PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, October 13, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
 The PNCR notes with sadness the passing of the veteran business and community leader Mr. Joseph Vieira;
 Practical steps and not drama needed to remove public perceptions on crime if a successful national response to the crime situation is to be achieved;
 The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) extends warmest congratulations to its women’s arm, the National Congress of Women, as the organisation celebrates its 48th anniversary;
 The Government is bent on allowing its entire term in office to pass without dealing with broadcast legislation;
 The People’s National Congress Reform welcomes the announcement by President Jagdeo that he has abandoned the illegal and reckless idea of replacing the Elected Councilors of the Georgetown Municipality with an Interim Management Committee;
 GECOM and its Chairman in particular, seem bent on meeting some deadline at the expense of proper and thorough preparations for the elections.

TRIBUTE TO JOSEPH VIEIRA A.A.

The PNCR notes with sadness the passing of the veteran business and community leader, Mr. Joseph Vieira A.A. Mr. Vieira has rendered valuable service to Guyana in any spheres but more particularly in the sugar industry, the Guyana Airways Corporation and the various Private Sector Organisations. He was a patriotic Guyanese who cared deeply for the welfare of Guyana and its people and was always outspoken and courageous in expressing his views and giving his advice on the development of Guyana and the role of the business community in that development.

Guyana has been blessed with families which have made significant contributions to its development in several areas such as the Arts, Education and Business. The Vieira Family was one such family. Mr. Joseph Vieira, who passed away at the ripe age of 85, was the main pillar of that family. Uncle Joe, as he was popularly known, built on the legacy of his father and made the Houston Estate into a successful business operation, which was widely admired by Guyanese of every walk of life. But Joe Vieira did not limit his activities to his own Estate. He was concerned about the entire sugar industry of Guyana.

He was a close and trusted friend of the late Founder Leader, LFS Burnham, who always turned to him for advice, especially in relation to the sugar industry. It was his unrivaled knowledge of the industry and his long years as Director of the Houston Estate that persuaded the leadership of the PNC to ask Joe Vieira to serve on the Guysuco Board. His business expertise was again called upon to assist the then ailing Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) and he willingly accepted the challenge to serve as Board Chairman, then Executive Chairman for nearly ten years and was instrumental in ensuring that GAC became a successfully run entity. Apart from the Directorships on these state entities, Joe Vieira also served on the Board of Banks DIH for some 38 years.

He was recognized for his dedicated service to the nation and was awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement (A.A.).

Active in other areas of the business and social life of Guyana, he won a reputation for honesty, pragmatism, and decency. These principles guided his long life and on all the Boards and other organisations on which he served and enabled him to win the trust and confidence of his colleagues. He has left a rich legacy and the PNCR is pleased that its Government was able to benefit from his work, his advice and his commitment.

The PNCR therefore pays tribute to the late Mr. Joe Vieira, AA, and extends sincere condolences to his wife, Mimi, his children and other sorrowing relatives

THE GMA/PRIVATE SECTOR COMMISSION CONSULTATION ON CRIME

The PNCR commends the GMA & PRIVATE SECTOR COMMISSION on their recently held Seminar/Consultations on Crime at the Le Meridien Hotel. A review of the various presentations confirms that our crime and security situation is the number one priority for all Guyanese. It is to be hoped that the Government and the Police Force transform the many suggestions made into practical steps aimed at improving the security climate.

The PNCR Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, who was asked to address the Seminar on “Crime: Another Perspective”, emphasized that,

“Perceptions, real or imagined, may be the greatest hindrance to resolving the crime and security situation in Guyana. These perceptions arose from observing daily occurrences and the peculiar responses of the Administration and the Judiciary. Consequently, the real question is what is to be done, and by whom, to remove those perceptions.”

In his address, Mr. Corbin, emphasized that the PNCR remains deeply concerned about the crime and security situation as it exists today in Guyana and was prepared to do all that it could to contribute to solutions. Not only has the Party made regular suggestions but actively campaigned for years for an Inquiry into the Police Force as well as extra-judicial killings, which eventually materialized with the appointment of the Disciplined Services Commission. The Party actively campaigned for an Inquiry into Death Squads, racially motivated violence on the Lower East Coast of Guyana. Regrettably, the shortsightedness and the limitations of the Public Inquiry which followed are now widely recognized. The responses of the Administration in these matters have led to perceptions which cannot be ignored if solutions are to be found to crime.

The prime responsibility for the protection of the citizen is that of the Government: A responsibility that cannot be delegated as it is enshrined in the Constitution. Consequently, when the security of our citizens is so seriously threatened by the wanton lawlessness that now exists in our society it is not partisan politics to call upon the Administration to fulfill its mandate and to point to weaknesses which if corrected could improve the situation. It is therefore both naïve and counter-productive for any Government to treat objective criticism of its failure to fulfill its constitutional mandate as a reason to engage in political rhetoric and in some cases confrontation rather than use the opportunity for greater collaboration and co-operation. Such responses give rise to the perceptions that the Government is more concerned about propaganda than genuine solutions.

Mr. Corbin also highlighted the facts that the PNC, and now PNCR, had not only been consistent in its condemnation of all forms and types of criminal activity but demonstrated this commitment and organisational capacity while in Government to manage the crime situation and fulfill its Constitutional mandate to provide basic security to the citizens of Guyana. Although in Opposition, the PNCR has already drafted its Strategic Plan for Crime Reduction 2006 – 2011 that was already circulated for comments from several professionals in the field of security because we believe that the success of any Crime Plan is dependent on widespread support and participation. One would have assumed that any Government, having knowledge of this plan, would welcome the opportunity to join in a common cause. Instead of commendation, the PNCR has been the recipient of almost vulgar abuse from the hierarchy which must again give rise to perceptions that the Government is not really serious about finding solutions.

Among the perceptions listed by Mr. Corbin which needed to be addressed were that,

- Crime is only important if it interferes with personal interests of the individual, his interest or race group. Consequently, some persons are only prepared to respond when those interests are threatened;
- Crime is a political partisan matter so it may be acceptable if it does not affect the political interests of some;
- Crime is condoned at the highest levels of the state and therefore the state lacks the moral authority to deal with small perpetrators;
- Organised crime is in bed with the government so that the drug lords and the big ones are protected;
- The security services are infiltrated by organised crime so it is unsafe for ordinary citizens to interfere by providing any information to the police as there could be adverse consequences;
- The state has a vested interest in insecurity as it fuels ethnic cleavage which could aid electoral prospects.

President Jagdeo’s initial refusal to participate preferring to send Luncheon instead allows the nation to draw its own conclusions. The fact that Mr. Jagdeo found the time to rush to the closing session of the said seminar, however, obviously only to respond to the remarks of the Opposition Leader, rather than outline what positive steps he proposed to take to remove these widely held perceptions, could only serve to reinforce already held perceptions that the issue of crime is a matter for politicking and gimmickry by the Administration.

THE 48TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF WOMEN

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) extends warmest congratulations to its women’s arm, the National Congress of Women (NCW), as the organisation celebrates its 48th Anniversary as a national women’s organisation.

The Party also salutes the efforts and the foresight of foundation members like Jane Phillips-Gay, Dorothy Taitt, Winifred Gaskin, Hyacinth Godett, Lucille Cox-David and Margaret Ackman who conceived the formation of the PNC Women’s Auxiliary (PNCWA) was formed on October 5, 1957. We also recognise the contributions of those women who led this movement over the 48 years of its existence such as Jane Phillips-Gay, C.C.H., Viola Burnham, O.R., Yvonne Harewood-Benn, Urmia Johnson and its present Chairperson, Cheryl Sampson.

The awakened consciousness about the changing role of women in the society by International Women’s year 1975 caused the organisation to sharpen its focus to recognise the role of ideological issues in the fight for women’s rights and rename it the Women’s Revolutionary Socialist Movement (WRSM) in 1976. Again in response to the changing world climate, and he party’s move away from rigid political dogma, the women of the party changed its to the National Congress of Women (NCW).

As the NCW celebrates 48 years of existence the organisation must be reminded that what the mind conceives and believes, it can achieve. The NCW therefore challenges its Guyanese sisters to reaffirm their commitment to the implementation of the twelve critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action, which are women and poverty, education and training of women, women and health, violence against women, women and armed conflict, women and the economy, women in power and decision making, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, human rights of women, women and the media, women and the environment and the girl child.

PRESIDENT & GEORGETOWN MUNICIPALITY

The People’s National Congress Reform welcomes the announcement by President Jagdeo that he has abandoned the illegal and reckless idea of replacing the Elected Councillors of the Georgetown Municipality with an Interim Management Committee.

When this ill-conceived idea was mooted by the President, some seven (7) months ago, the People’s National Congress Reform and many other organizations opposed it, on the grounds that such an imposition would not solve the problems which the municipality faces. We said then that the major problem facing the municipality was one of insufficient resources with which to undertake the myriad tasks for which it is directly responsible. Because of its narrow tax base, with most of its revenue garnered from Taxes and Rates, which the Central Government has insisted should remain at the unchanged level since 1998, coupled with the failure to implement a proper system of valuation and revaluation of properties, the municipality has been without adequate resources to undertake its various responsibilities.

