PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, 13 September 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR salutes Sir John Compton who, at various times, has been a friend, colleague and partner to the PNC;
• The PNCR continues to be deeply concerned about the interrelated issues of crime, policing, and the judiciary;
• The rising cost of living, as an immediate and direct consequence of the 16% VAT, is a reflection of the continued mismanagement and poor performance of the economy;
• Residents of Region #1 complained that pure water supply and electricity leave much to be desired, while the cost of living and unemployment are at their all time high.

THE DEATH OF SIR JOHN COMPTON, LATE PRIME MINISTER OF ST. LUCIA

The People’s National Congress Reform wishes to record its sadness at the passing of Sir John Compton, one of the Regions most respected politicians and a convinced and confirmed proponent of the integration of the English speaking Caribbean. Accordingly, the Party tenders its condolences to Lady Compton, his children and close relatives and friends. In so doing it expresses the hope that the achievements which decorate Sir John’s career and the strength derived from their Christian background and faith would enable them to sustain and accept this loss.

Like most of the early West Indian leaders, Sir John Compton’s political career rests upon an impressive scholastic foundation. While studying Law and Economics he attended the University of Wales from 1948–1949 and the London School of Economics from 1949–1951. Sir John was called to the Bar on 7 August 1951.

His political career took off, in 1954, when he was appointed to the St Lucia Executive Council. In 1956 he joined the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and, in 1957, he became Minister for Trade and Production. Leaving the SLP, in 1961, he teamed up with the People’s Progressive Party and the National Labour Movement to form the United Workers Party (UWP). As Leader of the UWP, he became Chief Minister in 1964. Sir John then worked hard for the Independence of St. Lucia which was won in 1974. This is no mere narrative of Sir John Compton’s life but an indication of the fact that his outstanding political career was almost coterminous with the evolution of the political system in St. Lucia. It was in this capacity that he became known to the PNC and the Party had the honour and privilege of working with him on challenging national and regional issues. He was well known as a colleague of the Founder Leader, Mr. L.F.S. Burnham.

For Sir John Compton, independence was not an end in itself, therefore, he fought with vigour to ensure the integration of the English-speaking Caribbean, in general, and the sub-region of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), in particular. Because he knew the intricacies of regional politics well and, because he was a man of great fluency and erudition, his was a powerful and respected voice in the Councils of the regional integration movement. Indeed, Sir John was to labour throughout his political life in the vineyards of integration and unity.

After he won the elections, in May 1982, he was Prime Minister until 1996 when he retired. However, in 2005, he was again elected Leader of the UWP and, against all odds, pulled off a stunning electoral victory in December 2006. Unfortunately, in May 2007, Sir John was felled by a stroke which brought an end to his political life and his earthly existence.

The People’s National Congress Reform salutes this man who, at various times, has been a friend, colleague and partner to the PNC, in Government and in the common struggle for a united and prosperous Caribbean. The Region has lost one of its great minds and one of its most competent and likeable politicians. In this regard, he has laid the foundation for the younger politicians and integrationists to take his country and the Region to a comfortable place of development and prosperity.

CRIME, POLICE, PRISONS AND THE JUDICIARY

The PNCR continues to be deeply concerned about the interrelated issues of crime, policing, and the judiciary.

The spate of murders and robberies, across the country, are sufficient evidence that Guyana is once more in the grip of a burgeoning crime wave. Everything suggests that, unless it is stopped and stopped quickly, its consequences will be as harsh and as devastating as that of 2002 to 2004. The PPP/C Government must act with dispatch and prudence to stop this crime wave. This means that a national security policy must be crafted and implemented, which addresses the challenges of crime in a comprehensive, methodical and resolute manner. As it is, the public perception is that PPP/C Administration, because of a lack of political will and visionless leadership, continues attempting to combat crime in an ad hoc and ham-fisted manner. It is not surprising, therefore, that crime, criminality and corruption, fuelled by resources from the narco-trafficking fraternity, has become pervasive and, by all indicators, is flourishing, while the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration adamantly refuses or dithers over the implementation of well thought out, documented and researched plans and programmes, which have long been available to them.

These plans and programmes have consistently recommended measures to: lift the morale of the Police by ensuring, among other measures, better pay and other conditions of service for the women and men in Police uniform; modernise and strengthen Police intelligence gathering; modernise and increase the professional capacity and capabilities of the forensic services; generally providing better equipment and crime prevention facilities; strengthen the capabilities of the Guyana Police Force, to contend with the evident emergence of organised and well equipped criminal gangs which have become emboldened by the weak response of the Police.

The flourishing of organized crime represents a direct threat to the state, society and the stability of the nation. The danger that inheres in this situation is that the seed-bed of organized crime is the narco-trade which continues to blight our society and criminalize large sections of the population. Here too, the response of the PPP/C Administration reinforces the public perception that senior officials and functionaries are in bed with the narco traffickers. It is not surprising, therefore, that the regime seem compelled to sit on its political hands. For example, no credible attempt is being made to implement and utilize some of the available legal instruments to curb the narco-trade, such as the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). It is noteworthy that, while palatial homes are going up which bear no relationship to the legal income of their owners, public knowledge is that the designated Head of the FIU can be found sitting comfortably, in the plush areas of the hotels in Georgetown, sipping expensive lathe and seeking to promote his own personal interests.

