PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, 15 June, 2006 Hall of Heroes Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR wishes to assure citizens that modern and effective disaster preparedness will be one of the foremost issues on the plate of the new government after the forthcoming general elections;
• We have a sneaking suspicion that the switch to Chinese bauxite is due to the persistent and serious quality problems with the OBMI product and has less to do with the price of the Chinese product;
• The GOG wants you the public to think that Citizens is a ‘Fat Cat’ Bank that can afford to lose this money. In reality, 60% of the Bonds are held by Pension Funds. That is money contributed by you and me and invested for our old age;
• The PNCR will not accept that the legal issues surrounding the residency requirement for electors in the 2006 election can be settled on the opinion of one lawyer – particularly, one who enjoys close historic and current ties with the PPP/C;
• The PNCR a major stakeholder in the electoral process would continue to do its work and would not allow ourselves to be distracted by the PPP/C propaganda and antics;
• The PNCR had previous cause to inform GECOM of the partisan behaviour of GECOM officials at the Wakenaam office.

GOVERNMENT’S DISASTER UNPREPAREDNESS

The PNCR notes with concern that several parts of the country have recently or are still experiencing flood disaster situations as a result of the high rainfall in several parts of the country. Our hearts go out to the people of Regions 2, 5, 9, and 10 who are at present undergoing the ravages of flooding, including the destruction of crops, homes and personal belongings. Knowing the impact this will have on their livelihoods and productive capacity, we have been doing as much as we can to assist in these terrible situations.

Whilst we comment on these problems we are also forced to lament on the wider political issue of the unpreparedness of our governmental system to cope with the likelihood of flood and other natural hazards which are a function of the changing world weather patterns. We expected that the Government would have learnt the lessons so clearly taught by the disastrous 2005 floods which ruined so many lives and set back our national economy and that they would have put the necessary systems in place to enable affected citizens to cope with such events.

Many of the reports which assessed the 2005 floods made comments and recommendations which should have been taken seriously by a Government which had the interest of the people at heart. In fact, there has been little or no progress on some of the critical recommendations such as:

 The acquisition of early warning capacity to more accurately forecast flood and heavy precipitation;
 The establishment of a properly staffed and equipped national disaster management capability;
 Creating a level of public awareness in order to prepare the citizenry to cope with the unforeseen disasters consequent upon our geographical and climatic situation;
 The timeliness of the maintenance of our sea, river and drainage and irrigation systems (both rural and urban);
 Utilising the training and skills development capability put at our disposal by the relevant agencies;
 Generating a communication and emergency system for dealing with future emergencies;
 Preparing and publicising, to the relevant agencies, proper scenario planning;
 There has been no change in the policy of deliberately hampering the preparation, in opposition controlled regions and municipalities, of flood and disaster preparedness measures.

The reports of the Citizens Initiative, the work of CDERA and ECLAC seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

The PNCR wishes to assure citizens that modern and effective disaster preparedness will be one of the foremost issues on the plate of the new government after the forthcoming general elections. Citizens can rest assured that there will be a governmental system prepared for all eventualities.

GOVERNMENT AND OBMI INCOMPETENCE CAUSING PAIN FOR WORKERS AND LINDEN COMMUNITY

The PNCR fully supports the just demands of the laid off Omai Bauxite Mining Inc (OBMI) workers that they and their families should not be made to suffer because of the incompetence of the Government and OBMI. The President’s offer, that the Government will pay G$25,000 per month to each worker, cannot adequately compensate these workers and their families for the pain which the carelessness of the President, Prime Minister and their uncaring administration have inflicted on them.

All who have followed the saga of the OBMI closure, and carefully assessed the reason given by the company and their Government apologists, must wonder at the image of ineptitude which they have portrayed.

Who are they trying to fool?

