PRESS STATEMENT By Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform And Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin Saturday 2 February 2008 Congress Place, Sophia




THE SECURITY SITUATION IN GUYANA AND THE KILLINGS AT LUSIGNAN:

The PNCR wishes to reinforce the position of the Party, as expressed by me, its Leader, in the Statement issued, on Saturday 26th January 2008, in which the killing of eleven persons, including five children, was condemned. We see such killings as senseless and have no place in our society.

In making this condemnation, the Party reiterates our position that citizens should not allow themselves to be drawn into ethnic conflict and confrontation. The Party also highlighted the fact that the future progress of Guyana must be based on a climate of stability and mutual respect among all ethnic groups. The PNCR stands by this conviction, as expressed in our Statement last Saturday.

The PNCR had also urged, and continues to urge, that the pronouncements of Leaders and politicians should be measured and matched with positive action. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

It is now in the public domain that politicians, aligned to the PPP, have engaged in racial baiting on the East Coast and the stirring up of ethnic passions. This is hardly what is required, in the wake of this horrible tragedy. What is required is the kind of activity and actions, which address the security concerns of the people, heal wounds, promote ethnic harmony, and ensure calm and stability.

President Jagdeo must, therefore, be condemned for setting the atrocious example, in his first statement, on Saturday 26th January 2008, just hours after the tragedy, when he sought to gain political mileage by linking the tragedy to matters, such as the issue of guns 30 years ago. Once again, he appointed himself as both judge and jury and seems to have usurped the functions of police investigators by making wild comments and casting aspersions, without the required investigations being completed. The PNCR calls on Mr. Jagdeo to end this infantile approach and to allow an independent investigation into the tragedy.

The people of the East Coast, however, must be commended for rejecting these reckless attempts, by the President, to shift responsibility, in order to hide the abysmal failure of his Government in the area of security.

The PNCR sees the call by President Jagdeo, for the Opposition to acknowledge the existence of criminals in Buxton, as yet another attempt by him to play childish and divisive politics with the serious security situation in Guyana. We, in the PNCR, have always been ready to meet unconditionally to discuss the security situation and to chart a workable way forward.

The PNCR is unequivocal that crime has to be rooted out of the society. The Party, therefore, calls on the Joint Services to approach their work in a professional manner and within the confines of the law. Such an approach will always have the support of the PNCR.

It is against this backdrop, that the PNCR finds it unacceptable that the tragedy of Lusignan is being used as the excuse for the brutal assault of innocent people and the wanton and unprovoked destruction of their property, in Buxton and neighbouring communities. It is also evident, that elements in the Joint Services are targeting, harassing and illegally arresting and incarcerating innocent citizens, particularly young men, in the Buxton-Friendship area. I can confirm the foregoing, for today as Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform and Leader of the Opposition I visited the Buxton/ Friendship area and saw the destruction that is occurring.

What is needed is not retaliation against any community or any group, rather, there is need to rectify the existing situation, in which there is the glaring absence of a comprehensive security plan, by the Jagdeo regime. The Government can have no acceptable excuse for not, as yet, producing and implementing such a professionally workable plan, based on the various recommendations, including those contained in the Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission and the Simmons Report, among others. A comprehensive security plan must be presented, agreed and implemented.

The PNCR finds Mr. Jagdeo’s suggestion that the non response of the police at Vigilance was responsible for the security failure and the loss of lives, on Saturday 26 January, at Lusignan as laughable, since, even President Jagdeo should know, that the police at Vigilance lack the capacity to deal with such a situation. In fact, the blame should be placed squarely at the foot of the incompetent President Jagdeo who failed to fulfill his years-old promise to establish a SWAT squad, within the Guyana Police Force, to deal with such eventualities.

However, it is evident that security measures alone would not work. These measures have to be complemented with actions aimed at addressing the social and economic conditions in the communities.

