PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, November 3, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The People's National Congress Reform extends greetings to our Muslim sisters and brothers on the occasion of the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr;
• The People’s National Congress Reform unreservedly congratulates the Guyana Defence Force on its 40th Anniversary;
• The PNCR pledge our continued commitment and support for the promotion of the noble ideals for which Critchlow struggled and toiled untiringly;
• The six months hiatus in meetings on the appointment of Chancellor of the Judiciary is totally unacceptable;
• The PNCR is concerned about the sub-standard houses that were built by the Developer at Parfaithe Harmony;
• The PNCR is alarmed that President Jagdeo would appoint Mr. Nawbatt to the Ministry of Public Works and Communication which is responsible for the execution billion dollar donor funded projects;
• GECOM`s continued failure to mount a satisfactory and comprehensive public education programme is inexcusable and unacceptable.

THE PNCR EXTENDS EID-UL-FITR GREETINGS

The People's National Congress Reform extends greetings to our Muslim sisters and brothers on the occasion of the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr. The Party recognises the importance of this occasion coming as it does at the end of Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. The Party made careful note of the fact that Ramadhan is the month in which the first verses of the Holy Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). This is a period for inner reflection, devotion to God and self control.

We take, from the significance of the festival of Eid, the need to be constructive and purposeful. The PNCR, therefore, believes that the message of Ramadhan and Eid-ul-Fitr can be applied to our national situation. The PNCR wishes all of the Guyanese people, especially our Muslim brothers and sisters, a Happy Eid and recommend that its message be internalised so that unity, harmony and progress can be realised in our country.

EID MUBBARAK!



PNCR SALUTES THE GUYANA DEFENCE FORCE ON ITS 40TH ANNIVERSARY

The People’s National Congress Reform extends congratulations to the Guyana Defence Force on its 40th Anniversary.

The Guyana Defence Force, since its formation forty years ago, has played an important and pivotal role in the defence of our national borders and protection of our territorial integrity. We recall with pride its role in the territorial defences operations in the Rupununi insurrection and the New River Triangle incursion. Its support for training youth in the Guyana Youth Corps, the Farm Crops and the Guyana National Service; as well as its medical outreach and casualty evacuation role in the hinterland.

In addition, the Guyana Defence Force has made sterling contributions in times of national and international disaster including international peace keeping operations in sister Caribbean territories of Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti; as well as hurricane disaster relief roles in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Jamaica and St Kitts – Nevis. Its commendable role in the most recent flood which devastated much of the Demerara Coast is still fresh in our minds. It has also helped to stave off the threat of the Atlantic Ocean when our sea defence was threatened; has pursued and captured pirates and others who pillaged our natural resources in Guyana’s territorial economic zone, and has helped to provide training to tens of thousands of young Guyanese in all areas of skills development.

The Guyana Defence Force should feel proud that it has attracted, over the years, some of our best and brightest young men and women who, after retirement, continued to contribute not only to Guyana’s Development, but also to the development of member states of Caricom and further afield.

We have noted that in the past, a few have criticised and condemned the Guyana Defence Force and questioned their relevance as a national discipline services institution. Yet, today, we hear a clarion call from some politicians and the representatives of the private sector in Guyana, for the Guyana Defence Force to be directly involved in the area of crime prevention.

Crime prevention lies in the province of the Guyana Police Force and whilst our Party has given support to the deployment of the Guyana Defence Force in emergency situations, we believe that the leadership of the Guyana Defence Force must firmly commit themselves to upholding the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana and stoutly resist being used as an instrument to trample on the rights of citizens. In doing so and resisting against those who appear to want to misuse the function of the Army, the Guyana Defence Force will certainly continue to uphold its forty years tradition as a professional institution which, in accordance with its constitutionally defined role and responsibilities, is loyal to the Government of the day and is fully ready to protect our borders and to defend our territorial integrity.

The People’s National Congress Reform, therefore unreservedly, congratulates the Guyana Defence Force on this momentous achievement of its 40th Anniversary.

CELEBRATING THE CENTENARY OF HUBERT NATHANIEL CRITCHLOW

The PNCR extends congratulations to the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) and fraternal Trades Unions as they embark on their month long celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of the late great Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow's firing his first salvo in 1905 to usher in a new epoch of trades unionism and the beginning of the workers' struggle for a living wage - an aspiration which still eludes them to this day in Guyana.

