PRESS STATEMENT By Mr Deryck Bernard, MP People’s National Congress Reform At The Press Conference On Thursday, 18 July 2002 Hall Of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
• RESUMPTION OF THE DIALOGUE
• TREASON CHARGES BEING USED TO TERRORISE PNC/R MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS
• HARRASSMENT OF SENIOR AND RESPECTED ATTORNEYS
• NO ABANDONMENT OF PNC/R CONSTITUTIONAL/ DEMOCRATIC RIGHT TO PROTEST
• THE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS SHOULD RESIGN
• INITIATIVES OF THE NEW CITIZEN’S GROUP
• THE DEATH OF DETECTIVE CORPORAL ADRIAN LONDON
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media.
RESUMPTION OF THE DIALOGUE:
There have been calls made and advice offered to the People’s National Congress Reform over the past days, which have urged the resumption of the Dialogue process with the head of the government. These sentiments arise from many sources, some from well meaning citizens and institutions though in some cases, the calls are insincere and mischievous. We have noted for example a full-page advertisement in the Stabroek News of Sunday 14 July 2002, which alleges that the dialogue process is succeeding. It is perhaps appropriate that the originators of that advertisement have chosen to remain anonymous. Their cowardice is justified since that statement is a tissue of half-truths and outright lies. The People’s National Congress Reform wishes to make it clear that the dialogue
cannot be resumed until the decisions already taken are implemented. For as long as there is no progress on the liberalisation of the state media, the resuscitation of the bauxite industry, the depoliticisation of the public service, the implementation of a meaningful parliament and depoliticisation of the distribution of land and houselots, and other outstanding matters, further dialogue will be useless. Our membership reaffirmed and endorsed the position taken by the Central Executive Committee at an All Members meeting, which was held on Sunday July 14, 2002.
We take seriously the concerns expressed by a large cross section of the society for a resumption of the process. We urge these interested parties to examine the substantive issues of concern and urge that good faith be displayed by the implementation of decisions. The Government must be made to understand that propaganda alone will not diffuse the issue.
TREASON CHARGES BEING USED TO TERRORISE PNC/R MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS:
Obviously embarrassed by the facts emanating from the July 3, 2002, happenings at the Office of the President, the PPP/C propaganda machine has gone into full gear but obviously in an imperfect way. In order to deflect the harsh criticisms about the manner in which the Office of the President was not protected; the sinister plot obviously harboured by some members of the President Guard to murder as many unarmed persons as possible; the spurious claims of treason have emerged and this has been compounded by harassment of lawyers representing the protesters. The PPP/C is now in a desperate bid to save itself and to appear strong as it approaches its Congress.
On Monday July 15, 2002, charges of treason were laid against Mark Benschop and Phillip Bynoe the particulars of which we are advised, state that the two addressed meetings on the East Coast and encouraged others to storm the office of the President. We realize that the matter is sub judice but do believe that in a democratic society as some claim ours is, we are permitted a comment. The PNCR holds no brief for these two men but is of the opinion that these recent events cannot pass ignored. The charges are baseless, vindictive and immoral. Any person with eyes to see will attest to the fact that the persons in the vicinity of the Presidential complex were unarmed and non-violent. The PPP/C must know that their plan will not succeed and will in fact exacerbate an already volatile situation. Good sense would have dictated that every effort should have been made to de-escalate the crisis and to ensure that the people of Guyana feel confident that their leaders are working towards solutions rather than creating new problems.
HARRASSMENT OF SENIOR AND RESPECTED ATTORNEYS:
Not content with laying charges of treason, the PPP/C has now passed instructions through a leading Minister to harass the lawyers representing the protesters. On Thursday July 11, 2002 Mr. Mortimer Coddette whilst attending to his clients interests at the CID Headquarters, Eve Leary was the victim of an attempt to have him removed from the station. This is unprecedented, unconstitutional and dangerous. Our intelligence suggests that an all station alert was issued for the arrest of Basil Williams on Saturday July 13, 2002. We understand that the alert included his vehicle number and instructions that he be arrested on sight. Black Clothes Police can now target lawyers! Where are we going as a county? Mr. Williams was pounced upon at his home and arrested for no good and sufficient reason. PPP/C is again transgressing the acceptable limits of governance. The PNC/R will strenuously
defend the right of the citizen to receive legal representation and the right of the advocate to give that representation in an atmosphere free from fear and intimidation.
