PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Friday, August 3, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR therefore wishes every Guyanese of all races or creed an enjoyable and happy Emancipation Day;
• The Jagdeo Administration ought to be put on notice that the ancestral land issue will not go away;
• The PNCR refused to participate in such a blatant interference in the judiciary and walked out of Parliament in protest;
• The PNCR has been able to determine that VAT is being charged on zero rated items, that the cost of living has shot up considerably since the introduction of tax, and that much hardship is being visited on the people of Guyana;
• On August 5th and 6th the GYSM, the youth arm of the PNCR, and the Party itself will be celebrating the 22nd death anniversary of its Founder Leader, Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.

PNCR SALUTES GUYANESE ON THE 169TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EMANCIPATION OF SLAVES

On the solemn occasion of the 169th anniversary of Emancipation, the People's National Congress Reform salutes all Guyanese as we join in making this event, being held during the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the slave trade, an historic one,

There is no doubt that the scourge of human traffic and enslavement of persons as unpaid labour in the plantation economy of the colonial system was a scar on the history of mankind and a blight on the consciences of the colonial perpetrators. Nevertheless, the descendants of the enslaved Africans forged a social order and a community structure which demonstrated and still continues to demonstrate the resilience of the human spirit and the aspirations to live as a free and dignified people.

Perhaps the greatest manifestation of that resistance was the village movement which emerged after emancipation as the freed African people combined themselves into cooperatives to purchase the estates of their former masters and laid the foundation for rural and agricultural development in Guyana. This spirit of overcoming adverse circumstances and disadvantageous conditions is, we believe, embedded in the spirit and consciousness of all Guyanese of all ethnic origins and remains a defining characteristic of our people.

The descendants of slaves were pioneers in many aspects of life in Guyana, in the rise and expansion of basic education, in the rise of a Creole peasantry, in the growth and expansion of trade unionism, in the growth and establishment of social and cultural norms. In particular, the PNCR wishes to stress the importance that the African ancestors played in giving emphasis to education as this discipline has been a powerful force not only for the development of the country but also for building national cohesion and racial harmony.

It is fitting therefore that, at this time, that the descendants of African slaves should be joined by the rest of Guyana as we commemorate this occasion and that we as a people recount the many contributions of the African people to Guyana's Political, Economic and Social development. The celebration of the ancestral foods, music, art, clothing and folklore which our African ancestors have pioneered are also an important aspect of generating a society confident in its diversity.

It was in this context that the PNCR wished every Guyanese of all races and creed an enjoyable and happy Emancipation Day. We did so by asking all Guyanese to remember that its history is a vital engine of its development and therefore the exploits and achievements of our African ancestors as well as our Indian, Portuguese and Chinese descendants must be remembered if we are to go forward with a confident stride into the future.

It is regrettable that on the eve of such a significant event the PPP used its majority in the Parliament to reject a motion to settle the long outstanding issue of rectification of Ancestral Lands purchased by the freed African slaves.


PPP/C REJECTS MOTION FOR NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR RECTIFICATION OF OWNERSHIP OF LANDS PURCHASED BY EMANCIPATED AFRICANS:

The PNCR has commented before on the fact that the PPP/C continues to use its majority in the National Assembly to degut critical Motions, manipulate appointments to Constitutional Commissions and other bodies and generally render the work of the National Assembly to be farcical and simply a rubber stamp for the wishes of the Government. By these tactics, the Government has effectively undermined the role of the National Assembly as the autonomous Legislative arm of the Guyana Parliament.

The PPP/C Administration, once again, used its majority, on Friday 27 July 2007, to degut the Motion, proposed by the PNCR, which, apart from recognizing the unparalleled contribution of our Africans ancestors – both enslaved and later emancipated – who laid the foundation for the development infrastructure of Guyana, called on the Government to establish a National Commission to investigate and make recommendations for the rectification of historical wrongs perpetrated against the emancipated Africans, in the villages which they purchased.

The core of the Motion was contained in the second resolve clause which read:

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this National Assembly calls upon the Government to establish a National Commission to make recommendations on actions that should be taken to rectify and regularise, as appropriate, the ownership of village lands based on an examination of the historical and legal tenure of lands in the villages which were purchased by the freed African Slaves”.

All Guyanese, who have taken the trouble to familiarize themselves with our Colonial history, would be aware of the intensified and nefarious methods which were employed by the planters and colonial Administration to pauperize the emancipated Africans and dispossess them of the lands which they purchased out of savings from the expenditure of their blood and sweat on the plantations.

The PNCR considered that this is a fitting time to rectify the acknowledged historical wrongs. Therefore, the tone and requirements of the Motion were reasonable and fair. In fact, because the PNCR felt that the Motion should be consensual, the Debate was deferred to allow for consultations, with the PPP/C Administration and the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties, so that the final text could have all Party support.

The PPP/C gave the impression that they were prepared to give the requirements of the Motion a mature and just response. However, it became evident that the PPP/C was implacably opposed to even the establishment of a National Commission, as outlined in the quotation above.

Instead, what emerged, from the spokespersons for the PPP/C Administration, was a farrago of nonsense which, when stripped bare, was intended to degut and undermine the original intent of the Motion and superimpose empty platitudes which required no action or commitment from the Government of Guyana.

