PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, 25 May, 2006 Hall of Heroes Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:
• Independence is the celebration of the hard work and struggles of the founding fathers of this Nation. As we celebrate, let this occasion remind us of the heroes from early days like Cuffy, the leader of the great slave rebellion, to the modern heroes like Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow. The work of Forbes Burnham and Cheddie Jagan who mobilized the mass political movement and founded the modern political apparatus, which is still in place today, was an important juncture in the relentless struggle against oppression and the fight to gain our independence;
• The PNCR has, since 2002, been advocating the position that Guyana desperately needs a new system of governance to serve as the platform for economic and social transformation;
• The High Court action, brought in the name of PNCR executive member Joseph Hamilton, seeks several declarations against the Chairman and Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission;
• A classic example of political prejudice triumphing over objective fact is the development of Jagdeo’s strategy to undermine, belittle and ridicule the police and army at all levels.
• The insistence that the verification of the 2001 OLE include a House to House methodology is premised on the competent advice presented to the GECOM by its technical officers since 2004, after consultation with stakeholders and an examination by them of the procedure adopted in most countries where a new system of Continuous Registration was introduced.

PNCR 40TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY MESSAGE

The People’s National Congress Reform is proud of the very significant role the leadership of our Party played in the struggle for political independence.

Our Party, forty (40) years ago, welcomed Political Independence not as an end in itself, but as a means towards the eradication of poverty, backwardness, disease and underdevelopment, which were the hallmarks of the colonial era.

In this endeavour, we are pleased to join in saluting this special and significant milestone. We have had a long history of struggle and resistance to the policies of our colonial masters. We struggled against the invaders who first came to our shores; we struggled against the institution of slavery. We struggled against the iniquities of the system of indentureship. We struggled for political independence so that we could be the masters of our own destiny.

Independence is the celebration of the hard work and struggles of the founding fathers of this Nation. As we celebrate, let this occasion remind us of the heroes from early days like Cuffy, the leader of the Great Slave Rebellion of 1763, to the modern heroes like Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow. The work of Forbes Burnham and Cheddie Jagan who mobilized the mass political movement and founded the modern political apparatus, which is still in place today, was an important juncture in the relentless struggle against oppression and the fight to gain our independence.

In accepting the instruments of Independence from the Duke of Kent, Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, then Leader of the People’s National Congress and Prime Minister, said “Today we say goodbye to the British as masters and shake hands with them as friends”.

While underscoring the new partnership approach, which must characterize the relationship with the former colonial power, Mr. Burnham emphasized the need for self reliance and hard work, on the part of the Guyanese people, as essential in the struggle for a better life. His famous phrase “All I can promise you is hard work” resonates even now, forty (40) years on.

Independence means that, as a Nation, we are responsible to fashion and craft our own economic, social and political destiny in a difficult, nay hostile, international environment. Our Party is firmly convinced that the most important asset, which we inherited as a nation and which is still our greatest asset in meeting our present challenges, is the resilience, industry and ingenuity of our people. Whether in Guyana or in the Diaspora, Guyanese have proved themselves to be exceptional people. We need, on this occasion, to recapture the faith for overcoming the difficulties of the current period.

Looking back over the years, there can be no doubt that the People’s National Congress led Government, set the Independence ship of state on a very firm and steady course.

We should not, however, be naïve; our state is under threat at this time. It would be a tragedy if our hard won independence should be lost to crime, violence and corruption. We need to re-examine our forms of governance and use our creativity and imagination in deriving modern and relevant structures.

Let us together rebuild Guyana as a place that our children and our children’s children will be proud to own and feel honoured to serve.

THE PNCR REMAINS COMMITTED TO ITS WIDELY-KNOWN POSITION IN SUPPORT OF SHARED GOVERNANCE

As the Guyanese public is aware, the PNCR has, since 2002, been advocating the position that Guyana desperately needs a new system of governance to serve as the platform for economic and social transformation. Therefore, the Party is encouraged by the public expressions of interest and support, from the growing number of persons and groups, for shared governance or a government of national unity.

