PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 24 January 2008 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The machinations, of the Minister of Regional Development, are designed to enable him to exercise political control over those Regions, which have been won by the PNCR, rather than to allow the discharge of their governance responsibilities, by the elected representatives of the people of these Regions, based on the Constitution;
• The PNCR has tabled a Motion in the National Assembly to ensure that the issue of torture is dealt with, in accordance with the Constitution and the treaty obligations undertaken by the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration;
• The PNCR is calling for an inquest into the death of 19 year old Rameshwar Sawh who was found hanging in a cell at the Enmore Police Station;
• The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo government to increase wages based on the rate of inflation and to commence negotiations with the Trades Unions with the aim of giving the Guyanese workers a living wage. This should be complimented by a decrease in the 16% VAT rate to 8% or less.

PPP/C IS DESTROYING LOCAL DEMOCRACY:

The People’s National Congress Reform is concerned that the elected representatives of the people, in the regions led by the PNCR representatives, are not being allowed to govern, as mandated by the people of Regions # 4, 7 and 10.

These regions are faced with a situation in which, whereas Article 74(1) of the Constitution states that “It shall be the primary duty of local democratic organs to ensure in accordance with law the efficient management and development of their areas and to provide leadership by example”, this is not happening. Unfortunately, the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration is violating the Constitution, by the deliberate use of every conceivable obstructive device to ensure that the elected PNCR controlled Regional Democratic Councils are sidelined and prevented from performing their constitutional role. This is yet another vivid example of the dictatorial nature and tendencies of the Jagdeo PPP/C regime.

The Jagdeo PPP/C Administration utilizes a number of nefarious means to sideline the people’s elected representatives and to seek to exercise control over those Regions which they lost at elections.

The PPP/C instrument, for the subversion of legitimate Constitutional role of the elected RDC’s, is the Minister of Regional Development, who exercises governance of these regions by diktat, through the manipulation of their budgetary releases and the politically appointed Regional Executive Officers and other public officers.

The machinations, of the Minister of Regional Development, are designed to enable him to exercise political control over those Regions, which have been won by the PNCR, rather than to allow the discharge of their governance responsibilities, by the elected representatives of the people of these Regions, based on the Constitution. The disruptive acts of the Minister include: the appointment of REO’s and other public servants who are politically aligned; the discriminatory allocation of resources in favour of PPP/C controlled Regions; and the withholding of, or failure to allocate, the resources needed for the development of the particular region that is not PPP/C controlled.

It is clear to the PNCR, and should also be clear to all but the politically blind, that the PPP/C is effectively destroying the Regional Democratic system, to promote their narrow partisan political interests.

The PNCR asserts that Regional Executive Officers should be politically neutral and the elected representatives of the people should have a significant involvement in the appointment of the Regional Executive Officer, in all of the Regions, since, once appointed, the REO is the Accounting Officer for the region. At present, REO is answerable only to the Minister.

The PNCR is adamant that the present situation, in which resources are allocated at the whims and fancies of the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration, must cease immediately and the RDCs be allowed to access resources, in accordance with the dictates of Article 77A of the Guyana Constitution, which states that “Parliament shall by law provide for the formulation and implementation of objective criteria for the purpose of allocation of resources to, and the garnering of resources by local democratic organs”. In addition, the Administration must establish the Local Government Commission, as stipulated by Article 78A of the Constitution.

Taking account of all of the above experiences, the PNCR is unequivocal in its position that all of the agreed reforms, the consequential legislation for their implementation, and a comprehensive programme of Public Education, must be in place, before the next Local Government elections are held.

THE SANCTIONED USE OF TORTURE:

The PNCR is not impressed or amused by pronouncements in the media that the GDF will discipline three persons for their involvement in the torture of soldiers. As we have said previously, the investigation should be impartial and independent. Therefore, we expect that the public will be informed who are the persons appointed to conduct such an inquiry.

What is more troubling is that it is being stated, in the media, that the officer in charge will lose seniority. This is unacceptable, since torture is a serious crime which the United Nations declared as unacceptable in any circumstance. Torture is a criminal offence that should be treated as just that.

The PNCR is opposed to this regime giving a slap on the wrist to those who torture people. We believe that to do that is to send the dangerous signal to the PPP/C operatives in the military that they can torture people and get away with it.

It is against this backdrop, that the PNCR has tabled a Motion in the National Assembly to ensure that the issue of torture is dealt with, in accordance with the Constitution and the treaty obligations undertaken by the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration. There must be created, the required framework to ensure we eradicate the heinous crime of torture from our society.

The PNCR is concerned that the PPP/C Government seems unwilling to enquire into the circumstances surrounding the torture of Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones and David Leander. We demand that all allegations of torture be investigated and justice given to the victims.

CALL FOR INQUEST INTO THE DEATH OF RAMESHWAR SAWH:

The PNCR believes that there should be adherence to the laws of Guyana at all times. The law is clear that, in circumstances where there is controversy over the death of someone, then there must be an inquest. It is for this reason that the PNCR is calling for an inquest into the death of 19 year old Rameshwar Sawh who was found hanging in a cell at the Enmore Police Station.

This opportunity is also taken to remind the authorities in Guyana that there is need for an inquest into the death of Donna Herod who was allegedly wrongfully gunned down by ranks of the Guyana Police Force.

SALARY INCREASE INADEQUATE TO DEAL WITH THE INCREASE COST OF LIVING:

It is evident to all that the members of the ruling Jagdeo PPP/C elite are living a life of luxury off the sweat and taxes of the Guyanese people and that they have lost touch with reality. As the members of the uncaring elite enjoy life, their policies are leading to the further impoverishment of the people of Guyana, especially the unemployed and the employed poor. Their policies are devastating the working class in Guyana.