It was sad to hear senior PPP/C spokespersons imputing sinister motives, such as ethnic mobilization, and claims that the Amerindian original owners of these lands would suffer an injustice. There seems to be no limit to the depths of distortion, misrepresentation and downright deception, bolstered by Fabian tactics which the PPP/C Administration was prepared to indulge, in order to avoid dispensing justice and equity to the wronged African ancestors of Guyana.

The Debate of this Motion has fully exposed the true nature of this PPP/C Administration. Only the politically blind and prejudiced members of our society will not sit up and take notice of the falsity of the Administration’s claim to be Government for all of the people of Guyana.

The Party can only register its outrage over these tactics and regret that the opportunity to correct an historical wrong has sadly been squandered by the Jagdeo Administration.

The Jagdeo Administration ought to be put on notice, however, that the ancestral land issue will not go away. Recent events around the world, especially in Africa, should provide useful lessons that land concerns cannot be swept under the carpet. They need to be addressed frontally or the society will eventually pay the price of neglect.

The PNCR will persist until the satisfactory resolution of this ancestral land issue.

GOVERNMENT PURSUES POLITICAL CONTROL OF JUDICIARY

In their continuing disregard for the Constitution and contempt for the people of Guyana, the PPP/C yesterday passed the Bill to permit the Chancellor to undermine the rule of law and give specific directions to the Chief Justice. The blind pursuit of this matter in the context of a court action seeking a constitutional interpretation and in the face of expressed concern by major stake holders, including the Guyana Bar Association, exposes the real intention of political control of the Judiciary. The ridiculous effect of the Bill passed yesterday is that, in the absence of a substantive Chancellor and the Chief justice acting in that position, the incumbent Acting Chancellor Carl Singh will give general and specific direction to the Chief Justice, Carl Singh.

The history of this matter is not unknown. The President has refused to follow the constitutional provisions for the appointment of Chancellor and Chief Justice. He deliberately refused to consult with the Leader of the Opposition on this matter because he was hell-bent on ensuring only his candidate was considered. Instead of meaningful consultation for agreement he proceeded to appoint his candidate as acting Chancellor while avoiding the consequential appointment of an acting Chief Justice, a situation that has existed for years. Instead of addressing this real issue he proceeds to tinker with the structure of the Judiciary as envisioned by the Constitution and places the Chancellor in a position to interfere in the allocation of cases by the Chief Justice in the High Court.

The PNCR refused to participate in such a blatant interference in the judiciary and walked out of Parliament in protest. It is a matter which all Guyanese ought to be concerned about as it is perhaps the final step by the Jagdeo Administration to undermine the rule of Law in Guyana. Clearly the PPP appears unconcerned about cohesion and stability in Guyana as they continually move Guyana closer to anarchy. It is clear that the PPP is inviting the people of Guyana to find other solutions to their manifold problems.

THE PAIN OF VAT

When there was evidence that the PPP/C Administration intended to introduce a Value Added Tax in Guyana, the PNCR immediately warned that the tax should be implemented in such a way that it would not cause undue hardship to the poor and more vulnerable elements of the society. Disregarding the advice of the PNCR, the PPP/C went on a propaganda offensive designed to mislead the people of Guyana into believing that the tax would be revenue neutral and in some cases lead to a reduction in prices. The Guyanese people have now woken up yet again to the reality that the PPP/C statements are not to be trusted. VAT is causing great hardship in this country.

Experts have already done an analysis to show that the PPP/C in the first quarter of 2007 earned G$7.3 billion instead of the projected G$5.1 billion, a 44 percent increase on the original figure. What is most disturbing here is that the revenue collected must mean that the average Guyanese has been paying more for commodity and goods than what they were led to believe. The PNCR has been able to determine that VAT is being charged on zero rated items, that the cost of living has shot up considerably since the introduction of tax, and that much hardship is being visited on the people of Guyana. The Party must therefore reiterate its previous position that a reassessment be made of VAT with a view to determining how its incidence could lessen the impact on the cost of living.

PNCR TO CELEBRATE 22ND DEATH ANNIVERSARY OF FOUNDER LEADER

On August 5th and 6th the GYSM, the youth arm of the PNCR, and the Party itself will be celebrating the 22nd death anniversary of its Founder Leader, Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. The Founder Leader passed away on August 6, 1985. The GYSM will be holding a video presentation of the life of the Founder Leader at the Square of the Revolution on Sunday, August 5th, while the PNCR will mount a floral tribute at the Mausoleum on Monday, August 6th. A tribute to his memory will be held at the headquarters of the National Congress of Women (NCW) in the evening at 16:30 hrs.

Mr. Burnham was one of the architects of the Independence of Guyana, which was attained on May 26, 1966. But he and his Party did not regard Independence as an end in itself but as a means of realising the economic, cultural and psychological freedom of all the peoples of Guyana. The Founder Leader also engaged in the massive task of laying down the infrastructure in the different parts of the country and inaugurating Republican status. He made Guyana a proud member of the international community and a champion of regional integration. The Party cherishes his memory and will always be guided by his indomitable spirit and varied achievements.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday, August 3, 2007