It was Mr. Desmond Hoyte, in his Congress speech in 2002, who first called for “an adjusted system of governance” to move Guyana forward. In December 2002, the Party widely circulated a working paper on how such a model of government can work.

Further, the current Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin, in his speech to our 14th Biennial Congress, in August 2004, articulated our vision and reaffirmed the commitment of the Party:

“For Guyana to change- it must have a government that is visionary, persuasive and consistent. Guyana desperately needs a government that can translate vision into a realistic platform and the energy and competence to carry out that plan. It must have a government that is as broad based as possible and that is flexible enough to bring on board its platform, for the reform of governance, all ideas, all realistic proposals, all patriotic elements and all who are willing to work with us for a better Guyana.

The PNCR must make it clear to the nation that we stand ready and committed to a platform of Shared Governance and Inclusivity. We must make it clear that we are willing to share Executive Authority and to explore and negotiate imaginative forms of governance and reform of our national, regional and local governments to ensure that the goal of full inclusivity is realized. We must make it clear to the nation that we will stand ready to discuss, without precondition, the basis of our development strategy in an all inclusive arrangement in which every relevant stakeholder will participate. We are not isolated nor are we original on this matter.”

While the PNCR has repeatedly stated it would prefer to see this new model of government in place before the 2006 Elections, the inflexibility and blinkered narrow-mindedness of the Jagdeo PPP/C have made this possibility remote. We are, however, already on record as committing ourselves to forming such a government on winning the next election. In fact, at the Party’s Special Delegates Congress, held on 1 February 2004, the delegates directed the Party leadership to pursue shared governance “as a major political issue” and to put in place such “an institutional arrangement when the party is elected into government”.

A major requirement, however, for the establishment of such a system in Guyana, is an election which is in conformity with internationally accepted standards for certification as free, fair and transparent.

THE UNLAWFUL AMENDMENT OF ARTICLE 61 OF THE CONSTITUTION

The PNCR and the other former Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties have caused a legal action to be filed challenging as unconstitutional the unlawful and arbitrary action of the PPP/C Government in passing the Constitution (Amendment) Act No 24 of 2006 which purported to amend Article 61 of our Constitution to extend their life in government.

The High Court action, brought in the name of PNCR executive member Joseph Hamilton, seeks several declarations against the Chairman and Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission including:

 That the Constitution (Amendment) Act No. 24 of 2006 is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void as contravening the provisions of the constitution;

 That the amendment of Article 61 of the Constitution is ineffectual and not valid in law without a corresponding amendment of Article 69 to permit a period of one month to elapse between the holding of a general election and the first session of a new parliament; and

 That a government purporting or intending to hold office in Guyana after the 2nd day of August, 2006 is or will be unconstitutional or illegal unless it is lawfully formed in consequence of a general election held on or before the 2nd day of August, 2006.

In addition, injunctions are being sought to restrain the Chairman of GECOM and the Chief Elections Officer from conducting the next or any General Election in Guyana fixed for any date subsequent to the 2 August, 2006.

JAGDEO’S RECENT STATEMENTS OF KNOWING WHO THE MURDERERS OF MINISTER SAWH ARE MUST BE SEEN AS RECKLESS AND PART OF HIS PLAN TO UNDERMINE THE POLICE AND RACIALLY POLARIZE GUYANA

A country seeking greater unity cannot hope to do this while it is divided on the all-important questions raised by national security. The PPP/C fully recognizes this and it has informed their campaign to create ethnic disunity and tension in the run-up to elections. This reality explains why President Jagdeo has once gain attempted to enflame an already tense situation by recklessly claiming to know who Minister Sawh’s murderers are and that they are living in Buxton.

If as the President says the issue is who sent them, why have they not been arrested, questioned, charged and brought before the courts?

Jagdeo has, once again, failed to recognize his obligation to give the Police the lead in meeting their responsibility to provide security for all citizens. Increasing public confidence in the Police will also increase their effectiveness. Confidence in the Police can never be restored as long as the President uses every opportunity to upstage them, in the interest of gaining cheap political mileage from each instance of crime. More than any other time, in the past, Jagdeo’s continuing interference in police affairs and his manipulation of events act as major factors for de-motivating the Guyana Police Force.

The Police have a thankless task during these troubled times and, though mistakes will be made, Government must always remember the difficult circumstances in which they try to protect the community. Police salaries are lamentably low and spurious comparisons with historical income levels serve only to reinforce government’s uncaring approach to policing in Guyana. However much Jagdeo believes he has invested in equipping the police and upgrading their firepower, it is woefully inadequate, given the present level of threat from criminals more heavily armed, determined and organized than ever before in Guyana’s criminal history.

Yet, when all that is said, rebuilding police confidence and confidence in the police is a high priority issue on the agenda of a PNCR Government for the urgent allocation of the needed resources. A fully motivated and effective, uniformed GPF cannot be created by accident or chance. This requires a holistic approach and special effort and attention to the details of policing. So far, the PPP/C government has made precious little effort – ill-funded, intermittent, half-hearted seasonal campaigns that no one remembers, no one has evaluated and which have manifestly produced no results.

Jagdeo has systematically set the joint services up for failure. Since the PPP/C acceded to Government in 1992, they have pursued a policy of deliberately starving certain agencies, including the security forces, of resources. After they succeed in crippling the agencies, by the glaring inadequacy of resources, the PPP/C then declares that there is a crisis which they use as the opportunity to remove the incumbent leadership and install Freedom House lackeys. The GPF and the GDF have been the victims of this dastardly anti-national strategy.

His public posture of growing impatience with the security forces and the unrelenting criticism are part of a nefarious plot to “restructure” the police force and army for politically partisan purposes, after elections, if the PPP/C wins. We must carefully examine what Jagdeo means by his references to “restructuring the security forces”.

A classic example of political prejudice triumphing over objective fact is the development of Jagdeo’s strategy to undermine, belittle and ridicule the police and army at all levels. The President’s ploy is to weaken resolve and generally demotivate the joint forces, hoping to render them impotent and ineffective in the face of rising and more brutal crime. In his warped and desperate mind he feels his chances at the upcoming elections are enhanced by ethnic insecurity and the polarization that it engenders.

What Jagdeo has not said is that in “restructuring” the forces, hundreds of police and soldiers will lose their jobs, or be relocated to remote regions of Guyana in the hope that they quit; others will be demoted and some charged on the most flimsy pieces of evidence and hearsay. Jagdeo’s plan to brutally “restructure” the security forces is really a “purging” exercise that will affect not only the ranks, but also top brass. Clearly, his campaign to embarrass and remove the top cop and the head of the GDF has already started.

Fortunately Jagdeo’s hope to implement his nefarious plot after the next elections is merely a pipe dream. The fact is that Jagdeo will have no opportunity to implement anything after the next elections, since he and the incompetent and corrupt PPP/C Government will be removed from office. Thereafter, the new Government, led by the PNCR, will be able to bring objectivity and professionalism to the policing efforts necessary to squash the scourge of crime.

All Guyana must unite in sending Jagdeo a clear message that we all object strenuously to being used as pawns and sacrificial lambs in his bid to win another five (5) years to complete the transformation of Guyana into a full fledged narco-state, ruled by organised crime and criminality.

ELECTION UPDATE: THE INTEGRITY AND MORALITY OF GECOM IS AT RISK

The raging political debate on the issue of House-to-House verification of the 2001 Official List of electors seems to have been shifted from the constitutional responsibility of GECOM to administer free, fair and transparent elections according to acceptable international standards. The PPP, obviously panicking at the thought of their plan for skullduggery being exposed by the verification exercise, has put their propaganda machine in top gear. They are, with the use of state funds, attempting to misrepresent the issues involved in the hope of deceiving the people of Guyana. The PNCR, however, is determined to ensure that their plan does not succeed.

The PNCR has already explained the verification issues to the people of Guyana and the matter now finally rests in the hands of the Constitutional body, GECOM. The debate has shifted to one in which the opposition parties are being depicted as being unreasonable in their demands when in fact all that is happening is that they are demanding that GECOM honours the commitment it made to them. Ultimately, the decision on this issue will determine the integrity and morality of this Constitutional body. The facts are very clear to all who wish to understand.

