PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, January 5, 2006 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

 In his New Year Address to the Nation, the Leader of the PNCR highlighted some of the major policy and programme initiatives that will be pursued by a PNCR Government after the next elections;
 The PNCR also reaffirm that our immediate priority as a Government will be to establish a Permanent Task Force to serve as the Executive arm of a Disaster Preparedness Committee to ensure that our people are protected from unnecessary suffering;
 The PNCR will however not be distracted by the Stabroek News or its Editorial but will respond to it more fully in a separate release;
 The PNCR is at a point where it has great difficulty in maintaining confidence in GECOM to deliver to the Nation an Election that is of an acceptable international standard within the Constitutional deadline.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL GUYANESE!

In his New Year Address to the Nation, Leader of the Opposition and of the PNCR urged that our overriding priority is to organise and work together for the achievement of greater success to ensure that 2006 is a year of victory for all Guyanese. Among the essential requirements for this to be achieved are the avoidance of mistakes made in the past, the need for accelerated economic performance, a relentless fight against criminality at all levels of the Society, a truly free fair and transparent Elections and the restoration of hope in our young people that their dreams and aspirations can be realised in Guyana. In that New Year address the Leader of the PNCR highlighted some of the major policy and programme initiatives that will be pursued by a PNCR Government after the next elections. We propose to provide more details of these plans at our weekly Press Conferences this year. A prerequisite however is the need for Elections of an internationally acceptable standard as agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by GECOM, the Donor Agencies and the Government of Guyana. Consequently, the major focus of today’s Press Conference is on Free Fair and transparent Elections in Guyana. Some reference must however be made to two issues of concern that have already surfaced within the first days of the New Year: the flooding on the East Coast and in Berbice and the Stabroek News Editorial of January 1, 2005.

THE BERBICE FLOODS AND STATE NEGLIGENCE

We are witnessing a repetition of the colossal mistakes of the last flood disaster in the manner in which the Government is attempting to deal with the flood situation in the Black Bush Polder, Mahaicony and Mahaica areas. The adhoc, biased, political intervention that has characterised the PPP/C Administration, instead of the appointment of a permanent Professional Task Force as suggested by the PNCR and others since January 2005, has resulted in dislocation, suffering and severe losses to many residents in these areas. Instead of addressing the flood issues in a responsible manner from the beginning, President Jagdeo has again sought to gain cheap political milage by micro managing the situation. His plan back-fired and the folly of his ways became evident when the residents of Berbice were forced into protest action. There is no doubt that State Negligence has been the major reason for the present woes of the people of Berbice. Flooding in the Black Bush Polder was evident since early December last year and was the subject of a PNCR Press Conference Statement since then and was repeated by the Leader of the Opposition in his New Year Address to the Nation. The PNCR called for urgent action to relieve suffering, but nothing was done. In recent days however, the State Media, by giving publicity to the visits of political functionaries to Berbice, is seeking to deceive the Nation that the problems in Black Bush commenced only a few days ago. Instead of finding speedy solutions, Ministers began the blame game. This time the scapegoat is the Regional Administration of Region 6, similar to the blame cast on the Region 4 Administration in January last. It is therefore quite understandable why residents of Berbice now believe that the irresponsible and inaccurate statements by Minister of Agriculture, Satyadeow Sawh and President Jagdeo have contributed to the sudden illness of their Regional Chairman K. Ramdas.

What GINA and the President’s Press Liaison Officer must explain to the people of Guyana is their earlier press and public statements during the latter part of 2005 that the Region 6 Administration had completed all their capital works and that their work programme for the year 2005 was successfully executed. Is it therefore that the work programme did not take account of the minimal works required to avoid the flooding now being experienced by the people of Black Bush Polder and Mahaicony? What President Jagdeo must also explain is the lengthy delay of several weeks before remedial action by Government was taken to relieve the suffering. Surely this could not be the actions of a caring Administration that boasts about their concern for the people of Berbice. The irresponsible approach of the Government will certainly result in continued hardship for the people of Guyana.

