PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, June 21, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• All Parliamentary Political Parties, the PNCR-1G, the PPP/C, the AFC, GAP-ROAR and the Government of Guyana pledged that they will fully support the new NRR compiled from the 2007 National House-to-House Registration exercise and will equally support its use for the extraction of the PLE for the Local Government Elections scheduled for 2008 and, as updated by Continuous Registration, for the extraction of the PLE for the General and Regional Elections scheduled for 2011;
• The PNCR has pointed out, in the past, that it is inconsistent with the autonomy of the National Assembly or, for that matter, GECOM and the Office of the Auditor General, that it is being treated as a Budget Agency under the supervision of Office of the President;
• The People's National Congress Reform has been monitoring developments in the Regions as it relates to the fulfillment of campaign promises and must express its alarm over the colossal failure of the PPP/C to take seriously their commitment to the people of these Regions.

PNCR WELCOMES AGREEMENT ON HOUSE-TO-HOUSE REGISTRATION

The People's National Congress Reform welcomes the agreement reached between the Government, GECOM and all Parliamentary parties on June 15th, 2007 for the creation of a New National Register of Registrants (NRR) of citizens from the age of fourteen years through the methodology of House-to-House registration.

The Agreement which was ironed out after prolonged discussions between the President and Leader of the Opposition as well as between the PPP/C and the PNCR, requires GECOM to complete this Registration prior to the holding of the forthcoming Local Government Elections.

The procedure of Continuous Registration will, thereafter, be used, by GECOM, to update the NRR, on an ongoing basis, to ensure that a Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) could be readily extracted and from which a Revised and Final Voters List could be prepared for the holding of the scheduled 2008 Local Government and subsequent 2011 National and Regional Elections.

The Government of Guyana committed itself to provide the necessary funds and required resources to GECOM, on a timely basis, to ensure that the House to House Registration, and related elections activities, proceeds smoothly and expeditiously.

All Parliamentary Political Parties, the PNCR-1G, the PPP/C, the AFC, GAP-ROAR and the Government of Guyana pledged that they will fully support the new NRR compiled from the 2007 National House-to-House Registration exercise and will equally support its use for the extraction of the PLE for the Local Government Elections scheduled for 2008 and, as updated by Continuous Registration, for the extraction of the PLE for the General and Regional Elections scheduled for 2011.

It is known that the compilation of a New National Register by House to House Registration has been an issue of grave concern to the PNCR for some time because the absence of a satisfactory Voters List has been a major source of national discontent and lack of confidence in the Electoral process. In the struggle for a complete House to House Registration the PNCR had encountered many obstacles, including the unreliability of assurances given independently by GECOM and the Government. This agreement which involves all relevant Parties is, therefore, a landmark in the struggle for a clean and transparent list. All parties are required to act expeditiously to ensure implementation.

The Party however wishes to point out that the decision on the new Registration is only one aspect of the preparation for the holding of Local Government elections. It has also been agreed that the Local Government Reforms recommended by the task force would be implemented prior to the said elections. The Local Government Reform process must be done in tandem, with House-to-House registration so that the lack of progress in one area cannot be an obstacle to the holding of the elections next year.

The Party believes that this was one of many items on the national agenda which required settlement. There are many others, the resolution of which will contribute greatly to stability at a time of rising tensions and growing alienation. Consequently, the PNCR hopes that the spirit and consideration that went into the agreement on Local Government elections will inspire stake holders to reach agreement on those outstanding issues including and in particular that of shared governance.

GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO UNDERMINE AUTONOMY OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

The Government continues its policy of undermining the autonomy of Constitutional bodies by executive bullying and terrorising of personnel, apart from the usual practice of using administrative devices, particularly the manipulation of the release of financial resources, to achieve its nefarious objectives.

The PNCR has pointed out, in the past, that it is inconsistent with the autonomy of the National Assembly or, for that matter, GECOM and the Office of the Auditor General, that it is being treated as a Budget Agency under the supervision of Office of the President.

If Democracy is a have any credible meaning in Guyana, apart from the Government propaganda that is regularly spouted by the state-monopolised NCN radio, the state-controlled NCN TV and the Chronicle newspaper, the Constitutional autonomy of the National Assembly must be instituted and protected. The People of Guyana deserve no less.

