PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Friday, December 16, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
 GECOM is yet to decide what methodology it will utilize to verify the existence (the identity and residence) of those persons whose name remain on the 2001 OLE and its Addenda after the names of the deceased have been removed;
 The recent rains have been a stark reminder of the floods earlier in the year and the accusations leveled at the Mayor and City Councilors by Government Ministers and President have re-enforced the citizenry’s fear that the floods and their aftermath are likely to reoccur;
 The PNCR hopes that there is a genuine commitment by all parties to update the NDS and make it the centre piece of Guyana’s medium to long term strategy;
 Under the PPP/C Guyana has become a shockingly corrupt society: top PPP/C functionaries are known to enjoy the proceeds of crime as they supplement their already considerable earnings with benefits from dubious and corrupt deals. The link between poverty, unemployment and crime is inescapable.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

On Monday, December 12, 2005, the Joint Opposition Parliamentary Parties (JOPP) met with the GECOM Chairman, Commissioners, the Chief Elections Officer and the IT Manager to discuss and clarify many important issues that are fundamental to the holding an election that is deemed free, fair and transparent and that is of an acceptable standard to all stakeholders.

The issues discussed were:

1. The security and other arrangements for the GECOM IT Department and the status of the implementation of the several recommendations to enhance the IT Department security;
2. The establishment of an IT Monitoring Panel and the establishment of a Test Unit to be utilize by the IT Monitoring Panel;
3. The inadequate number of GECOM Registration Centres for the effective execution of the Continuous Registration process;
4. When GECOM would implement a comprehensive Public Education Programme to support the conduct of the Continuous Registration programme already being undertaken;
5. The proposed use of Mobile Registration Units to overcome the difficulties created for Registrants due to the inadequate number and the inconvenient location of the already inadequate number of GECOM Registration Centres;
6. The proposal from the Electoral Office of Jamaica for the implementation of fingerprinting biometrics for the purpose of cross-matching fingerprints to detect and prevent multiple registration;
7. Whether GECOM has decided on the methodology they would use for the Verification of the existence of those persons whose names remain on the 2001 OLE and its Addenda after the names of the deceased have been removed; and
8. The necessary conditions to be satisfied before the Verified 2001 OLE is merged with the 2006 List of New Registrants to produce the 2006 Preliminary Voters List.

GECOM IT Department Security:
GECOM, in its responses to questions aimed at verifying whether they had implemented the various recommendations of the experts on IT security, indicated that, they have begun the implementation of some of the recommendations but could not give a definite
deadline for the completion of the implementation of all of the security recommendations.

The IT Monitoring Panel:
The JOPP informed GECOM that they could not participate in an IT Monitoring Panel until when GECOM has made the Test Unit, to be used by the Panel, is made fully operational and a firm time-table is established for the completion of the implementation of the outstanding security recommendations.

Inadequate Number of Registration Centres and the Commencement of Mobile
Registration:
GECOM has recognized the problems, caused for Registrants, by the inadequate number of Registration Centres and informed the JOPP that they will establish four (4) additional Centres (which will bring the total number of Registration Centres to 27) before the end of 2005. The Centres to be established are:

 Two (2) in Georgetown – one (1) each in North and South Georgetown;
 One (1) in Region 1, in the Matarkai/ Port Kaituma area; and
 One (1) in Region 2, in Supernaam.

GECOM could not say how many and whether they propose to establish any other Registration Centres after these four.

With regard to the use of Mobile Registration Centres, GECOM stated that they have not yet prepared a suitable Schedule, which should be published nationally to guide stakeholders and citizens, identifying each area and periods and times when the Mobile Registration Units will be in operation. GECOM undertook to publish such a Schedule as early as possible.

The EOJ Proposal for Biometric Fingerprinting:
GECOM indicated to the JOPP that it is proceeding with the EOJ Proposal and will urgently proceed with the contractual arrangements with the EOJ.

Verification of the 2001 OLE and Its Addenda:
GECOM is yet to decide what methodology it will utilize to verify the existence (the identity and residence) of those persons whose names remain on the 2001 OLE and its Addenda after the names of the deceased have been removed.

The PNCR finds this most unacceptable, because GECOM was mandated and empowered by the Parliament since July 14, 2005 “to verify the OLE and addenda”.

