PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, December 1, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

 The People’s National Congress Reform is of the view that the protest actions in Tain are symptomatic of deeper problems facing our nation;
 The PNCR appeals to all Guyanese to oppose violence against our wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, nieces and grandmothers;
 The PNC has noted that over the last several weeks GECOM was forced to issue Press Statements correcting misrepresentation and misinformation of the Continuous Registration activities by the Government Information Agency (GINA) and President Jagdeo;
 The PNCR is aware that the PPP/C Government intended to launch a campaign to lay all the blame for our problems at the feet of the European Government. This must not be allowed to happen. The problem now confronting this nation is as a result of a POLICY MELTDOWN with respect to sugar since 1992.

PNCR VISIT TO REGION 6 - AFTERMATH OF UNREST IN THE REGION

The PNCR notes with great distress the continuing social unrest that is gripping almost every region of Guyana.

Two weeks ago villagers had to voice their protests on the road at Nabaclis, East Coast Demerara after the shooting of a young man from that village. Following that incident residents of Port Mourant on the Corentyne took to the streets burning tyres, blocking roads and protesting against the crimes that are now rampant in the Region 6 area and what they claim is the uncaring attitude of the authorities.

The People’s National Congress Reform is of the view that these protest actions are symptomatic of deeper problems facing our nation. These problems include dim economic prospects; a shrinking labour market; mass exodus of young adults and the elderly to foreign shores; a brain drain of our best and brightest which has placed Guyana notoriously high as the country with the highest level of brain drain in the western hemisphere; a complete lack of confidence in the PPP/C administration and in its management of the affairs of this nation and its governance in general.

On Wednesday, November 29, 2005, a delegation from the People’s National Congress Reform, led by General Secretary of the Party, Mr. Oscar Clarke and including Member of Parliament and Central Executive Committee Member, Mr. Jerome Khan; Central Executive Committee Members Mr. Joseph Hamilton and Ms. Supriya Singh along with Region 6 Regional Chairman, Mr. Nasir Ally, M.P. and other Members of the Party’s Region No. 6 Executive visited the victims of the robberies which took place in Port Mourant area.

The proprietrix of Edwin Parsram’s gas station welcomed the visit by the PNCR team, and opined that it was the first Party to officially pay a visit to her as a victim of these crimes, and that she had been a victim four occasions.

Describing what has been an ordeal for business people like herself, she said that the criminal activity is driving fear into almost all the residents in the Corentyne area. Commenting on the criticisms of the Police Force, she noted that their reaction time to criminal activity is very slow and while there are many good police officers in Berbice, she cannot understand why the Police have failed to apprehend many criminals in the area.

The PNCR delegation also met with residents of Tain Settlement, Clifton Settlement, Ankerville, Miss Phoebe and Haswell who have been subjected to intensive criminal activity over the last month.

In the course of these meetings the delegation empathized with some who received injuries during the Police Operations to disperse the protestors.

The PNCR calls on the government to note the concerns of the residents of the East Berbice area and observes that the reaction of the residents of East Berbice area are not dissimilar to those of residents of other regions in Guyana who are increasingly voicing their discontent with the government on its handling of all issues relative to their welfare.

With the Christmas season around the corner the PNCR calls on the Commissioner of Police to mobilise all his resources to ensure that residents in Guyana are protected from the wanton activities of all those elements that prey on the innocent and hardworking citizens of Guyana.

PNCR ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

When stalwarts like the late Jane Phillips Gay, Winifred Gaskin, Hyacinth Godett, among others, decided that it was time to form the women’s arm of the People's National Congress in 1957; it was the beginning of the Party’s proud history of championing the rights of women.

The Party, during its tenure in Government, piloted many Bills in the National Assembly, beginning with the State Paper on the Equality for Women. This state Paper laid the foundation for the enshrinement of Article 29 in the Constitution, the Removal of Discrimination against Children Born out of Wedlock, the Equal Rights Act, the married Persons (Property) Amendment Act, among others, were some of the Acts from which the women of Guyana benefited. Because support for the cause of women was a principled one, the PNCR found it possible to support the Domestic Violence Act which was passed in Parliament in 1996.

The PNCR is particularly disturbed that despite the fact that the Domestic Violence Act was in force since 1996, there is still a high level of violence perpetrated against women, adolescent females and even girls of a tender age. Every day there are reports in the media and as recent as yesterday, Wednesday, November 30, 2005, the Stabroek News reported on two incidents, one involving a senior police officer.

The PNCR calls on the Commissioner of Police to fulfill the commitment made by the Guyana Police Force to establish domestic and child abuse units in the force, which can monitor issues of domestic violence and take the required measures to protect our women from this scourge.

As Guyana observed International Day for Violence against Women, last Friday, November 25, 2005, under the theme “For the Health of Women, For the Health of the World, No more Violence”, the PNCR calls on our men folk to become educated to deal with the challenges and conflicts in the home so that violence against women can be eliminated.