Two recent examples of the blatant Executive attempt to bully the National Assembly, by usurping the functions of the Parliamentary Management Committee, are first, the attempt by the Cabinet to determine the composition of Parliamentary delegations and second, the refusal to provide funds leading to the cancellation of Parliamentary visits intended to improve the competence of Members of Parliament.

In a letter from the Prime Minister/ Leader of Government Business, dated 31 May 2007, referring to the Delegation of CPA Guyana Branch to Westminster dated July 16 to 20 2007, the Prime Minister stated as follows:

“I write to advise you that Cabinet has considered the presentation on the above proposed visit. Cabinet maintains its concern that on such proposed visits it is important to maintain the principle of a majority of Government members on any delegation. To satisfy this principle there needs to be consideration of a delegation composed of five Government MPs and four Opposition MPs or four Government MPs and three opposition MPs”

In the second case the Clerk of the National Assembly was forced to inform Parliamentarians by letter dated, June 11, 2007 that their proposed visit to Westminster by CPA Guyana Branch was canceled because, “the cabinet has refused to pay the costs of travel for the delegation”

UNFULFILLED PROMISES AND CONTINUED NEGLECT IN THE REGIONS

The PPP/C Administration continues to render lip service to hinterland and regional development after the farcical show of interest during the 2006 Elections Campaign. Before and during that Campaign the various Administrative Regions were the subject of several PPP/C campaign visits labeled, “Cabinet Outreach” to facilitate the use of state resources by the PPP/C for their campaign. During these visits several promises for the development of the various regions were made. Announcements were made of the allocation of resources to fix almost every problem raised by the residents of those regions. Now nine months after those elections many of those promises remained unfulfilled and neglect is evident in almost every Region of the country. The People's National Congress Reform has been monitoring developments in these Regions as it relates to the fulfillment of these campaign promises and must express its alarm over the colossal failure of the PPP/C to take seriously their commitment to the people of these Regions.

REGION 1 COMMUNITY UNDER PRESSURE

In Region 1, Barima/Waini, a traditional and primarily agricultural region, the agricultural sector is without the necessary support. This is exemplified by the fact that the Agricultural Extension Center has been reduced to the state where it can no longer fulfill its purpose of providing adequate assistance to the farmers of the North West, either in the provision of planting material, improved varieties or professional advice. The deplorable state of the buildings at the Kumaka Extension Centre and the absence of facilities in the Office are representative of the quality of the service offered to farmers. In addition, the lack of vehicles and boats are a constraint to the Agricultural Extension Officers visiting the various farming communities to offer the necessary guidance and advice.

These developments are particularly worrisome when it is considered that Region 1 was once a thriving agricultural Region that supplied tons of agricultural products to other parts of the country on a weekly basis via the North West steamer service. The decline in the agricultural sector has caused and is causing great hardship to the residents of the region. Farmers depend on their crops for their livelihood and therefore when they are without support or assistance by the designated state agency it directly impacts on their livelihood and contributes to the rising poverty in Guyana.

The Party urges the PPP/C Administration not only to take measures to mitigate this situation but to address also the critical issue of potable water supply in the region. For example, the residents of Mabaruma have complained that there is only a one hour supply of water every other day in that township, a situation which is a source of great concern and inconvenience to residents.

The Transport and Harbours’ Wharf at Kingston, Georgetown, from which the Ferry Service to North West District commences, cries out for attention and repair. Only vehicles traveling on the boat are allowed to enter the compound. Consequently, residents of the North West and other commuters have to struggle with heavy luggage and other cargo that vehicles are now forced to deposit with their passengers on the road.

The Party demands that the PPP/C investigates and remedies these matters in Region One.

DISCRIMINATION AND NEGLECT IN REGION 2

During the weekend, June 2nd and 3rd the PNCR Leader visited Dartmouth, Henrietta, Devonshire Castle, Anna Regina and Lake Mainstay in Region 2. He was accompanied by Members of Parliament, Ms. Amna Ally, Ms. Volda Lawrence, and Mr. Keith Scott. For the purposes of this Press Conference, the Party will focus on the problems identified by residents at Dartmouth and Lake Mainstay. The residents of Dartmouth complained of discrimination in employment, lack of recreational facilities for young people, poor drainage and the lack of educational opportunities. They emphasised that discrimination was particularly pronounced in the lack of employment at the sea defence works being carried out in their village while workers from other villages were being transported on a daily basis from other villages to carryout the present drainage works being undertaken.

