PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, May 31, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR firmly believes that measures must be taken by the law enforcement authorities to some guarantee of safety to the Kaieteur News and other newspapers whose right to the freedom of expression have been and is currently under threat from criminal gangs as well as from other sources;
• The PNCR calls on the Government to immediately implement the various recommendations made in the various reports including, the Disciplined Services Commission Report and the Gajraj Inquiry;
• Now that the floods are here we are hearing about plans to purchase pumps and pumps that have been ordered thus exposing the earlier statements that the Government was prepared for the anticipated rainy season;
• The refusal to tackle our flooding situation in a holistic and programmatic way poses obvious dangers to this country and the Government must cease using piecemeal and band aid methods to cope with a very serious situation;

PNCR STRONGLY CONDEMNS ATTACK ON KAIETEUR NEWS

The People's National Congress Reform condemns in the strongest possible terms the latest attack on the staff and facilities of the Kaieteur News on Friday, May 25th last. The repeated attacks on Kaieteur News cannot be seen in isolation but must be regarded as constituting the wider assault upon the capacity of that newspaper to operate freely and to state its views with equal freedom.

The PNCR wishes to note that even though this occasion was not as deadly as that which occurred in 2006, when young members of staff of the newspaper were brutally murdered, it was sufficient to traumatise members of staff of the newspaper and send a chill of apprehension through the entire community of newspapers and newspaper owners. It cannot ever be believed that if Kaieteur News is not safe, that the other newspapers and those who cherish the freedom of expression will be.

The PNCR firmly believes that measures must be taken by the law enforcement authorities to provide some guarantee of safety to the Kaieteur News and other newspapers whose right to the freedom of expression have been and is currently under threat from criminal gangs as well as from other sources. The Kaieteur incident is another reminder that the serious crime situation still exists in Guyana and that the Government has failed miserably in this area.

THE CRIME SITUATION

Before and after 2002, the PNCR has been warning that crime was taking hold in our society in such a way as to suggest that the society had reached a crisis point. The Party was ignored until the crime wave precluded any denial that we had reached a crisis of law and order. While the Minister of Home Affairs has recently sought to create the impression that there was a reduction in the incidence of crime, the PNCR believes that it is necessary, given recent developments, to insist that measures be taken to prevent another major crime upsurge in this country. The much touted Firearms Act recently passed in Parliament cannot be the solution.

It is also of particular concern to the PNCR, that alleged criminals are being shot by the Police instead of being arrested and questioned. The consequences of which were already experienced by Guyanese in the past. The daily newspaper reports of rising crime confirm that the Government has continued to blunder in this most important area of citizens’ security. All of the foregoing suggests that Guyana seems to be returning to a period of lawlessness. The PNCR therefore calls on the Government to immediately implement the recommendations made in the various reports including, the Disciplined Services Commission Report and the Gajraj Inquiry. Among the recommendations made is the need to improve the conditions of service of our Policemen. Will the Honourable Minister of Home Affairs inform the Nation when this will be done?

JAGDEO’S FAILED PROMISES CAUSED FLOODING

Even though the people of Guyana have grown accustomed to the unkept promises of President Bharrat Jagdeo, the Party, nevertheless, expected that he would have kept his commitment to have a pump ready in Kitty to combat the floods in Georgetown. He made this promise when he addressed the City Council in October 2006. The pump was specifically requested to deal with the rainy season in December of the same year. This promise has not been kept although estimates for the pump have been submitted to the Drainage and Irrigation Board by the technicians through a consultant of the D & I.

Similar promises have been made by President Jagdeo to have the pump at Liliendaal rehabilitated but to date nothing has come of such promises. The Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, indicated that the Government has put aside some $667M for works in respect of the flooding situation but an examination of the breakdown of those figures has revealed that there is no provision for the City of Georgetown. Now that the floods are here we are hearing about plans to purchase pumps and pumps that have been ordered thus exposing the earlier statements that the Government was prepared for the anticipated rainy season.

