PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 7 February 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• Mr. Deryck Bernard who was a man of broad culture was also an impressive analyst in cricket and other sports. He went on to become a Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and a Minister of Education. Lately he was the Senior Lecturer at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Guyana. Yet he was a man of modesty and great courtesy;
• The failure of the Jagdeo PPP/C regime, to take positive and effective action to strengthen security nationally and seek to bring about racial harmony, leaves them open to the charge of using the tragedy of Lusignan merely as a political football;
• Operation Restore Order appears not to be aiming to achieve its publicly stated objectives, but rather to punish and criminalise all of the residents of Buxton;
• The PPP/C Administration must act with dispatch to develop a comprehensive security plan and implement the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) and the Symonds Report;
• A reduction of the cost of living is necessary to encourage the kinds of activities that can contribute to creating the conditions for economic growth and help to stem the widening net of poverty within Guyana;
• The PNCR repeats its position that this is simply not good enough. The Army cannot investigate itself. The only credible way for the investigations, into the allegations of torture, to be done is by an independent commission, consisting of upstanding citizens of this Republic whose integrity are beyond question;
• The PNCR must ask the Administration to take urgent and effective measures to determine the whereabouts and well-being of several persons who were obviously abducted, including 22 year old Ishmael Archer who was abducted in Buxton, in September 2007, and 19 year old Tenicia Morgan who, in her late stage of pregnancy, was also abducted more than two weeks ago.
• The PNCR wishes to emphasise that, even though some of the initial problems associated with the House-to-House Registration have been resolved, there are others which demand equally urgent resolution.

PNCR SENDS CONDOLENCES ON THE DEATH OF DERYCK BERNARD:

The Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, the executive and general membership of the Party once again records its shock and sadness at the death of member of the Central Executive, Mr. Deryck Bernard. Again condolences are extended to his family.

Mr. Deryck Bernard who succumbed to a heart attack at the relatively young age of 57, was a highly gifted member of the Party and the country at large. Educated at Leicester University where he obtained an Honours First Degree in Geography and a Masters Degree in Regional Planning, Mr. Bernard was also an accomplished musician, being able to play the piano, the guitar and other musical instruments. He also had a fine singing voice and entertained audiences in the country. Mr. Bernard who was a man of broad culture was also an impressive analyst in cricket and other sports. He went on to become a Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and a Minister of Education. Lately he was the Senior Lecturer at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Guyana. Yet he was a man of modesty and great courtesy.

Mr. Bernard will be missed by the PNCR and his many friends and admirers.

A Book of Condolences will be opened at Congress Place on Friday, February 8 from 10:00 am until Monday, January 11th. Members of the executive and the public are invited to sign the book.

The funeral for Mr. Deryck Bernard will be held at Trinity Methodist Church on Monday, February 11th at 3:00 pm.

LUSIGNAN KILLINGS:

The PNCR believes that the best way that this nation can honour the people of Lusignan, who lost their lives in the brutal circumstances of 26 January 2008, is by ensuring that the security situation in the country, as a whole, is improved to such an extent that it is unlikely that there could be a recurrence of this tragedy. Their lives could be further honoured if the PPP/C Administration reaches out, in a convincing manner, to the society at large and embraces all the relevant political stakeholders, to build a platform of harmony and unity which could lead to the kind of healing that can repair our fractured ethnic relations.

The failure of the Jagdeo PPP/C regime, to take positive and effective action to strengthen security nationally and seek to bring about racial harmony, leaves them open to the charge of using the tragedy of Lusignan merely as a political football.

The PNCR makes these assertions against the background of the excessive PPP/C propaganda, which seems more intent on casting blame and sowing divisions, within our nation, than on starting a genuine national conversation to facilitate a greater understanding among the people of this country and, thereby, lay the foundation for promoting harmony and national cohesion. It is most unfortunate that the tragedy of Lusignan is being drowned in the kind of blatant propaganda which is likely to diminish its significance for all Guyanese.

The Party reiterates its position of condemnation of the senseless killing of the eleven residents of Lusignan, including five children, and urges the security forces to spare no legitimate efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

BUXTON:

While the PNCR condemns the killings at Lusignan, the Party must, as a matter of principle, deplore and condemn the unnecessarily brutal and provocative measures being taken, by the security forces, against innocent members of the Buxton Community.

Operation Restore Order appears not to be aiming to achieve its publicly stated objectives, but rather to punish and criminalise all of the residents of Buxton. The facts are there for all to see: farmers cannot reap their produce, because the back lands are being indiscriminately bulldozed; young men are being arrested on the flimsiest of pretexts; homes are being damaged and destroyed; the life of the community itself is being brought to a standstill; and, generally, the members of the Buxton Community seem to be, once again, in for yet another round of reckless and lawless bashing.

