PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 27 September 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The Party wishes to remind the public that the Minister of Home Affairs is on record as saying that new methods will have to be adopted to fight crime;
• There is no doubt that the direct impact, of the plethora of taxes in Guyana, inflicts a heavy burden on the individual tax-payer and constitutes a disincentive to enterprise and investment;
• The Bureau of Statistics has not condescended to offer the Guyanese public the official rate of unemployment among young people; and
• The PNCR notes that the Government has procrastinated on the negotiation of a protocol for the use of hinterland roads.

THE TORTURE OF MEMBERS OF THE BUXTON COMMUNITY

The People’s National Congress Reform wishes to emphasise its condemnation of and abhorrence over the continued violation of the rights of the people of Buxton and the unjustified raids on the community.

At the Party’s last Press Conference we pointed to the suffering inflicted on Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones. Further investigation, by the Party, has revealed that, not only were these two residents of Buxton tortured, by certain elements of the security forces, but that this horror was perpetuated in a manner to suggest that this course of action might be official policy.

The PNCR also wishes to condemn and record its disgust at reports coming out of Berbice that elements of the security forces allegedly tortured 19 years old Damyoun Wordsworth. This latest development suggests that the incidences of torture are more widespread than is generally believed. It also appears that certain ranks within the security forces seem to enjoy political protection in the exercise of this barbaric practice.

The Party wishes to remind the public that the Minister of Home Affairs is on record as saying that new methods will have to be adopted to fight crime. The PNCR asks whether these, so called new methods, will now include the torture of persons who the security forces believe would have committed a crime or crimes.

This is unacceptable to the PNCR, and should be so for all Guyanese, who are concerned about the blatant assault on the human rights of all citizens, as enshrined in our constitution and the evident disrespect for the Rule-of-Law in Guyana.

The PNCR, the rest of the Guyanese society and the international community, expect a clear and unequivocal statement from the Jagdeo PPP/C regime that the reprehensible policy of torture does not have official sanction. In this regard, the Party wishes to remind the PPP/C Administration that it is a signatory to several United Nations treaties against torture, including the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and that the Administration is, therefore, morally bound to honour the terms of these Treaties and Conventions.

The PNCR must register its ongoing concern and disgust at the continued raids on the Buxton community by elements of the security forces, even as the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Donna Herod remain unresolved. The leadership of the Guyana Police Force is yet to produce one iota of evidence that Police ranks were exchanging gun-fire with criminal elements in Buxton.

The house, from which these alleged criminal elements were exchanging gun-fire with the police, must be a state secret, as the security forces have not, to date, been able to produce one convincing photograph of that building.

The Party reiterates its call for an independent investigation into the death of Donna Herod.

The PNCR wishes to remind those responsible, that, statements calculated to prejudice the early holding of such an enquiry, are most unhelpful and seem intended to frustrate the legitimate calls for justice for all citizens of Guyana.


THE GUYANA ECONOMY

A national consensus has emerged that, not only has the economy been mismanaged, but that the consequence of such mismanagement has resulted in further burdens for the long suffering Guyanese people. The Party does not say so idly. The social and economic evidence of such suffering are visible, on a daily basis.

It has been agreed, by independent voices in this society, that the introduction of the 16% VAT has resulted in a dramatic increase in prices, leading to the situation where, even the normally conservative Official statistics, have indicated that inflation has reached the level of 13.3%. To see the true nature of this disturbing and threatening situation a break down of inflation rate would give point and focus to what is being addressed. In January prices increased by 6.6% for the month and a year on to a rate of 9.29%, an increase of 122% over the previous month.

It does not take much imagination or grasp of economics to recognize the devastating impact of this situation on, say, pensioners with their fixed incomes and the working poor, of the Guyana Public Service, whose emoluments are below the rate of inflation. Of course, we are aware that this does not worry the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration, since they have placed their chosen ones on special contracts.

One of the first things, the PNCR believes that must be done to bring a certain degree of relief to the growing army of impoverished Guyanese, is to immediately reduce the crippling 16% VAT rate. In addition, the Government must honour its commitment to expeditiously undertake the comprehensive reform and rationalisation of the system of taxes, particularly income and corporate taxes. There is no doubt that the direct impact, of the plethora of taxes in Guyana, inflicts a heavy burden on the individual tax-payer and constitutes a disincentive to enterprise and investment.

The rise in inflation will inevitably lead to upward pressures on wages. It is here that the PNCR wishes to sound a clear warning. Wage settlements cannot be discriminatory but should be equitable across sectors. It is wrong and immoral that the sugar workers, most of who are represented by GAWU, the trades union arm of the PPP, are offered a 12% negotiated wage settlement while a 5% wage increase is arbitrarily imposed on the public service.