Let us examine the record of OBMI:

 They have been misleading the Government (a dormant 30% partner) on the level of investment they have made in the company – the amount invested has, at different times and places, varied from US$20M toUS$50M.
 Their performance in the crucial area of medium and long term marketing intelligence and analysis, and even short term sales forecasting, is, to say the least, dismal.
 They have been providing grossly inaccurate information on developments in the refractory bauxite market. This has led the gullible Prime Minister to proudly announce, at a meeting at Linden, on 10 May, 2005, that according to reports from the Omai Bauxite Mining Inc, the Linden economy was being improved by increased demand in the world market for bauxite from OBMI, and that their customers were pushing them to increase production. They claimed that this increase in demand was because the supply from China had fallen and Brazil had exited the market. This had put the company in a good position. The speech by the Prime Minister was followed by one by the General Manager of OBMI, on 18 July 2005, at the ceremony to re-commission Kiln 14 (which was originally commissioned in 1978), stating that the market prospects were so good that they would soon be undertaking investigations to determine if a third kiln should be installed. The OBMI Marketing Manager, Claude Dufresne, in a Metals Week article of 21 September 2005, stated, inter alia, that the prices of the Guyanese and Chinese refractory bauxite were neck and neck in April, but that the gap was rapidly closing. In their 2006 Outlook, published on their website in January of 2006, OBMI projected sales for 2006 at 300,000 tonnes with sales revenue increasing from US$38M in 2005 to US$ 63M in 2006. They have shipped 60,000 tonnes to date, some of which have been put into storage.

What has brought about this dramatic change over a period of less than six months?

Where has the sudden flood of Chinese bauxite in the market come from?

What is the level of the dramatic fall in the Chinese price that has led to such a dramatic fall in OBMI sales in the first five months of 2006?

Why has OBMI run up inventories of 50,000 tonnes and are now reducing their sales forecast to 150,000 tonnes for 2006?

Let us be very candid. Customers in the refractory bauxite market do not, like shoppers in a fish market, suddenly switch their preference from Guyana RASC to Chinese Refractory Bauxite because of a reduction of price. The refractories market is driven by Research and Development, since their customers have very stringent and demanding product specifications. Therefore, the decision to switch from one bauxite, as different in characteristics as Guyana RASC is from Chinese bauxite, takes months and sometimes even years.

We have a sneaking suspicion that the switch to Chinese bauxite is more to do with the persistent and serious quality problems with the OBMI product than with the price of the Chinese product.

Is OBMI ready to admit that they have not made the necessary investments to guarantee customers consistent and reliable quality specifications?

GOVERNMENT DEFAULT ON BAUXITE BONDS

The Government of Guyana (GOG) raised monies through a Bond issue. The Bonds are tradable. That is, they can be bought and sold on the open market. Whoever holds the Bonds has a contract with the Government of Guyana. They are entitled to interest payment during the life of the Bonds and on maturity, to the return of their capital.

There are only two (2) parties to this contract – The GOG and the Bondholders.

We now have a situation where the GOG enters into an agreement with a Third Party, who is not a bondholder, i.e. not a party to the contract, and through this agreement the GOG seeks to vary the terms of the contact they have with the Bondholders.

No Third Party can insert itself, or be brought into a contractual arrangement to which it was not a party initially, unless so agreed by the existing parties to the contract. It is most preposterous to suggest that the contract should be varied.

The GOG and Third Parties cannot, by themselves, enter into an agreement, so as to vary the terms of a contract that exists between the GOG and Citizens Bank Limited (CBL).

You have on the one hand CBL, the lead party with about 40% of the Bonds, along with others, including pension funds, buying the Bonds in July 2001.

On the other hand, you have the GOG issuing a replacement Bond, transferring rights and generally dealing with the Bondholders in December 2004.

In the intervening period, January 2004, the GOG enters into an agreement with third parties, yet says nothing to the Bondholders when dealing with them in December 2004.

How can a Government, in all conscience, do that?

It smacks of intent to defraud Corporate and individual citizens of this country.

To have waited two (2) years before springing this demand on the Bondholders is, at best, irresponsible; at worse Machiavellian and ignorant of the rules and practices of the marketplace.

The GOG then places a full page advertisement in the Sunday newspapers, listing interest payments made to all Bondholders, not current Bondholders. No interest payments were made to this group of bondholders prior to 2001, simply because the Bonds were not acquired by them until July 2001.

But the message is clear.

The GOG wants you the public to think that Citizens is a ‘Fat Cat’ bank that can afford to lose this money. In reality, 60% of the Bonds are held by Pension Funds. That is money contributed by you and me and invested for our old age.

The damage done to Guyana’s creditworthiness and investment flow potential is enormous.

We call again upon the GOG to honour its obligations and pay up. And pay up now, as the national interest must take precedence over all other interests.

It is simply madness, on the eve of elections to add yet another stress factor on an already stressed electorate.

ELECTIONS UPDATE:
Legal Opinions on Issue of Residence Qualification
The PNCR is aware that GECOM has been written to requesting that the two legal opinions submitted to the commission by the Private Sector Commission be tabled for formal consideration at the next GECOM meeting. GECOM cannot continue to ignore the convincing legal arguments and statistical data that the manner in which it created the 2006 PLE is flawed, reckless and highly illegal.

The PNCR will not accept that the legal issues surrounding the residency requirement for electors in the 2006 election can be settled on the opinion of one lawyer – particularly, one who enjoys close historic and current ties with the PPP/C. In any event, Mr. Chase's submission completely ignores addressing the legal arguments raised in the two opinions solicited by the PSC and submitted to GECOM. Mr. Chase's sweeping and unsupported statements on these points provide an extremely poor basis for any decision-making.

Assisting GECOM to Produce a Credible Voters List
The PNCR finds its amusing that the PPP/C in their Press Release issued on Wednesday, 14 June, 2006 calls on Civil Society organisation to condemn the PNCR for filing thousands of objections to names listed on the 2006 PLE published by GECOM. It must be noted that all of the objections filed by the PNCR’s activists and scrutineers across the country at the several registration centres were done in their legal right under the Laws and Registrations, “The National Registration Act (Chapter 19:08) Regulations No. 4 of 2006”

This corrupt, inept, incompetent PPP/C that continuously lies in bed with a known drug dealer is certainly without shame. The PNCR a major stakeholder in the electoral process would continue to do its work and would not allow ourselves to be distracted by the PPP/C propaganda and antics. The PNCR has only one objective in this process and that is to ensure that GECOM presents to the Guyanese citizens a voters lists that is a reflection of the voting population, one that is not padded, and a list that is acceptable to all stakeholders. The PNCR strongly believes that the election process can only be deemed free, fair and transparent if a credible voters list is presented to stakeholders and citizens. It is against this back-drop that our activists continue their work in the field to protect the interest of the PNCR and to assist GECOM to produce a credible voters list.

Whilst the PPP/C continues its daily propaganda the reality on the ground validates the PNCR’s claim that the 2006 PLE contains tens of thousands of names that are ineligible to be on the 2006 voters list.

The PNCR takes this opportunity to share with the media and the nation some of our preliminary findings in some of the Registration Districts.

GECOM OFFICIAL DEMONSTRATES BIAS AND ABUSES PNCR SCRUTINEER

GECOM’s officials at the Wakenaam sub office have demonstrated partisan political interest. On Wednesday 14 June 2006, the GECOM Assistant Registration Officer (ARO) at the Wakenaam sub office abused the PNCR Scrutineer calling her stupid and ignorant. This outburst was as a direct result of the over 400 Objections submitted by PNCR field workers on the island, and seem to have been triggered by the fact that no one was turning up for the Enquiries called as part of the Objection Process.

The ARO has vowed that no name will be struck off the List, regardless of if they present themselves for the Enquiries or not. The PNCR objected to the names on the basis of the fact that they do not represent people who could be determined to exist on the island.

PNCR is concerned over this blatant declaration of party political allegiance by this GECOM official.

Claims and Objections is a legal process and, for GECOM officials to declare that they will not observe or accept the outcome of the process, is a clear indicator that the GECOM organisation is infected with persons who are intent on undermining the holding of a free, fair and transparent elections.

The PNCR had previous cause to inform GECOM of the partisan behaviour of GECOM officials at the Wakenaam office. During the verification aspect of the Registration exercise, GECOM officials were using GECOM resources for partisan political purpose. The GECOM vehicle was used to search for persons who were not found at the addresses at which they were to be verified and to transport them to these addresses so as to verify them.

The PNCR has expressed concern because there is no guarantee that such persons are actually resident at the specific address in question and this could have been a fraudulent scheme to illegally put names on the PLE.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, 15 June, 2006