The PNCR therefore repeats its call for a permanent professional Task Force to be established that would be provided with adequate human and material resources to deal with both preventative and remedial action. We also reaffirm that our immediate priority as a Government will be to establish a Permanent Task Force to serve as the Executive arm of a Disaster Preparedness Committee to ensure that our people are protected from unnecessary suffering.

THE STABROEK NEWS EDITORIAL OF JANUARY 1, 2006

In its New Years Day Editorial of January 1, 2006, Stabroek News asserted that the Nation embarked on this particular year’s journey with a measure of trepidation. Careful scrutiny of the editorial, however, will reveal the trepidation which political parties contesting the Elections must face if there is bias in news paper reporting or more particularly- advocacy of a political cause under the guise of professional reporting. The Editorial is prime example of why there is a need for the media code of conduct for the upcoming Elections. The PNCR, however, believes that any such media Code Of Conduct, which some are advocating to be signed by the relevant agencies later this month, will be meaningless unless certain prerequisites exist.

First, it is difficult to appreciate how any such Media Code will be enforced in the context of the example set by the State Media that monopolises radio and uses its television station almost exclusively for party propaganda. Without insistence by the Donor agencies that the equitable access to the State media for political parties is implemented, any code will be an exercise in deception. The Stabroek News can therefore excuse itself under this umbrella when it takes such a jaundiced approach in its political outlook for 2006, revealing not only its bias but its political advocacy. Among the flawed assertions of the writer is the claim that the PNCR appears to in hibernation mode, resurfacing only at the odd press conferences and that its leader is almost as invisible as his party.

The unfortunate fact is that the very Newspaper, through deliberate policy or accident, has failed to publicize the activities of the PNCR and only resorts to publishing matters when it suits their partisan political Agenda. The PNCR finds it difficult to believe that Stabroek News is unaware of the role of the PNCR and its Leader during the flood disaster, the campaign waged to ensure the end of Death Squads and the ultimate removal of the Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj, the outreach visits of the PNCR leadership to all the Regions of the country through the year, far in excess of Government Officials, the activities of the PNCR in Parliament including its motions of support for the Government in the Sugar crisis and one on the acceptance of the National Development Strategy, the work of its Human Services Department in bringing relief to the needy and elderly, the extensive Christmas programme of the party throughout the country in December, to name only a few. How is the Nation to come to any other conclusion if Stabroek News refuses to publish this information and the State Media does likewise. One wonders whether, despite making claims to the contrary, Stabroek News is advocating that for the PNCR to receive coverage it must resume extra-parliamentary activities to provide an opportunity for the paper to carry out its objective of adverse publicity.

The PNCR will however not be distracted by the Stabroek News or its Editorial but will respond to it more fully in a separate release.

ELECTIONS 2006

The PNCR reiterated in its New Year Message that it is confident that it can win free, fair and transparent elections in Guyana. The Party however emphasised that if there is to be Free, Fair and transparent Elections and Elections Free from fear, then an essential requirement was a credible and satisfactory Electoral Roll, one void of non-existent people. For nearly three years we have made public that only an acceptable verification process of the Voters List will ensure this. In addition we emphasised and made repeated representation to the GECOM on the introduction of a relevant system of biometrics that would facilitate cross referencing of finger prints. The PNCR is aware that strenuous attempts are being made by some to find a short cut to these requirements and wishes to repeat its already stated position that it will accept nothing less than full implementation of these prerequisites. It is for this reason that we wish to make public the status of matters relating to the forthcoming General and Regional Elections.

On Monday, December 12, 2005, the Joint Opposition Parliamentary Parties (JOPP) met and held discussions with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to clarify and seek answers to many of the pertinent outstanding issues that are relevant to the holding of a free, fair and transparent Election in 2006. The JOPP delegation was led by Mr. Robert Corbin, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the PNCR and included representatives from WPA/GAP and ROAR in the persons of Mr. Desmond Trotman and Mr. Ravi Dev.

The issues about which the JOPP sought clarifications and answers to were:

1. Progress made on the implementation of the several recommendations to improve the Security System of the Election Database.
2. Prerequisites necessary for the establishment of the IT Monitoring Panel.
3. Verification of the 2001 OLE and Addenda as mandated by the National Registration (Amendment) Act #14 of 2005.
4. Fingerprinting biometrics to be implemented by the Election Office of Jamaica (EOJ).
5. The Continuous Registration activities with its many inadequacies and deficiencies.

