PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 10 April 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR recognises that, ultimately, the problems facing the GDF are in a wider sense those of our society. It is now recognised that illiteracy has been increasing in Guyana;
• The PNCR believes that no self respecting Government would be untroubled by the fact that a major report, on an activity of national and international importance, has not been submitted to Parliament, as promised, for almost a year since the end of those events;
• The Party wishes to warn the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration that, any attempt to close down CNS TV Channel 6 will retard the building of a democratic culture in Guyana and generate unwelcome tensions in this society, at a time when there is need for calm and peace;
• The PNCR finds the GPHC investigations unconvincing and given the issues at stake, that the GPHC, as an important national institution, would have undertaken an investigation which would be accepted as credible by all segments of the society. This, regrettably, was not the case.

GDF MUST BE STRENGTHENED:

The PNCR views with a degree of sadness reports which have appeared in the media that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), in its recent recruiting exercise, discovered that there was a high degree of illiteracy among those who sought to gain entrance to this leading national institution. The Army has announced, to its credit, that it will be conducting remedial classes for unsuccessful applicants, with the specific intention of increasing their aptitude to pass examinations.

While the Party applauds this measure, it must register its concern at the apparent decline in the intellectual capacity of the GDF. It is well known that, in the 70’s and the 80’s, the GDF was one of the national institutions which produced officers of the highest intellectual calibre.

The GDF is already beginning to face some of the major security challenges of the 21st Century. It is, therefore, in the interest of the current Administration, and the rest of the nation, that measures be put in place to improve the quality of its human resources so that the GDF can maintain the intellectual and other capabilities necessary for it to play its role of ensuring the security of the nation, both internally and externally. Among the needed measures is the increase of the number of scholarships available to the GDF. In addition, there is also the need for an increase in the number of specially targeted internal training programmes.

The PNCR recognises that, ultimately, the problems facing the GDF are in a wider sense those of our society. It is now recognised that illiteracy has been increasing in Guyana. This phenomenon is clearly having an adverse impact on the quality of human resources entering the GDF. It, therefore, seems logical and necessary that, while the Administration must undertake major programmes for upgrading the human resources within the GDF, it must, at the same time, aggressively confront the national problem of illiteracy in the wider society.

The PNCR has also noted that the GDF plans to implement a Community Youth Empowerment Programme, in the depressed communities, that would seek to empower young people and provide them with a technical and vocational education. The PNCR believes that such a programme is a good idea. The Party is, however, of the view that, had the Guyana National Service not been hastily abandoned, the GDF would not have found it necessary to seek to implement such a programme.

The PNCR asserts that, given the recent admission by the President, of the lamentable state of the young people of this country, and the GDF’s recognition that there is an urgent need for remedial education for our young people, the case for a return of the Guyana National Service is as strong and as compelling as ever.

DELAY IN SUBMISSION OF WORLD CUP REPORT IS A SCANDAL:

The PNCR believes that no self respecting Government would be untroubled by the fact that a major report, on an activity of national and international importance, has not been submitted to Parliament, as promised, for almost a year since the end of those events. But this is exactly what has happened with the two reports on Guyana’s staging of Cricket World Cup matches.

The Jagdeo PPP/C Government and, in particular, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports have been given to offering flimsy and unacceptable excuses for this sad state of affairs. The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports has claimed, on different occasions, that the financial statement, to be submitted with the main report, is with the Auditor General’s office. What he has failed to explain is why the auditing process should take such an inordinate length of time to be completed.

The PNCR is also concerned that the draft of the main report, which has long been in circulation, also seems to have become such a burden that it has defied completion. All of this points to the fact that the PPP/C Administration is yet to recognise and understand that, as the Government, it must deal with the national affairs of this country with efficiency and expedition. This is a hallmark of good governance.

In the meantime the Party has noted that Guyana’s expenditure for the World Cup is now slated to be in the vicinity of US$55Mn. This is a substantial sum of money for a nation as small as Guyana and which has to find resources, under difficult circumstances, to grapple with the myriad problems of development.

The Party is keenly awaiting the financial report to understand how this large sum of money will be repaid by the state.

CHANNEL 6 MUST NOT BE CLOSED DOWN:

The PNCR notes that the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration has resumed the placement of advertising with the Stabroek News, after denying such advertisements, on the flimsiest of pretexts, for more than 17 months. The Party has always considered that the attempts to stifle the Stabroek News were inconsistent with the fostering of a democratic culture and respecting the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Even as the Party notes that the PPP/C Administration is bringing to an end the withholding of advertisements from the Stabroek News, it wishes to express its alarm at what appears to be a concerted effort to close down CNS TV Channel 6. For some time now, the PPP/C Administration has been uncomfortable with the popularity of the “Voice of the People” programme and, in fact, expressed their discomfort by closing down Channel 6, in 2005, for one month, while unlawfully seizing the equipment of the station. Channel 6 was also the object of the anger and frustration of the PPP/C Administration when it was closed down for two days, in 2002.