The pioneering and heroic struggle, for the recognition of the rights of workers, by Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, has established his status as a visionary and national hero. His formation of the British Guiana Labour Union (now the G.L.U), in January 11, 1919, made it the first trade union, not only in the then British Guiana (Guyana) but in the British Colonial Empire.

Critchlow struggled for racial and political harmony, greater productivity, management-labour cooperation, care for fellow human beings and unity of the working class. His vision for Trades unionism is now enshrined in Article 149 of the constitution of Guyana.

The PNCR pledges its continued commitment and support for the promotion of the noble ideals for which Critchlow struggled and toiled untiringly.

SIX MONTHS HAITUS OF MEETING ON APPOINTMENT OF CHANCELLOR OF THE JUDICIARY TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE

On the April 20, 2005, the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin MP, at the invitation of His Excellency President Jagdeo, attended a meeting with the President to begin consultations on the appointment of the Chancellor of the Judiciary. The consultations were not concluded since it was only at that first meeting the parties indicated their various nominees for the position. The President’s nominee had implications for the post of Chief Justice but he was unable or unwilling to disclose his nominee for Chief Justice. He claimed that he was awaiting recommendations from a search committee to fill the likely vacancy. The President agreed that the parties would meet again during the following week (week of April 24-30, 2005) to continue consultations to arrive at an agreement, as is required by Article 127(1) of the Constitution of Guyana.

Today, over 6 months later, that second meeting is yet to take place. While the President has not seen it fit to convene this second meeting with the Leader of the Opposition he reported to the nation, at his press conference during the week of October 3, 2005, that he had appointed a “search committee” to look for a Chancellor and when that committee reported its findings to him he would then initiate further dialogue with the Leader of the Opposition.

The PNCR rejects this as yet another assault on the nation’s Constitution by the President. We, therefore, challenge President Jagdeo to identify, for the benefit of all Guyanese, the article in the Constitution, or the section in any other written law, which empowers the President to make the appointment of the Chancellor of the Judiciary, as provided for by article 127(1) of the Constitution, subject to the findings of a unilaterally selected and unknown “search Committee”.

The failure to appoint a Chancellor has many negative implications for the effective functioning of the Supreme Court of Judicature and the Judicial Service Commission.

No Chancellor of the Judiciary means:

1. No President of the Court of Appeal as provided for in Article 124 of the Constitution. In practical terms this reduces the number of Judges available to sit in the Court of Appeal.

2. The inability to have a full compliment of members of the Judicial Service Commission. Article 198(1) of the Constitution states “The members of the Judicial Service Commission shall be-

a. the Chancellor, who shall be Chairman.
b. The Chief Justice”
c. etc……..

In practical terms the continued non appointment of the Chancellor “robs” the Judicial Service Commission of the benefit of the input of two distinct voices from the Judiciary, a benefit that cannot be overemphasized.

3. The administrative duties of both the Chief Justice and the Chancellor now reside with one person. This can lead to injustice and has already led to a decrease in efficiency.

The refusal of the President to act in this matter, notwithstanding representations by the Guyana Bar Association, other significant organisations and citizens, and including repeated calls by the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition gives rise to the conclusion that the present arrangements are politically comfortable to President Jagdeo and his Government. Little wonder that there continues to be questions about the independence of the Judiciary.

There is another negative implication of President Jagdeo’s reluctance to convene the long overdue second meeting with Mr. Corbin on the appointment of the Chancellor. It is yet another example of the President’s hypocrisy and contempt for the very Constitution which he and other members of his administration are quick to boast is the most progressive Constitution in Caricom.

President Jagdeo and the members of his PPP/C regime continue to stymie or ignore, whenever it suits their purposes, the more progressive articles of the revised Constitution. A few examples will suffice. These include:

 The failure of President Jagdeo to hold any consultations whatsoever with the Leader of the Opposition on the appointment of members to the Integrity Commission; and
 The ongoing failure of the Government to honour the spirit of the articles of the Constitution which deal with the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission.

The PNCR calls on President Jagdeo to show respect for the Guyana Constitution and convene, as a matter of national urgency, the second meeting between himself and the Leader of the Opposition to continue meaningful consultations on the appointment of the Chancellor of the Judiciary.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

Yet another week has passed since the commencement of the process referred to by GECOM as Continuous Registration; the Commission is yet to begin its public education campaign. Meanwhile many citizens remain totally ignorant of essential details of the exercise in which they are expected to be involved.