It is difficult, for any thinking Guyanese, to accept that the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration does not understand that, in a multi-ethnic society, such as ours, any demonstrated preference, for any particular ethnic group, is more than likely to have a negative impact on ethnic relations, generally, and, inevitably, the Guyana polity.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

The depressed performance of the economy has not only had a damaging negative impact on the elderly and the working poor, but has devastated the young people of this country. The Bureau of Statistics has not condescended to offer the Guyanese public the official rate of unemployment among young people. However, it is clearly visible, to the majority of the people, that the rate of unemployment for young persons is unacceptably high.

It has become a rarity for young people to readily find suitable productive work and reasonable remuneration upon leaving the education system, whether it be from the secondary or tertiary levels or, more particularly, the primary level. Faced with the bleak prospects for their future, a significant number of young people are compelled to seek “their fortunes in greener pastures” outside of Guyana.

The Party wishes to recall here that, a UNESCO study has already pointed to the fact that some 80% of our graduates leave these shores. Why is the PPP/C regime continuing to pursue policies which are signalling to our young people that they are not needed here, in the land of their birth and nurturing?

The PNCR recognises that the consequence of this situation, not only impacts negatively on current economic development, but would seriously undermine future long term development. It is the young people who would be needed to provide the energy, skills and expertise for the future growth and development of Guyana.

In this, as in other areas, the Party wishes to urge the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration to move with dispatch to put in place appropriate programmes and policies to, first of all, reduce the rate of emigration among young people, by restoring their faith in the future of this their dear land. Young people need to have their sense of dignity and self-worth restored. After all, they are our most precious resource.

It is obvious that the successful management of the Guyana economy, to generate the sustained growth of employment and income earning opportunities, will go a far way towards creating a climate of confidence for our young people.

Does the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration have the vision, capacity, political will and commitment to do so? It the PPP/C Administration were blessed with these virtues, then it would have done all that is necessary and possible to establish a Voluntary National Service at which young people could receive training and acquire life skills.

HINTERLAND DEVELOPMENT

The PNCR continues to monitor the situation in the Hinterland. This is important, not only because this is Amerindian Heritage Month, but primarily because most of our Amerindian brothers and sisters live in our hinterland.

In recent times, poor governance by the PPP/C Administration has been impacting adversely on the hinterland regions. The present situation, regarding the use of roads in the hinterland, is a clear manifestation of poor governance. At the core of the problem is the fact that, the PPP/C Government continues to operate without consulting and involving key stakeholders. The exclusion of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association from participating in the decision-making process, on issues in which miners are clear stakeholders, is a recipe for disaster and is resulting in decisions that are not reflective of the interests of the people of the hinterland, in general, and miners, in particular.

The PNCR notes that the Government has procrastinated on the negotiation of a protocol for the use of hinterland roads. This has resulted in the present controversy over the Miners using the Barama constructed road in Region # 1- Barima/Waini. A team, appointed to undertake the negotiation of a Memorandum of Understanding on this issue, has failed to complete their task in a timely manner. The entire episode is a manifestation of poor governance, at two levels. First, it is a government dominated team comprising Mr. Robeson Benn, Mr. James Singh and Mr. Andrew Bishop - it excludes many of the key stakeholders. Secondly, that the team has failed to complete its work, in more than two years, is partly responsible for the conflicts that are occurring in our hinterland.

What is worse is that the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration has appointed another PPP/C dominated team, comprising Mr. Odinga Lumumba, Mr. Evan Persaud and Mr. Robeson Benn, to advise the Prime Minister on mining. Again, there is the exclusion of key stakeholders.

The PNCR has always placed the development of the hinterland high in importance for the development of Guyana. Therefore, the Party is very concerned that the PPP/C does not have transparent policies, and a clearly articulated plan, for the development of the hinterland.

The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo Government to urgently involve all stakeholders in the development of a protocol for the use of hinterland roads. This protocol should be one that is acceptable to all stake holders. We believe that an approach, which is based on inclusiveness and, a protocol that is reflective of all the interests involved, is the only option for success.

The PNCR is resolutely committed to a development approach which explicitly recognises that the resources of the hinterland must be utilised, not only for the general development of Guyana, but that the socio-economic development of hinterland communities must reflect the beneficial effects of growth and prosperity for all Guyanese. In addition, the Party advocates that all enterprises, operating in the hinterland, must be treated equally.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana