PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, October 20, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The Amerindian Bill 2005 violates the constitutional provisions relating to our Indigenous Peoples and the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples;
• Government Continues To undermine The Independence of The National Assembly by By-Passing The Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC);
• The PNCR Human Services Department honours senior citizens in Region 7;
• PNCR Outreach reveals Government neglect;
• The PNCR is fully aware of the problems and dilemmas which faced the government when the results of the census became known to its hierarchy;
• The PNCR stands ready to continue its positive contribute to the holding of an election of acceptable standards.

THE AMERINDIAN BILL 2005: RE-COLONISING OUR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

The PPP/C Government has steadfastly ignored the outpouring of recommendations submitted by our indigenous peoples for inclusion in the Amerindian Bill of 2005. These recommendations speak to the aspirations of Indigenous Peoples for the right to self-determination and protection of their traditional rights to land, culture, social order and way of life.

Instead, the PPP/C Government has sent to Parliament a Bill containing provisions seeking to re-colonise our Indigenous brothers and sisters, replacing the colonial public servant in the existing Amerindian Act chapter 29:01 with the PPP/C Minister of Amerindian Affairs. They inexplicably refused to use the term Indigenous Peoples, even though it is the will of our Indigenous Peoples’ that they be so called.

The Village Council of an Amerindian Community may make rules, but they cannot take effect unless the Minister approves; any taxes proposed by the village Council must be submitted to the Minister for approval before they can be levied; the Minister can demand a financial audit be done of a village Council with little notice and notwithstanding the Amerindian Community is not guaranteed a subvention in our national budget as in the case of local democratic organs, and the Minister can override the decision of a Amerindian Community to reject large scale mining within the boundaries of community lands.

The Minister also has power in the proposed Amerindian Bill to influence the outcome of the elections of the Touchau and Councillors; the Minister fixes the date for elections; the Minister may designate a person to observe the elections; and the Minister can appoint the Returning Officer.

The supposed array of provisions in the Bill purporting to repose power in the Community and its village Council to make decisions in relation to mining, forestry and leasing of Community lands is merely an elaborate screen to hide the interfering hand of the Minister.

The Bill also violates the constitutional provisions relating to our Indigenous Peoples and the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.

The PNCR will rigorously support the positions of our Indigenous Peoples and work to ensure that their recommendations are included in this Bill.

GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO UNDERMINE THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BY BY-PASSING THE PMC

In our Press Statement of June 16, 2005, we asked the question:
Will President Jagdeo permit the implementation of the recommendations of Sir Michael Davies, which are contained collectively in his February 18 and May 18, 2005 Reports on The Needs Assessment of the Guyana National Assembly?

The question resulted from our observation that:
‘Now that President Jagdeo and the PPP/C have had the satisfaction of the return of Sir Michael Davies, they are still to respond to the necessary requirements “…..to enable the National Assembly to become the centre of political dialogue in Guyana, the most crucial do not require anything other than the political will to implement. These are:

a) the financial independence of the Assembly;
b) an independent parliamentary staff;
c) an Order Paper free of Ministerial control;
d) a settled parliamentary calendar; and
e) Government co-operation with Committees.”’

As is evident, from the current behaviour of the Government which has convened the National Assembly today without any reference to the Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC) which is responsible for “…the business of the National Assembly…”, nothing has changed since Sir Michael Davies issued his Addendum to The Needs Assessment of the Guyana National Assembly (dated 18 May 2005) in which he observed:
“The Government now has the opportunity to further demonstrate its commitment to the Commonwealth Principles by discussing the issues and principles I have identified and taking the further steps necessary to enhance the independence and relevance of the National Assembly.”

The fact that the Opposition members of the PMC learnt about today’s sitting of the National Assembly through releases from the Government in the State media is a clear indication of the Government’s contempt for the PMC. In addition, the Government continues to be unaccountable and substantiates Sir Michael Davies view that:
“‘Accountability’ is currently lacking and the recommendations in my earlier Report were directed at establishing a separation of powers so that accountability can develop”

The PNCR endorses the view, expressed by Sir Michael Davies:
“…that the way forward should be to follow a plan drawn up by the Parliamentary Management Committee, indicating what is achievable now, what is achievable within two years and what is achievable within, say, four years. This plan should be assessed regularly against what has been achieved to see whether there has been any slippage and whether any re-adjustment is required.”

However, how can we be optimistic when the Government has been resisting even the Tabling of a Motion in the National Assembly to endorse the Recommendation and agree to a mechanism for an early programme for their implementation?

PNCR HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT HONOURS SENIOR CITIZENS

On Sunday, October 16, 2005 the Human Services Department of the PNCR in collaboration with the PNCR Regional Executives held a Breakfast for Senior Citizens of Region Seven (7) at the Bartica Pavilion. This function was part of their month of activities in Salute to Senior Citizens.

More than one hundred senior citizens came from Bartica, and the surrounding communities. They all expressed their thanks to the PNCR for honouring them with many tokens of appreciation and also for recognizing their many contributions to this nation.

