PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. H. D. Hoyte, S.C., M.P. Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform Leader of the Opposition To the Press Conference Thursday, May 16, 2002 Congress Place, Sophia, Georgetown
• DEEPENING NATIONAL CRISIS
• PPP/C’s RACE-HATE CAMPAIGN
• THE CRISIS AT BERMINE
• INVESTMENT IN THE SUGAR INDUSTRY
DEEPENING NATIONAL CRISIS
Within recent weeks, the pall of gloom that is hanging over the country has deepened dramatically. Violent crime, as evidenced by the recent killing of Mahadai Magoo and Ramdeo Persaud on Saturday May 11th, 2002, in their home at Annandale, East Coast, Demerara remains rampant. Senior Superintendent Merai and his Black Clothes thugs continue to murder citizens with impunity, this time gunning down Wesley Hendricks on Friday May 10, 2002, at his home at Lot 42 Princes Street, Georgetown. Official corruption is flourishing. The PPP/C regime clings tenaciously to its vicious policy of victimising perceived opponents and discriminating against them. Moreover, the regime seems to have a vested interest in keeping the legal system in a state of paralysis. Its ministers and other functionaries lie routinely to the Guyanese people, the chief offender being Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo himself who leads the pack in spewing out vulgar mendacities. As economic stagnation and general despair grip the country, as the unjust policies of the regime grind people into the dust, citizens are seething with discontent; frustration and anger have reached boiling point.
What is clear is that good order has disappeared from public administration. National institutions, with perhaps the solitary exception of the Army, have lost their integrity and are in disarray. And the PPP/C regime, recognising it’s ineffectualness, has become desperate. It has now resorted to the blame game: everybody else, except itself, is responsible for this sad state of affairs. It is little wonder, then, that some people are of the view that Guyana is fast approaching the stage where it will be classified as a failed state.
PPP/C’s RACE-HATE CAMPAIGN
While crime and Black Clothes Police killings are disturbingly dangerous manifestations in our society, equally ominous is the campaign of race hate that is being waged by the PPP/C. The line they are peddling is not new; they have used it repeatedly over the years, usually at election time, but now it has become an everyday exercise. What is the line? Black people are “harakati”, that is, demons. Their sole aim in life is to beat up Indians; kill them; rape Indian women, and commit every kind of atrocity against the Indian population. What is tragic about all this is that they are using some Hindu temples as the agencies for disseminating this vile racist propaganda, and are pouring this poison in the ears of children. They are not constrained by any logic: Indians who happen to be politically opposed to them are also dubbed racists and alleged to be in alliance with the Black people to oppress and harm Indians.
Within recent times a new dimension has emerged in this racist campaign; and, that is, that Indians who happen to be Christians are also being targeted. The word being put out is that by their evangelical work Christian denominations are in a conspiracy to undermine Indian interests and solidarity and robbing Indians of their “Indianness”.
This racist campaign, which is being intensified by the PPP/C all over this country, is widely known, but many people consider the subject taboo; they don’t want to talk about it. However, given the dangerous racial currents in the country today, it is not in the national interest that the subject should be swept under the proverbial carpet: it must be exposed, discussed and denounced as an evil manifestation that must be contained and eliminated before it does irreparable damage to the national fabric.
THE CRISIS AT BERMINE
We find it remarkable that Prime Minister, Mr. Sam Hinds, should deny PNCR’s report on the situation at Kwakwani and the serious problems affecting the Bermine operations which might soon lead to the company’s collapse. A PNCR team, along with the Regional Chairman, Mr. Mortimer Mingo, visited the area on Sunday 12th May, 2002. Mr. Hinds did not visit; hence he could feign ignorance. However, he did send his accomplice, Mr. Robeson Benn, now Commissioner of Geology & Mines, on the very Sunday. It is difficult to understand how the Prime Minister, who has responsibility for the Bauxite Sector, could claim that he had no knowledge of the situation at Kwakwani and then go on to allege that the conditions as reported by the Regional chairman and the PNC/R, were not as bad as reported. Mr. Sam Hinds obviously has no wish to keep his honesty in a state of good repair; otherwise he would not have disgraced himself by being so very untruthful about Bermine’s predicament. Unfortunately, Mr. Hinds has long ago allowed himself to be reduced to the status of a convenient utensil of the PPP/C regime, and most people have long ceased to have any regard for him or for anything he says.
At his press briefing on May 14, 2002, he conveniently ignored the origin of the current problems confronting Bermine and their adverse impact on the bauxite communities at Kwakwani and Everton. Spurning the advice of the BIDCO Board about the negative consequences for Bermine, Mr. Hinds gave the US company, Viceroy Shipping, exclusive rights over the turning basin at the mouth of the Berbice River. This contract, which reeks of corruption, remains a closely guarded secret; perhaps only Viceroy and Mr. Hinds know its precise terms. (The legality of Mr. Hinds’ action is a moot point and should be tested in Court.).
However, armed with this monopoly position, Viceroy has insisted that no ships other than its own should have access to the turning basin and its mooring facilities for the purpose of loading bauxite product. Bermine’s customers have rejected this imposition for two reasons: first, Viceroy’s rates are higher than those that can be negotiated on the international market; and, second, the customers wish to have the freedom to nominate vessels of their choice. Bermine’s customers have therefore cancelled the shipment of product which was about to be made under an existing contract and have indicated that they would not buy more product for the rest of the year - unless the turning basin issue is resolved.
