PRESS STATEMENT People’s National Congress/ Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday July 25, 2002 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.

Good morning ladies and gentleman of the media and welcome to our weekly press conference.

The People’s National Congress Reform is deeply disturbed at the continued killing of members of the Guyana Police Force in the line of duty and the further deterioration in the state of law, order and security in our country. We offer deep condolences to the relatives of the officers and other persons who were gunned down in the dreadful events of July 21st in Berbice and share with the community in and around Rose Hall the shock and trauma, which these murders and other outrages have created. In our view, this further escalation in the level of violent crime represents an even more unacceptable level of deterioration in our security and is evidence of the contempt, which these murderers and bandits hold for our police force. This disgraceful situation must be brought to an end if Guyana is to be saved from the brink of disaster. Many tried and tested officers of the Force have expressed their utter dismay at the way in which their brother officers are being eliminated. We also note that members of private security services are also becoming a target for this mayhem.

 We in the PNC/R take no pleasure in reminding the nation that we have warned for some time of the need to take urgent action to support our policemen and women.

 We have called for a public enquiry into the needs and functioning of the force so that its operations could be regularised and public confidence could be restored.

 We have called for the upgrading of the training and equipment of the force and the modernising of its methods and operations to convert it to a contemporary operation.

 We have called for public enquires into the death of officers gunned down in the line of duty and who die in suspicious circumstances.

 We have called for an end to the outlandish assault and persecution of particular communities, which only engender deterioration in public support for the GPF and a restriction in their intelligence capabilities.

 We have called for a restriction in the unjustified increases in the distribution of firearms to private persons

 We have called for the resignation or dismissal of the Minister of Home Affairs since he has demonstrated his incompetence and inability to resolve matters and has brought this nation to a state of fear and insecurity.

 We have called for the dissolution of our tonton macoute style death squad, the dreaded black clothes which only serves to besmirch the character and reputation of the professional and patriotic officers in the force.

We have noted that all sections of society including businesspersons, community leaders, trade unionists and religious leaders have joined our chorus for change and reform. The answer from Mr Jagdeo to the nation as broadcast during his address to his Party Congress is no change, more of the same, and a signal that there is nothing he is prepared to do to stop this disgraceful reign of terror. Mr Jagdeo and his minions in Freedom House continue to blame other people in a childish and paranoid attempt to shift the blame from where it lies squarely, on his shoulders and those of the Minister whom he has appointed.

We wish to remind the nation of what the American Judicial System has documented on the management of our Police Force by the Jagdeo regime:

“To protect his fraudulent visa operation, Carroll enlisted the assistance of several corrupt Guyanese police officers… who were members of the notoriously corrupt, brutal and feared paramilitary arm of the police force, often referred to as the ‘black clothes’ and the ‘death squad’. ‘While working for Carroll, these officers used threats of violence against anyone whose actions could potentially expose the visa operation or who refused to pay the bribe’

Of course, Mr Jagdeo continues to claim that he has not seen this document and has promised us that nothing will change. This is not strictly true. There has been some change. We have noted that then Black Clothes squad now patrols in the uniforms of other more respectable divisions of the force in an attempt to disguise their true identity.

One would have expected that any sane Government would have realised that what is required is a National United response to the seriously deteriorating security situation. Regrettably the visionless Government, instead of seeking the help and cooperation of all sections of the society, continues to malign the PNC/R and use the situation for political propaganda. How then can a part of the problem be a part of the solution? Is the Government serious?

The PPP regime obviously does not accept the principle of the independence of the judiciary. Over the years it has constantly sought to undermine that independence by open and covert attacks on its members, by openly flouting Court Orders directed against the government and by vulgarly seeking to influence Judges and Magistrates. Of late, these attacks have become more flagrant and virulent. We have noted, for example, recent statements made by Mr. Jagdeo and Dr. Roger Luncheon impugning
the integrity of magistrates in their dealing with cases before them. The government mouthpiece, the Sunday Chronicle, quoted Mr. Jagdeo as saying,

“People just commit the most atrocious acts and five minutes later they are on the streets again, because they go before some Magistrate or someone else and some of the most frivolous excuses are given as to why they cannot remand them or incarcerate them”.

