessity to process, using the standard lengthy procedures, the large volumes of requests for changes of names and addresses, as well as the large volume of claims and objections.

In our view, there can be no shortcuts to producing a clean list. Continuous registration from scattered centres in the time remaining is no substitute for a house-to-house approach, will lead to serious delays and frustrations. To their credit, several of GECOM’s internal staff have recognized this. Similarly, sampling and statistical tests are no substitutes for house-to-house verification. House-to-house verification is the least time-consuming and most straightforward approach.

GECOM would do well to resurrect and discuss the Mike Griffith list of registration options and the PNCR’s comments thereon.

JAGDEO CONTINUED MALINGERING ON THE BERBICE BRIDGE

The PNCR must once again expose the cavalier attitude of Bharrat Jagdeo in dealing with major investment and infrastructural undertakings. It will be recalled that the Berbice Bridge which was promised by Bharat Jagdeo and the PPP/C administration since the 2001 elections has not yet materialized and from all indications appears to be empty rhetoric even though Jagdeo has made several elaborate promises on starting and completing this project before the end of next year.

One of his recent promises was that construction of the bridge will commence shortly and that contractors have been identified. The investors are unknown or phantoms and from all indications the project has run into major financing problems. The project was to be built on a private sector BOT (Build Operate Transfer) project scheme. Instead Jagdeo has been working overtime to twist the arms of the directors and management of New Building Society to off lend funds for this project. To the credit of the NBS directorate it has so far stoutly resisted Jagdeo, as the Directors aware that any such undertaking would be in contravention of the NBS Charter.

The PNCR is additionally concerned that it could be another opportunity for drug lords to infiltrate, organize and control while government turns a blind eye. The PNCR is calling on the PPP/C government to declare the names of the investors and to lay in the Parliament full details of the contractual arrangement/agreement that was made by the government and the unknown investors.

VENDORS AT PARIKA

The Government Information Agency (GINA) has recently issued a statement on the removal of vendors at Parika to facilitate the construction of the Parika Approach Road. According to GINA the Ministry of Public Works and Communication has given vendors a two weeks notice to remove to the much touted tarmac at Hydronie. GINA claims that with the advertisement of the notice vendors have started occupying the facility though they were reluctant to do so earlier.

It appears that GINA would have us believe that this is an orderly process with which vendors are totally satisfied. However, the PNCR understands that vendors have a number of concerns that are still to be addressed.

These include:

1. The daily vendors who are being placed at the Marketing Center Tarmac are concerned over the method used for allotment of stalls. PNCR has learnt that there are no clear criteria for the size and location of stalls. PPP/C activists who have been inserted into the process are making allocations solely on the basis of personal discretion.

This situation has allowed for significant corruption, victimization and political discrimination. As a consequence, a number of persons who were not previously vending have been allotted places while long established vendors have been overlooked. Some persons who were allotted places have had them arbitrarily taken away without explanation. In addition there have been a number of inconsistencies in relation to the size and position of a numbers of stalls.

2. There have also been inconsistencies in relation to the criteria for allocation of stalls at the Hydronie Tarmac. Some daily vendors who have been assigned stalls at the Marketing Center Tarmac are being told that they cannot obtain stalls at Hydronie for the Thursday and Sunday market days. At the same time others are being allotted places, the basis for which is not known.

Daily vendors are claiming that they are being discriminated against since they are being denied the opportunity of being in the mainstream of the Thursday and Sunday market days.

3. Lot numbers at the Hydronie Tarmac were randomly assigned after the tarmac was sequentially marked. However, after the lots were assigned PPP/C personnel changed the numbers of some of the lots on the tarmac. Therefore, a number of persons who thought that they were lucky in pulling prime lots turned up subsequently to find that their lots were renumbered and that their original numbers were placed in remote parts of the tarmac.

4. Vendors are concerned that while all these issues are unresolved the Government is forcing them to accept the situation by sending in bulldozers.

The PNCR finds this situation, in which corruption, victimization and political discrimination are rife, totally unacceptable. The PNCR calls on Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C government to suspend the entire allocation process in order to allow for an independent enquiry. The PNCR stands ready to be part of this process that will ensure that the vendors of the Parika Market are given justice.

BRADFORD REPORT

The PNCR has noted the release of the Final Report of the Guyana Fiduciary Oversight Project by international consultants Bradford and Associates Ltd. The report covers three important areas of governance namely, strengthening fiduciary oversight, limiting use of discretionary powers and disclosure of public officials’ assets.

PNCR takes this opportunity to publicly congratulate Bradford and Associates for the preparation of a thorough report that contains quite a few useful recommendations.

The next step in this process is to have stakeholder consultations to determine the method of implementation of the Bradford recommendations. The PNCR therefore calls on the PPP/C Government to make the three volumes of the report available to stakeholders and to commence consultations without delay.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, August 18, 2005