PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, October 27, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
• The People’s National Congress Reform pays tribute to fallen Ms Enid Eileen Abrahams (MBE);
• The PNCR is on record pointing out that an innovative and holistic approach for Buxton and other depressed villages on the East Coast is essential if the situation is to be resolved;
• The PNCR recommits its self to the implementation of the spirit and letter of the Reformed Constitution. It also reaffirms its commitment to Shared Governance as the political and constitutional framework within which Guyana stands its best chance of instituting and practicing a new political culture;
• With a President vacillating between outright denial and the absurd call for more hard evidence of corruption, the PNCR sees no letup in corruption while the PPP/C remains in office. Real reform and sustainable change, to transform the image of our country, will only occur when the PPP/C is removed from office;
• The PNC will not shirk from its responsibility and will continue the struggle for the holding of free, fair and transparent National and Regional Elections, which are also free from fear, by the constitutionally due date;
• The People’s National Congress Reform extends greetings and best wishes to our Hindu sisters and brothers in particular, and to the Guyanese people in general, as the nation observes yet another “Deepavali” National Holiday.
TRIBUTE TO ENID ABRAHAMS (MBE)
The People’s National Congress Reform pays tribute to fallen heroine, Ms Enid Eileen Abrahams (MBE) whose funeral service took place at Mt. Hebron Congregational Church, Hyde Park, East Bank Essequibo on Monday, October 24, 2005 and was attended by Party Leader, Mr. R.H.O. Corbin MP, General Secretary, Mr. Oscar Clarke and Chairperson of the National Congress of Women, Ms. Cheryl Sampson.
A founder member of the PNC Teacher Enid as she was familiarly and fondly called was Teacher, Village Mother, Local Government Leader and Parliamentarian during her eighty eight (88) years on this earth and served the people of Guyana and of Parika/Salem in particular with distinction.
The Party extends condolences to her family, relatives and friends.
THE CRIME AND SECURITY SITUATION
The crime and security situation in Guyana remains a major concern of the People’s National Congress Reform as we believe it is for all Guyanese. The situation demands a responsible approach and not political rhetoric. Consequently, the PNCR will not allow the erratic, misleading and hypocritical remarks of Dr Luncheon to detract it from objective and rational assessment.
The PNCR had on Tuesday October 25, 2005 issued a Press Statement on the security situation presently ongoing on the East Coast, “Operation Stiletto”. After reviewing what actually took place we opined that that operation may have done serious harm to the formation of a structured working relationship between the Guyana Police Force and the law abiding citizens of that community, a relationship that is a prerequisite for fighting crime in any community. The evidence from many members of the community revealed that citizens generally co-operated with the Police in the exercise and therefore, would have expected, after such genuine co-operation, to be treated with respect rather than the humiliation which many of them suffered by being hand cuffed, paraded through the village, herded into trucks and detained by the Police in lock-ups. It is clear therefore that work will have to be done by all to repair the damaged relationship between the community and security forces which this operation may have caused.
The PNCR concerns were made known to the Commissioner of Police when the Leader of the PNCR and Vice Chairman of the Party, Mrs. Deborah Backer MP met with the Police Commissioner on Tuesday last to discuss the situation. During that meeting the views of the PNCR were clearly communicated to the Commissioner and constructive suggestions made.
This approach is in keeping with the PNCR declared position of its willingness to work with all stakeholders to resolve the crime and security situation in the country.
The PNCR is on record pointing out that an innovative and holistic approach for Buxton and other depressed villages on the East Coast is essential if the situation is to be resolved. It is for this reason that during the Constructive Engagement talks the PNCR had proposed the establishment and operation of a Depressed Communities Needs Committee whose function would have been to work continuously in these Committees to alleviate the many social and economic problems with which they are faced. After a bold start the work of that Committee ground to a halt, clearly because of an absence of vision by the present administration. As early as 2002 proposals by the late President Hoyte for the revitalization of Buxton was discarded by President Jagdeo who promptly accused Mr Hoyte of holding the nation to ransom.
HOWEVER FOR THE PNCR THE MORE IMPORTANT ISSUE IS HOW DO WE COLLECTIVELY BRING BUXTON BACK INTO THE MAINSTREAM OF LIFE IN GUYANA AND HELP RESTORE THE PRIDE AND SENSE OF SELF IN THAT COMMUNITY. Buxton is not the only village that needs our collective help.
An innovative and holistic plan for Buxton and other villages is clearly needed. For the PNCR this plan must include:
1. Round table discussions among the residents of Buxton; the Guyana Police Force; the Government; the main political parties; faith based organizations; social workers the Guyana Human Rights Association; the private sector and other members of civil society as to the way forward for Buxton.
2. The commitment of the Government to assist with the financing of projects that will lead to jobs and opportunities for self employment for the residents of Buxton.
3. Hands on work by the faith based organizations which have a presence in the village and other organizations to repair the fragmented social fabric of the village.
4. A sincere commitment from the residents of Buxton to work in a meaningful way with the relevant authorities to bring to justice criminal elements who reside in Buxton.
