PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, 20 July, 2006 Hall of Heroes Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY
• The PNCR calls on the Chief Justice to ensure that the critical election matters before the High Court are fast tracked so that they could be settled in time for any proposed election date;
• The PNCR is very concerned that GECOM has decreased the amount of polling places from the historical average amount of 1,853;
• The Chairman has demonstrated utter contempt for the Opposition Parties which brings his credibility into question;
• The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Robert Corbin, has today despatched a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, drawing his attention, like that of the CARICOM Heads of Government, to the reality that the calculated acts, of GECOM and the Jagdeo Government, are intended to facilitate the rigging of the Elections and thus thwarting the democratic process;
• The United Guyana Organisation (UGO) and the National Democratic Council (Toronto Chapter) took advantage of the presence of President Jagdeo and Mrs. Jagan in Toronto to mount a peaceful picketing exercise outside of the Rembrandt Dining Centre on Sunday, July 16, 2006 to protest a number of developments in Guyan;.
• The PNCR is concerned of the likely consequences for the global economy if the current crisis in the Middle East persists.

ELECTIONS UPDATE:

PNCR Calls On the Chief Justice to Fast-Track Matters before the High Court That Deal With the Conduct of the Election
The PNCR calls on the Chief Justice to ensure that the critical election matters before the High Court are fast tracked so that they could be settled in time for any proposed election date. We refer specifically to the writ brought by Joseph Hamilton on 18 May, 2006 through his lawyers Messrs Rex McKay SC, Keith Messiah SC, Miles Fitzpatrick SC, and Basil Williams, and a summons brought on 7 July, 2006 by Vincent Alexander through his lawyers Messrs Rex McKay SC, Keith Messiah SC, and Basil Williams. Mr. Hamilton’s writ concerns the serious question of whether the Constitution (Amendment) Act No. 24 of 2006, through which the PPP/C Government sought to extend from three to four months the period between the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of national elections, should be deemed unconstitutional, null and void. Should the courts decide in favour of Mr. Hamilton, then it would mean the life of the government must come to an end on 2nd August, 2006, i.e., in the next twelve days. It means after this date the PPP/C Government would be illegitimate. The urgency for the court to rule on this writ, therefore, cannot be overstated.

The summons brought by Mr. Alexander seeks the court’s intervention in the equally important matter of whether persons on the 2001 Official List of Electors (OLE) must be resident in an electoral district by the qualifying date to be eligible for inclusion on the 2006 Central Register. As the PNCR and other parties have long pointed out, names of persons from 2001 OLE cannot be automatically added to the 2006 PLE without verifying whether these persons are resident in an electoral district by the set qualifying date.

The PNCR maintains that the court must move without delay on these critical matters. We believe it would be a colossal failure of the judicial system to treat these matters casually. In this regard, delays and foot-dragging in the High Court would only serve to raise public suspicion and outrage. The Chief Justice must act impartially and professionally and must discharge his constitutional responsibility in the national interest.

Dr. Surujbally Shows Contempt to Opposition Parties
On June 29, 2006, the One Guyana Platform comprising the National Front Alliance (NFA), Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) wrote the Chairman of GECOM and requested a meeting to discuss urgent developments associated with the outcome of the Claims and Objections process, the publication of the Revised List of Electors (RLE) and the application of the result of the Elections Office of Jamaica (EOJ) project in the process of cleansing the voters list.

Since there was no response to the request, the General Secretary of the PNCR telephoned the Chairman’s office on Friday, June 30th and was informed by his secretary that the Chairman indicated that he had to consult with Commissioners since there was no meeting fixed for that day. He would, however, let the General Secretary know when the meeting would be possible.

His further lack of response, however, prompted the Leader of the Opposition to dispatch a letter to him dated July 14th repeating the request for the meeting. It is interesting that in the Chairman’s response to Mr. Corbin’s letter dated July 17th, he observed that it was not possible for him to forward an official response since he had no knowledge of the email address location, telephone or fax numbers of the sender.

The requested meeting has now been proposed for Tuesday, July 25th, almost one month after the date of the original request for an urgent meeting. By so doing, the Chairman has demonstrated utter contempt for the Opposition Parties, which brings his credibility into question.

Polling Places Identified
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has submitted two draft documents of proposed polling places to be utilised for the 2006 General and Regional Elections. The first draft contained 1,824 proposed polling places while the second draft contained 1,835 proposed polling places.

The PNCR is very concerned that GECOM has decreased the amount of polling places from the historical average amount of 1,853. It must be noted that whilst there is a decrease of polling places the likelihood is that the official list of electors for 2006 will contain over 490,000 potential electors, an increase of over 50,000 persons from the elections of 2001. The fact that there is a significant decrease of polling places, whilst there is a significant increase of electors listed suggests to the PNCR that GECOM has put in place what we consider a recipe for Election Day confusion and subsequent disenfranchisement of thousands of electors.

The other deficiency in the proposed polling places document is that many of the polling places listed are proposed to accommodate over 500 electors, in some cases over 600 and 800. Also, many of the polling places are listed without a definitive number of electors to vote at those stations. Since 1992, as a result of many reports and recommendations, GECOM had determined that they would ensure that at subsequent elections, polling places would be assigned between 250 and 350 electors.

