PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 11th October 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The Party expresses its condolences to the persons who lost family, relatives and friends as a result of what has been justly described as a horrific accident in Linden;
• The evidence is now abundant and persuasive that the poor and the working poor and those of the lower levels of the society are reeling from the upward movement in the cost of living;
• The President revelation when placed next to the propaganda of his Party conveys the impression of both confusion and dishonesty;
• The PNCR observed the 4th Death Anniversary of the former First Lady and Chairman of the WRSM, on Wednesday 10th October 2007;
• The PNCR will join other stakeholders, including the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA), in observing African Holocaust Day, on Friday 12th October 2007;
• The widespread neglect and mismanagement in the education system has manifested itself at President’s College;
• The PNCR notes the manner in which the PPP/C has undertaken the task of selling land to Barbadian citizens for US$5 per acre.


PNCR EXPRESSES SYMPATHY FOR THE LOSS OF LIVES AND PROPERTY:

The first duty of this Party at the Press Conference is to express its condolences to the persons who lost family, relatives and friends as a result of what has been justly described as a horrific accident in Linden. The Party understands that some eleven persons died and others were injured. The PNCR can readily understand the pain and the loss that has been a consequence of this disaster.

The Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert H O Corbin will be visiting Linden later today and will personally convey the heartfelt condolences of the Party to those who have lost friends, relatives and family members.

The Party wishes to urge all road users to use our roads with care since we can ill afford the loss of precious human lives at this stage of development.

The Party regrets the loss of property and the inconveniences caused by the recent fire on Laing Avenue. The Party’s Human Services Department has already visited with those who suffered losses. The Party, as is usual, has rendered some assistance to all those who were victims of this unfortunate conflagration and will continue to do so.

VALUE ADDED TAX (VAT) AND THE SUFFERING OF THE GUYANESE PEOPLE:

The nation is now witnessing the remarkable spectacle of a political Party, which is supposedly a defender of the interests of the poor and working class, demonstrating a complete indifference to the suffering of the Guyanese people as a result of the continuing rise in the cost of living occasioned by the VAT. The evidence is now abundant and persuasive that the poor and the working poor and those of the lower levels of the society are reeling from the upward movement in the cost of living.

It is aggravating that the PPP/C Administration has not yet paid attention to the suffering of the Guyanese people despite the abundant evidence. The PNCR urges the government to take immediate measures to bring some relief to them. The PNCR will continue to focus on, and protest the existence of the 16% Value Added Tax. We again call on the government to review the tax by reducing it to no more than 8% while at the same time raise the wages and salaries and adjust the income tax threshold.

PPP/C CONTINUES TO MISLEAD GUYANESE PEOPLE:

Only last week the PNCR had reason to lament the fact that the PPP/C continues to place misleading information in the public domain making it difficult for the citizens of this Republic to buy into their notion of national development. This attitude of misleading the nation was most evident in the press recently and is confirmed by PPP/C sources.

On the occasion of the so-called return to democracy celebrations on October 5th, the Mirror editorialized in the following way:

“That was then, fifteen short years ago, and what a wonderful transformation has taken place in all sectors of our country, which bolsters the belief that the euphoria and rejoicing of October 1992 was not misplaced. The still young nation, Guyana, stands proud as an enviable, modern state, ready and poised for an unprecedented economic takeoff.”

Of course, no intelligent Guyanese would believe any such thing. But the devastating rejection of all round economic development came from the President himself. At a Press Conference on Monday 8th October last, this is what he had to say about the economic condition of the country:

“We were not fixing anything…… we had a small construction industry …… we lost a lot to our skills ……. Our capital programme has almost shrunk to almost nothing, because we are not fixing roads, we are not fixing schools, the water supply or sea defences.”

It is said that confession is good for the soul and maybe the President wanted to come clean on this occasion. Yet his revelation when placed next to the propaganda of his Party conveys the impression of both confusion and dishonesty. It is no surprise therefore that most Guyanese are skeptical of government pronouncements and it is this same skepticism that makes it difficult for them to embrace the PPP/C’s approach to nation building. The PNCR believes that the PPP/C must demonstrate both honesty and respect for the intelligence of the Guyanese people and must be inclusive in its governance if real national development is to take place.