It is our sincere hope that these ideas, which are in no way carved in stone, will not be brushed aside as was done with the late President Hoyte’s proposal.
LET US INSTITUTE A NEW POLITICAL CULTURE
The PNCR has been working assiduously and taking numerous initiatives to have a new progressive political culture instituted in Guyana. There is ample proof, of this Party’s commitment to the creation of a political culture that will deliver peace and development to the Guyanese people. This is evident from our written and other submissions and contributions to the Constitution reform process and our thwarted efforts to have the PPP/C regime implement those reforms that have all been unanimously agreed and passed by the National Assembly since the third quarter of 2001.
President Jagdeo, in addressing the Youth Parliament, on Monday24 October 2005, is on record as calling for a new political culture. The PNCR fully endorses the urgent need for the commitment of the PPP/C and all other political Parties and Stakeholders to a new political culture and that is why we have committed ourselves to Shared Governance as the way forward for Guyana.
It is difficult to reconcile the day-to-day political behaviour and attitudes of President Jagdeo, the senior members of his Government and state institutions, such as GINA and NCN, with his call. The very newscast, which reported his address, bears evidence of this point. It reported that Youth Parliaments have their origin in the post-1992 era. The truth is that Youth Parliaments can be traced back to the Georgetown Youth Council of the pre-1992 era.
What does the President mean when he speaks of a new political culture?
In his address, he pointed to the provisions of the Reformed Constitution, most of which his regime has failed to implement since 2001, as examples of what could be considered to be elements of the new political culture. It is here that Jagdeo exposes his Government, his Party and himself. The Reformed Constitution provides for the freedom of expression. However, Jagdeo and the PPP/C regime has continued to: deny the Opposition equitable access to the state owned media; deny Guyanese the right to radio broadcasting licenses; retains its monopoly over radio and any kind of broadcast in Linden; and refuses private TV stations permission to extend their transmission to new areas while, at the same time, the Government has an ongoing programme of extending NCN TV transmission countrywide.
A critical element of a new political culture is the allocation of state resources in a transparent, objective, fair and non-discriminatory manner. The Constitution, in its provision for the establishment of a formula for the allocation of resources to local democratic organs, recognizes and provides for this new element of our political culture. Rather than quicken the implementation of this provision, Jagdeo, in contravention of the rules for the allocation and disbursement of state funds and resources, continues to strut around the country doling out sums of state money at his whim and fancy. The subvention of the Mayor and City Councillors of Georgetown for 2005 was restricted to $13.0M, not withstanding the Council’s request for more. However, displaying his usual capricious approach for the allocation of state funds, Jadgeo turned up, at the October 10, 2005 meeting of the Council, to announce that he would generously release $50.0M of state funds immediately for use by the Council, to implement programmes for which they had previously been starved of funds. This capricious approach has been repeated in various local authorities with which Jagdeo has found favour. The recent Amerindian Bill 2005 even seeks to legislate that Amerindian Village Councils would not be entitled to subventions. The Amerindian Village Councils are expected to retain their begging bowl and continue to be discretionary recipients of hand-outs from the Government.
Where is Jadgeo`s new political culture in all of this?
Why is he cynically demonstrating to our youths that, for him, politics is all about propaganda and trying to out maneuver one’s opponent at all cost?
Unfortunately, it is our youth whom he seeks to deceive and to transfer his outdated and backward political culture.
The PNCR recommits its self to the implementation of the spirit and letter of the Reformed Constitution. It also reaffirms its commitment to Shared Governance as the political and constitutional framework within which Guyana stands its best chance of instituting and practicing a new political culture.
THE CORROSIVE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF ENDEMIC CORRUPTION
Guyana has now been officially classified as one of the most corrupt Countries in the hemisphere and on the planet, while President Jagdeo continues to disingenuously insist that he does not have incontrovertible proof on which he would act. In the meanwhile, his regime has done nothing to stem the tidal wave of corruption battering Guyana under his administration.
Transparency International (TI), based on ‘tip-of-the iceberg’ information, has given Guyana a ranking which compares only with some of the most lamentably corrupt countries. Not only has Jagdeo created and encouraged the growth of a narco – economy, fuelled by systemic graft, but he has actively fostered a climate of corruption in which drug lords use bribes to placate the political order; presidential advisors illegally export dolphins and Government Officials sell duty–free concessions intended for re-migrants to mention but a few instances of unfettered corruption.
In another index - the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom (HFI) - Guyana ranks close to the bottom of 161 countries. In the “government intervention” component, the HFI places Guyana lower than any Country in the Caribbean and Latin American Region except Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela. The HFI places firmly at the Government’s door excessive regulation and case–by–case discretion leading to red tape and corruption. It can be of little surprise that corruption is now endemic in Guyana.
The PNCR has been saying this perennially. Small wonder that international isolation may have begun now that Guyana is marked as a pillar of the drug trade, and foreign investors turn away from increasing corruption, insecurity and illegitimacy.
