PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 18 October 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The dismissal of Ms. Shultz is high-handed, unfair and reflective of the prevalent arrogant attitude and bullyism of PPP/C officials.
• The Guyanese people continue to be oppressed under the yoke of VAT while the ‘Government of the working class’ continues to pretend not to hear their cry for help.
• GPL must make extra efforts to protect our senior citizens from the harassment and trauma of unfair billing, coupled with the insensitivity and arrogance of inefficient and incompetent managers.
• The right of the people to food security and food is a laudable aim and one which was central to the philosophy of the Government when the PNC was in power.
• A Guyanese working at a shipping company as a wharf manager was asked to turn a blind eye to shipments of rice concealing narcotics destined for Europe.

THE DISMISSAL OF CLAUDIA SHULTZ, KITCHEN MANAGER OF PRESIDENT’S COLLEGE:

The People’s National Congress Reform unreservedly condemns the unjustified sacking of Ms. Claudia Shultz, a kitchen manager of President’s College.

The dismissal of Ms. Shultz is high-handed, unfair and reflective of the prevalent arrogant attitude and bullyism of PPP/C officials and cohorts who inflict arbitrary punishment on those who dare to stand up to them. These Party henchmen seem to feel that they could act capriciously and with impunity, in blatant disregard for the laid down and established rules and procedures.

The PNCR has learnt, from its investigations, that the prime culprit is one Mr. David De Groot, a known PPP sycophant, who seem to be “power drunk” and behaves as if he has the right to trample on the fundamental rights of Ms. Shultz and the students of President’s College.

The pit-bull like behaviour of Mr. De Groot demonstrates his unsuitability and incompetence to be the Chairman of the Board of a school of excellence, such as was the mission of the President’s College, prior to the destructive onslaught of the De Groots of the PPP.

Our investigations have revealed that Ms. Shultz has been accused of inspiring the protest by the students. Ms Shultz seems to be the chosen scapegoat, because she has shown concern for the plight of the students, who were being forced to live and study under the very deplorable and unsatisfactory conditions, created by the callousness and uncaring attitude of the School Board, under the blinkered leadership of Mr. De Groot..

This PNCR wants to make it clear to the PPP/C cohorts at President College that we are monitoring their behaviour and, given the facts of the situation, the Party demands that Ms. Shultz be reinstated.

VALUE ADDED TAX (VAT), THE PEOPLE AND THE ECONOMY:

The Guyanese people continue to be oppressed under the yoke of VAT while the ‘Government of the working class’ continues to pretend not to hear their cry for help.

We need to be reminded that the Government introduced VAT on the basis that it was intended to yield the same amount of revenue as the six taxes it replaced, together yielded. Moreover, we were told, that the cost of living would come down, since there were a number of items which hitherto carried Consumption tax rates of 30 % and which, with VAT, would carry a rate of only 16%.

The real experience of the citizen is that every commodity has increased in price by a minimum of 16% and in many cases by much more than that and the Government has done nothing to investigate or explain why this is so or, better, do something about it.

In addition, despite the numerous calls by the PNCR for the Government to publish the collections from VAT to date, compared with what should have been collected to satisfy the Government’s stated objective of revenue neutrality, there has only been a deafening silence. The collections for 9 full months must be known to the Government. Therefore, it can only be viewed as contempt for the people of Guyana that the ‘working class Government’ withholds this vital information. There is more than deep suspicion that the Government has been collecting amounts from the VAT way beyond their wildest expectations, thus putting the lie to revenue neutrality as an objective.

We demand that the Government publish the collections from the 16% VAT so that Guyanese can see the con game that is being played out on them. The people need a reprieve from the onerous burden of VAT and we contend that the rate could and should be brought down substantially to ease the burden on the Guyanese people, especially the poor.

As if this suffering was not enough, the people have to contend with inflation running at a rate of more than 13%. Since no wage increase has been paid to the vast majority of Government workers for 2007, their real incomes have been severely reduced thereby reinforcing the dilemma they face of making ends meet. In addition, the government must treat as a matter of urgency and priority the reform and restructuring of the tax system with the aim of relieving the burden of taxation on income and to create incentives for the business community and potential investors.

In the private sector there is active downsizing of businesses. Consumers lack the capacity to buy and this takes its toll on businesses.

For the last six years the economy has been in stagnation. Without growth, there can be no sustained increase in demand, since there would be no scope for any significant increase of the wages of current workers and there cannot be sustained new job creation.

The full impact, of this quagmire in which we are, is being masked by the inflow of foreign funds, either in the form of grants or project loans. This money is being used to undertake projects, in the social sectors and to construct infrastructure, which give the impression of progress.

What citizens need to take note of is that this Government has created new debt for Guyana in excess of US$ 1.2 billion which future generations will have to repay.

Unfortunately, these borrowings have fuelled a culture of corruption at almost every level of the society. The substantial leakage of public funds, which this represents, robs projects of needed funds, thus resulting in the substandard execution of infrastructural projects. It also imposes an unfair burden on the Guyanese taxpayers who have to repay the debts in full, though the projects have been corruptly deprived of some of significant financial inputs which form part of the Debt.

GPL INFLICTING MISERY ON GUYANESE:

The Guyana Power and Light (GPL), like the Value Added Tax (VAT) is a source of misery to the Guyanese people. Improper billing, mismanagement, fraud and corruption have come together, in an unholy alliance, to inflict further punishment on the Guyanese people. A simple narrative might shed some light on the Party’s view of this matter.

Far too often we have heard that pensioners, who are constrained by a low and fixed income, have been given outrageous light bills which have a devastating impact on both their pockets and their health. Too regularly are people who have paid their bills wrongfully disconnected.

GPL must know that it cannot comment with any sincerity on those who steal electricity since its leadership has been found guilty of the said act and was never disciplined. Theft of electricity has to be dealt with resolutely at all levels.

Belatedly, the CEO of GPL has admitted that the real culprits who hurt the revenue of GPL is the big business consumers which have elaborate technical and other corrupt arrangements to steal electricity.

The Board and top management of GPL must get their act together. They must convincingly demonstrate that they have the will and the competence to efficiently manage the electricity sector in Guyana.

The GPL management must put effective systems in place to ensure that customers, particularly household consumers, do not receive bills which bear no relation to their consumption of electricity. GPL must make extra efforts to protect our senior citizens from the harassment and trauma of unfair billing, coupled with the insensitivity and arrogance of inefficient and incompetent managers.

PNCR WELCOMES WORLD FOOD DAY:

The PNCR, for reasons for which it needs not detailed, is comfortable in joining the rest of the world in celebrating World Food Day. The right of the people to food security and food is a laudable aim and one which was central to the philosophy of the Government when the PNC was in power. Food fairs, in different parts of the country, and the annual celebration of World Food Day, were routine aspects of the activities of the PNC Administration.

It is no secret that our level of food security today is a direct result of the PNC policy of promoting food self sufficiency.

The problem the PNCR has is the rather divisive propaganda coming from the PPP/C, particularly from the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud, which is seeking to give the impression that the right of Guyanese to food security and food began in 1992. In fact, the truth is that the PPP/C Government has done very little to effectively promote national food security.

DRUG DEALERS ARE TAKING OVER GUYANA:

It came as no surprise to most Guyanese that a family had to flee this country because their lives had been threatened by a drug dealer. It is worthwhile to recount the major elements in this situation.

A Guyanese working at a shipping company as a wharf manager was asked to turn a blind eye to shipments of rice concealing narcotics destined for Europe. The Guyanese concerned refused. His life was then threatened by the drug dealer, and the business at which he worked was robbed and he was subsequently told that the next time the business premises were robbed he would die. When this matter was reported to the Police, in July 2006, he could receive no protection. He was attacked by unknown persons on the seawall and had to flee with members of his family who were with him.

This man had to flee to Canada where he was granted asylum in September. It must be noted that the Canadian Judge, A. C. Kanevel, in granting the request for asylum, stated “Nation should be presume capable of protecting their citizens. Security of nations is, after all, the essence of sovereignty”.

This situation clearly underline the extent to which the drug lords, through their ill-gotten wealth and connection to the PPP/C political elite, have undermined important institutions, like the Police, to the extent that they can no longer offer protection to the Guyanese people.

ACCIDENT AT AMELIA’S WARD HILL, LINDEN:

The PNCR has already expressed its condolences to the families who suffered loss as a result of the horrific accident, on October 10th last, and the Leader of the Party himself visited the mining town to reinforce the message of sympathy of our Party.

The Party wishes to state categorically, that in its estimation, while the severity of this accident demands action, similar or greater attention is demanded in the arena of our response to these occurrences. Put plainly, not all of the persons who lost their lives in this tragedy would necessarily have died, if only the authorities had seen it fit to accord the Linden Hospital Complex the resources, both human and equipment, to manage such occurrences.

The Party is aware that the Regional Democratic Council had raised at its statutory meeting in April of this year, and written, in June, to the Ministry of Health about the need for the acquisition of the services of a resident orthopaedic surgeon at Linden. Given the nature of the Region with its many industrial concerns and lengthy roadways, the need for such a specialist was recognized and acted upon by the RDC.

The Regional Member of Parliament, Ms. Vanessa Kissoon, had also commented on the need for the enhancement of the capabilities of the health sector at Linden to deal with emergency situations such as this horrific accident.

The response, from the Ministry of Health, was only in the form of notification of the services of a visiting specialist, and so those in need of this service after this accident had to do without.

The Party also needs to point to several other observable deficiencies that became painfully evident to all who traveled to the hospital after this accident:

• The lack of adequate oxygen and the distribution requisites for same;
• The lack of suction machines to clear nasal or respiratory blockages;
• Only two doctors with 17 severely injured persons on hand to attend to;
• No available units of blood;
• Absence of a critical care unit with specially trained personnel;
• The inordinate length of time taken by the laboratory personnel to respond and arrive at the hospital;
• Non-functioning telephones at the hospital, where these lines of communication have reportedly been out of service for over three weeks. This also resulted in the unfortunate situation where the Cuban doctors, working at the sister institution at the Wismar Hospital, could not be notified of this emergency situation and, therefore, were unable to offer assistance.

There was also the unexplainable situation of nurses refusing to send oxygen to the emergency area, from the hospital’s ward, on the pretext of keeping same ‘in case they have an emergency on the ward’.

The PNCR would, nevertheless, like to pay homage to the wonderful community spirit displayed by the residents of Linden, who were free with the cooperation and assistance which they offered to the medical fraternity.

Equally worthy of note and commendation was the response, by a large number of the off-duty nurses, maids, aides, student nurses and other categories of health workers, who turned up to voluntarily offer their help at the Linden Hospital Complex

PUBLIC INQUEST INTO DONNA HEROD’S DEATH:

It must be a matter of concern to the entire Guyanese nation that, weeks after it has been promised, there has been no inquest into the death of Donna Herod. It will be recalled that Ms. Herod met her death when she was murdered by elements of the security forces, on 4 September 2007. Some time thereafter, the Police promised an inquest into Ms. Herod’s death. Yet nothing has happened to advance the procedures for the effecting of such an inquest. This cannot be allowed to continue.

The PNCR wishes to put the PPP/C Administration on notice that any further delay in the holding of a thorough and independent investigation into the death of Donna Herod will leave the PNCR and other stakeholders no choice but to utilize all necessary legal means to ensure that an inquest is held.
Justice demands no less.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday 18 October 2007