PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. H. D. Hoyte, S.C., M.P. Leader of the Opposition People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, May 23, 2002 Congress Place, Sophia, Georgetown



SUMMARY:

• The People’s Progressive Party/Civic a Racketeering Organisation
• The Ongoing Drug War
• Corruption Continues
• “Political” Public Servants And Bad Governance
• The Bauxite Crisis and Impending National Disaster
• The Bermine Problem And The Impending National Disaster


THE PEOPLE’S PROGRESSIVE PARTY/CIVIC A RACKETEERING ORGANISATION

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) continues to flounder helplessly in the morass of its own corruption, viciousness and incompetence. As it senses its own ineffectualness in administering the affairs of the country, it is losing its grip on reality. It has reached a stage of dementia in which it believes that vituperation is a substitute for rational thought.

Recently, the PPP/C, through its unspeakable General Secretary, Mr. Donald Ramotar, and other mouthpieces, has been publicly peddling the line that it had “long suspected” that the PNC/R had links with criminals and criminal activities. The pouting, petulant Bharrat Jagdeo, fresh from his junket in Spain, has now personally joined the fray: he claims to have “confirmation” that “some elements of the PNC/R leadership” are connected with the five prison escapees. The PNCR will not dignify Ramotar and Jagdeo’s imbecility with even a passing comment. On the other hand, however, it is a notorious fact, within the public domain, that the PPP/C regime, headed by Bharrat Jagdeo, is a criminal enterprise, a racketeering organisation. Its Cabinet comprises a core of convicted and unindicted felons, plus others who have enjoyed the dubious hospitality of prison cells. Given this core of criminous ministers, it is not to be wondered at that the PPP/C regime should consider corrupt practices and other criminal conduct to be wholly acceptable, and behave accordingly. Hence the culture of bribes, kickbacks, fraudulent activities and scams of all kinds that are associated with the regime. One only has to read the Auditor General’s Report for the year 2000 to understand the pervasiveness of the corruption and the ruthlessness with which the regime plunders public revenues.

But there is a darker and more troubling side to the regime’s criminal pursuits. It indulges in racketeering. It extorts millions of dollars from businessmen annually, using elements of the notorious Special Target Squad (the Black Clothes Police) as its enforcers. Those who try to resist are threatened and beaten; some have been killed. Some unsolved murders of business people are said to be linked with this protection racket. Undoubtedly, the regime has been protecting the big drug barons. Although these are well-known and their names are on the lips of the man-in-the-street, not a single one of them has ever been prosecuted, much less convicted. The truth is they are protected by the regime and employ the same group of enforcers and contract killers. Given these circumstances, the regular police are impotent to deal with the situation.

The prestigious American newspaper, Chicago Tribune (issue of May 14, 2002), carried a revealing report of the sentencing hearing of Thomas P. Carroll, the former US diplomat, who had pleaded guilty to selling US visas while he was stationed at the Georgetown Embassy. The Assistant US Attorney who is prosecuting the case told the Court that Carroll employed elements of the Special Target Squad, referred to in the article as “paramilitary officers belonging to a notorious Guyanese police unit known as the Black Shirts (sic) to threaten his foes”. The CHICAGO SUN-TIMES reported the Prosecutor of making the chilling allegation that “to cover his back and silence anyone who posed a threat to his operation, Carroll enlisted members of a Guyanese Police Unit known as the ‘Black Shirts’ (sic)”. The reference is, of course, to the Black Clothes Police. Carroll employed them as his enforcers. PNCR has written the Acting Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Home Affairs drawing their attention to this categorical statement by the US prosecutor and asking for an investigation to identify the ranks involved. We will await further developments.

THE ONGOING DRUG WAR

Because of the protection extended to them by the PPP/C regime and elements of the Black Clothes Police, the drug barons are untouchable. As an offshoot of this protection, drug trafficking has become a major growth industry in the country. As drug barons fight for turf and settle scores among themselves, we are now witnessing a vicious, deadly drug war in the country. Many persons are being gunned down in a manner bearing all the trademarks of mob executions and there is widespread public talk that certain elements of the Target Special Squad are carrying out contract killings. The regular Police watch on helplessly. We are in a very serious situation in this country.

CORRUPTION CONTINUES

In the meantime, corruption continues at every level of the government and in every agency. One bookseller has recently had cause to write to the Minister of Education complaining about the unsatisfactory, unfair and corrupt manner in which books, stationery and other school supplies are being sourced. Books that are not being used by our schools are being ordered and re-ordered from a particular overseas publisher and pile up in a bond. Contracts are being given to bogus companies. Orders are not being placed with the local agents of publishers, but with other persons at prices higher than those that can be quoted by the local agents. Recently, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, issued a circular directing that all stationery and school supplies, including maps, charts, globes, science equipment and other learning aids must be bought only from two stores, namely, Salod’s Marketing Agency and Kojac Marketing Agency. The circular also directed that schools must acquire all “janitorial material” from Guyana Stores Limited. In other words, the Ministry has granted a monopoly for the above-mentioned items. No competition is being allowed and therefore the Ministry is being denied the advantage of having the lowest prices or the best quality. And yet, there has been no outcry from the organisations representing the private sector against the Ministry’s unfair behaviour which undermines competition and is inimical to the development of strong and efficient private sector entities. It also facilitates fraud.