PNCR OUTREACH REVEALS GOVERNMENT NEGLECT

A team from the PNCR Leadership visited a number of locations in Region 10 over the weekend of October 15-16, 2005. The visit was to gain first hand information on the conditions and circumstances of residents as GECOM prepares to undertake Continuous Registration in the run up to elections. Among the places visited were Ituni, Kwakwani, Kimbia, Ibini, Weruni, Maria Henrietta, Coomacka and Calcuni.

On the question of GECOM’s Registration exercise residents expressed grave concern over the fact that potential registrants must travel to Mc Kenzie or Wismar to be registered. They expressed the view that the cost of transportation is prohibitive especially for the youth most of who are unemployed.

Several problems were highlighted during the visit:

1. At Kwakwani residents reported that many students are sent home from school because of a shortage of teachers at the Kwakwani Primary School. There are other riverain communities in which children are being sent home from school, e.g. Coomacka where residents expressed the view that the society is fast becoming illiterate;

2. At the Kwakwani Nursery School there is one teacher for more than 75 students;

3. The absence of a steamer/boat to transport the produce grown by the Berbice River farmers to either New Amsterdam or Kwakwani;

4. At Calcuni residents complained about the absence of a scheduled passenger boat to transport them along the Berbice River. They pay as much as $2,200 one way by private transport to travel to New Amsterdam. Older members of the village reminisced with the meeting about the presence of the MV Kimbia and Motor Vessel Parakeet which carried produce, people and mail to and from the village during the PNCR tenure in government;

5. In Ituni the problems of the lack of adequate water supply, electricity supply and the bureaucratic obstacles in marketing their forest products were highlighted.

THE 2002 CENSUS

The PNCR notes that an analysis of the 2002 Census has been released by the government. The first point we wish to note is that this report has been made public even though the government consistently neglected to convene and summon the Board of the Guyana Statistical Bureau; the body which has statutory responsibility for the Census and related matters. To date, the government still has not convened a meeting of the board neither has members of the board been given copies of the information which has been made available to the public. This is a clear example of the government's disregard for law procedure and order in the way it operates.

The Party is fully aware of the problems and dilemmas which faced the government when the results of the census became known to its hierarchy. The Census emphasizes the continued low growth of the population, the depopulation of the agricultural regions, the continued high level of migration from Guyana and the growing housing shortage. More particularly, however, the government was worried by the increasing diversity of Guyana’s population in terms of religious affiliation and ethnicity. This has brought home to the regime in office that its policies of discrimination and exclusion will backfire and that Guyanese will reject the policies and practice of political divisiveness. The PPP/C is obviously in a panic which explains the extraordinary Press Statement from its General Secretary in which he made many magical and wild claims about 'cross over votes'. The sectarian nature of that release is a sign of the panic in the breasts of the PPP/C leadership.

The PNCR merely wishes to restate our commitment to making Guyana an inclusive multi cultural society in which the forms of governance are designed to make all Guyanese feel involved in the development process and have a stake in the future. This is the time for change and renewal

ELECTIONS UPDATE

Today GECOM`s team is due to leave for Jamaica to explore the possible use of the Jamaican biometric fingerprinting for crossing referencing for elections 2006 in Guyana. This move has come after long and sustained struggle by the PNCR and other Parliamentary Opposition Parties. The PNCR awaits the outcome of this long over due initiative with bated breath being cognizant of the sustained efforts by some to sabotage any attempt to introduce cross referencing of finger prints as a prerequisite to the preparation of the electoral list. Since May, 2003 the then Deputy Chief Election Officer (Admin) in his report on a visit to Jamaica reported as follows: The Jamaican Electoral Advisory Committee “decided that legislation be implemented to ensure inter alia: - (1) THAT THE SYSTEM TO BE IMPLEMENTED SHOULD HAVE FINGERPRINTS AS THE CRITICAL ITEM TO BE USED FOR IDENTIFYING THE APPLICANT FOR REGISTRATION, AND FOR THE PREPARATION OF A CLEAN LIST’

He further reported that Legislation was introduced in Jamaica “to provide a clean Voters List. These included: - “That electronic cross matching of all data including fingerprints be done to remove duplications.”

In his recommendations to GECOM he proposed “Electronic cross matching of all data to remove duplication.” Yet it has taken a relentless one-year campaign by the Joint Parliamentary Opposition for GECOM to explore its own recommendation. One which it further emphasized in its Concept Paper on Continuous Registration in November of 2004.

It is therefore remarkable that the Chairman of GECOM now holds out that cross referencing of fingerprints would only be implemented if it does not cause any delay in GECOM`s elections timetable. It behoves GECOM to explain to the nation why it only now seeks to continue what it started over two years ago at much expense. The PNCR will continue to keep GECOM under intense scrutiny.

The recent commencement of ‘so called’ Continuous Registration has not created a new image for GECOM. On one hand, the Chairman has been publicly abusive about who wants him to leave his job when much was still to be done in terms of Public Education and the physical preparations of the registration centres. The PNCR stands ready to continue its positive contribution to the holding of an election of acceptable standards. It will however not be intimidated by those whose articulations and actions are inconsistent.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, October 20, 2005