PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, August 23, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The manoeuvring behind the appointment of a Chief of Staff is an integral part of the PPP agenda to control and politicize vital institutions such as the Judiciary and the Police Force;
• The PPP/C Administration must deal resolutely and condignly with all of those businessmen who are now profiteering by exploiting the existence of the VAT as an excuse for unjustifiably increasing prices, even on items which are zero-rated;
• Basic medicines are in short supply and patients are forced to purchase them for high prices outside of the public hospital system;
• The PNCR calls upon the Government to establish, as a matter of national priority, a dedicated nationally available well trained, integrated, coordinated and adequately resourced Accident and Emergency Service;
• The PNCR has been monitoring the impact of Hurricane Dean, the terrible raging storm, on the Caribbean Islands of Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic;
• The Party would also caution Mr. Ramotar about pronouncing on the internal situation of the PNCR when by all accounts his own house is not in good order;
• The PNCR is not unaware that to blame the Police Force for the current crime situation is a thinly disguised attempt to mount an attack upon the leadership of that organisation;
• The Guyana Youth and Student Movement (GYSM) held its 14th Biennial and Delegates Congress on the 18th and 19th August, 2007;
• The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, MP, met with President Bharat Jagdeo yesterday for meaningful consultations on the appointment of a Chairman for the Police Service Commission.

SUPER SESSION IN THE GUYANA DEFENCE FORCE (GDF)

It would appear that matters in the Guyana Defence Force have returned to normal with the appointment of Commodore Gary Best as Chief of Staff. Appearance, however, is not the reality. The issue is not about the competence and professionalism of the officers promoted. Of this there is no doubt, but the super session of four (4) senior officers can hardly be said to make for stability and better relations between the civil establishment and the military. The long-term consequences of this situation cannot be measured. The PNCR believes that an orderly and less disruptive succession would have been in the best interest of the Army and the country

The manoeuvring behind the appointment of a Chief of Staff is an integral part of the PPP agenda to control and politicize vital institutions such as the Judiciary and the Police Force. It is well known that the PPP has always been suspicious of the Army.

Prior to 1992, the PPP/C consistently attacked the GDF and sought to undermine its morale. After the PPP/C took over the seat of Government, it continued to harbour suspicions of the Army. Indeed, in 1998, the PPP/C accused the Army of trying to over throw it. Only a robust statement, from the then Chief of Staff, brought this unseemly situation to an end. Yet, the suspicions and fears lingered, especially as violence gripped the East Coast and forty–seven (47) AK-47 rifles disappeared. The Army was then accused of colluding with elements in Buxton to over throw the PPP/C administration. Several Offices came unfairly under suspicion and, consequently, their professional careers have been ruined. Certainly, this is not the way to run an army as it sends a dangerous message to our men and women in uniform.

The PPP/C Government must learn to be mature and honest enough to relate to the military in a professional and respectful manner. This is the only way to guarantee an acceptable relationship between the civilian and the military spheres of the state.

The Party wishes to tender its sincere congratulations to Commodore, Gary Best, on his elevation to Chief of Staff, as well as to Colonels Pompey and Lovell as they undertake the difficult task of shepherding the Army through one of the most challenging periods of its history. We wish them every success even as we warn them against allowing the professional character of the GDF to be compromised.

The leadership of the Army can be assured of the PNCR’s support.

THE CRIPPLING EFFECT OF THE UNCONSCIONABLE 16% VAT

The PNCR will continue its campaign against the continued imposition of the unconscionable 16% VAT rate and the seeming unconcern of the Government over the many calls to review this and to adopt urgent measures which will relieve the crippling social and economic burden which this tax has visited on the daily lives of the Guyanese People.

Why are the Government and the Guyana Revenue Authority so slow to take immediate action to mitigate the ruinous effect of this tax on the daily lives of our citizens?

In this regard, the Party wishes to support the most recent call made by the CCWU for a lower rate for VAT.

The PPP/C Administration must deal resolutely and condignly with all of those businessmen who are now profiteering by exploiting the existence of the VAT as an excuse for unjustifiably increasing prices, even on items which are zero-rated.

The PNCR proposes that there be an urgent meeting of stake holders and identified experts to undertake a re-assessment of the impact of this tax to determine whether the rate should not be reduced and adjustments made to the manner of its administration, including the glaringly deficient public education programme, by the GRA.

The Guyanese people need to know the amount of money being raked in by this tax so that they can judge for themselves how neutral the tax has been.

THE INADEQUATE STATE OF AVAILABLE HEALTH SERVICES

Despite the constant propaganda emanating from the Ministry of Health, the PNCR knows that all is not well in the Medical sector.

The medical services, at the tax-payer funded Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), are often substandard and subject to callousness, favouritism and incompetence. As a result, despite the Budgeted expenditure of public revenue which is being poured into the Health Sector, the poor and needy people, who should be the primary beneficiaries of adequate and reliable public medical care, have to wait for long hours for basic medical attention.

Basic medicines are in short supply and patients are forced to purchase them for high prices outside of the public hospital system.

There is no easy recourse for the people, since the cost of medical services from private hospitals and treatment by private physicians is way beyond the financial capacity of the average Guyanese. Most private doctors charge a consultation fee which has now become prohibitive.

The deficient accident and emergency medical services
The Accident and Emergency Medical services are deficient or often dysfunctional. It is a shame, in this modern age, for an ambulance to turn up at the scene of an accident or other emergency without at least a Medex or well trained Medical Auxiliary on board who have been trained in emergency procedures and fully backed up by a dedicated central Accident and Emergency Unit. The result is the avoidable and unnecessary loss of life, such as evidenced by the recent death of Mr. Albert Watson. Had there been an effective and efficient Accident and Emergency service the life of a valued citizen might have been saved.

There can be no acceptable excuse for the 911/912/913 Emergency numbers being often inaccessible or, when accessed, not being manned by personnel who are trained in emergency procedures.

The technology is available in Guyana for the real-time linkage and co-ordination of the Emergency Police, Fire and Ambulance Services.

The PNCR calls upon the Government to establish, as a matter of national priority, a dedicated nationally available well trained, integrated, coordinated and adequately resourced Accident and Emergency Service.

SYMPATHY FOR STATES AFFECTED BY HURRICANE DEAN

The People's National Congress Reform has been monitoring the impact of Hurricane Dean, the terrible raging storm, on the Caribbean Islands of Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Party has noted the extensive damage to the infrastructure, the displacement of families and the huge economic cost associated with it. The Caricom states of Dominica, St. Lucia and Jamaica have suffered major economic reversals as its main crops have been damaged or destroyed.

The Party is, however, encouraged that the regional and international response to this situation holds out the hope that these nations can shortly begin the long and difficult process of reconstruction and healing. The PNCR takes this opportunity to urge the Caribbean Community as a whole to place even greater emphasis on the need for disaster preparedness, Catastrophe Risk Insurance and the coordination of appropriate action to cater for such disasters, as that inflicted by Hurricane Dean.

The PNCR extends its sincere regrets at the loss of life and the devastation caused by the hurricane. We hope and expect that the Government and people of all the affected territories will receive generous assistance to aid in the recovery effort and that in the not too distant future, life would return to normal.

THE PNCR WILL NOT DIVERT FROM ITS CONGRESS APPROVED PROGRAMME

The People's National Congress Reform is at best amused by the statement made by the General Secretary of the People's Progressive Party, Mr. Donald Ramotar, at his Press Conference held on August 22, 2007 that the “newly proclaimed militancy is also seen as a fig leaf to divert attention from the PNCR’s inner Party struggle as Corbin prepares to discipline some of his opponents.”