Now a drama is unfolding in which Mr. C.N. Sharma, Proprietor and Managing Director of CNS TV Channel 6, is being asked by the Office of the President, which seems to be selectively exercising the functions that should normally reside in an autonomous National Broadcasting Authority, to give reasons why his license should not be cancelled or suspended, for a programme the station aired, on 21st February 2008.

The PNCR readily understands that, given the live nature of the programme, “Voice of the People”, there may be instances of the inadvertent use of intemperate language, but this is to be expected in any society that encourages freedom of expression. When there are such occurrences, these can be dealt with by sensible programme management precautions to ensure conformity with acceptable broadcasting standards.

The Party does not condone the use of strong arm tactics, which seem motivated by self-serving partisan political considerations that appear to be the chosen method of the Government. The PNCR, therefore, views with concern the request by the Head of the presidential Secretariat for a meeting with Mr. Sharma on this issue. The Party anxiously awaits the results of this encounter.

The PNCR is constrained to raise the question as to why Mr. Sharma should be summoned by the Office of the President, after he had been warned by the monitoring authority, the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB), which, from all reports, appeared to be satisfied with the recognition, by C.N. Sharma, that unfortunate use of intemperate language might have occurred on his programme, which was aired on the 21st February 2008.

The ominous intervention of the Office of the President, in this matter, suggests that further action is contemplated against Mr. C.N. Sharma. The PNCR hopes that good sense will prevail and that CNS TV Channel 6 will not, once again, be subjected to the kind of harassment and punishment that he has suffered at the hands of the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration.

The Party wishes to warn the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration that, any attempt to close down CNS TV Channel 6 will retard the building of a democratic culture in Guyana and generate unwelcome tensions in this society, at a time when there is need for calm and peace.

GPHC INVESTIGATIONS UNCONVINCING:

At its last Press Conference, the PNCR raised the issue of the allegations made, by Ms. Charmian De Mendonca, against Dr. Kishore Persaud. The Party considered such allegations to be serious enough to warrant investigations by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). Among other things, Ms. Mendonca alleged that Dr. Persaud conducted himself in an unprofessional and insensitive manner when she entered the hospital for treatment, after a serious accident, on Wednesday 26th March 2008.

The Party expected, given the issues at stake, that the GPHC, as an important national institution, would have undertaken an investigation which would be accepted as credible by all segments of the society. This, regrettably, was not the case.

The GPHC rushed to exonerate Dr. Kishore Persaud and immediately announced that he had been cleared of the allegations against him. What is worrisome is that the GPHC did not provide sufficient information which could have led to the exoneration of Dr. Persaud.

The Party’s judgement, in this matter, has been buttressed by a number of medical professionals, including Dr. Walter Ramsahoye, who, according to a report in the Kaieteur News, of Wednesday 9th April 2008, “… expressed dissatisfaction that an investigation into the matter was not conducted by an independent body which has no vested interest in either of the parties involved.”

The Party believes that such an investigation, by an independent body, as recommended by Dr. Ramsahoye, is the best way to proceed in this matter. The credibility of the hospital administration could be restored and patients reassured that their treatment, at this key medical institution, would be done according to the best medical practices and, by doctors who respect the Hippocratic Oath. That oath, among other things, enjoins medical practitioners to “do no harm.”

PNCR LEADER IN NORTH AMERICA:

PNCR Leader, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, MP is currently on a visit to the United States. He is expected to return to Guyana this weekend. During his visit Mr. Corbin has met the Party groups in New York and addressed a Town Meeting at the Catherine McCauley High School in Brooklyn. The PNCR Leader took the opportunity to bring Guyanese up to date on the Party’s activities in relation to the deteriorating crime and security situation. He made it clear that the PNCR has been active in helping to forge a national consensus which could underpin a programme supported by all stakeholders to bring an end to the scourge of crime in Guyana.

Mr. Corbin also appeared on One Caribbean Radio in New York and answered a number of questions about the situation in Guyana and the work of the Party in various parts of the country. During the radio interview Mr. Corbin indicated that the PNCR still believes in the concept of shared governance in Guyana. Such a system could enable all sections of the society to be involved in the development of the country and avoid the deep seated problems which have plagued the nation for a considerable period of time.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday 10 April 2008