PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, January 19, 2006 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY
 Great Flood disaster and flood waters are on the rise again;
 Guyanese cannot afford to allow their health, property, minds and their lives to be placed in further jeopardy;
 GECOM’s Chairman delays the process further.
FLOOD CRISIS: PNCR TO TABLE MOTION IN PARLIAMENT TODAY
Barely one year after the January 2005 Great Flood Disaster, flood waters are on the rise again. Residents of the Pomeroon, the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary region, Canals Polder, several parts of East and West Berbice, and elsewhere are all trying desperately to keep their heads above water. Rising flood levels threaten their very existence. Houses have been evacuated, abandoned or left. Farms and businesses have ground to a halt. Cattle and livestock have been lost. Bankruptcies and unemployment are growing. Normal life has been suspended. It could be several months before some semblance of normal life is restored and it will take some flood-battered Communities years to recover, if at all. The PPP/C regime should hang its head in shame.
It is now clear that despite the pathetic speeches from Jagdeo and his Ministers and wild promises of flood prevention/reduction initiatives, little was done to prepare for this rainy season.
The PNC while in government, fully understanding the seriousness of drainage and irrigation of our low-lying coastal plane, expanded and completed the Tapacuma, Black Bush Polder and Boeraserie Schemes. The MMA Scheme was also started and the Abary section completed. While in office the PNC meticulously maintained these schemes.
The PPP/C on the other hand neglected the above schemes and other critical works on the drainage and irrigation system like the Onverwagt pump, the façade canals, the EDWC and the main sluices. Additionally no desilting of the Pomeroon, Mahaica or Mahaicony rivers has been done.
And, if the government had an ounce of decency, it would have brought to Parliament its promised budget for the 2005 floods. With scant regard for the principles of good governance there has been no accountability and no transparency to date where its flood dealings are concerned. There is also no really coherent and well-thought-out plan to handle the excesses of rainfall or the type of inundations all too familiar since January 2005.
We hope that the International Financial Institutions and Donor Community ought to be concerned about government’s lack of professionalism, accountability and transparency in handling their flood relief funds. It is intolerable that the President struts around Guyana feverishly doling out grant money as if it were his own in a crass attempt to buy votes. Such political ‘gift-trading’ is more than merely immoral-the withholding and conversion of State funds is unlawful.
Today in the National Assembly, the leader of the PNCR will table a motion on the flood in the National Assembly to be debated as a Matter of urgent Public Importance. Although floods in our environmental situation cannot be totally prevented but the extent of inundation can be limited and its worst affects mitigated. What is required is a level of vigilance, energy, attention to detail, a willingness to consult and to accept advice. The PNCR, the Party that advocates stakeholder participation, intends to consult widely particularly with all knowledgeable Guyanese Engineers and local residents. Work on this Comprehensive Flood Plan (CFP) started last year and is ongoing. Immediately we gain political office, later this year, we intend to implement our CFP. At the same time we will assist flood victims ignored by the PPP/C and those who despite feeble, ineffective PPP/C interventions remain unable to cope.
In the interim we hold ourselves ready and willing to work alongside and with the government as part of a national response to what, after all, it is a national problem.
GUYANESE ARE IN GREATER DANGER NOW THAN EVER BEFORE

Under the PPP/C, Guyanese are more at risk of losing a family member, of losing their assets, of becoming less healthy and more at risk of dying. We are in greater danger now than ever before.

The threat to our lives and property has never been greater. At no previous time since independence are Guyanese more likely than now to lose their health, their property, their minds and their very lives

The frequency and severity of flooding has increased. Violent crime pervades our streets and communities. Poverty has escalated. Suicides have increased. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other health threats has risen to endemic proportions. Doctors report the highest occurrence of stress related disorders ever recorded in Guyana.

Pollution, especially from mining in the Hinterland, now poses serious health hazards to Amerindians and other interior residents.

More than ever before, floods now threaten our lives and property. The Great Flood of January 2005 devastated the livelihoods of over 200,000 persons. Dozens of persons lost their lives through leptospirosis, drowning and other causes. Damage to homes, farms, businesses ran into the billions of dollars. The emotional and mental anguish experienced by Guyanese was immeasurable. Ten months later, the floods have revisited. Entire districts in Regions 2, 3, 5 and 6 are once again submerged under flood waters. Guyanese have once again been made to suffer.

More than ever before, HIV/AIDS poses a major threat. According to UNAID, Guyana, in 2003, was among the most affected countries in the Western Hemisphere. AIDS is currently the leading cause of death among persons in the 25–44 year age group, and the second leading cause of death overall. Likewise the number of tuberculosis cases in Guyana is increasing, in large part because of widespread poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Guyana, in 2004, recorded 1,123 active TB cases, up from 978 cases in 2003. Guyana now has the highest TB incidence rate in the Caribbean.

More than ever before, Guyanese are likely to be the victims of violent crimes, be it murder, rape, armed robbery, or domestic abuse. The reasons for this upsurge are many. But definite causes are the poverty and hopelessness, wider availability of guns and the rise of narco-trafficking, all due to a corrupt, uncaring, incompetent and ineffectual government.

Not only are Guyanese in more danger of losing health and property, their lives but also in more danger of losing our country and our way of life. We refer here to the spread of narco-business into our economic, social and political fabric. Under a facilitating PPP/C government, narco-business has expanded to crisis proportions in Guyana. The government has allowed Guyana to become a major trans-shipment point for narcotics.

The statistics speaks for itself. In 2004, U.S. law enforcement recorded over 200 seizures or incidents of illicit drugs, linked to Guyana. In the United Kingdom, the authorities recently seized £54.5 million of cocaine. The sum of these seizures in the United States and United Kingdom amounted to hundreds of millions of US$’s. Cocaine from Guyana has been discovered in exports of, among other products, frozen fish, timber, rice, molasses and coconuts.

Guyana now boasts a business classification known as the Proceeds Of
Crime or POC sector and made up of companies that are involved in, or have benefited (or are benefiting) from, narco-trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, human-trafficking, back tracking, etc. International Agencies estimate that the POC sector probably accounts for close to 50% of the Guyana GDP.

Narco-trafficking has serious implications for Guyana as we know it. It undermines our national sovereignty and our democracy. It pollutes our politics and our economy. If left unchecked, many of the decisions that affect our lives in Guyana would be made by local and international drug barons, who have no loyalties to any country or anyone but to themselves and to their trade.

How have we, as a nation, arrived at this point? Why are Guyanese at greater risk?

We have a PPP/C Government that:

• has grown increasingly arrogant and insensitive;
• believes there is no political cost to itself for its incompetence and corruption;
• is becoming increasing adrift from reality;
• believes the Guyanese people can be easily fooled;
• believes more in cosmetic measures than in real development; and
• is tired and merely going around in circles.

Guyanese cannot afford to allow their health, property, minds and their lives to be placed in further jeopardy. We must make the decision to reduce flooding, beat back crime, reduce health risks such as HIV/AIDS, and save our country from the threat of narco-domination and governance.

We, the Guyanese electorate, can all make that decision at the forthcoming National and Regional elections.
ELECTIONS UPDATE

As time quickly passes by GECOM, as if in a state of oblivion, continues to vacillate on the question of the verification of the Offical List of Electors, which is to be used to in the compilation of the 2006 Voters` List. It is almost mysterious that this should be the case.

Some two years ago, GECOM`s technical staff recognized the need for such a verification and made concrete proposals for how GECOM could proceed. More than one year ago the Commission shared this information with the stakeholders and solicited their opinions. The Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties endorsed the proposals and so informed GECOM. Ever since then the Commission and, more particularly its Chairman, has indulged in every possible maneuver to have this matter simply drop off of the Elections Preparation Agenda. However, the vigilance of the Joint Parliamentary Opposition has kept this vital matter in public focus.

Any attempt by GECOM to use the time factor as the basis for not proceeding with this essential aspect of the preparation for Elections would be unacceptable to the Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties. GECOM has had all of the time in the world to proceed with their own proposal or to suggest an alternative approach. In fact, GECOM is obligated to ensure that all is done to produce an Electoral List of an acceptable standard. Nothing short of this would suffice.

The PNCR calls upon all Guyanese to be in a state of preparedness for the struggle that must ensue if GECOM attempts to walk away from its duty bound legal and constitutional responsibility.

GECOM has finally seen the wisdom in the PNCR`s contention that more registration centers are necessary, hence they have opened two(2) of the four (4) new Registration Centers which they announced that they would open immediately. We understand that they are in the process of establishing the other two (2) Centers soon. There is still much more to be done to ensure that an adequate number of Centers are established and that they are operating efficiently.

The PNCR, in its ongoing effort to cooperate with GECOM to ensure that it produces an election of acceptable standards, wrote to GECOM on 16 January 2006 pointing out a number of deficiencies that require rectification if the registration process is to be efficiently and effectively conducted. For example, GECOM`s advertisement about registration does not tell the potential Registrants where to go to register. This is an important omission and is but one more example of the many acts of omission or commission, which GECOM continues to commit.

The PNCR stays resolutely on course in its struggle for free, fair and transparent elections in 2006. The Party, therefore, wishes to reaffirms our previously stated commitment to honour the results of an election which is in consonance with acceptable international standards for the conduct of a free, fair and transparent election.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, January 19, 2006