If Mr. Ramotar had taken the trouble to read Mr. Corbin’s Congress speech and the decisions and resolutions arising therefrom, he would have noted that the Party had taken the decision to resolutely pursue a number of issues, such as the continued incarceration of Mark Benschop, the impact of the VAT tax, house-to-house registration and the attempts to politically control the Judiciary through the High Court Amendment Bill. The protest action of the Party therefore is the manifestation of those decisions of the Congress which the Party intends to pursue.

The Party would also caution Mr. Ramotar about pronouncing on the internal situation of the PNCR when by all accounts his own house is not in good order.

What the PPP should be concerned about, if indeed they are interested in Guyana’s progress, is to direct the Government to:

- Immediately increase the wages and salaries of all public employees as the motion moved by Mr. Corbin in Parliament some months ago sought to do.
- Raise the income tax threshold.
- Increase the number of zero rated items and reduce the VAT tax from 16% to 8%.
- Release Mark Benschop now, unconditionally.
- Repeal the High Court Amendment Act.

PPP MUST NOT BLAME THE POLICE FORCE FOR THE CONTINUED RISE IN CRIME

The People's National Congress Reform considers the attack on the Police Force by the General Secretary of the PPP, Mr. Donald Ramotar for the continued rise in crime in Guyana to be misplaced, misleading and transparently political.

Instead of crafting a clear policy on our national security situation based on such documents as, the Disciplined Forces Commission and other related studies, the PPP has sought refuge for inaction behind a plethora of commissions and agencies, such as the National Commission on Law and Order and the even more confusing citizen security programme. As a result of a lack of a clear policy the Police Force continues to be starved of adequate funding, and the resources it needs to tackle crime, especially its organised variant. Mr. Ramotar would do well to ensure that the Police have sufficient resources to deal with crime rather than rush to judgement and blame the police force for the worsening crime situation. Perhaps, he needs to read the recent statement of the British High Commissioner when the British Government, again, sought to rescue the PPP/C Government for its ineptitude in relation to the crime situation.

The PNCR is not unaware that to blame the Police Force for the current crime situation is a thinly disguised attempt to mount an attack upon the leadership of that organisation. The PNCR wishes to remind the Guyana Police Force that the Party will continue to do all within its power to work for better salaries, better conditions of service and the provision of adequate resources so that its hard pressed and hard working members can move effectively carry out their duties and arrest the upward trend in serious and organised crime.

14TH BIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE GYSM

The Guyana Youth and Student Movement (GYSM) held its 14th Biennial and Delegates Congress on the 18th and 19th August, 2007. The Congress was attended by Delegates from most of the Regions and heard an Address by the Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin, on the Opening Day. The General Secretary, Mr. Oscar Clarke and the National Secretary, Ms. Melanie Cornette also addressed the Congress.

Ten workshops were convened to focus on crucial areas such as reorganization, plans and programmes, personal development, effective leadership, community outreach and linkages. The various workshops spent a considerable period of time examining how best to formulate a national programme for the GYSM.

Two important resolutions were passed by the Congress. One of them re-affirmed its support for Mr. Corbin as leader of the Party and pledged to continue to embrace the policies and programmes of the Party, and also affirmed that the GYSM had begun an irreversible development process. The other resolution underscored the movement’s support for the Party’s programmes and its determination to see it fully implemented during the period ahead.

Mr. Keyno Henry was elected, National Chairman, along with twenty three General Council members. Party Chairman, Mr. Winston Murray CCH, M.P. delivered the charge and installed the newly elected body. Mr. Henry in turn, thanked the Delegates for electing him and urged the membership to prepare themselves for leadership at all levels of the GYSM and the Party.

CONSTITUTIONALLY REQUIRED CONSULTATION BETWEEN THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AND THE PRESIDENT

In accordance with Article 210 of the constitution, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, MP, met with President Bharat Jagdeo yesterday for meaningful consultation on the appointment of a Chairman for the Police Service Commission. This consultation was conclusive. The Leader of the Opposition used the occasion to raise a number of issues of concern including the harsh effects of the VAT tax on Guyanese, the low level of salaries and other matters.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, August 23, 2007