PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 24 April 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) maintains its position that the current political, economic and social environment is not conducive to the hosting of Carifesta X;
• The PNCR has always maintained that the primary reason for the spike in the cost of living in Guyana is the 16% VAT;
• The Party believes that priority should also be accorded to Old Age Pensioners who received the pitiable sum of $6,000 a month, just about the cost of a 10 lb tin of milk;
• The PNCR unreservedly supports the workers and demands that the Jagdeo Administration take the necessary measures to ensure appropriate and adequate increases in their wages;
• The PNCR has noted, with some alarm, reports in the media that President Jagdeo has stated that there has been a delay in the publication of the Torture Report, completed by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF);
• The General Council, the highest decision making organ of the Party after the Congress, is being convened at a time when a number of significant developments, internationally and locally, are taking place;
• The PNCR will be continuing its protests action against, among other things, the high cost of living, the Jagdeo dictatorship and the closing down of CNS TV Channel 6.

POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT NOT HEALTHY FOR CARIFESTA:

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) maintains its position that the current political, economic and social environment is not conducive to the hosting of Carifesta X. The Party’s position was clearly outlined by its Leader in his speech to thousands of Guyanese at the March and Rally, which was held at Parliament Buildings Square on April 18th and in a Press Release issued on April 22nd. The Party will remain resolute until the Jagdeo Administration satisfactorily addresses the issues of concern.

Carifesta X is scheduled to take place in August. The Jagdeo Administration therefore has more than ample time to address these critical matters so that the appropriate environment can be created for the holding of this event. The First Carifesta was hosted proudly and successfully by Guyana under the PNC Administration led by Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. The event was created to celebrate, display and promote Caribbean Culture. The Party therefore has a vested interest in ensuring that the event is not misused by the Political Administration or takes place in circumstances in which its cultural essence is tainted by the consequences of the dictatorial policies of the Jagdeo Administration.

Carifesta X must be held in an environment in which the Constitutional right to Freedom of Expression and the right to work are respected by the Government. There must be an immediate end to the suspension of the licence of CNS TV Channel 6; an end to the violation of the human rights of the citizens of Guyana; the release of Oliver Hinckson from Prison where he has been incarcerated on unsustainable charges and his trial being continuously postponed; an immediate short term programme to address the impact of the rising cost of living on the citizens of this country; real progress in addressing the deteriorating security situation; the enactment of Broadcast Legislation to end political control over the media and to establish an Independent National Broadcasting Authority; equitable access by the Parliamentary Opposition Parties to the state own media; and, an end to the Monopoly on Radio.

Any decent Government should find no difficulty in creating the appropriate environment if, indeed, they are anxious to highlight Guyana to the Caribbean and the world.

COST OF LIVING:

The cost of living has risen astronomically as a result of the introduction of the unreasonably high 16% Value Added Tax (VAT), combined with rising oil and food prices internationally. The PNCR has always maintained that the primary reason for the spike in the cost of living in Guyana is the 16% VAT.

While the Government has sought to deny that this is so, one of the institutions responsible for monitoring developments in the economy, the Bank of Guyana, has substantiated the contention of the PNCR. In its half yearly report for 2007, the Bank affirmed “… inflation spiked at the start of the year with the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and combined with rising oil and food prices on the world and internal markets resulted in an inflation rate of 12.2%.”

Panic cries by the Minister of Agriculture to grow more food will not relieve the harsh effects on the people of Guyana. What is required is a comprehensive response including the improvement and rehabilitation of the infrastructure in the villages to create conditions for greater production and higher productivity.

PENSIONERS AND WORKERS:

The Jagdeo Administration has signalled its intention to utilize the $12Bn+ windfall, from the Value Added Tax (VAT), to cushion the effects of the spike in the cost of living, by aiding certain vulnerable groups in our society. It has identified single mothers for such support

However, the Party has also indicated that it has no difficulty with a policy of giving immediate relief to particularly vulnerable groups. The Party believes that priority should also be accorded to Old Age Pensioners who received the pitiable sum of $6,000 a month, just about the cost of a 10 lb tin of milk. The levels of Public Assistance must also be urgently reviewed and increased as an added measure of relief.

The PNCR has argued that the Government should immediately reduce the VAT rate to no more than 10%, if it is serious about giving relief to the suffering and increasingly impoverished people of Guyana.

The PNCR also believes that, given current international and regional economic trends, the Jagdeo Administration must examine, on an urgent basis, the possibility of crafting an emergency economic programme. The centre piece of these measures must be a cost-of-living allowance for the workers of this country, to cushion the effects of the rising cost of living. In this exercise, the interest of the working poor of the public service and the sugar workers must be given priority.