The insistence that the verification of the 2001 OLE include a House to House methodology is premised on the competent advice presented to the GECOM by its technical officers since 2004, after consultation with stakeholders and an examination by them of the procedure adopted in most countries where a new system of Continuous Registration was introduced.

In the revised concept paper, signed by the Chief Election Officer, Mr. Boodhoo, on 2004.10 12, the Commission was advised as follows:

“5.0 METHODOLOGY:
Consistent with what has been read on the subject and consistent with observations made in countries where continuous registration has been introduced, the implementation of continuous registration in Guyana should be premised on a verified NRR that is established by the conduct of a national house-to-house field verification exercise. The methodology being proposed for the implementation of the process will: …..
- Update the NRR through field verification at the commencement of continuous registration. ” (See page 7 of the document)

GECOM also committed itself in writing to the political parties, as late as 15 February 2006, to include a sample survey supported by House visits as part of a seven step verification process. The failure to determine the seventh step, as communicated to the stakeholders by the Chairman, Mr. Surujballi, in a letter dated 15 February 2006, to the political parties, must be a source of serious embarrassment to the Commissioners.

The later decision made by GECOM’s Chairman and the Government nominated Commissioners to abandon a House to House methodology, without the agreement of any opposition nominated member of GECOM or any consultation with the major stakeholders has, therefore, brought the credibility and objectivity of GECOM into public ridicule. Public confidence in the Commission and its utterances has suffered. It is now essential to reestablish stakeholder confidence in the process.

The merger of an unverified 2001 OLE with the results of the verified new registration, which was published as the Preliminary List of Electors, is still legally questionable.

The legal advice to GECOM from Attorney-at-Law, Ashton Chase, SC, in effect stated that the GECOM ought to be prepared to undertake verification tests if the results of the Registration indicate an unacceptable tolerance level when compared to other available information. The results of the Registration have already revealed that there ought to be field verification of at least five Electoral Districts. This analysis has already been presented to the Commission by Commissioner Parris. The Commission failed to conclude its discussion on this matter and appears to have now abandoned it entirely without due regard to the views expressed by members at recent meetings.

GECOM has already benefited from detailed proposals from its technical officers on the various options available and the estimated time frames for a House to House methodology for verification of the 2001 OLE. It is, therefore, nothing short of deception for the NCN to suggest that the GECOM requires a detailed proposal from the Opposition Nominated Commissioners. The real need is for decisions to be taken by the GECOM to advance the process.

In an effort to bring closure to this matter, the Opposition Parties had proposed to the PPP as follows:

Basic Elements:
1. The former Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties will no longer insist on house-to-house verification in all 10 Regions/ Electoral Districts, but would limit their proposal to a selected number of Regions.

2. The verification exercise would be conducted within an extended Claims and Objections period.

3. All of the Electoral Districts, including those Electoral Districts not selected for the house-to-house verification, would observe the normal Claims and Objections procedures using the List that has been published.

Selected Regions/ Electoral Districts:
4. In the selected Regions/ Electoral Districts the verification of the existence and residence of persons on the 2001 OLE is to be conducted by the method of house-to house visits. These will be identified by GECOM in time for the commencement of implementation not later than 17 May 2006.

5. In the selected Electoral Districts, the names of persons on the 2001 OLE will be separated from the rest of the List that has been published. Those persons not on the 2001 OLE would be subject to the normal Claims and Objections procedures.

Verification Procedure:
6. The procedure for the conduct of the house-to-house verification exercise would be the same as that set out in Section 7:2 of the GECOM Manual and Instructions for Registration Officers and Staff for the Claims and Objections Period.

7. During the verification exercise, GECOM will take into account information from the parties on the commonality of names with respect to the existence and residence of persons listed within Electoral Divisions.

It was this reasonable proposal that President Jagdeo had rejected from Vienna. The question which must now be asked is: Why is the PPP afraid of any checks being made on the 2001 OLE?

The PPP must explain their position on this matter and not indulge in time wasting diatribe under the guise of justification for no verification.

It is to be hoped that the Commissioners take their oath of Office seriously.



People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, 25 May, 2006