PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. Raphael Trotman, MP People’s National Congress Reform Press Conference, Thursday 2002 June 13 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.

Some ten years since coming into office the PPP/C regime has finally seen it fit to unveil a “Menu of Measures” intended to address their failure to control the crime situation. At the outset the PNC/R wishes it to be placed on record that we are of the view that the measures are wholly inadequate and unimpressive. This is a classical case of bolting the stable door after the horse has fled. In the considered opinion of the PNC/R, the measures should have been named “Plaster of Paris” after the recent GDF exercise to repair roads on the East Coast embankment road.

What was unveiled is a set of superficial measures which are inadequate to achieve the desired result.

Nothing in these measures addresses the immediate concerns and needs of the society at large, and the Guyana Police Force in particular. The $100M allocated which no doubt, will be used to purchase vehicles, communication equipment and weaponry will, however, not compensate for the low morale; corruption and the dull image that has engulfed the GPF.

The nation is yet to hear about the operational command and control of efforts to re-capture the five escapees and to curb the cycle of crime that is now in full flow.

The announcement that there will be a new “crime crack force” is vindication that the cries and criticisms made by the PNCR and hundreds of thousands of others about the illegal actions of the “black clothes” squad have merit. We warn, however, that the planned continued utilization of the “black clothes” will contaminate the new unit. It should be recalled that the PNC/R has previously warned the nation that the black clothes squad is too politically enmeshed and important to Freedom House to be disbanded. It is not surprising, therefore, that the regime has contemptuously refused to disband their infamous “black clothes” force.

The PNCR posits that the main plank to be placed to commence the rebuilding of the Guyana Police Force is the repairing of damaged community relations. In this regard, the strengthening of the public relations department is just as important as the acquisition of materiel. All the money in the world will not override the discriminatory and improper motives of the PPP/C to grind the force into the ground whilst the so called Community Policing groups emerge to serve their political masters. The only way forward is through a comprehensive review and overhaul of the entire organisation and operations of the Guyana Police Force. Then and only then can we adequately and comprehensively prepare for the future restoration of professionally competent policing in Guyana.

The PNC/R is particularly concerned about the emergence of these policing groups without any clear legislative framework or guidelines. Over a year ago, the PNCR raised in the National Assembly the issue of the burgeoning phenomena of the community policing groups in PPP/C strongholds and the illegal arming of these groups. The nation will recall that, prior to the elections of March 2001, the PNCR disclosed that the Enmore Policing Group, for example, had been granted permission for the purchase of some 200 shotguns with matching ammunition! There was not even a hint of an explanation by the regime and the deal we are left to presume, went through. The police force was powerless and voiceless when this occurred. The PNC/R is reliably informed that the policing groups in the PPP/C strongholds have been armed to the teeth and are in fact better provisioned than the various police stations placed to serve the communities.

The PNCR sees the establishment and strengthening of these groups as the empowering of the PPP/C parallel police force to be employed for evil intentions. The names of the infamous “Beast” of Enterprise, East Coast Demerara, and Mata Persaud of Canal, West Bank Demerara epitomize the danger that we face if these groups are permitted by the authorities to grow in strength like a vicious monster. The character of these two men speak volumes as to the psychology of the PPP/C’s policing groups.

Who could forget the case of the discovery of a cache of illegal arms at the home of “Beast”, the savage beating that Persaud placed on the hapless C.N. Sharma, or the continued beatings of persons in Enmore? We call on the police force high command to jealously guard its domain and not unwittingly surrender to PPP/C thugs and enforcers, the job of protecting our citizens. The consequences are too grim to be contemplated.

Whilst the PNC/R recognizes the need for the control and eradication of the crime epidemic, we will not shirk our responsibility to speak out against obvious wrongs.

As a genuine sign of its commitment to being an impartial administration, the PNCR expects that the regime will introduce legislation to regulate the operations of these policing groups and simultaneously seek to establish similar crime fighting units in all villages along the East Coast. To reinforce this point we remind the public of the senseless strangulation of Monica Rodrigues at her home and place of business in Beterverwagting a few days ago. BV like other villages along the East Coast is just as vulnerable to crime as is Enterprise and Enmore, and
desperately in need of a community-policing group. None are exempt from the scourge of crime, regardless of race, colour, creed or political affiliation.

The Prison Break Commission Report
After three months the long awaited prison break report is finally out. The PNCR is somewhat disappointed with the findings of the Kennard Commission, and feels that in the time afforded the commission a more thorough report should have been produced. To say that the prison officers were overly “friendly” with prisoners is too simplistic a statement. Prison officers carry out a very dangerous job for which the reward is not commensurate. How can a handful of officers control a prison population almost twice its intended size?

What is needed at this juncture is a study of the etiology of crime and punishment in Guyana. This is imperative before we can go about blaming individual officers and others for societal, judicial system and governmental failures. We trust, however, that the recommendations of the Commission will not be made in vain, and suffer the same fate as the predecessor Willems Commission.

As a first measure the PNC/R is firmly of the view that the recommendations of this first report should be implemented before coming to those of the second. Suffice it to say, however, that the breakdown in the penal system is directly attributable to the deliberate neglect inflicted on the prison service and other sister agencies. The PPP/C needs to be reminded that a vital agency cannot be starved and neglected, and equally be expected to stand strong and ready to effectively discharge its statutory responsibilities to the people of Guyana.

The role of the military in Guyana is clearly defined by the Defence Act chapter 15:01 to be in defence of the security of the state of Guyana. If the PPP/C regime feels that the viability of the state is weakening then they should say so.

In recent times there has been an expanding involvement of the GDF in crime fighting with the latest and most intense instance being “Operation Tourniquet”. The PNC/R recognizes the need to activate aspects of the military from time to time but this must be in a complementary role to the Guyana Police Force. The latest involvement does raise some eyebrows and the PNC/R is concerned that, in the absence of a state of emergency being declared, the military has been activated to the point of encamping and besieging villages along the East Coast; forcing its armed attendance at village conferences; carrying out criminal investigative work in the murder of Monica Rodrigues at BV; rattling the nerves and foundations of homes with the helicopter, manning road blocks, and preparing to carry out house to house searches in some villages.

In keeping with the doctrine governing the deployment of the military in civilian matters the PNC/R expects that the current operation remains limited to a supportive role, is curtailed in time, and carried out with due regard to the Constitution and laws of Guyana. The officers and soldiers of the GDF would do well to recall past events when they were mobilized for what turned out to be narrow political purposes, including the murder of Linden London called “Blackie”. They should ensure that they are not being used and made scapegoats as before. The GDF should ensure that it maintains its reputation as a disciplined and professional defender of the state and people of Guyana!

The Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform, which was appointed by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr H. Desmond Hoyte and President Jagdeo, did not complete its work before the deadline of 2002 May 31 which was set for the completion of its work. The Committee has, therefore, requested an extension of the deadline. The PNC/R has no objection, in principle, to the life of the Committee being extended to enable the completion of its work.

The PNC/R however takes umbrage at PPP/C spokespersons, for cheap propaganda purposes, continuing to spew misinformation and down right lies about the work of the Committee. This is yet another example of the usual display of bad faith by the PPP/C.

The nation heard Roger Luncheon deliberately and falsely claiming that the PNC/R representatives had boycotted the work of the Committee thereby delaying the completion of the work of the Committee. Although the Minutes of the meetings of the Committee proved beyond any doubt that Luncheon was lying and Minister Collymore confirmed that he had misstated the facts, Luncheon never retracted his statement.

Minister Collymore has now jumped on the PPP/C propaganda bandwagon with his recent untruthful claim that the work of the Committee has been delayed because of the state of the Dialogue.

The truth is that, since the Committee received the recommendations of the expert on electoral reform, Mr. Collymore has pleaded that he was awaiting the instructions of his superiors before he could discuss the proposed electoral system reforms. This situation has continued for more than eight weeks of the life of the Committee.

Concrete proposals have been tabled by the co-chairman of the task force, PNC/R representative, Mr. Vincent Alexander. The Committee is awaiting Mr. Collymore’s response. Instead, the PPP/C has, through GINA presentations, such as Mr Collymore’s, and Press releases, been busily spreading distortions and lies to distract public attention from their own demonstrated inability to deal frontally and honestly with the fundamental issues necessary for meaningful Local Government reforms.

Today, the situation in the Bauxite Industry is no different than it was four weeks ago when the PNCR first reported that the Kwakwani Mining Operations had come to standstill, that Bermine faced imminent closure that the future of Linmine was unknown and that disaster loomed over the entire Bauxite community.

Instead of seriously addressing issues raised by the PNC/R and genuine representatives of the people of the Bauxite Communities, the Government embarked on a massive propaganda campaign intended to deceive the entire Nation. This brazen exercise took place, notwithstanding an almost four-week continuous vigil, mounted by representatives of the bauxite communities, in the Main Street Avenue outside of the residence of the Prime Minister. The persons participating in the vigil have vowed to continue this activity until this Government takes appropriate action to respond to their concerns.

It is the continuing, stubborn and unresponsive attitude of the Government to the various issues raised which has created the need for the March for Peace, Justice, Jobs and Good Governance that is to be held later today, starting from the Square of the Revolution. The PNCR will participate with all concerned Guyanese who feel the compulsion to ‘stand up and be counted’. There is no doubt that the very fabric of our nation will be totally destroyed if the contributing factors to the crisis in Guyana are not aggressively and sensibly addressed.

The Leader of the PNC/R Mr. Desmond Hoyte will be departing Guyana on Friday 2002 June 14, for his long delayed annual medical check-up.
While abroad he will be undertaking a number of private assignments.
He is expected to return to Guyana 2002-end June.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place
Sophia, Georgetown
Thursday, 13 June 2002