THE PNCR SUPPORTS SUGAR WORKERS IN BERBICE:

The PNCR has been monitoring, with considerable interest, the strike action taken by the sugar workers at Rose Hall, in order to dramatise the fact that the rise in the cost-of-living is playing havoc with their daily lives and reducing their ability to feed their families.

The PNCR unreservedly supports the workers and demands that the Jagdeo Administration takes the necessary measures to ensure appropriate and adequate increases in their wages. Even as the Party does so, it must register its deep concern over recent reports that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) has issued, or is likely to issue, an ultimatum to the workers that they return to work within a prescribed period.

This ultimatum, along with the arrest and charging of nine (9) workers, in the previous week, seem calculated to terrorise the workers who are engaged in legally permissible and justified protest to draw attention to their dire circumstances.

The Party has noted the ambiguous position of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and can only lament the fact that it has become what the late Dr. Jagan called other compromised unions in the early history of this country, “a company union.”

THE TORTURE REPORT:

The PNCR has noted, with some alarm, reports in the media that President Jagdeo has stated that there has been a delay in the publication of the Torture Report, completed by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). It is claimed that the delayed publication has been occasioned by its improper submission to the Defence Board. Such an excuse is unbecoming of the Minister of Defence and Head of State. It lacks all credibility and is calculated to bring the GDF into disrepute. It also raises questions about the efficiency of the Jagdeo Administration.

Whether the reason given by the President is true or not, the fact remains that suspicions have been aroused that the Report is being subjected to doctoring by the Political Directorate. Such a suspicion can only undermine the integrity and credibility of the Report. In order to bring an end, to this atmosphere of suspicion and doubt, the Jagdeo Administration must publish the Report, without any further delay. Any other course of action will leave the Administration open to the allegation that it may be seeking to protect officers who may be guilty of torturing the citizens of this country. The PNCR reiterates its position, however, that only an independent investigation of the torture allegation could exonerate the Disciplined Forces.

PNCR GENERAL COUNCIL:

The PNCR will be holding its second General Council Meeting for the year, on Saturday 26 April 2008. The General Council is expected to be attended by representatives of the ten (10) Regions.

The General Council, the highest decision making organ of the Party after the Congress, is being convened at a time when a number of significant developments, internationally and locally, are taking place.

Internationally, a global recession seems underway and this is likely to have a significant impact on the Guyanese economy. Locally, the rising cost of living, and the evident increase in the dictatorial tendencies of the Jagdeo Administration, seems destined to cause great instability in Guyana. These and other issues will be reviewed by the General Council.

The format of General Council will be the same as in the past. The Chairman of the Party will deliver the welcoming remarks. This will be followed by the Report of the General Secretary. The Leader of the PNCR will then deliver the feature address to the General Council. Ample plenary sessions have been planned to benefit from the views, recommendation and decisions of the Party membership. Regional Representatives will also review the progress of the House-to-House Registration exercise currently undertaken by GECOM.

PNCR CONTINUES PROTEST ACTIVITIES:

The PNCR will be continuing its protests action against, among other things, the high cost of living, the Jagdeo dictatorship and the closing down of CNS TV Channel 6 by holding a March and Rally on Friday April 25, 2008. The March will begin at Mandela Avenue and Joseph Pollydore Street (formerly Durban Street) at 12:00 noon and end at the Burnham Basketball Court, Parade Ground with a Rally. This activity comes in the wake of the well attended March and Rally which was held at the Parliament Buildings Square on Friday April 18, 2008. That Rally was addressed by the Leader of the PNCR and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, who stated that the current and economic environment was not conducive to the hosting of Carifesta X. The Chairman of the Party, Mr. Winston Murray, President of the GTUC, Ms. Gillian Burton and Proprietor of the CNS TV Channel 6, Mr. C.N. Sharma also addressed the Rally.

On Monday, April 21, 2008 the PNCR mounted a picketing exercise in front of the Caricom Secretariat to protest a number of developments which are adversely affecting the Guyanese people. The picketing exercise preceded the submission of a letter by the PNCR Leader, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, to the Secretary General of Caricom and the Chairman of the Regional Grouping, Hon. Hubert Ingraham, outlining the Party’s concerns about the hosting of Carifesta X in the current circumstances. He was accompanied by the Chairman of the Party, Mr. Winston Murray, the General Secretary of the Party, Mr. Oscar Clarke and the owner of CNS TV Channel 6, Mr. C.N. Sharma.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday 24 April 2008