PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, May 4, 2006 Hall of Heroes Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:
• The PPP/C displayed their typical unilateral and dictatorial approach on the business of the House;
• The reasons for and necessity of verification have been articulated in the last two years and it would be a useless exercise to join with the propaganda spin doctors who now seek to detract from the real issues.

PPP/C DICTATORSHIP CONTINUES IN THE PARLIAMENT

At the last Sitting of the National Assembly of the 8th Parliament of Guyana on Tuesday, May 2, 2006, the PPP/C displayed their typical unilateral and dictatorial approach that has been a characteristic of their behaviour over the last 5 years in the National Assembly.

The agreement between President Jagdeo and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin MP, to have a legal team make recommendations for the necessary constitutional arrangements to facilitate the delayed elections was abandoned as soon as the PPP/C felt that they could circumvent the Constitution. The result is that, instead of reaching a national consensus on an issue that is of concern to all Guyanese, the PPP/C has unilaterally amended Article 61 under the mistaken belief that this arrangement will magically solve the real issues involved.

The essential issue is not a constitutional amendment, but the provision of adequate time to ensure that the basic requirements for a free, fair and transparent election are put in place by the Guyana Elections Commission and to guarantee stakeholder confidence in the electoral process. However, the PNCR made it clear in the Parliament that, even treating the matter as a legal issue, the approach of the PPP/C is flawed. Amendment of Article 61 without consequential amendments in the constitution, such as Article 69, would be to tamper with the structure as envisioned by the framers of the constitution.

Competent legal advice, which the JPOP has received, indicated that the amendment passed in the National Assembly will also create further difficulties that would lead to breaches of the constitution unless certain entrenched provisions are amended. Instead of dealing responsibly with these issues by consensus, the PPP/C has ignored these matters knowing that they would lead to constitutional difficulties at a later stage. The JPOP legal team will challenge this issue in the court.

FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN JEOPARDY

The reluctance of both the PPP/C and GECOM to agree to an adequate system of verification jeopardises the holding of free, fair and transparent elections in Guyana, in keeping with international standards as agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was laid in the National Assembly. The reasons for and necessity of verification have been well articulated over the last two years and the PNCR will not indulge in a useless exercise to join with the propaganda spin doctors who now seek to detract from the real issues.

The case of the Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties is very simple and not complicated. The PNCR had initially insisted that a new system of continuous registration should be introduced, starting with a new house-to-house registration. After representations were made, the PNCR accepted a compromise position that the 2001 OLE will be used, as the basis, to commence the continuous registration exercise and that a house-to-house verification exercise would be used to cleanse this. GECOM also assured the Parliamentary Opposition Parties that the 2001 OLE would not be merged with the new registrants from the continuous registration exercise until that verification process was complete. For nearly two years, because of resistance from PPP/C Commissioners, GECOM refused to commence the verification exercise although in excess of $260 M was placed in their 2005 budget for undertaking this exercise to begin in November 2005 and be completed in March 2006.

Finally, despite assurances to the Parliamentary Opposition Parties from GECOM that verification was still on the agenda, GECOM abandoned verification completely without any reference to the JPOP.

If, as the PPP/C claims, the list is pure and without errors, why is the PPP/C putting up such resistance to any verification of this Voters’ List?

The JPOP will, however, continue to insist that GECOM acts in good faith and honours its commitment to ensure that the Voters’ list is beyond controversy.

The PNCR has noted with interest that there has been an agreement among the Commissioners of GECOM to place the item of verification at the top of their Agenda for today’s meeting (May 4). We hope that this renewed approach will yield positive results.

It is ironic that President Jagdeo has insisted, in talks with the Leader of the Opposition, that the verification issue is one for GECOM alone, while the Chairman of GECOM, in his last Press Conference, stated that the matter was a political issue. In the light of President Jagdeo’s position, Guyanese must question why GINA, a government agency, placed advertisements in the national newspaper, at tax-payers’ expense, on May 3, on verification.

GECOM has not only failed to verify the 2001 OLE but has merged this List with the verified new registrants and published a Preliminary List of Electors. Voters will also have difficulties in the 21 days period for Claims and Objections to scrutinize this list and to make any corrections, if necessary. Unlike previous elections, GECOM has failed to establish offices in every electoral division. The limited offices established impose hardships on persons who will have to travel long distances to get on the voters list, if they find that their names have been omitted. Similar hardships are placed upon those who wish to object to any ineligible name they may discover on the list. It should be noted, however, that the claims and objections cannot be done in the time allocated. In any event the Claims and Objections process cannot be a substitute for the verification that was promised by GECOM.

The PNCR stands willing and ready to work with all stakeholders and GECOM to have an amicable resolution of this matter in the interest of all Guyanese.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, May 4, 2006