The Chairman of GECOM promised that he would submit their written proposals, including their indication of when they plan to commence this most important task, to JOPP shortly.
.
The PNCR reiterated our position that this matter is fundamental for ensuring that there is a clean 2006 Electoral List which is acceptable to all Stakeholders. The PNCR will hold GECOM to its commitments and looks forward to being informed as early as possible when GECOM will commence this exercise.

FLOODING OF THE COAST

The yuletide season is once again with us; however unlike previous years the Guyanese are approaching this season with apprehension and some trepidation. The recent rains have been a stark reminder of the floods earlier in the year and the accusations leveled at the Mayor and City Councilors by Government Ministers and President have re-enforced the citizenry’s fear that the floods and their aftermath are likely to reoccur.

It has been reported that $950M has been expended to do drainage works the purpose of which was to ensure that there could be no reoccurrence of the floods. That is as far as the PNCR`s official knowledge goes on this matter. Notwithstanding the PNCR`s insistence that the Government should have brought a Plan to the National Assembly and the Government’s eventual acquiescence to bring such a plan, there has been no such plan tabled and debated in the House. Whatever has been done has not benefited from the collective wisdom of the people’s elected representatives and cannot be properly monitored since the Assembly has no programme of work to use as a yardstick in any such monitoring exercise. The situation is even starker since the normal tendering procedures were bypassed in the name of expediency. Basic transparency has been absent in what the Government has done. If there was a plan in the domain of the Assembly we would have known what was intended to be done in Georgetown and would have been in a position to critically assess the adequacy of the funds which were made available to the M&CC and the implementation of the drainage works in Georgetown. We are however aware that it was reported that the works in Georgetown required $400M and that it was only in October that $55M was made available to the M&CC.

It is also clear to us that the issue of flooding along our coast is not merely a question of drainage. It is therefore necessary for the nation to make a determination on our future manner of occupancy and use of the coast. The Government has not been forthcoming or providing leadership in this regard.

The PNCR is aware that the coast is where our best agricultural lands are. We took this into consideration in the Guyana 21 Plan. We propose to revisit that plan in our quest for a lasting solution to our problem and as early as today in the debate on the National Development Strategy will be proffering approaches to the resolution of this and other national problems

THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY MOTION

The National Assembly last evening adopted a motion tabled by the People's National Congress Reform accepting the National Development Strategy as an overarching strategy for the development of Guyana. This motion establishes a Parliamentary Special Select Committee to commence consultations immediately with the private sector, wider civil society and other stakeholders to update the National Development Strategy (NDS) at the earliest practicable date.

This was a compromise motion which was the maximum position the Government was willing to support. The PNCR believes that saving the National Development Strategy was so important that it was worth seeking and obtaining a consensus for it.

The PNCR hopes that there is a genuine commitment by all parties to update the NDS and make it the centre piece of Guyana’s medium to long term strategy.

We wish to emphasise that the role of civil society is critical to the process and hope that its efforts will be fully facilitated.



THE CRIME AND SECURITY SITUATION

Government can act in partnership with civil society, the private sector, opposition Parties and other stakeholders to reduce crime and the causes of crime. However, it is ultimately government’s responsibility to maintain law and order and to create an environment in which all its citizens are protected from the ravages of crime particularly the most vulnerable communities.

The Jagdeo administration must decide where it stands on crime – and recognize that its alleviation requires the mobilization of resources supported by a firm commitment to an enduring solution. Continued efforts to pass the buck and blame others do not help, they leave even modest policing initiatives at the mercy of forces that need to be challenged directly. In the last three to four years Guyana has experienced unprecedented levels of crime with violence and this year alone has seen a 50% increase in gun crimes. Clearly government incompetence and its failure to formulate policy aimed at a root and branch approach to dealing with crime has had the effect of incubating even more crime and insecurity.

Under the PPP/C Government Guyana has become a shockingly corrupt society: top PPP/C functionaries are known to enjoy the proceeds of crime as they supplement their incomes with benefits from dubious and corrupt deals. The link between poverty, unemployment and crime is inescapable.

Drug trafficking, money laundering, bribery and corruption are all connected and feed on each other. The PPP/C’s fight against narco-criminality is not a fight at all but a pretence intended to mask an accommodation based on mutual benefits. It explains why efforts to deal with narcotics trafficking have been so lamentably ineffective, riddled with corruption, spawning increasing crime and violence. It certainly explains why none of the oversight groups in the National Drug Strategy Master Plan 2005-2009 established to deal with the spiraling drug problem, function.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Greater-Georgetown, Guyana
Friday, December 16, 2005