PNCR OBSERVES THE 4TH DEATH ANNIVERSARY OF VIOLA BURNHAM:

The PNCR observed the 4th Death Anniversary of the former First Lady and Chairman of the WRSM, on Wednesday 10th October 2007. Ms. Viola Burnham, wife of the Founder Leader, Forbes Samson Burnham, who served as Vice President of the Republic, with responsibility for Education, died on 10 October 2003.

A simple ceremony co-ordinated by the family, and chaired by the National Chairperson of the National Congress of Women, (N.C.W.), Ms. Cheryl Sampson, was held at her burial site at Vybran Farm, Durban Backlands. After brief introductory remarks by Ms. Cheryl Sampson, several persons shared reflections of her life and work. These included Ms. Ulele Burnham, daughter of the deceased, Mr. Robert Corbin, Leader of the PNCR, Ms. Magda Pollard, retired head of the CARICOM Women’s Desk, Mr. Kamana Burnham, son of the deceased, Mr. Rashleigh Jackson, former Foreign Minister, Mr. Hamley Case and Ms. Asante Van West Charles – Le Blanc, grand daughter. Also in attendance were General Secretary of the People’s National Congress Reform, Mr. Oscar Clarke, Dr. Frank Williams, other Executive members of the PNCR and NCW and other family and friends.

The reflections were followed by the laying of floral tributes at the burial site and breakfast.

The PNCR takes this opportunity to record its gratitude and appreciation for the sterling services she rendered both to the nation and the Party. As Vice President, with responsibility for Education, she brought an informed and intelligent mind to her duties and this is clearly reflected in the achievements which have marked her tenure. As Chairman of the WRSM, Ms. Burnham initiated a number of successful projects, which have been to the benefit of Party and non-Party citizens.

AFRICAN HOLOCAUST DAY:

The PNCR will join the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA), and other stakeholders, in observing African Holocaust Day, on Friday 12th October 2007.

The Party commends ACDA for its consistent efforts to commemorate this significant occasion, marking, as it does, the day on which Columbus arrived in the, so called, new world and triggered the tragedies which led to the destruction of indigenous cultures and, in particular, the “suffering of people of African descent through slavery, imperialism, colonialism, invasions and exploitation.” These continuing human tragedies, which have been inflicted, since 12 October 1492, are captured by the Kiswahili term, MAAFA, which means “Disaster” or “Terrible Occurrence”.

The Party is convinced that ACDA, the African stakeholders and, indeed, all of the Guyanese people, will ponder the significance of this observance and its implications for contemporary Guyana, given the continuation of the extra-judicial killings, unbridled discrimination and marginalization, the refusal to grant Afro-Guyanese legitimate rights to their ancestral lands, the unexplained disappearances of persons, terrorism by state forces in villages, particularly the village of Buxton, and the continued and undeniable crisis which confronts the Guyanese people today.

THE CRISIS AT PRESIDENT’S COLLEGE:

The neglect and mismanagement of the education system was brought to public attention by the PNCR on several occasions. The Party drew attention to the very unsatisfactory conditions confronting the children and parents in the North West District of Region #1. The PPP/C administration, as is its wont, denied that the Education system was in shambles in that Region.

This widespread neglect and mismanagement has now manifested itself at President’s College. The well, which provided water for the College, was allowed to remain in disrepair for a prolonged period, adversely affecting teachers and students.

The PNCR notes, with deep concern that the lack of urgency in attending to this matter led to the disruption of the living and teaching conditions at the school. This neglect by the PPP/C Administration has obviously impacted negatively on the education of the children.

The Party notes the public undertaking by the Minister of Education, Mr. Sheik Baksh, that the students will not be penalized or victimised, for being forced, by the Administration’s own indifference and neglect, to undertake public protest action before positive efforts were made to provide remedies at their School.