It is a new and strange twist in functions and responsibilities that, the affected farmers and other members of the Buxton community who are eligible for compensation for the wanton damage inflicted on their property, by the security forces, they are being directed to approach the Eve Leary headquarters of the Guyana Police force, rather than to an entity, such as the Ministry of Agriculture or Human Services. The PNCR is unequivocal that the Police is not the proper authority to deal with the issue of compensation.

No self respecting political party can allow a community, such as Buxton, which has made, and continues to make, an invaluable contribution for the development of this country, to have all of its residents branded as criminals. The PNCR, therefore, cannot and will not condone this onslaught on the reputation and economic and social existence of the people of Buxton

After its creation in the 19th Century, Buxtonians, of all ethnic groups, built a community that was both economically successful and intellectually admirable. Many of the best educated and gifted citizens of this country came from Buxton. These include Dr. B. G Nehaul, Col. Brenda Aaron, two Commissioners of Police, Felix and Carl Austin, Journalist Paul Persaud, Guyana Scholar Mr. Haslyn Parris, and lawyer Martin Stephenson. These distinguished individuals, by no stretch of imagination, can be considered criminals.

Only the most politically backward can be engaged in such character assassination.

It must not be forgotten that, while Buxton was peaceful and seeking to develop, it took the folly of the PPP/C Administration to set loose uncontrollable elements, of the Police Force, to beat and teargas residents of the community over a relatively trivial incident. The capstone of this policy, of brutalizing the community, ended in the murder of Shaka Blair by the infamous Target Special Squad.

The PNCR wishes to remind the nation that, when Eusi Kwayana brought private criminal charges against Steve Merai for the murder of Shaka Blair, the state intervened and terminated the proceedings. This incident, as well as the many insensitive intrusions into the community, would suggest, to any rational mind, that the real criminals are not in Buxton but in the current ruling political establishment and certain rogue elements of the security forces.
The case has been made that Buxton has been an industrious community and an intellectually fertile area of Guyana. What is needed is the enlightened building on these valuable public goods.

The Leader of the PNCR has already written to President Jagdeo, in a letter dated 5th February 2008, setting out reasonable and workable proposals for the development of Buxton, including its back-lands. History will judge the PPP/C Administration harshly, if it dismisses these proposals in the same carefree manner that it did those submitted by the late Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte for the investment of $250Mn, for the development of the physical and social infrastructural to facilitate agricultural and other economic development of the community.

In addition to these proposals, the PNCR wishes to commend to the PPP/C Administration that the permanent crops of the community be preserved, as a necessary element in the sustainability of the Buxton-Friendship community. Further, the security forces, at the end of the current security exercise, must be held accountable, to the people of Buxton-Friendship, for the lands which have come under their control. The security services must be required to have an inventory of all such lands with a clear and legal indication as to their ownership.

The PNCR also wishes to remind the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration that the said area is an important germ plasma collection centre which is the home of many species of fruit that are only found in that area. The best known among is the famous “Buxton spice” which must be preserved as part of the national patrimony.

THE DETERIORATING SECURITY SITUATION:

The many observations, by the PNCR, on the deteriorating security situation, have been substantiated by a number of international organizations and governments, most recently by the United States . The recent advisory on Guyana, issued by Washington, paints this grim picture of our security situation:

“Serious crime, including murder, home invasion, kidnapping, and carjacking, continues to be a major problem. The murder rate in Guyana is three times higher than the murder rate in the United States. Armed robberies are increasing, especially in major business and shopping districts. Hotel room strong-arm break-ins are also increasing, so travelers should use caution when opening their hotel room doors. Criminals may act brazenly, and police officers themselves have been the victims of assaults and shootings.”

It would be otiose for the PNCR to point out that such an advisory is not helpful to the image of this country and speaks to the inaction and incompetence of the Government on security matters. Guyana not only needs to improve its image but to also offer protection to all of its citizens. The PPP/C Administration must act with dispatch to develop a comprehensive security plan and implement the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) and the Symonds Report.

Not only is the security situation deteriorating rapidly, but the political situation is threatening to spin out of control as a result of the burgeoning dictatorship of the Jagdeo PPP/C regime. Indeed, the internationally prestigious Freedom House organization has down graded Guyana from “free” to “partly free”.

This is a clear substantiation of the position held by the PNCR that Guyana is moving very fast in the direction of dictatorship. This is compounded by the reckless and dictatorial handling of the security situation in Guyana by President Jagdeo.

COST OF LIVING:

Very shortly, the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration is expected to present the 2008 Budget to the National Assembly. The PNCR believes that the Administration has had the benefit of the views of this Party, and that of several other important stakeholders, on the action needed to bring down the soaring cost of living. One such measure must be the downward revision of the excessively high 16% VAT to no more than 8%.