System Security for Electoral Database
Relative to the first issue GECOM admitted to the JOPP that it had failed to implement many of the recommendations and was unsure as to when or if all of these recommendations regarding the upgrading of the Security System of the Electoral Database will be implemented.

IT Monitoring Panel
On the second issue, GECOM indicated that it had not yet made the necessary physical and technical arrangements, such as the establishment of the test unit, to equip the IT Monitoring Panel with the required tools to carry out its mandate. GECOM further failed to indicate when the necessary arrangements would be concluded.

Verification of the OLE
On July 14, 2005, the Parliament passed legislation mandating GECOM to ensure the Verification of the 2001 OLE and Addenda before it could be used as the basis for continued registration. After many proposals from the technical staff and many promises from the Chairman of GECOM, Dr. Steve Surujbally, stakeholders are yet to be informed as to the necessary methodology and commencement date when GECOM will proceed to carry out this mandate. When pressed by the representatives of the JOPP, Dr. Surijbally indicated that he will communicate to us by correspondence about the decided methodology GECOM will adopt to verify the 2001 OLE and Addenda. Today, January 5, 2006, some four weeks after Dr. Surujbally is yet to deliver on his promise.

We are however aware that special efforts are being made to have a report prepared with the intention of circumventing a proper House to House Verification on the basis that time is insufficient to complete the exercise. The PNCR warns GECOM that such a proposal will be totally unacceptable and we will resist any such imposition.

Fingerprinting Biometrics
After a review and analysis of GECOM’s Registration Documentations and Systems, the Election Office of Jamaica (EOJ) submitted a proposal to GECOM on November 27, 2005. This proposal outlined methodologies, costing and timeframes to complete “Fingerprints Scanning” and Cross Matching of Fingerprints. Six weeks after this proposal was delivered to GECOM, the Nation has not been told about progress with its implementation.

Continuous Registration
The Continuous Registration activity is mired daily in inadequacies, inefficiencies and incompetence. The PNCR has stated on numerous occasions that these failings have created and continue to create hardships for eligible registrants. The Public Education programme to inform registrants about the necessary procedures and processes is yet to achieve an acceptable level.

The inadequate number of Registration Centres that GECOM itself has recognised is yet to be remedied. At the 12th December, 2005 meeting GECOM again made another promise, that is, the establishment of four new registration centres before the end of 2005. To date only two of those four centres have been established. GECOM also undertook to make available to stakeholders and citizens a schedule of places and dates where Mobile registration activities will take place. Again GECOM has failed to present and or publish its schedule for Mobile registration to inform stakeholders and citizens in good time. The result is that many Guyanese are unaware of the locations at which they will be afforded the opportunity to register and exercise their constitutional rights.

The PNCR does not wish to alarm citizens but would like to inform the Nation that adding to the failures listed above GECOM is now faced with a major crisis, that is, the failure to access the 2001 Database because of the refusal of the server to boot itself up. It should be noted that this major dilemma might be an indication that the Nation is facing a new house-to-house registration exercise.

The citizens should know that whilst GECOM exhibits this alarming rate of incompetence the PNCR is informed that millions of dollars are being spent without the observance of standard financial procedures and at the last two meetings of the Commission the major item for discussion and consideration by its Commissioners was a substantial increase of their remuneration in US dollars terms. The question citizens must ask themselves is whether they are willing to pay for more incompetence.

The PNCR is at a point where it has great difficulty in maintaining confidence in GECOM to deliver to the Nation an Election that is of an acceptable international standard within the Constitutional deadline. We however, reiterate our commitment to an Election of acceptable international standard to be held by the constitutionally due date. What we will not support or accept is any short cut or circumvention of relevant procedures and processes to achieve this.

The present status of these arrangements should be a matter of concern to all stakeholders and it is hoped that urgent steps are taken to address this potential crisis before it overwhelms us.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Greater-Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, January 05, 2006