The PNCR notes the marked silence, on this matter, of those who, whenever the PNCR speaks out, are wont to say that the PNCR is up to mischief. The PNCR is not deterred by such mischievous propaganda and, as a consequence, has never stopped its campaign for:

o Fingerprint Biometrics to detect and prevent multiple registrations; and
o The house–to-house verification of the persons remaining on the OLE and its Addenda after the persons, reported as dead by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, have been taken off.

The PNCR has been informed that the Elections Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has been invited to send a team of its experts to visit Guyana to determine the most effective approach for the integration of the Fingerprint Biometrics system into the Voter Registration process in Guyana. The Party has also been informed that preparation is being made for the opening of at least four more Registration Centres.

The PNCR will maintain its close watch on the elections preparation process and will continue its campaign to have the Voters List verified and sanitised. GECOM must make an early decision on this matter, since a verified and sanitised list is one of the prerequisites for the holding of elections of an acceptable standard. A timely decision by GECOM will ensure that the elections are held on time and that there will be no further brinkmanship to delay decisions so as to justify the spurious claim that there is not enough time to meet all of the necessary conditions for the holding of free, fair and transparent 2006 National and Regional Elections which can honestly be certified as meeting acceptable international standards.

The PNCR continues to note the snail’s pace at which GECOM is approaching the urgent need to establish more easily accessible Registration Centres to ensure that all eligible Guyanese enjoy their constitutional right to be registered for voting purposes.

It has been reported that at some centres Registrants are being sent to photocopy their documents when GECOM`s Manual clearly identifies this as the task of its officers.

The PNCR is once again calling on GECOM to tidy up its act and to undertake its obligatory tasks in a timely manner. The fact that youths are the greater part of the potential registrants and, given all of the deficiencies in the education and information systems and the apathetic attitude towards politics, GECOM`s continued failure to mount a satisfactory and comprehensive public education programme is inexcusable and unacceptable.

THERE IS A NEED TO INVESTIGATE THE QUALITY OF LOW COST HOUSING BEING PROVIDED

On Monday, October 31, 2005, a PNCR team, comprising Members of Parliament Deborah Backer, James Mc Allister and Dr. Carl Max Hanoman and PNCR Regional Secretary, Region 3, Melissa Payne, visited the Parfait Harmony Community at Westminister, Canal No. 1 Polder, West Bank Demerara. The visit was in response to a request by residents for the PNCR to observe the sub-standard houses that were built by the developer.

During the visit the PNCR Team observed a number of houses which were of shockingly poor quality. Many houses had serious structural problems; doors were falling off, concrete floors were a mere ½” thick and walls had several cracks resulting from problems of poor foundation.

The PNCR will be pursuing this matter with the developer who, residents claim, is not responding promptly to their complaints. Follow-up visits will be made to conduct a more detailed inspection of the quality of the houses and infrastructure at Parfait Harmony.

During the visit, Dr. Hanoman conducted a medical outreach clinic and treated a number of persons for various aliments.

CABINET RESHUFFLE

The PNCR has noted with concern the recent Ministerial reshuffle in which Minister Gail Texiera was relieved of the Culture, Youth and Sports portfolio, Minister Anthony Xavier was moved from Public Works and Communication to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, and Harry Narine Nawbatt was appointed Minister of Public Works and Communication. This minor reshuffle has done nothing to tackle the sloth and incompetence which has engulfed the ministerial system in Guyana and the lack of direction and motivation which pervades public institutions.

Earlier this year, the PPP/C Government took to the Parliament and passed the now infamous Infrastructure Development Bill which provides for the creation of a political slush fund to be used by the PPP/C at its whims and fancies.

The PNCR is convinced that this appointment is not in the national interest and can only be intended to serve narrow party political interest; which is most likely the administration of the political slush fund as envisioned under the Infrastructure Development Fund.

The PNCR awaits with bated breath President Jagdeo’s assent to this bill.

At this time, with the spiraling oil prices, serious short falls in the various sectors of the economy resulting from the recent floods and increasing hardship on the people, it was hoped that President Jagdeo and the PPP/C Government would have been looking at prudent ways to manage the affairs of State. Such prudence would have required for instance, a regularization of the spending of the Lotto Fund, the transfer of the Youth Choice Initiative projects from Odinga Lumumba and President Jagdeo to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, where it rightly belongs, and a general tightening up of the financial management of the State.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, November 3, 2005.