PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Friday 16 November 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• Probably the strongest indication of the dictatorial nature of the Jagdeo regime is the ease and consistency with which it violates the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana;
• The ERC is, however, but one of a growing list of illegalities for which the Jagdeo PPP/C regime is directly responsible;
• It is perceived that this Government will break any law or take any action that is necessary to maintain its iron fisted control of Guyana;
• The PNCR believes that this 9% should be seen as an interim payout and calls on the Government to restore the collective bargaining mechanism it inherited and open negotiations in good faith with the PSU and other trades unions;
• The PNCR is committed to pursuing the question of torture with local, regional and international organisations and will be approaching the relevant organisations and individuals in due course.

DICTATOR BHARRAT JAGDEO CONTINUES TO VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION:

Every right thinking Guyanese must by now be very troubled by the overt march towards dictatorship by the PPP/C Administration. That Administration, led by Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, believes that it can ignore the Constitution, trample on the rights of the Guyanese people, and impose policies cooked up in the Office of the President.

In this era, when the world is moving in the direction of good governance, Guyana is moving rapidly in the direction of dictatorship. There is little or no doubt that President Bharrat Jagdeo and his government are dictators.

Probably the strongest indication of the dictatorial nature of the Jagdeo regime is the ease and consistency with which it violates the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. The PPP/C Government began its new term of office, in breach of the Constitution, having being advised by the PNCR that the approach that was being utilized, at the time, would, inevitably, result in the violation of the Constitution.

The Jagdeo/PPP/C regime continued in this same vein. The Government’s desire to control the Judiciary resulted in attempts to place the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice in the hands of one individual. This clearly will result in the further compromising of the independence of the Judiciary. This threat to the independence of the Judiciary was challenged by the PNCR. Notwithstanding, the Government continues seeking to tamper with the Judicial system.

The PNCR opposes these attempts and is adamant that it will only agree to support a suitable candidate for, either the position of Chancellor or that of Chief Justice, if that candidate has demonstrated independence, professionalism and is of unimpeachable integrity – there must be no skeletons in their closets.

The President’s re-appointment of Commissioners for the Ethnic Relations Commission is illegal
The handling of the Ethnic Relations Commission is a clear indicator of how this dictatorial regime has little or no regard for the Constitution of Guyana.

The life of the Commission has come to an end. The Constitution requires that the categories of organisations which elected their representatives, for appointment to that Commission, should be asked to do so again, using the specified Consensual Mechanism. However, the PPP/C is clearly reluctant to follow the Constitution and is seeking to use surreptitious manoeuvres to add pliant organisations which would enable the Administration to manipulate the ERC. Naturally, the PNCR has refused to go along this unconstitutional road.

It is a clear violation of the Constitution for the PPP/C to use it’s majority in the National Assembly to pass the Resolution, entitled “Appointment of Members of the Ethnic Relations Commission”, dated 9 August 2007, which states, inter alia, “That the National Assembly calls on the President to take such steps so as to enable the Ethnic Relations Commission to continue to carry out its constitutional responsibilities in the interim.” This procedure is transparently unconstitutional, since the Constitution does not confer any such authority on the President.

The PNCR wishes to make it clear that the ERC is a Constitutional body which is governed by Aticle212B, which states clearly how the ERC is to be constituted and which Groups of Entities should be invited to elect a substantive and alternate representative for appointment to the Commission. The only Constitutional role for the President, in the above process, is to appoint the elected Commissioners representing the Christian Religion, the Hindu Religion, the Muslim Religion, the Trades Unions, the Private Sector Organisations, Youth Organisations and Women Organisations.

In the light of the foregoing, the PNCR wishes to make it clear that the ERC, as presently constituted, is illegal and would not be recognized by the Party.

It should be noted that, since its establishment, the Government, by insisting that it could only recruit staff under Public Service pay and conditions, has made it virtually impossible for the ERC to attract, recruit and retain the calibre of staff which is required to ensure that its Secretariat is enabled to fulfil its Constitutionally determined functions. In addition, the ERC Tribunal has yet to be appointed.

It is patently clear that the government is not interested in the ERC exercising its full Constitutional mandate, since, for example, both the Office of the President and the Public Service Ministry have steadfastly refused to provide the ERC with the requested information on the ethnic composition of those who have been offered scholarship by the Government of Guyana. This information was legitimately required for a study that was being undertaken by the ERC, in accordance with its Constitutional mandate.

The ERC is, however, but one of a growing list of illegalities for which the Jagdeo PPP/C regime is directly responsible. The others include the procedure used for the appointment of the Integrity
Commission, the appointment of Ministers before they were sworn in as Parliamentarians, the appointment of a person as Chairman of the Public Service Commission even though that person had not resigned as a public officer for the period specified by the Constitution.

Government by fear
Not only is the Government withholding information, it is also governing the society through the use of fear – another hallmark of the dictatorship. Today public servants and the population in general are afraid to speak to the media or to anyone else for fear of being victimized. It is now the norm in the society for people to fear the long arms of the Government. It is perceived that this Government will break any law or take any action that is necessary to maintain its iron fisted control of Guyana.

But what is worst is that the Government has gone a step further and is now misusing the Joint Services.

It does appear that the Government has officially sanctioned torture as the preferred way to achieve their objectives. The PNCR has developed and will, with immediacy, implement a plan to stop this dictatorship from making torture a normal tool to be used by the Joint Services.

The PNCR wishes to remind the few members of the joint services, who are doing the biddings of the Jagdeo PPP/C regime, that it is wrong and they should stop and remember that the world, at present, is intolerant of torture and other forms of excesses.

If the PNCR has to take the same measures it took to stop the likes of Merai, then so be it.

The 9% must be an interim payout
The arbitrary and unconstitutional methods of the PPP/C are allied to a clear determination to destroy institutions by undemocratic means. The PNCR refers to the refusal to maintain the check off system for the Guyana Public Service Union, the suspension of the subsidy to the Trades Union Congress, and the suspension of the subsidy to the Critchlow Labour College.

Even as there are these dictatorial acts occurring, the government is destroying the collective bargaining process in Guyana. It continues to impose its will on the Guyanese working people and to undermine any trade union which it cannot control. Is it not arrogance for a government, which is raking in billions of dollars on the backs of the Guyanese workers, through VAT, to declare that, even though the official rate of inflation stands at above 13%, it can only arbitrarily offer Public Servants and other government workers a 9% across the board increase for 2007?

The PNCR believes that this 9% should be seen as an interim payout and calls on the Government to restore the collective bargaining mechanism in accordance with the International Labour Organisation Convention (I).

It is time that the stakeholders of this country take careful note of the spreading tentacles of dictatorship and take determined action to bring it to a speedy end. The alternative is a country increasingly ruled despotically by an Administration whose sole aim seems to be to hang on to power.

TORTURE:

The PNCR unapologetically returns to the question of the use of torture by the PPP/C Administration. It must be recalled that this question assumed sharp focus when Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones claimed and proved that they had been tortured by the security forces. The response to the question as to whether torture represents a new method of fighting crime by the PPP/C Administration has been one of double speak and deception. On the one hand, spokesmen for the Administration claimed that torture is not policy but yet claims by victims of torture continue to be reported. The dramatic evidence of torture was captured on national television when David Zammett had to be assisted by security officers into court because he could not walk on his own has put paid to all denials by the Government that it does not torture individuals.

The PNCR, therefore, wishes to remind the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration of its Constitutional and international obligations. Torture is forbidden under our laws. And the UN Convention Against Torture is quite specific. Article 2, Paragraph 2, of that Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

This article is cited particularly against the background of statements by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee, that “new methods” would be used to combat crime.

The PNCR is committed to pursuing the question of torture with local, regional and international organisations and will be approaching the relevant organisations and individuals in due course.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Friday, 16 November 2007