At Lake Mainstay the PNCR delegation was informed by residents that the Regional authorities were preventing trained teachers from attending the University to upgrade their skills and knowledge. The road from Anna Regina to Lake Mainstay, the tourist attraction that the Government constantly boasts about, is in a deplorable condition. The residents confirmed that the PPP/C Administration had promised to repair a mile of road each year but this had never happened. This situation is compounded by the dumping of rubbish by the Anna Regina Town Council on the road and despite representation and protests from the residents of red Lock and Mainstay the Town Council has not ceased this practice. The end result is that this area which should be a show piece in our quest to promote tourism is a total disgrace and embarrassment to all Guyana.

PROBLEMS IN REGION 7

Health
The lack of medical personnel at the Bartica Hospital is a source of inconvenience and concern to the residents of Region 7, Bartica / Potaro. The hospital has only two doctors who also have to service Region 3, Region 10 and the riverain areas and one of these doctors has to go to Kamarang for two weeks in every month. In addition, there is no Pediatrician, Gynecologist or Surgeon to offer specialized care.

Drainage
The incompetence of the contractor assigned to the Works and Drainage project in Region 7 is posing a threat to the lives of the citizens of that community. The PNCR has been informed that work which began on the drainage system in March of 2006 is less than 50% complete. Nine of the twelve sub-contractors have left because they have not been paid. In addition, the drains are being badly built. Originally the sizes of the earthen drains were 4 ft. by 4 ft. but they are now being replaced by drains measuring 20 inches by 20 inches. The crowning problem is that some of the finished drains has already collapsed and the community has suffered unprecedented flooding. No preparatory work has been done for drains beyond 6th Street.

Roads
Work on the roads in Bartica which began in 2006 is still to be completed and the completion date has long expired. Only two of the roads have been asphalted and the concrete bridges which were removed during the building process are not being replaced. The Party has also noted with some concern that the road from Bartica to 72 Mile is in a deplorable state and vehicles are now making their way through one particular private property. This situation has put the owner of that property, who has expressed his disgust and dissatisfaction with this development, in a very difficult position.

Of particular concern to the residents of the region is a report that the contract for the drainage and roads came to an end in March and no one seems to know whether it will be extended or whether the penalty clause in the contract will come into force as a result of the inability of the contractor to complete the works. The concern of the residents has to do with the fact that work has stopped at 6th Street and the contractor was required to repair all of the roads from 1st to 9th Streets

Schools
The Three Mile School is 10 to 12 months behind schedule. The PNCR understands that the topography of the land on which the school is being built was not carefully assessed and it is only now being realised that the land is not suitable for the building of the school. The Three Mile School which was supposed to be opened in September 2006 is now likely to open its doors in September of this year. This delay in the completion of the new school has meant that places had to be found for some 300 pupils. The Party’s concern is that this situation is causing serious problems for the community as the Bartica Secondary School is seriously over crowded and short of staff. It is no secret that qualified teachers are leaving the profession in Bartica and the Ministry of Education has only been able to attract school leavers to fill existing vacancies.

The PNCR has learnt that representatives of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) recently visited the area and expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of the work being undertaken by the contractor on the drainage and the roads and recommended that there be a revision in his programme of work for the community. It must be a source of national embarrassment when these representatives questioned whether the work which the contractor had done was beneficial to the residents of Bartica.

The Government cannot claim to be unaware of these problems as the Minister of Works, Mr. Robeson Benn, visited the Bartica area on the weekend of June 3rd to make an assessment of all of the foregoing problems. He is therefore morally bound to inform the nation of the impact of this situation on the community and say what the plans he has put in place to remedy these difficulties and problems.

Sea Defences
At a time when the sea defences in different parts of the country should be monitored and where necessary fortified, the river defences in the Bartica area are beginning to deteriorate. The Party urges the PPP/C Administration to increase the allocation of resources to this region thereby making it possible to speed up the general development of the various communities which cry out for such development.

Security
Security continues to be a major problem moreover due to staff shortages. The workers in the United Associates Security and Domestic Services are complaining of having to work sometimes for over 36 hours and are still awaiting their overtime pay since 2006. This problem is also being experienced by the Special Constable that comes under the Guyana Police Force.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, June 21, 2007