PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. Deryck Bernard, MP Member - Central Executive Committee People’s National Congress Reform At The Press Conference On Thursday, 27 June 2002 Hall Of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
CARICOM HEADS OF GOVERNMENT MEETING
The twenty-third meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community will be convened
in Guyana in a few days. The Peoples National Congress/Reform notes this forthcoming meeting, recognises its
importance and is anxious that this meeting be successful. We wish to record our pleasure that our Caribbean brothers and sisters will be convening in Guyana and express the hope that the deliberations of the meeting be constructive and fruitful. There are many important challenges facing the region as we struggle to find our way in the difficult world economic environment and in the rapidly changing and complex international situation. Our economic future as a regional entity and as individual countries requires bold and resolute initiatives and action. We also welcome the announcement that the President of Brazil, H.E. Frederico Henrique Cordoso will visit Guyana to meet with the Caricom Heads. We hope that his discussions will also be constructive and fruitful.
The Peoples National Congress/Reform notes that issues of governance and development still loom large on our national and regional agendas. Caricom has been active in these matters and indeed has played a welcome and constructive role in Guyana’s recent history situation. It is perhaps ironic that this meeting of the Heads will take place at a time when issues of governance, including matters of deteriorating security, bad governance, corruption and sectarian divisions loom large in Guyana. These matters can and do have ripples around the Caricom region.
It is sad that the host country should be such a bad and embarrassing example.
The conference provides an ideal opportunity for us to review Guyana's record in Caricom under the Jagdeo government. The reality is that it has been ambivalent and far short of an unequivocal commitment to the regional enterprise. Guyana, for example, a few short months ago broke ranks with Caricom and failed to support Dr. Brathwaite for the headship of the International Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture (IICA). This has understandably left an unpleasant taste among other member states and compromised Guyana’s reputation as a country to be trusted. As the head responsible for agriculture President Jagdeo proposed the dissolution of CARDI to be replaced by a small department within the Caricom Secretariat, a proposal laughed out of court by fellow heads who saw it as a transparent attempt by Guyana to avoid the payment of its significant arrears to this institution. They quite rightly opted to seek more thoughtful proposals from the University of the West Indies.
These are examples of the unilateralist approach of the Guyana government to issues which are regional in character and which have seriously compromised Guyana's standing in the community much to the detriment of our national interests. The fact that the conference is being held in Guyana is of course purely procedural and a consequence of the principle of rotation. It is to be hoped that Guyana's accession to the Chairmanship of Caricom, which revolves automatically on the host country, will result in a more enlightened appreciation by the Jagdeo
regime of the benefits of acting in concert with the rest of the community to achieve mutually advantageous goals and objectives.
ATTEMPTED DECEPTION OF BAUXITE WORKERS AT KWAKWANI AND EVERTON
The People’s National Congress/ Reform has consistently pointed out that, since coming to office in 1992, the objectives of Freedom House and PPP/C Government have been to strategically and systematically destroyed the Bauxite Industry in Guyana, because the Bauxite Communities are perceived as not being their supporters, and so reduce them to the status of Depressed Communities. The workers have been fed a diet of lies and deception, while every effort is being made to alienate them from their unions. None of the fundamental issues have been
addressed which led to the current vigil in front of Sam Hind's residence and the continuing and intensifying protest demonstrations.
Having presided over a concerted programme of destructive and anti-national policies, it now pretending crocodile tears for Bermine and claiming that the only hope is the implementation of the Alcoa Concept.
• It is ironic that the Jagdeo government is expressing confidence in the future of Aroaima Bauxite Company (ABC) which is a bankrupt entity that paid no taxes or fees to the people of Guyana since it began operating here and which the regime has had to prop up by undermining the operations and viability of Bermine. The regime has issued US$ 60Mn in Preference Shares for ABC to Alcoa, ostensibly for an accumulated debt that the government directors on the board of ABC have been unable to verify.
• It is also the same government that refused to grant a medium-term loan to Bermine of US$5Mn in 2001 or the rehabilitation of the Calcination kiln and for badly needed equipment and working capital.
