PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, September 8, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR fully agrees that entry qualifications and specialized training for the Guyana Police Force need to be upgraded and salaries made much more competitive so as to attract a higher quality of Officers.
• The PNCR has successfully agitated for the admission of the media to the Sittings of the Standing Committees of the National Assembly.
• The PNCR calls upon the stakeholders at the University of Guyana to deal urgently with issues which are of immediate concern for the welfare and well-being of the students.
• It is the PNCR’s firm opinion that there should be proper consultations between the Parika Market vendors, community leaders, and the local and regional authorities, in order to find acceptable solutions to the many problems that exist.
• The picketing exercise was part of a series of activities that the People’s National Congress Reform would be undertaking to inform the nation of the failures of the Surujbally Commission.

THE PPP/C MUST RADICALLY IMPROVE POLICE REMUNERATION AND WORKING CONDITIONS IF IT IS SERIOUS ABOUT REDUCING CRIME
Government’s emerging strategy for dealing with the crime problem is to initiate a number of disjointed activities aimed at addressing the rise in crime. However, once again, it has seriously underestimated the ability of the criminal underworld to anticipate and counter Police action and overestimate the capacity of the GPF to deliver on its responsibilities.
To make real progress and improve the service that the public receives from the Police, government will have to tackle some fairly deep-seated problems in the way law enforcement and criminal justice are organised and managed in this country. The first task will be to radically improve Police remuneration and working conditions. Better salaries and remuneration will help, but real change will only come about with the type of training, education, motivation and leadership that inspire best practice at all levels of the Force. Moreover, there is a critical need to recruit police with more than the basic minimum qualifications. In fact the Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission of May, 2004, so studiously ignored by the government, recommends that career attractiveness should be enhanced by a review of the Police salary structure and substantial increases in remuneration. At the same time this important document advises that the minimum educational criterion for recruitment should be raised from a sound primary education to at least a sound secondary education.
The PNCR fully agrees that entry qualifications and specialized training for the GPF need to be upgraded and salaries made much more competitive so as to attract a higher quality of Officers.
Also gathering dust in a backroom at the Ministry of Home Affairs is the 2000 Symonds Report. This 200 page document done by a British group has also been studiously ignored by the PPP/C administration which claims to be concerned over crime yet redefines Government minimalism as it relates to action against crime.
It is clear that Government’s reluctance and tardiness in improving Police working conditions and operational ability have had the effect of demoralizing the Police service and undermining public confidence in its performance and professionalism.
Today’s criminal is well-informed, determined and well-equipped in terms of fire power, communications and transportation. Courageous though many of our Police may be they are no match for sophisticated and hardened criminals.
It is apparent to the PNCR that the easy availability of illegal firearms (for rent, hire purchase, or borrow) has encouraged countless fatal shoot-outs and savage gun crimes.
Gun crimes now average at least one a day. In the first month of 2005 alone Police investigated 30 robberies in which guns were used. They also investigated 8 shooting incidents in that one-month period. Not surprisingly even petty criminals with guns feel such a sense of mission and invincibility that they are willing to shoot it out with trained law enforcement Officers. Apart from the direct targeting of individuals at home, at work or on the streets, bandits have recklessly sprayed houses with fusillades from high-powered weapons. The PNCR calls on Government to say what it intends to do to actively reduce criminal fire power and protect the good citizens of Guyana. The proliferation of guns is a re-emerging phenomenon here in Guyana and is without doubt an unmatched PPP/C achievement.
The rapid growth in narco-criminality is another phenomenon the PNCR lays squarely at the PPP/C’s door. It is during the PPP/C’s term in office that Guyanese have been exposed to a formidable and direct threat from narco-criminals with the capacity and intent to harm. Instead of enforcing the provisions of the Money Laundering Act Government has suppressed its clarification and application. The relationship between the PPP/C Government and narco-criminal individuals and groups while it may be beneficial to them is a dangerous one which could lead to the undermining of the power and authority of the State.
Though there have been arrests abroad and the dismantling of several drug rings, observers point out that there have been no detentions or prosecutions in Guyana. Neither government nor law enforcement authorities have been able to explain this phenomenon which must take centre stage as one of Guyana’s many unsolved mysteries.
The PNCR calls on Government to end its pretense at crime fighting and immediately invest in Police salaries and remunerations as well as in technology. Lasting change will only be possible when the GPF has the right numbers of staff, with the skills, remunerations, equipment and powers they need to do their jobs effectively.



DEVELOPMENT OF A NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEDIA CORPS

The PNCR has led the initiatives for the reform of the Parliamentary system in Guyana. Our primary objective has been to release the National Assembly, the Legislative branch, from the manipulative clutches of the Executive so that it could truly fulfill its constitutional responsibility of being “the watchdog on behalf of the people of Guyana”. The People of Guyana, all of the People, could only be guaranteed the beneficial exercise of their constitutional power if the Executive is made to be accountable to them. The internationally accepted norms of Good Governance include transparency and accountability. A necessary condition, for ensuring the delivery of Good Governance by the Executive, must be effective oversight by the National Assembly. It has been a long and difficult road to have the various agreed reforms implemented but we have determinedly persevered.

A vital need, for the achievement of transparency and accountability, is the putting of the Executive under informed and active public scrutiny. This is where the daily on-going work of a diligent and effective public media, which can be relied on by the People for accurate and unbiased information, is another of the necessary requirements for ensuring Good Governance. Any functioning democracy must benefit from an independent public media that takes its role, of informing and educating the People, seriously. After all “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. It is in this context that the PNCR has successfully agitated for the admission of the media to the Sittings of the Standing Committees of the National Assembly.

As a result of agreement in the Communiqué of 2003 May 5, a Committee System - involving seven (7) new Standing Committees in addition to the then existing five (5) Sessional Select Committees, including the Public Accounts Committee - was implemented in the National Assembly. Members of Parliament and the staff of the Parliament Office have been on a steep learning curve to come to grips with the challenges of ensuring the effective functioning of this new system. The amendment of the Standing Orders to admit the Media to agreed Sittings of the Standing Committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, has added to those challenges.

In the circumstances, in order to remove the dangers of capricious discretionary decision making, a draft document, entitled Radio and Television Broadcasting and Photography in the Parliament Building, was considered by the Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC) as the basis for establishing agreed rules or guidelines for access, by the public media, to the work of the National Assembly.

This document was discussed at the PMC meeting, on 2005 July 20, and it was agreed that the Clerk of the National Assembly should send copies of the document to all of the Media Houses for their comments and suggestions for changes. When the Media Houses have been given enough time to consider the document, a public consultation, chaired by the Speaker who is the Chairman of the PMC, would be held with the Media Houses so that the document, which would eventually become Guidelines, could benefit from the considered inputs from the Media Houses.

STUDENTS MADE TO FACE UNNECESSARY HARDSHIPS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUYANA

In recent times, the University of Guyana has been in the headlines on a daily basis. However, none of the purported protagonists of the University’s interest has aired any concern about the hardships that students face in their attempts to register at the University.

Hundreds of new and continuing students suffered delays and uncertainties, for as long as two weeks, at the Students` Loan Agency. For that entire period they were being told to return the next day and the next as the Agency awaited permission from the Government to issue loan application forms. These students were being made to suffer the incompetence of those who are responsible for the nation’s budget.

After eleven years of the existence of the Students` Loan Agency the Government still does not have the capacity to project the number of students that would require loans and is tardy and slothful in its response when the inevitable happens and students are kept waiting for weeks for the agency to respond to their needs. One is left to wonder whether it requires the students to go to the President with a begging bowl, as has become the recent practice, for him to allocate sufficient funds to the Students Loan Agency and then have GINA propagandize about the President’s response to, and care for, the students. The truth of the matter is that the President should be held responsible for the ineptitude of his Government. No wonder many of the students see the University as a stepping-stone to migration rather than preparation for a contribution to Guyana, which they now consider as a land of gloom and doom.

The PNCR is committed, not only to ensuring that the University and its support systems are managed more efficiently, but it will abolish fee paying at the University since it sees education and human resource development as essential planks for the growth and development of Guyana.

The PNCR, therefore, calls upon the stakeholders at the University of Guyana to deal urgently with issues, such as this, which are of immediate concern for the welfare and well-being of the students, instead of spending their energies to reduce the University to a political football, with Gopaul and Kissoon on one side and Freedom House on the other side with Misir adjudicating without reference to University Governance through a rule-based regime.

PARIKA VENDORS

The PNCR lends its full support to the vendors of the ‘Parika Roadside Market’ and their petition which was served on Mr. Milton Dookie and the Chairman of Region 3, Mr. Esau Dookie.

The vendors’ concerns include the following:

• They have expressed total dissatisfaction, due to the fact that they were never consulted, so as to give their inputs concerning the issues of method of allocation, rentals, zoning and size of stalls.

• They felt strongly that they should be allowed to build proper sheltered stalls, if the authorities cannot provide a large roof over the entire area. The present area provided is far too small for the number of vendors and needs to be expanded to include the area north of the existing site.

• They are demanding that adequate lighting and electricity supply be provided for the stalls.

• That the two entrances/exits are totally inadequate and additional ones need to be provided, in the interest of safety and the smooth flow of traffic.

• The sizes of the stalls are far too small, and the walkways between them are far too narrow.

• That the representatives who are duly elected/appointed by the vendors be allowed to participate in all the decision making processes, pertaining to the various aspects of the proposed new market facility.

• The present sanitary facilities for males and females are too few in number, and need to be increased, and provided with an adequate and reliable water supply.

• There is no internal drainage within the market area, which results in flooding, whenever it rains. An internal drainage network needs to be installed.

• Adequate areas and facilities need to be provided for the vendors to park and off-load their vehicles, and for the disposal of rubbish.

It is our firm opinion that there should be proper consultations between the vendors, community leaders, and the local and regional authorities, in order to find acceptable solutions to the many problems that exist.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

Coming on the heels of the address to the nation by the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform and Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, on Friday September 2, 2005, the People’s National Congress Reform held a picketing exercise in the precinct of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to further highlight the shortcomings of that body.

The picketing exercise was part of a series of activities that the People’s National Congress Reform would be undertaking to inform the nation of the failures of the Surujbally Commission.

The nation must take note that even after the address of the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition and the subsequent public comments of the three (3) Commissioners representing the Opposition Parties the nation is yet to hear from Chairman Surujbally and his Commission.

These revelations to the nation have certainly created great consternation among the citizenry who have a clear understanding of the likely consequences that can follow due to the attitude and actions or non actions of Dr. Steve Surujbally and his Commission.

The likely question the nation must be asking itself is what was Dr. Steve Surujbally doing since assuming office as Chairman since 2001 and whether he has the capacity and competence to deliver free and fair elections due in 2006.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, September 08, 2005