Last week, the PNCR provided illustrative information which showed how the cost of living spiked as a result of the excessive 16% VAT and the ineffective policies of the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration. This week, we have provided information to establish that, notwithstanding the PPP/C ploy of increasing the income tax threshold and granting limited pay increases, the people of Guyana are worst off.

Below is a chart indicating the increases that were given to the Guyanese workers.

Category of worker Salary in Jan.2007 Salary in Jan. 2008 Amount of Increase
Acting Teacher $26,318 $30,121 $3,803
Office Asst. in Public Service $26,069 28,415 $2,346
Police Constable $31,609 $34,129 $2,520
Soldier (Band 11) $31,605 $34,124 $2,519

The foregoing illustrates that the highest increase was to teachers, a paltry three thousand eight hundred and three dollars ($3,803) and that policemen, soldiers and the Office Assistants in the Public Service obtained less than two thousand six hundred dollars. What this means is that the increases that the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration is advertising and celebrating as significant are, in fact, less than twenty United States dollars (US $20) per month.

When you look at the increases in relation to increase in prices in the basket of goods we looked at last week this is the picture.

ITEMS PRE-VAT 2006 PRESENT PRICES (2008) AMOUNT OF INCREASE ($) BASKET OF GOODS PER MTH INCREASED COST FOR BASKET

1 lb Flour $ 60.00 $ 80.00 $20.00 6lbs. Flour $120.00
1 pint Oil $120.00 $200.00 $80.00 2pts. Oil $160.00
1 lb Milk $280.00 $580.00 $300.00 2lbs. Milk $600.00
1 lb Potatoes $ 40.00 $80.00 $40.00 3lbs Potatoes $120.00
1 pint Split Peas $ 60.00 $100.00 $40.00 2 pts. Split Peas $80.00
I pint Rice $ 30.00 $ 70.00 $40.00 1/2 gal. Rice $160.00
1 lb Sugar $ 50.00 $ 60.00 $10.00 4 lbs. Sugar $40.00
1 lb Salt $ 30.00 $ 60.00 $30.00 1 lb. Salt $30.00
1 lb Butter $160.00 $240.00 $80.00 1 lb. butter $80.00
1 lb Garlic $ 80.00 $140.00 $60.00 1 lb. garlic $60.00
1 lb Onion $ 40.00 $100.00 $60.00 1 lb. onion $60.00
1 lb Chicken $180.00 $260.00 $80.00 4 lbs. chicken $320.00
1 lb Beef $160.00 $240.00 $80.00 4 lbs beef $320.00
1 Egg $20.00 $35.00 $15.00 1 doz. Eggs $180.00
1 lb Cheese $480.00 $1,000.00 $520.00 1 lb cheese $520.00
1 Pk Chowmein $130.00 $170.00 $40.00 I pk chowmein $170.00
1 Pk Macaroni $120.00 $140.00 $20.00 1 pk. Macaroni $20.00
1 lb Eschallot $120.00 $400.00 $280.00 1 lb. Eschallot $280.00
1 lb Celery $140.00 $400.00 $260.00 1 lb celery $260.00
4 heads Pak Choi $100.00 $200.00 $100.00 8 heads Pak Choi $400.00
4 bundles Calaloo $100.00 $200.00 $100.00 8 bundles calaloo $200.00
1 lb Cabbage $140.00 $260.00 $120.00 2 lb cabbage $240.00
1 lb Tomatoes $140.00 $280.00 $140.00 1 lb tomatoes $140.00
4 bundles Bora $100.00 $200.00 $100.00 8 bundles bora $200.00
TOTAL $4,760.00

The foregoing suggests that, based on this very conservative basket of goods which is way below what a family of three needs per month that the increase in salaries given to the workers is way below the increase in the cost of procuring these items. It should be pointed out that this does not include the increased cost of electricity and other services that have increased.

The PNCR is adamant, therefore, that the recent increase in salaries imposed on the Guyanese workers is not only inadequate but is an indication of the uncaring nature of the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration. What is more interesting is that, when the inflation rate was said to be lower, the Government claimed then that they were using the inflation rate in setting the wage increase. Now that the official rate of inflation is over 13%, the government imposes nine percent and conveniently abandons the policy of pegging the increase in salaries to inflation.

The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo government to increase wages based on the rate of inflation and to commence negotiations with the Trades Unions with the aim of giving the Guyanese workers a living wage. This should be complimented by a decrease in the 16% VAT rate to 8% or less.

PNCR CONTINUES TO SCRUTINISE HOUSE-TO-HOUSE REGISTRATION:

The PNCR takes the issue of House-to-House Registration seriously, and as a consequence has been scrutinizing the process.

The PNCR wishes to express its concern that some GECOM officials are not allowing senior citizens with birth certificates they obtained years ago to register. The PNCR is calling on the Guyana Elections Commission to give clear instructions to its officers that by law, they are obligated to register those senior citizens once their birth certificates have the official seal.

The PNCR is also concerned that some GECOM officials are not allowing the scrutineers access to the ledger and other relevant data that should be made available to scrutineers in keeping with the rules and regulations. The PNCR calls on GECOM to ensure that officers involved in the registration process are advised that they are expected to give scrutineers access to these documents. This is important, since it is the only way that political parties will be able to scrutinize the process and ensure a clean Register of Registrants and subsequently a clean Voters List.

The PNCR urges all Guyanese to take this opportunity and register in this House-to-House Registration.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, 24 January 2008.