PRESS STATEMENT People’s National Congress Reform, Wednesday 20 February 2008 Congress Place, Sophia




THE PNCR AND THE NATIONAL SECURITY CRISIS IN GUYANA

The Lusignan "massacre" offered the Jagdeo Administration an opportunity to marshal a full national response that could have contributed to national cohesion. Regrettably, that opportunity was squandered on the alter of political opportunism, the misuse of the state owned media to further the PPP partisan political agenda and the stirring up of racial and political conflict.

The Lusignan tragedy should have triggered the summoning of an urgent meeting of national stakeholders. Instead, it took yet another tragic loss of the lives of twelve more innocent citizens, at Bartica, for the Government to awake to its constitutional and moral responsibility for the protection and security of all of our citizens.

The Jagdeo Administration should take full responsibility for the loss of life and should resign in disgrace for such serious abdication of its responsibility.

Despite the unbridled vituperation and irresponsible and unfounded statements and accusations against the Leadership of the Party, by the President and his Ministerial cohorts, the PNCR welcomes the convening of a meeting of national stakeholders, hosted by the President.

The PNCR was originally notified, on Monday 18 February 2008 that the meeting would be held at 13:30hrs, yesterday, Tuesday 19 February 2008. However, we were later informed, by Dr. Luncheon, that the meeting had been rescheduled to 17:00hrs.

The PNCR later learnt, from another source, that the national stakeholders’ meeting was rescheduled for 15:30hrs and felt that there must have been a misunderstanding. However, subsequent inquiries, at the Office of the President, revealed that the Office of the President was involved in a major deception by surreptitiously arranging, belatedly, two separate meetings while still giving the impression to invitees that there was one meeting of national stakeholders.

As has now become normal practice, NCN-TV Channel 11 actively supported this deception by displaying a scrolled notice announcing that the national stakeholders’ meeting was rescheduled for 15:30hrs but not stating whether the original 17:00hrs meeting was abandoned.

Stakeholders and the people of Guyana must judge for themselves the seriousness of the Jagdeo Administration in dealing with the crime and security situation.

The PNCR, notwithstanding the above, decided to attend the meeting of Parliamentary political parties because,

1) the National Security situation demanded, at this time, a responsible approach by stakeholders; and,
2) the Leader of the Opposition made a public pronouncement of a willingness to meet without any pre-conditions.

The PNCR delegation comprised Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, MP, Leader of the PNCR and of the Opposition, Mr. Winston Murray, CCH, MP, Chairman, PNCR, Ms. Volda Lawrence, MP, Vice Chairman PNCR and Mr. Aubrey Norton, M P. Representatives of the PPP/C, TUF, AFC and GAP-Roar were also present.

After expressing the PNCR’s reservation about the approach being used for the Stakeholders meeting, the PNCR delegation made the below mentioned points, during the course of the meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was agreed that a small group would draft a joint statement which would be released when agreed upon.

Regrettably, at around 23:00hrs last evening, the PNCR received a document, from the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, which, according to him, had already been agreed to and signed without any reference to the PNCR. Consequently, it is the view of the PNCR that the Jagdeo Administration has no serious interest in a collaborate approach for addressing the security situation in Guyana.

The Leader of the PNCR and of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, MP, has, today, dispatched a letter to President Jagdeo urging him to convene, as early as possible, the genuine national stakeholder meeting, to which our Party was originally invited, and reiterated his preparedness to participate in such a meeting. A copy of the Letter to the President is attached.

The PNCR, therefore, is making available to the public the main points made by its delegation, at the meeting between the President and the Parliamentary Parties.

The PNCR has unreservedly condemned the murderous attack on the Police and residents at Bartica and expressed our sympathies to the families, relatives and friends of those who were killed. We support the efforts of the security Services to find the perpetrators and hope that their efforts would be based on sound professional work, within the context of the law.

We believe that these series of crimes are a manifestation of the deep-seated socio-economic problems within the society. This is, nevertheless, an opportunity, though belated, for the Jagdeo PPP/C Government to come to terms with the national security crisis and, therefore, seek to achieve a national consensus to confront the crime and security situation in Guyana.