Bermine’s cash flow has been therefore severely reduced. The company cannot service its debts or pay its contractors at Kwakwani, who have understandably withdrawn their equipment and services. Bermine is unable to provide sufficient fuel for its operations at Kwakwani or for maintaining regular water and electricity supply to the community. In this situation, the hospital services have clearly been affected. Mr. Hinds blandly stated that a doctor would be soon assigned to Kwakwani. He did not mention, however that Kwakwani was without a doctor for over one year. It was only two days ago, that is, May 14, 2002, that a Cuban doctor was sent to Kwakwani to placate the distressed residents.
Given the grave crisis at Bermine and its serious impact on the livelihood of bauxite communities in the Berbice River, PNCR demands that the PPP/C regime take immediate, comprehensive action to restore normalcy to the lives of people in those communities and to the operations of Bermnie. To this end, therefore, the government should:
1. arrange for Bermine customers to have unfettered access to the turning basin facilities on such terms as
are just and reasonable;.
2. ensure an emergency cash injection into Bermine to enable it to continue its operations, including
completing the work on the calcine kiln to produce abrasive grade bauxite.
At his press briefing, Mr. Hinds re-asserted his oft-expressed view that the Bauxite Industry in Guyana has no future – it was dead! This view of his explains his callous attitude to the pain and suffering of the Bauxite communities. Moreover, it is not coincidental that the PPP/C sees these communities as being the political supporters of the PNC/R and therefore they must be hammered into submission, starved out and ultimately extinguished.
What is very clear to everybody, except perhaps Mr. Sam Hinds, is that, unless the Bermine crisis is resolved, it will inevitably have a damaging impact on the Aroiama Bauxite Company (ABC) operations also. It would not be possible to isolate ABC from the Bermine fall-out. He recently said that the Bauxite Industry would need about US$25M to revive it. He claimed that the government did not have the money but, even if it did have the money, it would not put it into the Industry! While the PPP/C regime refuses to help the Bauxite Industry survive, consider its approach to the Sugar Industry.
INVESTMENT IN THE SUGAR INDUSTRY
The PPP/C government had originally intended to invest the large sum of $250 million in the Sugar Industry. It was only stopped from attempting to do so because the international financial agencies, particularly the IMF, baulked at this extravagant madness. It has now announced that it is proceeding with a more limited project requiring US$110 million. The regime states that it hasn’t got all the money but it is proceeding, nevertheless: any shortfall would be met by what it calls “creative financing” – whatever that means. The economic and financial justification of the project has not been demonstrated. It is being wholly driven by political considerations; namely, the desire to put a large show project in the Berbice area which it regards as its geographical political constituency and, in the short run, to hoodwink sugar workers, its political supporters, into believing that it would bring them huge benefits.
The regime has gone to great lengths to fool the Sugar workers that the project would entail no retrenchment. This is wholly untrue. The US$12 million World Bank Public Sector Assistance Credit which the government hopes to secure has shed some light on this matter. It gives the lie to President Jagdeo’s repeated promise to the sugar workers that, in restructuring of the sugar industry, there would be no retrenchment. How does he, then, explain the component of the Credit which provides resources for training and labour market programmes for workers in the sugar and water sectors who are to be retrenched as a result of the restructuring project? Also, how does he explain the studies to be undertaken on safety net options for those same retrenched workers? This week some 300 workers in the water sector will receive their letters of retrenchment. Inevitably, sugar workers will in time get theirs.
MR. BRIAN TIWARI AND BK INTERNATIONAL: THE UNTOUCHABLES?
The government’s response to BK International’s liability for heavy losses suffered by the State, the East Demerara Water Conservancy and hundreds of villagers in the Cane Grove area appears to be quite unconvincing. We are probably witnessing a farce. It is more likely than not that BK International will end up without having to pay compensation and will continue to receive huge juicy contracts from the government. And people will continue to shrug their shoulder and take refuge in the common remark, “This is Guyana”.
Obviously, this company and its managing director are above the law - at least, they act as if this were so. They are now constructing a very large building on the reserve parallel to Mandela Avenue. They have not applied for or received permission to build from the competent City Council Authority; but they are building, notwithstanding. We are yet to see the City Council’s agents, hammer in hand and backed up by a detachment of shot-gun-toting City Constabulary; arrive to demolish the structure – as we have often seen when less well-connected citizens break the City By-laws by erecting structures illegally.
It is interesting to note that although we have drawn public attention (and the attention of the IDB representative, Mr. Robert Kestell) to what is a clear case of gross irregularity and corruption in the award of a sea defence contract to BK International, we have not had a squeak out of the government or Mr. Kestell. By way of reminder, let us restate the facts briefly: BK International was awarded an IDB funded contract in the amount of $169 million to execute a sea defence project at Hague, West Coast, Demerara. That contract was then amended by way of a first variation which amounted to an additional $179 million! Such a huge variation in sum larger than the original contract price was a clear indication of irregular conduct, since IDB rules stipulate that the maximum variation to be allowed in any project was 20% of the original price. Investigations soon revealed that what purported to be a variation was in fact a different contract and separate project at Vergenoegen. What the culprits involved did was to tack it on the Hague contract as a variation so as to circumvent Tender Board requirements for it to be advertised. By doing this they denied other contractors the opportunity to bid for the project.
In the meantime, the Auditor General has presented his Audit Report for the year 2000 to the Parliament. He has pointed out that, notwithstanding his observations and complaints, the regime persists in breaching the financial
regulations, ignoring Tender Board procedures and misusing public funds. In particular, the Report noted that President Bharrat Jagdeo is still using the huge Lotto receipts as if they were his private income and not having them paid as revenues into the Consolidated Fund as required by law. Thus, the unlawful use of public revenues continues unabated, and corruption flourishes.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
May 16. 2002
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