• It is the government that has, through unnecessary and drastic price reductions by ABC (now fully owned by the people of Guyana), robbed the people of Guyana of the benefits from badly needed increased foreign exchange earnings from the international sales of its bauxite products.
• This is the ABC that has granted Viceroy Shipping the exclusive sales agency for chemical grade bauxite (CGB) at a price which representing an annual loss of revenue of US$ 500,000 on ABC sales alone.
• It is the government that has granted Viceroy Shipping exclusive rights to the loading/ turning basin in the Berbice River that was dredged and paid for by ABC! This has been used by the regime to prevent the export sales of MAZ from Bermine and, thereby, deny Bermine revenues from the sale of its MAZ to Alcoa.
Jagdeo literally descended from the skies upon the confused, hapless and suffering people of Kwakwani bearing cheap promises, government intimidation and union busting tactics. The workers were threatened that the entire Berbice Bauxite industry will collapse if the Alcoa concept of the merger between Bermine and Aroaima Bauxite Company (ABC) does not take place immediately. The consequences of this merger would be the immediate closure of Everton and the retrenchment of over 70% of the Kwakwani workforce.
A key issue to be resolved is the Government’s conspiracy and collusion with Viceroy Shipping to force the closure of Bermine by denying Bermine the use of the turning basin. Bermine still cannot ship its MAZ. Jagdeo and his Government can only force the closure of Bermine by continuing to deny Bermine the use of the turning basin. A perusal of the financial statements of all three of Guyana's bauxite companies – Bermine, ABC and Linmine will show that Bermine is the most consistently profitable of the three and has made the largest net contribution to the coffers of this country. Its forced closure is, therefore, pursuit of a shamelessly partisan and sectarian agenda!
Jagdeo lied to the workers by claiming that the PNC/R was opposed to the merger of the Bauxite Industry in Berbice. This Party has argued that any such merger should take full advantage of all the linkages that are possible. The PNC/R also advocated job creation through the government accepting its responsibility to create
a suitable fiscal and infrastructural environment that will attract other businesses to Kwakwani.
The PNC/R takes this opportunity to warn the PPP/C government that the forced closure of Bermine is an unwise and dangerous course which will lead to large scale, countrywide political and social instability.
PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM
The Public Service is a primary victim of the PPPC attitude to governance. In 1990, just at the time that the PNC administration had laid solid economic foundations, we received assistance from the government of the United Kingdom to conduct a review of the Public Service and launch a reformed Public Service that would improve its efficiency and effectiveness and support the economic programme, the ERP. The UK consultants were issued the review task by the PNC administration to identify overlapping functions, closely related functions which could more efficiently be brought together within the responsibility of a single organisation, limited autonomy, and rationalisation of the public service. This review led to the organisation of a government structure that promoted coordination, coherence and good governance and the PNC took the bold step to prune its government ministries from eighteen to eleven, including the Office of the President and employ a new team of highly qualified professionals as Permanent Secretaries to lead the restructured public service. These permanent secretaries were employed for their public management expertise, as well as their ability to serve a different government and Ministers with equal loyalty.
The Public Service structure was based on the principles of good organisation design, the main aims of government policy and six key themes related to management of the Public Service, finance, production, social well-being, law and order and foreign relations. The ministries designed to achieve the objectives of these key themes respectively, were the Office of the President; Ministries of Finance; Agriculture; Trade, Tourism and Industry; Education; Health; Labour, Human Services and Social Security; Public Works, Communications and Regional Development; Home Affairs; Legal Affairs and Foreign Affairs.
In 1992, when the PPP/C assumed office, it halted the reform process and immediately reversed the principles of good organisation design. It made a decisive shift away from good judgement of a lean and efficient government to a bloated organisation of twenty (20) ministries, making room for political patronage without due recognition to efficiency and good governance.
In other Caribbean and Commonwealth countries, the top post is set aside for political impartiality so that the political directorate can be advised with due integrity and without fear, favour, partiality or prejudice. The PPP/C replaced a legitimate career public servant, Dr. Tyrone Ferguson with Luncheon, an avowed politician. Their poor
judgement did not end there as they replaced much of the team of Permanent Secretaries and Senior officials such as the former Comptroller of Customs and the Chief Medical Officer who were suspended from office and many others who were coerced into resignation thereby losing to the public service, the potential of highly trained experts.