The PNCR appeals to all Guyanese to oppose violence against our wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, nieces and grandmothers. We believe that the women have a God-given right to life and that right must be recognised, respected and accepted by all, and more importantly by members of our families. The Chinese say that women hold up half the sky. By this they mean that women are immeasurably valuable to any society. We know in Guyana how true this is. We call on all elements in our society therefore to protect this valuable asset.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

The PNCR has noted that over the last several weeks GECOM was forced to issue “Press Statements” correcting misrepresentation and misinformation of the Continuous Registration activities by the Government Information Agency (GINA) and President Jagdeo. The PNCR has also made available to GECOM a flyer that was printed and distributed by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) around the country. This flyer also consisted of many inaccuracies concerning the Continuous Registration activities.

The PNCR is of the view that this dangerous situation will continue unless and until GECOM, in accordance with its mandate, implement a comprehensive Public Education Programme to inform citizens of the procedures and processes of the Continuous Registration activities. It must be noted that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by GECOM, the Donor Community and the Government of Guyana clearly established that one of the primary responsibilities of GECOM was to effect a Public Education Programme. Therefore, by stubbornly refusing to implement this Public Education programme GECOM has proceeded to honour its own MOU in the breach.

The PNCR, two weeks ago, made available to GECOM specimens of bogus National Identification Cards printed by unauthorized person(s). These bogus ID Cards were forwarded to the PNCR by a public spirited citizen whose son found them whilst fishing some where in the Turkeyen area. We were subsequently informed by GECOM that they were in receipt of the said information and evidence several months ago. The PNCR is very much concerned with this new development. We therefore call on GECOM to launch a thorough and urgent investigation into this matter.

GOVERNMENT’S NEGLIGENCE LEAVES ECONOMY UNPREPARED FOR EU PRICE CUTS

On Thursday, July 21, 2005 the People’s National Congress Reform introduced a motion in the National Assembly on the European Union Guaranteed Preferential Prices for Sugar. The motion, in its original form, recognized the potential consequences of the then proposed cut in the guaranteed price. It also recognized the need for the diversification of the economy and for the government to be more aggressive and dynamic in the creation of an investor friendly environment which could attract private investors.

The PNCR had hoped that these measures, albeit woefully late, would have set Guyana on the road towards a comprehensive response to the dismantling of the system of preference. In fact, it was hoped that the Government would have moved to convene an urgent national conference to address the looming crisis.

Unfortunately, the government demanded changes to the motion as a condition for its support. As a result, the motion was degutted of all the specific measures that should have been initiated to address the problem. The amended motion was unanimously passed.

The EU has now agreed to institute a 36% cut in the price of sugar over a period of four years. This will most likely have a devastating effect on our economy and the lives of our people because, as a country, the Government has failed to prepare the economy to deal with the long expected economic and social shocks.

It is an indictment on the Government that, twenty one years after the commencement of the Uruguay Round and ten years after the establishment of the WTO, Guyana is still caught unprepared for the dismantling of preference.

For many years the PNCR warned the Government of the dismantling of the preferential price for sugar in Europe. However, a number of functionaries in the sugar industry and in the Government responded by claiming that the PNCR was being alarmist; that the preferential prices were here to stay because European Farmers depended on it. This was myopic and like the proverbial ostrich, the equivalent of bearing one heads in the sand.

The PNCR has noted that the Government’s recently announced expansion plan has focused on massive investments in a new factory at Skeldon. However, there has been no provision for any capital investment in the Demerara Estates. This has left these estates and thousand of workers exposed and vulnerable.

While the Government was always, over the years, assuring these workers that these estates would not be closed they are now adopting a different posture. It is now clear that the Government’s insistence that the Demerara Estates would not have to be closed was based of the false premise that the preferential prices for sugar in Europe would have remained unchanged. It is because of this false premise that the Government embarked on an expansion plan that was not geared to ensure that the Demerara Estates are competitive.

The PNCR is aware that the PPP/C Government intended to launch a campaign to lay all the blame for the problems of the sugar industry at the feet of the European Union. This must not be allowed to happen. The problems now confronting this nation are as a result of, the negligence and incompetence of the PPP/C Administration which has failed the sugar industry and the Guyanese people since 1992.

When the PNCR left office in 1992 there was a programme in place to address competitiveness in the sugar industry. However, as soon as it assumed office the PPP/C dismantled this programme. It did not want a professionally run sugar industry with private sector involvement that would have ensured competitiveness and secured the jobs of thousands of workers. Instead, the PPP/C wanted an industry that was a source of political patronage for favoured persons. As a result, a number of years were wasted as the focus of the PPP/C Government was on seeing what Guysuco could do for it instead of what it could have done for Guysuco.

We are now paying the penalty for this. This is the most glaring case of an incompetent PPP/C Government. The time has come for the Guyanese people to remove the management of this industry from the hands of this incompetent bunch.

The PNCR has tabled a motion in the National Assembly calling for the adoption of the National Development Strategy as the overarching for economic development. The PNCR hopes the PPP/C Government will use this opportunity to forge a genuine national response to the present crisis. Too much is at stake for us to allow partisan politic to take precedence.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Greater Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, December 01, 2005