PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, March 23, 2006 Hall of Heroes Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:
• The Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties will host a Public Forum on Crime under the theme “Unity for Security: Stand up Against Crime and Violence”;
• The PNCR has the leadership, the ideas, the energy and the determination to create and sustain the conditions for economic growth and youth advancement;
• The PNCR calls upon all Guyanese to be resolute at this time so that those who are attempting to deceive us will know that the people of Guyana are determined this time around to have free, fair and transparent elections;
• The PNCR has serious reservation about the role of the EAB based on its past performance and its recent ill informed pronouncement about verification.


CRIME FORUM

The Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties will host a Public Forum on Crime on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 4.30.p.m. at the City Hall under the theme UNITY FOR SECURITY: STAND UP AGAINST CRIME AND VIOLENCE. The Parliamentary Opposition firmly believes that the time has come for all civic minded Guyanese to take a united, active and positive stand against crime. The alternative to this is to allow those bent on perpetuating crime to continue to erode our safety, our security and our economic progress, both at the individual and national level.

An open invitation is extended to all Guyanese to attend and actively participate in this Public Forum. We expect that out of this Public Forum will come an action plan that will give life to our theme. UNITY FOR SECURITY: STAND UP AGAINST CRIME AND VIOLENCE.

JAGDEO’S GOVERNMENT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR GUYANA'S DRUG EPIDEMIC

It is no exaggeration to state that Guyana is now in the midst of a substance abuse and drug epidemic. Sadly, these developments do not seem to trouble the government. For an epidemic to occur, two factors are essential: availability of the drug and a vulnerable population.

We have both factors operating today. The prevalence of drugs, particularly marijuana and cocaine, is dramatically illustrated by the number of addicts roaming our streets and engaged in senseless, sometimes petty crime. What is important is the relative availability. Most drugs can be bought easily in drug yards and on the streets, perhaps more easily than a bottle of rum. Presidential promises to rid Guyana of drug yards have come to naught. It is typical of the uncaring, incompetent Jagdeo and his Government to hold out hope of action to curb and improve the problems that are undermining society's ability to function properly and then do absolutely nothing. The cost of staying 'high' on drugs over a weekend may well be less than the cost of achieving the same condition in a rum shop. The vulnerability, particularly of our young population, is plain to see. Historically, both marijuana and cocaine have been depicted as drugs of despair, and there is certainly much despair and hopelessness among Guyana’s youth today.

Unemployment among the young and the difficulties of growing up in a society dominated by a selfish philosophy of materialistic greed contribute to their sense of despair. In this regard PPP/C government officials, their lackeys and friends have been setting a bad example by their ostentatious displays of new found wealth. Many of these political elite and their offspring drive cars worth more than the average low-income household and spend in one evening of fun and games more than the average hard-working citizen can spend in a month. On top of this, the PPP/C Government has shown a marked insensitivity to employment needs and has failed to create the environment needed to attract the levels of legitimate foreign direct and local investment essential to job creation and relevant skills training. As a result, job prospects have dimmed considerably over the last thirteen years and alternatives - whether volunteer national service or widespread vocational training - have virtually ceased to exist. All contribute to a growing hopelessness.

The Government, however, mainly through its apologists and spin doctors, vigorously denies that there is a link between substance abuse, drug addiction, unemployment and crime. This is a classic example of political guilt obscuring objective fact. We are being asked to believe that this is nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence. There is no doubt that substance abuse and drug addiction have increased dramatically over the last thirteen years, at the same time there has been escalating unemployment and crime.

Unemployment and underemployment in Guyana may now be as high as 50% of the working population. Many of these persons are between the ages of 18 and 30. In this age group, it is estimated that Guyana has in the region of 150,000 persons almost equally divided between females and males. The PNCR very much doubts that 50,000 of these young people are in tenured jobs. This is a national disgrace only mirrored by the fact that, alarmingly, many of the 100,000 or so disinherited Guyanese - our lost population - are functionally illiterate. The PPP/C government is failing our youth in a dramatic and permanent way. No number or value of cash handouts, abandoned or unused youth and sport centres, can compensate for the disdain and contempt with which government treats the country's most valuable resource.

Drug users come from all sections of our society, the rich as well as the poor, in rural communities as well as the urban areas. All ethnic groups indulge. The appeal, for the young unemployed, of illegal drugs is that the drug scene in the cities does provide a supportive haven; a social milieu in which the strains and stresses of unemployment can be temporarily forgotten; where such an escape can be bought at less cost than escaping through alcohol; where drug related favors can be traded for product.

Minister Teixeira may highlight the problem and may glibly refer to the "work (that) has been ongoing with various organizations to confront and reduce this problem." These organizations have to be commended for their untiring but sometimes futile work. Nevertheless, it is government's responsibility to identify and remove those elements of the core problem that it can change. Highlighting the problem, as Ms. Teixeira did at a meeting last Friday concerning the National Drug Strategy, is no substitute for action.