THE CONTINUED FLOODING EXPOSES UNPREPAREDNESS OF GOVT

When the PNCR at its last Press Conference [May 24, 2007] made public the extent of flooding after only two days of rainfall and warned of the possibility of serious flooding in various parts of the country and its implications, the Government attempted to deny that these were a possibility. Not surprisingly, the reality was exposed by the photographs which appeared in the newspapers and the video footage on the television newscasts, in the following days, forcing the Government to eat its words. The PNCR had also called for the Government to come clean of providing the answers and a frank assessment to some specific questions. Instead of providing a frank assessment the Minister of Agriculture, later joined by President Jagdeo, sought to mislead the people about their state of preparedness to deal with the rainy season. However, within hours, no less an institution than the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) confirmed that the PNCR statement was accurate and admitted that serious flooding was taking place in various parts of the country including Canals No. 1 and 2 on the West Bank of Demerara and at Alness in Region 6. The statement by the NDI reported in the daily Chronicle of May 26, 2007 [page 7] also reveals how unprepared the country was for the heavy rainfall and extensive flooding. President Jagdeo also confessed, after a visit to the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC), that the situation is “starting to worry us significantly”. Intense rainfall has also occurred in the hinterland and riverrain communities. What we have on our hands is wide spread flooding in several areas, including, Mahaica and Mahaicony creeks, Kara Kara, Linden and Crabwood Creek

The Regional Executive Officer had, over two months ago, assured the RDC that the mouth of the Kara Kara Creek would have been dredged. To date no dredging has been done and the dredge assigned to Region Ten is still in the Essequibo River at Bartica where it was loaned some three years ago. When advised of the serious flooding in Block 22 area and Kara Kara, the Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, advised the Region that some C. D. C.'s had been contracted by the NDIA to undertake works in several areas. However no CDC has the capacity to undertake the necessary works to relieve the flooding being experienced. Clearly, contrary to assurances, nothing was done at Linden in anticipation of the forecasted heavy rainfall. At this time the homes on the northern bank of the Kara Kara creek are still inundated with water and some homes in Old Kara Kara are still under water. Flooding in Linden will only add to the many severe problems that the people of this region have suffered. The PNCR is calling on the Government to compensate residents who suffered losses, to aid in their rehabilitation.

EDWC AT A DANGEROUS LEVEL

The current level of the Lama conservancy is reported to be 58 GD. This was disclosed to the media on Tuesday 29th May 2007 by President Jagdeo himself.

Page 10 of the ECLAC report tells us that the conservancy cannot hold significant water safely over 57 GD, since at that level too much pressure could be placed on the fragile dam which could in turn lead to failure. The level, therefore, is now one foot higher than the safe level identified by the ECLAC report.

The effective relief capacity of the Lama even after the 2005 Disaster is still only about one inch a day or 0.075 Ft. a day. Consequently, after the recent two-day rain on the 21st and 22nd May 2007, the rising Lama level as a result of water now trickling forward into the conservancy from the high areas at Timehri and St Cuthbert’s Mission cannot be relieved in time to make storage level available for the continuing rain. This is inexcusable and unacceptable since, in the two years that has intervened since 2005, nothing has been done about the dam, the capacity to relieve the Lama Conservancy into the Demerara River along the East Bank or to establish the old relieves along the East Coast at Ogle, Strathspey, Lusignan or Annandale.

The PNCR notes that while the Government has chosen to build a number of prestige projects at a very high cost, it could not find the money to build an effective relief for the Lama Conservancy water! Now the probability is that the East Coast of Demerara could probably suffer another disaster during this rainy season.

Meteorologists have projected that there is a high probability that more than three (3) inches of rain will fall for at least two to three days that starting from Saturday 2nd June. The probability of this happening is around 60%. If this rainfall does come the water in the Lama will rise above 58 GD and that will flood the East Coast again.

While the PNCR hopes that these projections do not materialize, the party is duty bound to alert the Nation again that there is no effective means to relieve the water in the Lama Conservancy even after the disaster of 2005. The PPP/C has done nothing about this desperate situation, and the residents of Georgetown and the East Coast in Region 4 could experience the consequences of this incompetence. We urge citizens to be prepared for this eventuality.

It is a source of concern to the PNCR that after the floods of 2005 and 2006, the Government seems still unprepared to deal with the problems thrown up by the flooding in different parts of the country. It appears that there is still no comprehensive plan on hand to deal with the situation and previous lessons have not been learnt. Government does not seem to understand that only a national and multi-dimensional approach to this problem will bring the right results. This must also include taking into account the recommendations made by the World Bank after the 2005 floods and those of the Dutch Engineers. The refusal to tackle our flooding situation in a holistic and programmatic way poses obvious dangers to this country and the Government must cease using piecemeal and band aid methods to cope with a very serious situation. The Dutch Engineers report has made it clear what are the likely consequences if Guyana does not get its act together and formulate the necessary programs to cope with future flooding and the weaknesses of the EDWC.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, May 31, 2007