The National Consensus should embrace the following:

1. The development of a definite and comprehensive national security plan which is time bound, taking, particularly, into account the Report and Recommendations of the Discipline Forces Commission, the Symonds Report and the Security Sector Reform Action Plan;
2. An appropriate transparent and effective mechanism for the oversight of the implementation of such a national security plan;
3. An understanding of the civil-military relationship, bearing in mind the need for the support and involvement of local communities;
4. The need for and extent of involvement of the international community, at the multilateral level;
5. The recognition that crime is multi-dimensional and, therefore, solutions must be multi-faceted;
6. The need for the modernisation, professionalization and reorientation of national approaches for fighting crime and safeguarding citizen security;
7. The need for equality of treatment, before the law, for all stakeholders; and
8. The reform and overhaul, strengthening and reorientation of the Judicial system.

The PNCR is clear that the National Security Plan must include short, medium and long term measures.

The measures that are needed include:

 The fulfilment of the promise for the early establishment of a well-trained and specialised professional SWAT Squad, as a unit of the Guyana Police Force;
 A comprehensive security communications network that permits timely intra-security forces contact and contact between the security forces and communities;
 An immediate and significant strengthening of the modern intelligence gathering capacity, within a well defined legal framework;
 The modernisation and strengthening of the Forensic and analytical capabilities of the Security Forces;
 Improvement in human resources development within the Security Forces, for example, better remuneration, training, structured compensation arrangement for Personnel ( and their families) who die or receive injuries in the line of duty and other related measures to attract and retain a suitable calibre of personnel;
 Provision of adequate river, land and air transport equipment and facilities;
 A development plan for Depressed communities across the country;
 A better rehabilitation plan for prisoners;
 The promotion of investment and the concomitant generation of wealth, coupled with the equitable distribution of such wealth.
 The reform of the system of taxation with specific emphasis on the reduction of the burden of taxation rate, particularly the deleterious effects of the 16% Value Added Tax;
 Creating the conditions for sustainable employment and incomes as the key elements for the reduction of poverty;
 Providing second opportunities for school dropouts and the reintroduction of some form of national service on a voluntary basis; and
 The development, within the prison system, separate facilities for first offenders and juveniles to avoid them being commingled with adult prisoners and hardened criminal.

The PNCR proposes these measures from a practical standpoint and stands prepared to work with other stakeholders to determine how they can be implemented.

IMMEDIATE MEASURES:

1) The PPP needs to abandon its irresponsible and immoral use of the nationally owned NCN Television and Radio Stations, which have generally fanned the flames of racial and political conflict, since the Lusignan tragedy.
2) If NCN is to be used to discuss the crime and security situation then there must always be equitable access and a representative panel.
3) The proper consultation of the owners and farmers of the land in the Buxton – Friendship area and the immediate payment of compensation for crops damaged. A limited cash payment must be made on an emergency basis until the assessment is completed.
4) The end to indiscriminate harassment of innocent young men and women by the security forces on the East Coast of Demerara.
5) The withdrawal of inflammatory statements made by Government Ministers, including in the National Assembly, and the offering of a public apology accompanied by the reining in of their excesses by the President.
6) Getting back to basics: Review the Background paper (Draft) prepared, since November 2002, by the Private Sector Commission of Guyana in their bid to have a joint Communiqué on Crime; Recognise that unless the system of Governance and the institutional arrangements are reviewed, there will continue to be an environment of conflict and alienation, which are not conducive to any joint initiatives on crime. The recent and continued misuse of N.C.N by the regime is a good example.
7) Urgent attention to the perceptions of discrimination by 50 % of the population, as revealed in a recent survey commissioned by the Ethnic Relations Commission.

The PNCR wishes to make it clear that it continues to be committed to working along with all national Stakeholders, to achieve a National Consensus, to tackle the seriously deteriorated national security situation. Accordingly, the Party will not sign any statement that does not emerge from a meeting of the national stakeholders, as we were led to believe was the original intention.

In any event, it is vital that the Government gives its commitment to holding a genuine consultation involving all national stake holders and to expeditiously implementing the decisions of the National Consensus.

The Leader of the Opposition will shortly address the Nation on these matters.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Wednesday, February 20, 2008