PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, May 17, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo Administration to abandon its plans for the increase in Electricity rates in the Mining Town by more than 150%;
• The PNCR had approached the Government before the National Assembly met and suggested that the three matters related to appointments to the Commissions be delayed for the next sitting of the National Assembly to permit these concerns to be addressed as it was felt such maters are best resolved outside the debating halls of the Assembly;
• The PNCR is in receipt of numerous complaints from its supporters and other members of the society about a medical condition which has afflicted numerous people and which may even have been responsible for the deaths of others;
• The PNCR is on record as saying that Local Government reform must precede the holding of Local Government elections.

GOVT MUST ABANDON PLANS FOR THE 150% INCREASE IN LINDEN ELECTRICITY RATES

The PNCR at its Press Conference on May 10th, 2007, alerted the Nation that the PPP/C Government was about to increase the electricity tariff by 150% in the Mining Town of Linden immediately after the take over of the Bauxite Company by BOSAI without adequate notice to the people of Linden. The Speaker of the National Assembly, while refusing the request by Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, M.P., for an Adjournment of the Assembly to discuss this matter as one of urgent public importance, eventually allowed this matter to be discussed under another standing order before the National Assembly adjourned on Thursday, 10th May.

In a disappointing response to Mr. Corbin’s presentation, Prime Minister Sam Hinds admitted that there was indeed such a proposal to increase electricity rates by 150% but that it had not yet been finalized and that the proposed increase was initiated by the Government and not the new owners of the Bauxite Company. In attempting to justify the proposal the Prime Minister outlined a series of confusing circumstances including the fact that the rates are lower than the national average and that the Government was providing a subsidy. What the Prime Minister did not tell the National Assembly however, was that the rate for the supply of electricity to the mining Town was part of a negotiated settlement with trade unions in the Bauxite Company several years ago. In any event the Prime Minister failed to address the issue of the burdens being placed on the people of Linden as a result of the introduction of value added tax neither did he deal with the depressed economic state in the town. More shocking, however, was the revelation that the proposal required that only some businesses would have to pay the proposed increases.

The Prime Minister failed to inform the Assembly the criteria that would be used for identifying those businesses that would be required to pay. On what basis could such a discriminatory proposal be even considered by the Government? It is evident however that once the electricity rates are increased, even if only to businesses those increased costs will be passed on to the consumer in Linden. How could Government which admits that the development of Linden is stagnated proceed to impose increased burdens on the people without first seriously addressing the fundamental problems in the town?

The Regional Democratic Council of Region #10, in a Press Statement signed by its Chairman, Mr. Mortimer Mingo, has expressed their collective disagreement with the current proposal for a 150% raise in the electricity tariff being charged to consumers in Linden by the company Linden Electricity Incorporated, owned by NICIL, on behalf of the Government of Guyana.

Their disagreement is premised on two important considerations. First, those businesses which are unable to absorb this increase would fold, adding to the already alarming unemployment situation being experienced in the Town. Second, other businesses strong enough to withstand the increase will inevitably pass on these considerably higher operational costs to the consumers in Linden thereby raising an already very high cost of living in Linden.

The Council has therefore urged that the proposal be reviewed and rejected by the Government.

The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo Administration to abandon its plans for the increase in Electricity rates in the Mining Town by more than 150%. The pursuit of such a proposal will certainly create unbearable burdens in an already depressed town where the Government has failed miserably to provide the necessary incentives for genuine economic development.

UNPRINCIPLED APPROACH TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL SERVICE COMMISSION

The unprincipled approach to the establishment of the Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service and the Ethnic Relations Commission has exposed as empty rhetoric previous claims by the PPP/C Government that it was serious about inclusive governance and would engage in serious consultations with stakeholders. The PNCR was therefore forced to abstain from participating in the vote for the Constitutional amendment with respect to re-establishing of the Ethnic Relations Commission. This position was arrived at because of the unacceptable attitude of the PPP/C Parliamentarians even after it was pointed out by Mr. Winston Murray that the PNCR was concerned that some aspects of the Bill appeared to be in breach of the constitution.