The PPP/C further sullied the practice of good management, diplomatic deportment and decorum of the public service by going on a rampage from Guyanese mission to mission around the world to gut the foreign service of its well established diplomatic competence and integrity and replacing it with their crude, impotent cronies. They
quickly destroyed a well respected foreign service, brought into discredit the Police Force, trampled upon the education, health and social service sectors and marginalized the Public Service unions. These acts combined with the aura of corruption and irregularity have led to the demoralisation, suspicion and insecurity in the lower levels
of public servants. An attitude of cynicism has taken root amongst the rank and file has further depressed the quality of public servants and sent thousands out of the public service and the country at alarming rates.
The Public Service Appellate Tribunal which was established by an Act of Parliament in 1984 to consider appeals against unfair dismissal or promotion from the permanent staff in the Public Service has not functioned since the PPP took office.
The PPP/C has perhaps recognised its folly since a new reform study presumably intended to tell them what we already know has been commissioned at an advertised cost of approximately US$1m. What a waste of resources! Public Servants may be justified in believing that the modernization programme is a sham. We have no evidence that suggests that the PPP/C is concerned about good governance or has an agenda for efficiency, effectiveness and improvement in government services.
THE LAMBERT MARKS EPISODE
Lambert Marks for the time being Head of the Customs and Trade Administration has a professional background which has made him privy to the most sensitive and, in many instances, damning information about some of the key players in our society. At various times he has been an officer of the GDF, associated with US Drug Enforcement Agency, Head of the local Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and now of the CTA. He recent public comments appear to have caused jitters in the corridors of power.
Mr. Marks said enough to confirm that corruption including under-invoicing and influence peddling and protection rackets are now endemic in Guyana and a routine part of the modus operandi of the political directorate. His testimony will be added to the growing and persuasive body of evidence that kickbacks, cronyism and, rather
disquietingly, mafia-style executions are now an accepted part of doing things in Guyana under the present regime.
While Guyanese are understandably much concerned about the brazen acts of criminality being perpetrated by vicious criminal gangs, we must not be unmindful of the white collar criminal acts being carried out daily by the political bureaucracy and their cohorts against the national treasury. The PNC/R is aware, for example, that pervasive official corruption and greed has already caused concerned bi-lateral donors to by-pass governmental agencies and channel aid directly to the intended beneficiaries much to the embarrassment of the Jagdeo regime. We need another Operation Tourniquet to deal with the virus of official and officially instigated corruption.
That Mr. Marks’ disclosures engendered great nervousness among the powers-that-be was evidenced by the speed with which the notoriously slothful and pedestrian Office of the President Secretariat responded and sought explanations. The PNC/R too has some questions for Mr. Marks. The CTA head speaks of a “conspiracy by members of the Revenue Authority, politicians, and corrupt businessmen” to damage him for refusing to be manipulated.
We challenge Mr. Marks to name them.
The allegation of persecution made by Mr Marks of himself and his is a serious matter and a rather disturbing charge. Given what we have learnt about the use of the Black Clothes police squad, it cannot be taken lightly. Mr. Marks is quite clearly now a marked man. His professional life in the Guyana public service is probably under threat.
If he is not careful his earthly life may also be under threat. The PNC/R will be monitoring the fall-out from Mr. Marks’ disclosures with keen interest.
The PNC/R has learned with shocked of the sudden death of Mr. Bertram Hamilton, President of the Guyana Teachers' Union and a Vice-President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress. Mr Hamilton was not only a committed trade unionist; he was also a committed Guyanese. He fervently championed the cause of teachers not as a means in itself but towards the end of improving the quality of education in Guyana. Mr. Hamilton’s fearless advocacy will be sorely missed at a time when the teaching profession is being subjected to intolerable hardships. The PNC/R extends heartfelt sympathy to his wife, children other relatives and colleagues as well as the nation's teachers. We share their loss at this time.
People’s National Congress/ Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
June 27th, 2002
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