The end result is that the city’s drainage infrastructure has broken down, many of its streets are in need of major repairs and many other necessary services are in a run down condition.

We do not know what influences would have led to this change of course on the part of the President; some say that the demanding sanitary conditions required by the 2007 Cricket World Cup organization, has played no small part in the decision of the Central Government to re-examine its relationship with the Municipality. Others say that with elections around the corner the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is desperately seeking to change its image in the hope of attracting the support of city dwellers. Whatever the reasons for the change in then President’s approach, the PNCR calls on the citizens of Georgetown to be vigilant and to ensure that they hold Jagdeo and the PPP/C Government to their word, in so far as the promised resources transfer from the Central Government to the municipality is concerned. The President ought to know, however, that $50M is but a drop of water in the ocean of need for the Capital City.

We also call upon citizens to exercise greater vigilance over the way in which the City Council proceeds with the works for which these new funds are to be made available. In the final analysis what we all want is for Georgetown, our capital city, to look good and to return to its former glory as a Garden City.

OUTSTANDING ISSUES REQUIRING NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ATTENTION

The PNCR notes the silence of the Government on important outstanding issues which should be brought to the attention of the National Assembly. These include:

• Broadcast Legislation
• Equittable access to the Stae own media by the Opposition Parties
• The proper role and the functioning of the Parliamentary Management Committee particularly with respect to the reforms of the National Assembly and ensuring accountability and transparency in Governance.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

The meeting between the Parliamentary Opposition Parties and GECOM yesterday, October 12, 2005 confirmed the PNCR worst fears that Dr. Steve Surujbally and GECOM have not taken seriously the parties’ contributions/submissions over the last two years and are obviously attempting to commence the Electoral process without the minimum acceptable standards in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution. THIS is unacceptable and the PNCR and other Parties will shortly inform the Nation of their position in relation to these dangerous developments that will jeopardize the holding of free, fair and transparent elections.

The nation is aware that the Parliamentary Opposition Parties had requested a meeting with GECOM before August 27, 2005, to clarify a number of outstanding issues before the start of the continuous registration process. These matters were detailed in an address to the nation on September 2, 2005 by the Leader of the Opposition. The Chairman of GECOM in response to that request had proposed that the meeting be shifted to a date after September 7, 2005 and had cited difficulties in the Commission achieving some of its objectives.

GECOM, however, announced its intention to commence what it calls Continuous Registration on October 17, 2005. It only completed training on Monday October 10, 2005; has not identified a sufficient number of registration centers; is still to hold meetings between the local officials and the local party representatives; and not decided how the Official List of Electors, will be verified and sanitized of the ineligible names. It is evident that GECOM and its Chairman in particular, seem bent on meeting some deadline at the expense of proper and thorough preparations for the elections. It is interesting that GECOM is still prepared to meet once a week while critical decisions are still to be made about engaging the Jamaicans on the assistance they have offered to provide for the utilization of new finger print biometric technology.

In the context of these developments and on a further request from the Parliamentary Opposition Parties GECOM finally agreed to meet the combined Opposition Parties yesterday, October 12, 2005. The meeting took place from 1.30 pm and lasted for some four hours. Regrettably, GECOM was still unable to provide any information as to the method by which it proposed to verify the Official List of Electors (OLE) as required by law nor could they inform the Opposition Parties of any significant progress in relation the adoption of available finger print biometric technology for cross-referencing to easily detect multiple registrations. Information on the methodology to be used in building the database for continuous registration was also not available. More significant however, was the attitude of the Chairman of GECOM who seemed very dismissive of the many suggestions made by Parliamentary Opposition Parties over the last two years. The fact that Parliamentary Opposition Parties were being asked at yesterday’s meeting to repeat suggestions they had submitted to the Commission more than a year ago gave the clear impression that GECOM had either not considered these proposals when made, or paid scant regard to them. It is paradoxical that while GECOM informed the Parliamentary Opposition Parties that they had not yet determined these issues and were unlikely to do so before their next meeting on Tuesday October 18, the Commission still appears bent on commencing continuous registration before these fundamental issues have been resolved.

The Parliamentary Opposition Parties clearly expressed their dissatisfaction at this state of affairs and are resolute that GECOM must make clear its methodology for verification before the commencement of registration and how it will use of the data from the OLE and its addenda. These developments will clearly impact upon the integrity of the elections. The PNCR has made it clear that it will not accept any situation that would jeapordise the holding of free, fair and transparent elections. Consequently, the PNCR has commence urgent consultations with its membership throughout the country and will shortly announce its proposed action in the face of the blatant disrespect with which the GECOM has treated with the detailed suggestions proposed by the Opposition Parliamentary Parties in response to their request for such suggestions.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, October 13, 2005