PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 28 February 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• As the Party extends congratulations to President Raul Castro, it takes note of the fact that while the towering figure of Fidel Castro will no longer be holding the post of President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces; he has signalled that in his retirement he will remain “a soldier of ideas” for the Cuban Revolution;
• The PPP/C seems hell bent on provoking the people of Buxton beyond acceptable limits;
• The PNCR has been criticized for not signing the recent Crime Communiqué when, in fact, the Party is fully justified in taking this course of action. A review of the facts would be both reasonable and pertinent;
• The PNCR wishes to draw public attention to the fact that the fundamental human rights of Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Juliet Holder-Allen, are being violated, by politically directed manoeuvres’, to keep her off the bench.
• The PNCR considers the non-payment of the full amount of the stipend promised to Party Scrutineers monitoring the present house-to-house registration exercise to be a breach of faith on the part of the Elections Commission and Government;
• The PNCR considers the complete stakeholders meeting held yesterday, Wednesday, February 27th at the Office of the President to be the first step by the Government that makes any sense in the resolution of the present crime and security crisis.

PNCR SALUTES RAUL CASTRO:

The People’s National Congress Reform extends warmest congratulations to President Raul Castro on his election to the high office of President of the Republic of Cuba. The Party is absolutely confident that his many years of experience as one of the leading politicians of the Cuban Revolution, his service as Minister of Defence and his understanding of the regional and national environment in which Cuba has had to operate, are factors which will ensure that he would continue to steer the ship of State towards a safe haven while ensuring the continued progress and development of its people.

As the Party extends congratulations to President Raul Castro, it takes note of the fact that while the towering figure of Fidel Castro will no longer be holding the post of President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces; he has signalled that in his retirement he will remain “a soldier of ideas” for the Cuban Revolution. At this time of significant change in the leadership of the Cuban Government, the PNCR wishes to remember the fruitful and beneficial relations which the Party and Guyana enjoyed under Fidel Castro’s Presidency which were the result of the close personal relationship between our Founder Leader, L.F.S. Burnham and President Fidel Castro.

THE BUXTON SITUATION:

The People’s National Congress Reform must express its alarm over the consequences and implications of ongoing developments, in respect of “Operation Restore Order”. This operation, according to the PPP/C and its propagandists, was intended to find criminals and killers in Buxton. It has turned out to be an assault on the community, characterized by destruction of crops, the prevention of farmers going to their farms, the harassment of young and old people, and the criminalizing of many young Afro-Guyanese.

The PNCR is yet to determine, with any certainty, that the promised compensation to the farmers is a fact. The Leader of the PNCR asked the Prime Minister, at the last sitting of the National Assembly, the following questions:

• When would the farmers be consulted about the clearing exercise on their lands, which was being done without their permission?
• When would the farmers be paid compensation for the damage and loss to their crops? and
• What are the date, time and venue for the compensation to be paid to the farmers, who had their crops, on Brushe Dam, damaged by bulldozers of the security forces?

The questions were referred to the Minister of Agriculture. The Minister’s garrulity could not conceal his prevarication and deceit.

The farmers of Buxton are now faced with the situation where access to the lands, which enabled them to maintain their livelihood to provide for their families, has been willfully and arbitrarily denied them. It is all the more disappointing to learn from the various news reports that the farmers are not being offered adequate compensation for the destruction of their crops. The PPP/C seems hell bent on provoking the people of Buxton beyond acceptable limits.

The most disturbing feature of “Operation Restore Order” is the wholesale harassment of the Buxton community. The PNCR has reports of a 61 year old ex-police officer being arrested at her home, taken to the Vigilance Police Station and, subsequently, to Eve Leary to be fingerprinted, photographed, and intimidated, by out-of-control policemen who seem to be receiving orders directly from the political directorate.

The PNCR has incontrovertible evidence of two (2) young people, Marlena Trotman and Leebert Todd, aged 15 and 16, respectively, who were arrested in Buxton, taken to the Vigilance Police Station and, subsequently, to Eve Leary for questioning. It is now in the public domain that these young people were being questioned about the whereabouts of Rondell Rawlins, known as “Fineman”. When they denied any knowledge of him, they were threatened and harassed by their interrogators.

What is alarming, about the conduct of the PPP/C Administration and the security forces, is that both of these young people were arrested and taken to police stations without their parents or guardians being present. In the final analysis, the PPP/C will stand condemned in the eyes of the people of this region and the rest of the world for maliciously and unjustifiably treating these young people, as well as the older ones, like common criminals when there is no evidence of them having broken the law.

Unfortunately, these are only three examples of the growing list of people who are routinely being rounded up, harassed and then detained by the security forces. The PNCR is aware that the political directorate has ordered the security forces to arrest as many people as possible, in Buxton, and question them about Rondell Rawlins.