Establishing a proper distance between those who occupy public office and those who occupy private spheres will require a recasting of the relationship between the ruling party and those who depend on their use of the discretionary powers they have vested in themselves. This is the fulcrum around which most of the corrupt practices turn. It is not only that the PPP/C relies on the proceeds of corruption to outspend the opposition parties; it is that many government functionaries rely on collecting bribes in order to supplement their monthly incomes.
It must be realised that corruption costs us all. The Government Official, who performs his or her job functions with lethargy and inertia hoping for a motivating bribe, is costing us in time and money, if we cooperate. The importer who pays a bribe to clear his goods from Customs almost always adds it on to the final price as part of the cost of doing business. On a larger scale, Guyana is losing millions of US dollars in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as potential and existing investors opt for less corrupt destinations for their investment dollars.
The net affect is that jobs, training, taxes, collateral business opportunities and many other benefits that could have come to Guyana are lost, off times forever. It isn’t by chance that the average annual FDI has dropped to less that US $50Million from US $400 Million during the Hoyte administration. Investors no longer have confidence that Guyana is a safe place to do business given the high levels of corruption, administrative incompetence, narco–criminality and, of course, bad governance.
The PNCR is convinced that improvement will only happen with expansion in the role of the public sphere. This means constitutional reform directed towards greater accountability, transparency and openness, as well as the introduction of new safeguards against corruption. We fear, however, that this is exactly what the PPP/C Government does not want. If there is to be a more arms–length and transparent relationship, the whole nexus of party contributions, kick backs from government contracts, private access to decision–makers, discretionary concessions and regulations, partisan implementation of policies, etc, that takes place at the moment will be disturbed.
With a President vacillating between outright denial and the absurd call for more hard evidence of corruption, the PNCR sees no letup in corruption while the PPP/C remains in office. Real reform and sustainable change, to transform the image of our country, will only occur when the PPP/C is removed from office.
As predicted by the PNCR the ad hoc Registration activities, commenced by GECOM on 17 October 2005, is mired in confusion, frustration, aggravation and hindrances for many eligible citizens who have presented themselves to register at many of these centres around the country.
Preliminary reports, from PNCR field Operatives/Scrutineers out in the Regions, paint a picture of the uncoordinated activities of GECOM staff. These reports suggest that, in many instances, instructions and an understanding of the procedures and processes are in serious contradiction.
• Region 1: Both centres were not open in the first week.
• Region 3: The Registration Centre at Parika was opened on 19 October 2005.
• Region 4: The North Georgetown Centre was opened on 18 October 2005.
• Regions 5 and 6: At the Onverwagt and Region 6, New Amsterdam, Centres many persons were unable to register because these centres were not outfitted with photocopying machines to photocopy birth certificates and other documents presented to GECOM officials by potential registrants.
• Region 7: The Bartica centre could not commence work on 17 October 2005, because equipment and Registration Forms were not sent by the GECOM Secretariat. The Kamarang Centre opened many days after 17 October 2005.
• Region 8: The Mahdia and Paramakoti Centres were opened one week after 17 October 2005.
• Region 9: The Lethem Centre was not opened on 17 October 2005. The Centre at Annai is yet to be opened and it is unclear when this Centre is likely to be opened.
• Region 10: The Wismar centre is yet to be opened.
It must also be noted that this Registration exercise was commenced without any Public Education Program and, even at this present moment, GECOM is yet to commence a Public Education Program to ensure that all citizens are fully informed and aware of the arrangements for Registration. It is apparent to the PNCR that GECOM does not appear to recognize the importance of a Public Education Program for the success of the registration exercise.
After dilly-dallying for over five months GECOM decided yesterday, 25 October 2005 to invite the Election Office of Jamaica to come to Guyana urgently to determine how the implementation of biometric fingerprinting would be utilize as a tool to detect and prevent multiple registration. What a shame!
The PNCR was informed by its Commissioners that the Election Office of Jamaica (EOJ), in their preliminary discussions with the GECOM Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally and GECOM team which visited Jamaica recently, advised that they could successfully implement biometric fingerprinting in the Guyana Electoral system within 3-4 months from commencement.
The Joint Opposition Parties in Parliament are happy that GECOM, though belatedly, have finally accepted that biometric fingerprinting, to detect and prevent multiple registration, is a necessary condition for the holding of Elections of an acceptable standard.
The PNC will not shirk from its responsibility and will continue the struggle for the holding of free, fair and transparent National and Regional Elections, which are also free from fear, by the constitutionally due date.
The People’s National Congress Reform extends greetings and best wishes to our Hindu sisters and brothers in particular, and to the Guyanese people in general, as the nation observes yet another “Deepavali” National Holiday.
As the rows of Dias are lit it is time to focus on changing the lives of all Guyanese for the better. Falling standards and moral decay as exemplified by the darkness of immorality, selfishness and greed must give way to the light of brotherly love mutual respect and forbearance.
Let Deepavali this year be a time of deep reflection and solemn resolve to bring over Nation out of the darkness and into the light.
A HAPPY AND JOYOUS DEEPAVALI TO ALL GUYANESE!
People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, October 27, 2005
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