A reduction of the cost of living is necessary to encourage the kinds of activities that can contribute to creating the conditions for economic growth and help to stem the widening net of poverty within Guyana. In this regard, the PNCR urges the Administration, to pay close attention to the pensioners and others, who are forced to cope with the crippling cost-of-living, on fixed incomes.

As a matter of policy, the PNCR sees value in the proposed Special Fund, to provide aid for single parents and the vulnerable in the society. The Party also wishes to point out to the Administration that the increase in the Income Tax threshold is a good, but not a sufficient, measure to address the stark necessity for immediate relief from the rising cost-of-living and the existence of pervasive poverty, particularly, among our vulnerable citizens.

As the PNCR has already illustrated, the increase in wages are far below the increase in cost-of-living and, therefore, there is need to revisit the wage increases with the aim of negotiating with the Trades Unions an additional increase.

The above must be complemented by the long overdue promise to undertake a comprehensive reform of the entire tax system. The tax reforms should be aimed at widening the tax net while, at the same time, increasing the disposable income available to the Guyanese people.

HUMAN RIGHTS:

The torturing of the citizens of this Republic, by elements of the security forces, is not only contrary to the relevant provisions of the Constitution, but also the many international conventions and agreements which the PPP/C administration has solemnly entered into, such as the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the OAS Convention Against Torture.

Over the last four months, credible allegations have been made, in respect of Victor Jones, Patrick Sumner and David Zammett, that they were tortured by elements of the security forces. It took the Administration a very long time to issue weasel statements, through its various representatives, including the President, that it does not condone torture and that internal investigations have been launched into the matter, as far as the Army is concerned.

The PNCR repeats its position that this is simply not good enough. The Army cannot investigate itself. The only credible way for the investigations, into the allegations of torture, to be done is by an independent commission, consisting of upstanding citizens of this Republic whose integrity are beyond question.

The PNCR has received disturbing information that the Military Criminal Investigation Department (MCID) of the GDF is under tight political control and is the Department largely responsible for the commission of acts of torture. If this is true, and the Party has reason to believe it is, then the appropriate response must be to put this organ of the GDF under immediate and independent investigation.

THE DANGER OF ABDUCTION:

The PNCR must ask the Administration to take urgent and effective measures to determine the whereabouts and well-being of several persons who were obviously abducted, including 22 year old Ishmael Archer who was abducted in Buxton, in September 2007, and 19 year old Tenicia Morgan who, in her late stage of pregnancy, was also abducted more than two weeks ago.

The lethargy and apparent disinterest of the security forces, in this matter, is certainly undermining public confidence in the security forces.

The PNCR also wishes to remind the Jagdeo PPP/C regime that another year has passed since the assassination of Ronald Waddle. Much has been published on the investigation of the murder of former Agriculture Minister, Sash Sawh, but the police continue to be silent on the assassination of Ronald Waddell. The PNCR, and the people of Guyana, are entitled to an update on the investigations into the execution of Ronald Waddle.

The Party demands a clear and unequivocal statement, from the Administration and the security forces, on these matters, as soon as possible.

HOUSE-TO-HOUSE REGISTRATION:

The PNCR wishes to emphasise that, even though some of the initial problems associated with the House-to-House Registration have been resolved, there are others which demand equally urgent resolution.

In Region #7, for example, although the Chief Registration Officer, Mr. Gocool Boodhoo, has confirmed that all relevant documents should be made available to the PNCR Scrutineers, the Assistant Registration Officer (ARO) of Region #7 continues to make documents, important to the smooth running of the exercise, available only on a selective basis to the PNCR Scrutineers,. This does not advance the cause for the transparency of the House-to-House Registration exercise.

The PNCR has also discovered that many Registration Clerks are not yet able to proficiently operate the cameras available to them. In addition, we understand, that not all Registration Teams have been equipped, as expected, with the appropriate digital cameras. In some areas, there are not enough cameras for all of the Teams

GECOM needs to urgently implement a refresher-training programme for the Registration Clerks and to increase the number of digital cameras available for use by the Registration Teams, to avoid the continued need for return visits to potential Registrants.

Additionally, Registration Clerks, especially in the Campbellville area, are refusing to accept the old red and white birth certificates, even though the Chief Registration Officer has again confirmed that these birth certificates are supposed to be accepted by the Registration Clerks.

In many instances, there are no physical arrangements, at Cluster Offices, for the accommodation of the PNCR Scrutineers. Additionally, there are still difficulties with the availability of GECOM transportation for PNCR Scrutineeers who are, officially, an integral part of each Registration Team.

There is, therefore, the urgent need for GECOM to take effective administrative action to correct these existing deficiencies.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday 7 February, 2008