NO ABANDONMENT OF PNC/R CONSTITUTIONAL/ DEMOCRATIC RIGHT TO PROTEST:
Our Party holds that it has a legitimate and constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and take all lawful political action to carry out our duty. Our duty includes opposition to the bad governance, corruption, incompetence and terror. We believe that it would be a dereliction of our duty to the nation and to all Guyanese including our supporters if we were to sit idly by and let the current regime carry Guyana in to an abyss of criminality, incompetence and poverty. No amount of intimidation, murder and harassment will cause us to turn from this struggle. We note for example that the police have deliberately prevented us from using the Square of the Revolution for assembling as part of our memorial to those slain in the brutal actions of July 3rd. The Police have no authority over that site and their actions of barricading the square and placing guards armed to the teeth around the site is provocative and a matter of grave concern. Such attempts to antagonise supporters of the PNCR and exert pressure will only strengthen our resolve to ensure that justice is done in Guyana.
THE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS SHOULD RESIGN:
In recent times there have been repeated calls for the removal of the Minister of Home Affairs for presiding over a series of failures. His trophies include: continued criminality; police executions; jailbreaks; support for the murderous Black Clothes Squad to name but a few. The PNC/R has always brought to the attention of the nation misdeeds including the mishandling of the issuance of firearm licenses. In 1999, the Minister disclosed in the National Assembly that the number of firearms issued between 1992 and 1998 was 30, 012. In June 2002 when asked again by Member of Parliament Mrs. Sheila Holder as to the number of licenses distributed over the period 1990-2002, the very Honourable Minister in a written reply stated: 11,111. The size of the difference in the answer given, clearly establishes incompetence and/ or deceit. The Minister is called upon to provide an explanation to the nation as to how some 19,000 licenses could have been forgotten by him. Honesty must be the bedrock of any government. We are witnessing too many instances of untruths and cover-ups.
Whether the figure is 11,111, 19,000, or 30,012, the numbers are staggering. These frightening numbers support the thesis that the more guns there are in a society, the more lawless that society becomes. When coupled with the large number of illegal firearms in the hands of criminals and others, this country on a per capita basis, stands out as one of the most heavily armed societies in the world. PNC/R intelligence has also revealed an upsurge in the distribution of illegal arms in certain selected villages along the East Coast of Demerara. In light of what is being stated here, the call for the removal of the Minister of Home Affairs is again made. He has been a colossal failure not only to the Government but also to all Guyana.
INITIATIVES OF THE NEW CITIZEN’S GROUP:
The PNCR has taken note of the initiatives and discussions taking place in civil society and in various concerned organisations about developments in Guyana and the deteriorating social and political situation. We welcome the interest shown and the demonstration of patriotism, which we believe, motivate such initiatives. We stand ready to discuss and study very carefully any serious proposals, which are made. The Party wishes to reiterate our position that we are open to meaningful discussions and negotiations, which can lead to real change. We note that the
citizens delegation which has been deputed by various organisations to move forward proposals have chosen as their basis the principle outlined in Article 13 of the Constitution, that is, the principal objective of the political system is to provide increased opportunity for the participation of citizens in the management and decision making processes of the state. If this provision is taken seriously and implemented with vigour, imagination and seriousness, it is an appropriate starting point from which to begin work on these matters.
THE DEATH OF DETECTIVE CORPORAL ADRIAN LONDON:
As has been the case whenever a policeman or woman is killed in the line of duty, the PNCR again strongly condemns the brutal slaying of Cpl. London. Murder of law enforcement officers should never be condoned and every effort must be made to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This latest killing raises several issues, which cry out for attention. The first is that the time has come for due consideration to be given to the enacting of special legislation to address police slayings. Secondly, the PNCR believes that inquests should be held into the death of every policeman slain. It is only fair and just that ranks of the force themselves feel that the justice system works for them as well as it does for civilians and criminals. The death of every policeman within recent months has led to widespread speculation fuelled by rumours. The families of those killed are entitled to the truth. One recent claim is that Cpl. London lost his life because of the heroic role he played in rescuing from the murderous guns raised against unarmed persons trapped in a room of the Office of the President on July 3, 2002. The nation needs to know the truth.
People’s National Congress/ Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
July 18, 2002
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