In different circumstances, all of this would have been matters to fuel public comedy. However, these are matters for serious public concern, since the narco-trade and organized crime have ensured the proliferation of high-powered weapons and occasioned the devastation of lives and families. The frightening reality, for us all, is that narco interests have grown in strength and influence and have succeeded in undermining the social fabric of the nation and inserted themselves into the interstices of the state.

The Party is concerned to note that the penal institutions, which have been created to accommodate the prison population and reform its inmates, are near breaking point. There is urgent and immediate need for the reform and modernisation of the penal system.

Reports, developed by experts, are available and awaiting implementation to correct or mitigate the effects of this dire situation. However, the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration continues to behave like a rabbit caught in the bright headlights of an oncoming car.

The PNCR does not wish to engage in a sterile debate about whether judicial reform or police reform or penal reform should take precedence. The Party asserts that reform is urgent and necessary in all three areas, particularly the judicial system.

Judicial reform must be undertaken as a national priority. In particular, there must be reform in the sentencing regime to prevent young men and women from spending lengthy periods of incarceration while on remand. There is need to change the situation to ensure those who should be in remand are in remand and those who commit bailable offences are bailed, whether they are defended by high-priced lawyers or not. There is need for consistency and fairness. There is clearly a need for the separation of hardened criminals from first offenders and the very young. Placing them all together is to create the conditions for the socialisation of first offenders and the very young by the already hardened and seasoned criminals.

THE ECONOMY

The PNCR continues to draw public attention to the fact that the spiralling cost of living has caused and continues to cause great hardship to the citizens of the Republic. The Government appears to be either unable and unwilling or not sufficiently concerned, to introduce immediate and practical measures to reduce the socially and economically deleterious, rapidly rising cost of living, which, among its other adverse impacts, is shrinking the disposable income of the already impoverished and working poor. A growing segment of the Guyanese population is daily finding it difficult, if not impossible, to make ends meet. The main immediate contributor to the rising cost of living, and the social and economic burdens being visited on the backs of the Guyanese people, is the high 16% Value-Added-Tax (VAT). The VAT rate must be immediately reduced in order that the Guyanese people might enjoy some measure of relief.

In this regard, the Party notes that the PPP/C Administration is prepared to reduce the incidence of the VAT for rice farmers. However, they have studiously ignored the interests of other poor, suffering and disadvantaged segments of the population.

This is typically a blatantly discriminatory, insensitive and a highly provocative course of action.

The rising cost of living, as an immediate and direct consequence of the 16% VAT, is a reflection of the continued mismanagement and poor performance of the economy. The Jagdeo PPP/C regime must surely, by now, recognise that the only sustainable means for the reduction and eradication of the pervasive poverty, which has befallen Guyanese, is the generation of economic growth and the creation of employment and incomes for the people.

The disposition of the Administration to uncritically accept the diktats of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), by the elevation of mendicancy to the status of economic policy, is but further evidence, if more is needed, that the Jagdeo regime is without the vision, policies or programmes to create the necessary conditions for growth and development in Guyana.

PNCR VISITS REGION #1-BARIMA/WAINI

The PNCR Members of Parliament, Mr. Aubrey C. Norton and Mr. Desmond Fernandes paid a visit to Region #1, Barima/Waini, from Friday 7th September 2007 to Monday 10th September 2007. While there, they held a number of community meetings and training programmes in preparation for the upcoming House-to-house Registration. The delegation visited Matthews Ridge, Port Kaituma and Mabaruma.

The people of Matthews Ridge expressed concern that they are being asked to purchase beds for their children to be able to attend the residential school at Port Kaituma. Many parents lamented the fact that there is no employment in the area and that they have to pay as much as six thousand dollars (G$6,000) to accompany their children to school, only to find that the school cannot accommodate them. The people of Matthews Ridge made it clear that they are of the view that it is the responsibility of the Government to provide beds for the children. What is worse is that the House-mother at the school does not have a bed of her own and is compelled to share accommodation with the students she is expected to supervise.

This situation at the school is compounded by the fact that it took the House-mother more that six months to get her salary, while the two handymen and two cleaners have not been paid for more than six months. It has been noted, as well, that there are always problems with food at the school. This situation exists because the Regional Administration is tardy when it comes to the payment of those contracted to supply goods and services to the school. The people in the Region stated that the Regional Administration is both incompetent and corrupt and are calling on the Government to address this very parlous state of affairs in the region. They are concerned that the education system in the region is not delivering quality education for their children.

The people of Matthews Ridge also pointed out that they have been waiting for years to obtain titles for their lands and were dismayed at the Government’s tardiness in dealing with this issue that is important for their development.

Residents in all of the three sub–regions said that pure water supply and electricity leave much to be desired, while the cost of living and unemployment are at their all time high. At Port Kaituma and Matthews Ridge, they demanded that resources be allocated to rehabilitate roads which are in a deplorable condition.

There were also concerns expressed that there is not adequate provision made for the students at the Port Kaituma nursery school to obtain potable water. It was pointed out that, in the dry season, the children suffer since there is a shortage of water.

At Port Kaituma, the people are bemoaning the situation whereby persons are being bullied out of their property. They informed the PNCR members of parliament that PPP/C activists are operating as if they are the law. Residents complained that people who have legitimate gold claims are losing them, since PPP/C activists, in collaboration with corrupt Guyana Geology and Mines Commission officials, are taking away legitimate claims from persons holding them.
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People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana