PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Friday 18 January 2008 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR again states that there should be an investigation into all allegations of torture, including those committed against Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones and David Leander, since the United Nations Convention Against Torture states, in Article 2, that there are “No exceptional circumstances whatever”;
• The PNCR believes that there is need for comprehensive modern legislation to address the issue of sexual violence, especially rape;
• The PNCR is concerned that the PPP/C regime seems to be moving away from the well established and just principle that a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. The Jagdeo regime seems to be going down the wrong road, by increasing the number of offences that are non-bailable;
• The Jagdeo Administration gravest attack on the Trades Union movement has been its refusal to recognise the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and arbitrarily imposing wage agreements in response to the dictates of the IMF;
• The PNCR believes, and has asserted on previous occasions, that the primary reason for the spike in the cost of living is the excessively high 16% Value Added Tax (VAT).

INVESTIGATION INTO TORTURE:

The People’s National Congress Reform notes President Bharrat Jagdeo’s decision to set up a “Board of Inquiry” to investigate the allegation of torture made by three soldiers against the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

The Party again states that there should be an investigation into all allegations of torture, including those committed against Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones and David Leander, since the United Nations Convention Against Torture states, in Article 2, that there are “No exceptional circumstances whatever.”

More importantly, the Convention makes it clear, in Article 12, that there should be an “impartial investigation”. Therefore, the President cannot just declare that he is setting up a “Board of Inquiry”. It must be independent and impartial and, in keeping with Article 13 of the Convention, there should be measures taken “to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.”

While the President, in his usual arrogant and dismissive manner, has appointed a “Board of Inquiry”, the PNCR calls on the President to respect the United Nations Convention Against Torture signed by his Government and be prepared to have those found guilty of torture punished by law and the victims compensated.

SEXUAL OFFENCES:

The PNCR believes that there is need for comprehensive modern legislation to address the issue of sexual violence, especially rape.

The PNCR welcomes the idea of seeking to reduce or possibly eliminate the settlement of rape cases outside of the courts but believes that the legislation should include provisions for penalties against those who make false allegations of rape.

The PNCR also believes that the legislation must cater for the rehabilitation of those who are found guilty of sexual offences. In addition, there should be mechanisms in place to monitor the activities of convicted sex offenders, when they return to their communities.

PNCR CONCERN ON THE ISSUE OF PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE:

In recent times, the Jagdeo PPP/C regime has been manifesting a tendency to increase the number of offences that are non-bailable. The PNCR wishes to make it very clear that a person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The PNCR is concerned that the PPP/C regime seems to be moving away from the well established and just principle that a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. The Jagdeo regime seems to be going down the wrong road, by increasing the number of offences that are non-bailable.

While we agree that, in some cases, there is need to increase the severity of punishment to act as a deterrent to crime, we do not support the idea of willy-nilly increasing the number of offences that are non-bailable.

We believe that an approach that increases the number of offences that are non-bailable is teemed with the potential for increasing the abuse of power by the Executive.

Guyana, at this stage of our development, should be seeking to move in the direction of developing institutions and mechanisms that increase the enjoyment of fundamental rights by citizens, rather than opening dangerous opportunities for, what seem to be an emerging dictatorship.

THE CONTINUING ATTACKS ON THE RIGHTS OF TRADE UNIONS:

The brazen and blatant campaign, by the Jagdeo Administration, to emasculate the Trades Union movement, is not acceptable, in the context of the need to develop a democratic culture in Guyana.

The rights of the Trades Unions are enshrined in law but, the Jagdeo Administration continues to trample on those rights. The Administration continues to withhold the annual subvention for the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC). This is a direct attack on the umbrella organisation which represents the Trades Unions of Guyana.

In the case of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Jagdeo Administration has refused to recognise the Agency Shop agreement and has prevented the Ministries from continuing the Check-Off system.

The Administration gravest attack on the Trades Union movement has been its refusal to recognise the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and arbitrarily imposing wage agreements in response to the dictates of the IMF.

It is the withholding of the subvention for the Critchlow Labour College which, at the present time, cries out for immediate redress. The withholding of the subvention has disrupted the activities of the College and threatens the future education of the students of the College. At the time of writing, the students are unable to sit the required examinations as the lecturers have not been paid. It seems that the Jagdeo Administration wants to bring the Critchlow Labour College to heal by starving it of funds.

The PNCR wishes to state that this course of action is likely to precipitate the destruction of the Critchlow Labour College and, if this comes about, the Jagdeo Administration will be fully responsible and culpable.

COST OF LIVING:
With each passing day, each week, each month, evidence emerges, that is clear and persuasive, which suggests that the cost of living in Guyana continues to increase dramatically. Even the Government Statistical Bureau recently admitted that inflation was reaching alarming levels.

The PNCR believes, and has asserted on previous occasions, that the primary reason for the spike in the cost of living is the excessively high 16% Value Added Tax (VAT). The VAT has created a windfall for the Government but has been a burden for the Guyanese people. It must be reduced to at least 8% so that the Guyanese people can enjoy a measure of relief.

The relief measures, proposed by the Administration, such as increasing the Income tax threshold, the special fund for single parents and the pensioners, are welcome but not sufficient to address the overall problems of ensuring that the Guyanese people are enabled to cope with the rapidly rising cost of living.

The PNCR has looked at the cost of basic food items and has come up with what we would call the Poor Man’s Food Basket. This is given in the table below:

ITEMS
PRE-VAT 2006 POST-VAT 2007 PRESENT PRICES (2008)
1 lb Flour
1 pint Oil
1 lb Milk
1 lb Potatoes
1 pint Split Peas
I pint Rice
1 lb Sugar
1 lb Salt
1 lb Butter
1 lb Garlic
1 lb Onion
1 lb Chicken
1 lb Beef
TOTAL $ 60.00
$120.00
$280.00
$ 40.00
$ 60.00
$ 30.00
$ 50.00
$ 30.00
$160.00
$ 80.00
$ 40.00
$180.00
$160.00
$ 1,290.00 $ 80.00
$200.00
$500.00
$100.00
$100.00
$ 70.00
$ 60.00
$ 60.00
$240.00
$140.00
$100.00
$260.00
$240.00
$2,150.00
Same
Same
$580.00
$80.00
Same
Same
Same
Same
Same
Same
Same
Same
Same


ADDITIONAL:
1 Egg
1 lb Cheese
1 Pk Chowmein
1 Pk Macaroni
1 lb Shellot
1 lb Celery
4 heads Pak Chi
4 bundles Calaloo
1 lb Cabbage
1 lb Tomatoes

4 bundles Bora $20.00
$480.00
$130.00
$120.00
$120.00
$140.00
$100.00
$100.00
$140.00
$140.00

$100.00 $35.00
$1,000.00
$170.00
$140.00
$400.00
$400.00
$200.00
$200.00
$260.00
$280.00
$300.00
$200.00


It is clear that the prices of the most basic items are increasing with a rapidity that is likely to put great pressure on the budgets of the average Guyanese man and woman. Urgent measures are required to bring down the cost of living, beginning with the reduction of VAT as already indicated.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Friday 18 January 2008