The casual, unlawful way in which the regime handles the receipts from the Lotteries provides indisputable evidence of its vested interest in creating situations that facilitate corruption. The Auditor General has repeatedly pointed out that those receipts are public revenues and should be paid into the Consolidated Fund. Since 1995 when the Lottery was established, the regime has adamantly ignored the Auditor General. It treats the receipts as if they were its private property. The Auditor General has pointed out that between 1995 and 2000 amounts totalling about $1.5 billion were received from the Lotteries Company. The regime has disbursed about $625 million of this money without any Parliamentary authority for the expenditure and has not paid the balance into the Consolidated Fund as required by law. The Auditor General’s report details the millions of dollars expended unlawfully for various questionable purposes including the rehabilitation of State House, directors’ fees and a nebulous category called “Assistance to other Organisations”. We know from disclosures in past years that large sums were used to pay for pizza and drinks! In some modern jurisdictions many persons would have been jailed for this unlawful disposal of public funds.

“POLITICAL” PUBLIC SERVANTS AND BAD GOVERNANCE

It is generally well-known that the instability and continuing tensions afflicting the country derive from unjust, corrupt and oppressive governance. Conditions in the country will not change for the better until the regime faces the governance issues squarely and decides, in good faith, to institute the necessary reforms. The public has to be convinced that the government is genuinely committed to such reform and must have cogent evidence that it is taking place. The Dialogue, now on hold, had given some hope that the nation might begin to see the start of a process leading to an improvement in governance. One of the first decisions taken was that the principle of the political neutrality of the Public Service would be re-emphasised and enforced. This has not happened. Every week the public is nauseated by press conferences being held by a “political” public servant, Dr. Roger Luncheon. Dr. Luncheon is a public officer who should be bound by the principle of political neutrality; yet, he routinely spews out the most appalling political venom against opposition parties and personalities and also against members of the public who might have expressed an opinion different from that of the regime.

For any government to succeed, for orderly development to take place, there must be an efficient, highly motivated, well-trained Public Service that is driven by professional standards. We do not now have such a Public Service. We will never have such a Public Service in this country until the “political public servants” like Dr. Luncheon have been excised from the system. If the regime wants people like Luncheon to play a political role, then they must cease to be public servants and be appointed to a political office. Until the principle of the political neutrality of the Public Service is enforced, its morale and professionalism would remain low, government business would be stymied and national development frustrated. The country will go nowhere.

THE BAUXITE CRISIS AND IMPENDING NATIONAL DISASTER

For years now, PNC/R and others have been drawing attention to a number of serious problems in the country. As far as the government is concerned, no problems existed. The matters we complained about were said to be non-existent; we were deemed to be scaremongers. Today, these problems are rapidly converging and are threatening to envelope the nation in a huge national crisis. The regime can no longer deny their reality: the stagnant economy; mass unemployment; pervasive corruption; rampant crime; a thriving drug culture; deteriorating health and education services; hopelessness among young people. Each one of these areas presents a serious national problem; combined, they can spell catastrophe. No thinking person will deny that such a catastrophe is threatening us at this time. Unless the PPP/C regime is prepared to accept the reality of the crisis and move boldly, in good faith, to create a national consensus to tackle it frontally, it will overwhelm us; the society is likely to implode. Propaganda, denial, invective will not help the regime. The situation demands commonsense and clear thinking; and decisive action, based on the national interest and reinforced by a national consensus.

THE BERMINE PROBLEM AND THE IMPENDING NATIONAL DISASTER

The predicament of Bermine that has led to the shutdown of its operations at Kwakwani, the consequential loss of jobs and the drastic reduction in services such as water, electricity, and health, seem to be the proverbial last straw. Prime Minister Sam Hinds’ duplicity, feigned ignorance and confused utterances have served only to exacerbate an already dangerous situation. The workers will not be fooled. In the absence of any game-plan to deal with their concerns, the workers and their families have already descended on Georgetown and taken to the streets to publicise their grievances and nudge the government into action to deal adequately with their plight. Ominously, too, the Linden and Everton communities, recognising the implications of the Bermine experience for them, have come out in solidarity with their colleagues of Kwakwani. They have encamped outside Mr. Sam Hinds’ Main Street residence, since Friday 17th May, and have not budged despite heavy rainfall; they have vowed to remain there until the issue is resolved to their satisfaction. That they staged a protest march through the streets of Georgetown and held a Rally Tuesday May 21, 2002, despite the driving rain, is ample testimony to their grim, unyielding determination. This protest follows the one held on Friday last. What is clear is that the Bermine situation will have grave, adverse implications for Aroaima Bauxite Company also.

The bauxite workers have sought the PNC/R’s support in their struggle. PNCR, in duty bound, has assured them of its total support. Inevitably, their protest has begun to assume wider dimensions. The banners and placards being displayed show the workers’ disgust with numerous issues of bad governance which have upset them. These have compounded the bauxite problem. There is sufficient evidence that other citizens who are also suffering from these grievances are beginning to rally to the bauxite workers’ cause: the unemployed; the homeless; the hungry; those suffering from poor social services; persons affected by the crime situation and extra-judicial killings; workers who have endured pain and suffering and all manner of injustice from the regime’s mismanagement of the country’s affairs and its dismal failure to bring them some benefits – all these people have begun to join in solidarity with the residents of the bauxite communities.

The regime will ignore the gathering storm at its peril.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place. Sophia
May 23rd, 2002