An important element in any operation, such as “Operation Restore Order”, must be to win the hearts and minds of the residents of the community. Both the PPP/C Administration and the security forces are ignoring this basic requirement, at their own peril. They have alienated the farmers and they have literally forced the young and old people, of the community, to regard both the Government and the security forces, not as upholders of the law, but, as authorities which are ready to trample on their rights for narrow partisan and discriminating political ends. The PPP/C and elements of the security forces are on dangerous ground. Unless they reverse course, the situation in Buxton could easily spiral out of control, with dire consequences for this nation, confronted, as we all are, by a rapidly deteriorating national security environment.

THE PNCR’S REFUSAL TO SIGN THE COMMUNIQUÉ ON CRIME:

It is always dangerous in politics to rush to judgement. Yet, several commentators and newspapers have made this mistake. The PNCR has been criticized for not signing the recent Crime Communiqué when, in fact, the Party is fully justified in taking this course of action. A review of the facts would be both reasonable and pertinent.

The PNCR received a letter, dated 18th February 2008, by which it was informed that President Jagdeo would be hosting a meeting of National Stakeholders. By any reasonable interpretation of the contents of this letter, the Party expected to be invited to a single meeting of National Stakeholders. But it was soon clear, when the timing of the meeting was changed, that there was another force at work to ensure that the President would hold two separate meetings – one for the Civil Society Stakeholders and the other for the Parliamentary Political Parties - instead of the one meeting of all National Stakeholders. Yet, the PNCR attended the second of these meetings out of concern for the deteriorating security situation. It is of interest to note that the first of these meetings, which was named a meeting with National Stakeholders, was briefed by the Heads of the security forces, while the second was not.

At the end of the meeting with the Parliamentary Political Parties, it was agreed that a small team would prepare a Draft Communiqué which would be circulated for consideration by the PNCR and the other Parties. Contrary to that understanding, the Party was, later that night, sent a document which it was informed represented the Communiqué which was signed by the other Parties, even before the PNCR was allowed to make any inputs into its framing.

It is clearly evident that, instead of seeking to create an environment of confidence and trust, in which all National Stakeholders could collectively address, the threat to the safety and security of the citizens and the state, the Government was engaging in subterfuge and deceit, by presenting the PNCR, in contravention of what had been previously understood and agreed, with the fait accompli of a signed Communiqué.

Accordingly, as a matter of principle, the PNCR has refused to sign a Communiqué which does not obligate the Government to speedily implement a holistic National Security Plan which is endorsed and subscribed to by all National Stakeholders.

MAGISTRATE JULIET HOLDER-ALLEN:

The PNCR wishes to draw public attention to the fact that the fundamental human rights of Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Juliet Holder-Allen, are being violated, by politically directed manoeuvres’, to keep her off the bench. There does not appear to be any legal reason for the extended time that she has been kept off the bench. It, therefore, seems that her case represents yet another example of the crude interference with the judicial process.

The Judicial Service Commission, consisting of Mr. Carl Singh, Mr. Prem Persaud and Mr. Brynmore Pollard, must say who were the individuals or officers who filed a complaint of misconduct against the Chief Magistrate and when such a complaint will be heard. Also, the Jagdeo Administration must state its reasons for continuing to allow Magistrate Allen to be denied the right to return to her “Commissioned Office” as the top Adjudicator of the lower bench.

NON-PAYMENT OF SCRUTINEERS – A BREACH OF FAITH AND A BREACH OF CONTRACT:

The PNCR considers the non-payment of the full amount of the stipend promised to Party Scrutineers monitoring the present house-to-house registration exercise to be a breach of faith on the part of the Elections Commission and Government. This breach of faith on the part of the Elections Commission and the Government has unfortunately caused a breach of contract between the Scrutineers and the political parties that appointed them. The Elections Commission cannot hide behind the cloak of the Ministry of Finance by claiming that they released all the money that the Ministry of Finance gave to them. It is GECOM that provided the information to the political parties that Scrutineers would be paid $25,000 and $35,000 for Scrutineers and Assistant Chief Scrutineers respectively. It is on the basis of this information that political parties entered the contractual arrangements with their Scrutineers. The principle of paying the Scrutineers was agreed to by the Government several years ago and it is on this principle and agreement that the present house-to-house registration exercise was agreed upon. The PNCR therefore holds the Government and GECOM to be liable and will not rest until the full payment promised is paid. The PNCR will therefore vigourously pursue this matter and hopes that the Government understands the implications for the credibility of the present registration exercise and the acceptability of its results.

NATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS MEETING – FIRST STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION:

The PNCR considers the complete stakeholders meeting held yesterday, Wednesday, February 27th at the Office of the President to be the first step by the Government that makes any sense in the resolution of the present crime and security crisis, if the PPP/C expects stakeholders support for any measures that they contemplate. It is hoped, however, that the Government will not consider that meeting the end of the process but rather the commencement of a course of action that can lead to the resolution of the problems which the country has faced over the last twenty years. The eyes of the world are on President Jagdeo and the PPP/C. Only time will confirm their seriousness and commitment to the resolution of Guyana’s deep-seated problems which have led to alienation, marginalization, violence and the regrettable loss of lives.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday 28 February 2008