The ignorance of the law and legal procedure displayed by Mr. Jagdeo and Dr Luncheon does not prevent them from making the most outrageous criticism of the Magistrates. They clearly believe that the mere preferment of a charge against a citizen means that that citizen is automatically guilty of the offence and must be remanded to prison. They seem to feel that the Magistrates are answerable to the PPP executive and ought to toe a political line. They would like to dictate to the Magistrates who should get bail and who shouldn’t get bail.

The PNC/R deplores this total disregard for the legal and constitutional proprieties. We denounce, in particular, the continual and thinly veiled assaults on the acting Chief Magistrate. The PNC/R calls upon the Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Chief Justice, the Bar Association and civil society to raise their voices against this dangerous trend. The PNC/R warns the PPP regime that it will not stand idly by and allow it to destroy the independence of the judiciary, which is the ultimate safeguard of the rights and liberties of citizens. There can be no Rule of Law without a strong and independent Judiciary.

We have already referred to the speech by Mr Jagdeo to the PPP/C Congress. Many citizens have expressed to us their utter dismay at the utterances and manner of Mr Jagdeo during that performance. Guyanese looked forward to some measure of statesmanship and vision and may even have ventured to hope that we would receive the pleasant surprise of a way forward through the myriad of social, economic and political problems, which beset us. What we heard in contrast, however, was a confused and raucous denunciation of everyone and anyone who did not agree with his incompetent and corrupt regime and a refusal to admit that any serious problems were awaiting the application of his mind. Instead there was a readiness to blame the PNC/R for most, if not all of his inadequacies. Interestingly, Mr Jagdeo gave short shrift to the many persons who had hoped that he would take initiatives in the area of political reform and the improvement in the state of governance in this country. The work of the actors in civil society who have taken up the mantle of mediation appear to have received a sever setback.

In the midst of all of the dangers and crisis that we face, we must not forget that one of those issues which touches the lives and welfare of our people, the economy, shows no sign of improvement. The business community shows very little sign of growth or progress, the debt burdened rice industry still waits for the much vaunted rescue package which it was promised to be implemented, the university and school system has added another round of graduates to join the ranks of the unemployed and the flow of nurses and teachers to other countries has become a flood. It is almost beyond belief that none of these problems merit resolution and dynamic action from Mr Jagdeo instead merely rhetoric and propaganda and the award of blame to everyone else.

The economic and social situation in the Bauxite Industry and its contiguous communities continues to deteriorate. Blackouts/Outages are now the order of the day at Linden; Kwakwani is rapidly becoming a ghost Town; the growing despair among the workers at Everton is evident as they await their dismissal letters; and, unemployment and poverty are on the rise as the rest of the country is preoccupied with the security situation. Surely, it must now be evident that one of the serious failures of the dialogue process is the unilateral hijacking of the Committee set up to deal with the bauxite Communities. The result of this example of bad faith will continue to haunt this Nation in the distant future.

The PNC/R wishes to bring to the attention of the nation, deterioration on two of the issues, which we addressed during the dialogue process and on which agreement, was reached: the removal of the PPP/C monopoly of state owned media and the depoliticisation of the public service. As far the PPP/C media monopoly is concerned, we wish to point out that despite the agreement of the joint committee on this matter that the this matter should be addressed, the PPP domination of news and political opinion of the GTV and the GBC has become even worse. The views of other political parties and actors are consistently and effectively excluded from state media and we have noted the increasing practice of broadcasting political material from the PPP/C and the attachment of a misleading suggestion that these are paid for by the PPP/C. Our intelligence on these matters is that these political broadcasts are not usually paid for by the PPP/C or the government. We also wish to remind the public of the agreement reached by the joint committee on the operation of the interim committee on broadcasting. That committee agreed inter alia

“that during this (interim) period, any regulation of the industry should include as an important aspect the strengthening of mechanisms for self regulation by license holders as the primary mechanism for industry monitoring of broadcast standards. Interim regulations should assist in weaning the license holders to improve their own standards and conformity to acceptable broadcasting standards practiced throughout the democratic world.”

As far as the depoliticisation of the public service to which Mr. Jagdeo gave irrefutable concurrence, we note that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Hydar Ally has contested and won election to the central committee of the PPP/C. We believe that Mr. Ally had a democratic right to enter the political fray and hold political office but we also contend that he cannot do so while holding office as a Permanent Secretary in a Public Service Ministry. We hope that Mr. Ally will do the decent thing and resign forthwith from the Ministry of Education.

People’s National Congress/ Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
2002 July 25th