The PNCR is bringing this to the attention of the Nation and at the same time urging GECOM to explain to the Guyanese people why they have deviated from their own rules they had established as regards voters for polling places.

Many of the Observers and Diplomats have been stating over the last several months that they have been assured by GECOM that safeguards would be put in place so as to ensure that every elector could cast only one vote and, further, to ensure that only eligible electors could vote. It must be noted that the One Guyana Platform held meetings with the Diplomatic and Donor Community and local and international accredited Observers on Friday, 14 July, 2006 and Saturday, 15 July, 2006, respectively. At both of these meetings the question was posed by One Guyana Platform to the Diplomatic and Donor Community and the Observers as to what are the safeguards and standards they had commented on. None of the groups was able to proffer any process or procedure. Therefore, the One Guyana Platform is of the view that what was stated by the Donor and Diplomatic Community and Observers can be considered a figment of their imagination.

The PNCR continues to advocate the need for house-to-house verification as promised by GECOM to stakeholders. Whilst we are convinced that house-to-house verification is a necessary prerequisite for the holding of a free, fair and transparent election we would like to state that house-to-house verification is not an end in itself, but rather a means of ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. We, of the PNCR, are clear that even with house-to-house verification, polling day standards and safeguards are also necessary prerequisites. We, therefore, publicly call on the persons who have been advocating polling day safeguards, as a remedy or substitute for house-to-house verification, to outline in a most definitive way the safeguards which they have proposed. They must also ensure that GECOM gives the necessary commitments and puts them into effect so that they will contribute to a level playing field and election results that are acceptable to all stakeholders and citizens.

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION LETTER TO UN SECRETARY GENERAL

It should be evident to all but the politically blind and blinkered that GECOM, through its compliant Chairman, in unison with the Jagdeo Regime, is on the dangerous path to hold the Elections, in violation of the electoral laws, the Constitution and the laid down electoral procedures which should be followed.
The Courts, which should, in any functioning democracy, ensure that matters affecting the legality and constitutionality of elections be dealt with speedily and expeditiously, before the holding of the elections, instead, seem to be moving at a snail’s pace.
In all the circumstances, and given the gravity of these matters, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Robert Corbin, has today despatched a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, drawing his attention, like that of the CARICOM Heads of Government, to the reality that the calculated acts, of GECOM and the Jagdeo Government, are intended to facilitate the rigging of the Elections and thus thwarting the democratic process.
Any election held under the present arrangements will not satisfy the internationally accepted standards for free, fair and transparent elections.
GUYANESE IN CANADA PICKET PRESIDENT JAGDEO

The United Guyana Organisation (UGO) and the National Democratic Council (Toronto Chapter) took advantage of the presence of President Jagdeo and Mrs. Jagan in Toronto to mount a peaceful picketing exercise outside of the Rembrandt Dining Centre on Sunday, July 16, 2006 to protest a number of developments in Guyana. The pickets variously read “House-To-House Verification = a Clean List”, “Guyana Needs Leaders Not Dealers”, Narco State Reason For Sash Sawh’s Death”, “Drugs Are Killing Our Youths”, “PPP In Bed With Drug Dealers” and “Time For An Investigation Into The Phantom.”

The picketing exercise clearly upset the PPP’s top officials and it is reported that the Consul General was visibly upset at this development. It is alleged that he said that he will ensure that those who participated in the exercise will have difficulty in obtaining passports. The UGO and the NDC have indicated that they will protest the threat made by Mr. Doobay as all Guyanese have a constitutional right to obtain a passport apart from the simple fact that Mr. Doobay is not the honorary consul for the PPP, but for all of Guyana.

The UGO and the NDC are two organisations based in Canada which seek to promote the development of Guyana and through its various activities also promote racial unity and togetherness. During the floods of 2005 and 2006 both organisations donated a substantial amount of medical supplies, food and clothing. Many of the members of both organisations are highly qualified Guyanese who have distinguished themselves in various fields.

MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

The PNCR views with alarm and concern the most recent development in the Middle East in which the Government of Israel, allegedly reacting to the abduction of its soldiers, has made an incursion into the Gaza Strip and has bombed Lebanon, a country with which it has not previously been at war. Already, the action of Israel has exacerbated tension in this volatile region and has placed in jeopardy the search for peace and the global economy.

The PNCR believes that the basis for a solution to the current crisis in the Middle East resides in the many resolutions and decisions taken by the United Nations, notably that all States in the region have a right to live within secure borders and that the Palestinians have an inalienable right to a homeland. Such a solution cannot be obtained by resorting to unilateral decisions and actions, but must be hammered out within the framework of a multilateral approach with the United Nations playing a central and guiding role. Indeed, the PNCR takes the position that the international community should undertake immediate initiatives to bring about restraint by all parties concerned, take measures to effect a ceasefire and deal forthwith with the colossal humanitarian tragedy spawned by the bombing of Lebanon.

The PNCR is also concerned about the likely consequences for the global economy if this current crisis in the Middle East persists. History has demonstrated that instability in this region invariably causes disruptions in the global economy in terms of the spiking of the price of oil and this in turn can have serious consequences for most States, especially those which are small, vulnerable and developing.

As a matter of principle, the PNCR condemns the increasing tendency on the part of militarily powerful states to close punitive state action in the garb of the fight against terrorism without due regard for the sovereign rights of peoples and international law.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, 20 July, 2006