The Minister has, no doubt, taken account of the of the possible public outrage which would result from his attempts to sanction or victimize the students who, out of frustration and desperation, undertook legitimate protest to force his Ministry to take the action which, any caring Administration would have taken at an early stage to relieve the students and staff of the uncomfortable and unacceptable conditions which confronted them, over an extended period. The PNCR is satisfied that the action of the students was justified, in the best interests of their school community, to force the Ministry to act with expedition to correct a situation which was affecting their education. In the circumstances, their actions ought to be commended rather than criticized and condemned.

The PNCR will hold the Minister to his public commitment since, the Party is aware that, though the Minister has made these public pronouncements, measures are being put in place, such as the drawing up of a list of the protesting students, to punish those students whenever the opportunity presents itself.

SALE OF LAND TO BARBADIANS:

The PNCR notes with concern the manner in which the PPP/C has announced its intention to sell land to Barbadian citizens for US$5 per acre. The Party is outraged by the manner in which the PPP/C regime, in its usual surreptitious approach, is going about this matter with a lack of transparency and sensitivity to the needs or concerns of the Guyanese people. In this regard, the Party is forced to note that it was only after the public revelation by the Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados, Ms Mia Motley that the Government hastened to inform the Guyanese people, through the medium of the state-owned newspaper, The Guyana Chronicle. The Party has said it before, and it says it again, that matters of national importance, which affect the lives and future of the Guyanese people, must be conducted in a transparent manner and be the subject of Parliamentary scrutiny, as required by the doctrine of Good Governance.

The Party wishes to make it clear that it is not opposed to land being made available to citizens of the Caribbean Region, as this had been its policy when it was in Government. It is apposite for the Party to remind the nation that the PPP/C had opposed such policies, in the past, in a naked, partisan and racist manner.

What the Party is opposed to, apart from the lack of transparency, is the mad rush to introduce such a policy when there are a number of outstanding issues to be resolved in relation to the land question in Guyana. A recent officially sanctioned study highlighted the systemic difficulties in equitable treatment of citizens The PNCR only recently drew attention to the many problems in the MMA scheme and, in the past, has condemned the discriminatory manner in which land is being allocated. The long outstanding controversial question of the membership and control of Land Selection Committees, in the various regions, have still not been settled. The sad situation is that many Guyanese, who have been able to scrape together the funds to purchase land in some schemes, are, unfortunately, not facilitated or able to access the necessary resources to build their own homes. What is a continuing source of concern is the fact that many Guyanese are excluded from the land allocation process because they do not have children. The PNCR wishes to reiterate its position that that there should never be the conditionality that to obtain a house lot you must have children.

The general impression, among Guyanese, is that the land allocation regime is, at best, in shambles and, at worst, being used by the regime to further its own partisan and openly discriminatory political agenda. The PNCR will be vigorously pursuing this matter to ensure that the Jagdeo Administration does not use this recent land gimmick to further discriminate against Guyanese.

HOUSE-TO-HOUSE REGISTRATION:

The PNCR has noted the administrative obstacles which have now come to characterize the preparation for the House-to-House registration process. This is a worrisome development and the Party calls on all stakeholders and concerned citizens to join in a common effort to ensure that House-to-House registration proceed efficiently, effectively and smoothly.

On the 14 June 2007, the PPP/C Administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with the Parliamentary Opposition Parties and GECOM, in the presence of the Donor Community, in which it undertook, with the support of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties, to remove all obstacles in order to ensure that House-to-House- Registration would be undertaken and be completed before the holding of Local Government Elections.

Many valuable months have gone by and now the nation is being informed that the teachers, trained to carry out this exercise, will not be released to carry out this exercise until after working hours. The PNCR contends that this is not an insurmountable problem. The timings of the registration could be changed to accommodate the teachers or, alternatively, other individuals can be trained to carry out the House-to-House registration process. The real problem is whether GECOM and the PPP/C Administration are seized with the urgency to effect this change, once it becomes necessary.

The PNCR must insist that the House-to-House registration exercise must not become the hostage to the political manoeuvring of the PPP/C administration and the inefficiencies of GECOM. It is to hoped that the PPP/C does not seek later to blame other for any delays in this process.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, 11th October 2007