The PNCR had also raised concerns about some of the nominees recommended for appointment to the Public Service and the Judicial Service Commissions. It is the view of the PNCR that there should be serious efforts to find consensus in the process of identifying the nominees as the Commissions should enjoy the highest public confidence... Regrettably, in the case of the Public Service Commission the PPP/C has chosen to ignore its own avowed principles of representativeness, ethnic and gender balance when they rejected the nominee of the Guyana Public Service Union.

In the case of the nomination to the Judicial Service Commission, the PNCR brought to the attention of the PPP/C and later Parliament a pending action before the Court questioning the breach of the Public Utilities Act that stipulates that the Chairman shall not be engaged in any other work. The nomination of Justice Prem Persaud to the JSC while being Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission and also Chairman of the Trade Union Recognition Board therefore raised serious legal questions which the Judiciary had failed to address since 2004. To appoint someone to adjudicate in the appointment and disciplining of Judges of the High Court whose appointment is itself the subject of an action before the Court could erode public confidence in that body irrespective of the integrity of the nominee.

The PNCR had approached the Government before the National Assembly met and suggested that the three matters related to appointments to the Commissions be delayed for the next sitting of the National Assembly to permit these concerns to be addressed as it was felt such maters are best resolved outside the debating chamber of the Assembly. The Government, however, knowing that only a simple majority vote was necessary disregarded all concerns raised and proceeded to the Parliament. At that forum on Thursday, May 10th the Leader of the People's National Congress Reform, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, M.P., pointed out that the Public Utilities Commission Act specifically requires that the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission should not sit on any other Commission in accordance with Section 7(1) and (3) of the Public Utilities Commission Act. He also cited Action No. 191-M of 2004 which is before the Court since 2004 and is still to be heard.

It is therefore obvious that the PPP/C has neither regard for the Laws of Guyana nor the concerns of major stakeholders in Guyana. The People's National Congress Reform must record its deep concern that two of the most important Service Commissions which have a critical bearing on the effective functioning of branches of the Government could be constituted in the manner contemplated by the Government. The Party hopes that the PPP/C will see the wisdom of ensuring that the nominations to these two Commissions have the confidence and support of all political stakeholders.

CONSULTATIONS BETWEEN PRESIDENT AND LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION ON COMMISSIONS

In a letter dated May 15, 2007, the President has indicated to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, M.P., that he is now ready to fulfill his Constitutional obligations to consult on the appointment of members to the Public Service Commission, the Teaching Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission. He has proposed the week of 22nd May to commence these consultations. The Leader of the Opposition has also indicated his readiness to fulfill his constitutional obligations.

MEDICAL SITUATION

The PNCR is in receipt of numerous complaints from its supporters and other members of the society about a medical condition which has afflicted numerous people and which may even have been responsible for the deaths of others.

According to information received the symptoms of this condition are flu-like with high fever, pain in the eyes and about the body, the loss of appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting and tiredness. Children seem particularly vulnerable to this condition and many have had to be treated.

In the circumstances the PNCR is calling on the Government to do all that is necessary so that a possibility that this condition might be Dengue Fever is ruled out. According to information made available to the PNCR “Dengue (pronounced DENG-gay) is now reaching the peak of a roughly five-year cycle.” The Party is also reliably informed that there is an outbreak of Dengue Fever in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this regard the Party wishes to refer to the story carried by MSNBC noting a major outbreak of Dengue Fever in Paraguay, Peru, Brazil and Mexico.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM

The PNCR is on record as saying that Local Government reform must precede the holding of Local Government elections. It is therefore regrettable that this process is still stymied as a result of the obstructionist tactics of the PPP/C Administration. The Party believes that this position of the PPP/C is not tenable as Local Government without a reform of the process is simply something that the Party will not countenance.

In the meantime, the Party is in receipt of a letter dated May 15, 2007 from the officious Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, which in effect accuses the PNCR of delaying the meeting of the Task Force. The Party unreservedly rejects this allegation and wishes to state that the PPP/C is entirely responsible for the Task Force not meeting. This letter, along with that of the 7th of July, 2007, seems to suggest that the PPP/C is trying to build a case against the PNCR for any failure of the meeting of the Task Force. This ruse will not succeed.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, May 17, 2007