The best approach to the situation on the East Coast, as the PNCR has already articulated as early as 2002, was for there to be investment in strategic areas, such as the upgrading of the infrastructure for agriculture, to revitalize these communities and improve the economic well being of the citizens.

Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte had produced a workable proposal, for the village of Buxton and its environs that would have made possible the rehabilitation of drainage and irrigation structures in the back lands of the village to provide a sound economic base for the development of the community and guarantee employment for the many unemployed youth. The project was to serve as a model for other villages along the coast that would have, altogether, cost two hundred and fifty million dollars ($250Mn). This was a small sum to invest, compared to the benefits which would have been reaped. Unfortunately, the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration, in its usual petulant and visionless display, rejected Mr. Hoyte’s proposal and never undertook the required action.

In fact, Mr. Hoyte was vilified as holding the Nation to ransom. In this context, the Government must disclose, in the interest of transparency, how much was spent in constructing and maintaining an Army base at Buxton for two years. That expenditure, not withstanding, the Government is now prepared to pay fifty million dollars ($50Mn) for information leading to the capture of one person.

It is clear that the Jagdeo Administration has made manifest the Biblical warning that, “where there is no vision a nation perishes”!

Even as the PNCR condemns the killings in Lusignan, we feel compelled to make certain observations about the deteriorating security situation in the country.

After fifteen years in Office, the PPP/C Administration has demonstrated its inability and incapacity to contain the incidents of crime and arrest the escalation in related activities, such as narco-trafficking, which has fuelled the trade in guns and the growth of criminal enterprise. Unfortunately, the Guyanese people are reaping a bitter harvest from the incompetence, neglect, mal-administration and poor governance of the Jagdeo/PPP/C regime.

Over the last fifteen years, the PNCR has repeatedly urged the PPP/C Administration to put in place plans to professionalise the security forces so that their operatives could be adequately trained and prepared to respond to the challenges of organised criminality. In addition, the security forces should be motivated and possessed with the will to protect Guyanese citizens and secure the communities in which they live, work and play.

The PPP/C Administration has elected to reject the reasonable submissions of the PNCR, and the rational recommendations contained in the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) and Simmons Reports, and opted, instead, for a cat’s cradle of measures. It is clear, that the proposals, from the security experts, funded by the British Government, were not enthusiastically embraced by the Jagdeo PPP/C Government. In fact, instead of proceeding with the British funded security Assistance programme, which had the full support of the PNCR, the Government opted to engage the services of a person of dubious character, named Kerik. The upshot has been a delay of nearly two years, during which no concrete action or plans emerged to improve the security of the nation.

In their usual descent into absurdity, a few months ago, the Administration sought to propagandise the signing of a new Agreement with the British. This time, without the knowledge or support of the Opposition, in the hope of deceiving the people of Guyana that something was being done about security. The fact is that, despite numerous reports and proposals, there has been no substantial implementation.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

At this late and, indeed, tragic hour, the PNCR, once again, urges the PPP/C Administration to revisit the recommendations of the DFC and the Simmons Group, with a view to repairing the morale and professional competence of the security forces and adequately equipping them to carry out their Constitutionally enshrined duties.

As a responsible and patriotic national Party, the PNCR makes this call for the urgent preparation of a comprehensive security plan. However, we are very conscious that the Government lacks the political will and competence to ensure the security of all of the people of Guyana.

Unfortunately, the well-known links, of senior members of the Administration, with the now entrenched organised criminal enterprises, has placed it in a position where it is unable or unwilling to take the necessary decisions and actions to ensure that the security forces are strengthened and enabled to take effective steps to curb the frightening rise of organised crime and criminal activity that have set down roots in Guyana. This is also glaringly evidenced by their inability and unwillingness to deal with the growing menace of piracy in Berbice.

It is important too, that, while we address the security concerns and mourn the loss of innocent lives, we ensure that the Government does not distract attention from the real issue that of their inability to deal with the security concerns of the people of Guyana.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Saturday, 2 February 2008