With the legitimate economy in a tailspin it is obvious that the present administration is unable to attract the levels of legitimate foreign or local investment needed to create the number of legitimate job opportunities required to impact positively on this worrying situation. We must await implementation of the PNCR's Economic and Social Development Plans, after the elections, to benefit from an overall strategy to grapple with the problem and transform Guyana.

The PNCR is committed to the reintroduction of a Voluntary National Service (VNS). Such a service will be aimed not just at the unemployed youth but at all youth. We intend that, apart from skills training directly related to our Economic and Social Development Plans, the VNS will be organized, in the first instance, to deal head-on with illiteracy and substance abuse.

Another policy initiative, we envisage, from which our despairing youth will benefit is a scheme for National Community Volunteers. Such a scheme will allow our young people to contribute to society, to be ‘counted in', not, as so often at present under PPP/C maladministration, counted out. The scheme, part of our overall strategy for youth advancement called Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) will be designed to overcome the joint crises of exclusion and lack of care, and to fulfill the Party's vision of an enabling state in which the formal sector is buttressed by the contribution of volunteers.

The scheme will require the active involvement of all our youth, across ethnic, political, religious and social groups, drawing on different talents and skills. The aim is that by volunteering for a year at say age eighteen (18), or over, it will be possible to contribute to the community. We will target not only youth without jobs but all youth in all regions and there will be incentives for all to volunteer. Participation by our Caricom brothers and sisters and non-nationals generally, will be actively encouraged.

A responsible society is fundamentally sustained by innovative and sensitive government. Without this no number of knee-jerk critical interventions will bring about sustainable improvement.

The PNCR has the leadership, the ideas, the energy and the determination to create and sustain the conditions for economic growth and youth advancement.

ELECTIONS UPDATE

The present attempt by GECOM to abandon aspects of their own project document that they identified as critical for free, fair and transparent elections is a most dangerous development having regard to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by that Body, the Donor Community and the Government. Verification of the OLE of 2001 was never an issue in contention. The only question was the methodology to be used for such verification.

It is GECOM that proposed options to political Parties in Guyana which resulted in the Parliamentary Opposition parties selecting one of the three options proposed by GECOM, to wit, house-to-house verification. In fact any examination of GECOM project document will show that GECOM proposed to commence this exercise in November 2005 and had, at their disposal, the necessary funds to begin its implementation. Instead of finalizing their methodology, GECOM proceeded to allow the year to come to an end and returned the money for verification to government. Yet, in all of its communication and meetings with the Parliamentary Opposition Parties the Chairman of GECOM continuously give the impression that the only outstanding issue was the methodology.

At the last meeting on 12 December 2005, GECOM Chairman Mr. Surujbally undertook to notify political Parties of the verification methodology. It was not until 15 February 2006 that a letter was finally received from the GECOM Chairman informing political Parties that GECOM had decided on a 7-step verification process. However, the details of step 7 were still to be determined. This 15th February letter, indicating that GECOM was proceeding with verification, was the last official notification the Parliamentary Opposition Parties received from Dr Surujbally. It is therefore quite alarming that a propaganda blitz could now be in progress suggesting that GECOM had abandoned verification altogether. Such deception coming from the highest level of GECOM cannot generate the stakeholder confidence that the MOU suggests is necessary for a healthy political environment during the 2006 elections.

The question which the Guyanese electorate must now ask is, what other critical tasks essential to elections will be abandoned by GECOM in secret before the next elections? PR and propaganda would be inadequate to deal with any attempt to sacrifice the quality and fairness of the 2006 elections on the altar of constitutional time constraints. The PNCR remains resolute that verification of the 2001 OLE is an essential requirement which GECOM committed itself to undertake and cannot be dispensed with at the whims and fancies of Dr Surujbally and the PPP/C Commissioners.

The PNCR calls upon all Guyanese to be resolute at this time so that those who are attempting to deceive us will know that the people of Guyana are determined, this time around, to have free, fair and transparent elections.




Registration Far From Complete

The PNCR had throughout the registration period brought to the nation’s attention our concerns over the difficulties which eligible registrants face in getting registered. The long lines at all Registration Centre on the last day of registration are a clear indication that many eligible persons have been unable to register.

The PNCR wrote to GECOM requesting an extension of the registration period, however, we are convinced that the real flaw is in the inadequacy of centers. It is unfortunate that so late in the day GECOM is still to get its act fully together and treats its interactions with the stakeholders as propaganda exercises rather than meaningful consultations.

EAB`s Arrival

A few elections ago the Eagle had landed. No sooner the elections were over the Eagle disappeared. So too did the EAB after contributing to the confusion of 1992. Now the EAB has landed again and without any reference or deference to those who are major stakeholders and have been slogging it out over the years, assumes that it has the authority to pronounce on ongoing election matters. The PNCR has serious reservation about the role of the EAB based on its past performance and its recent ill informed pronouncement about verification. It has entered the fray, totally out of step with the objective realities of GECOM’s performance to date in the execution of their project plan. Those who have become accustomed to pouring millions into its coffers may be better advised to finance the verification of the 2001 OLE. This will go a far way to convince the Guyanese people that they can look forward to free, fair and transparent Elections in 2006.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, March 23, 2006