PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform Friday 20 June 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The Party believes that, by their decision, the executives of the Guyana Cultural Association have engaged in an act of notable maturity that stands in stark contrast to what appears to be a concerted effort to deny and undermine the significant role played, by the late Mr. Burnham, for cultural development in Guyana and the wider Caribbean;
• The PNCR considers it both dangerous and unfortunate that the Jagdeo regime seems to be encouraging an environment in which the security forces in Guyana are engaging in use of torture, in defiance of the major conventions against this act, such as the UN Convention against Torture and the relevant statutes of the OAS;
• It should be a matter of concern to all Guyanese, who are fighting a losing battle against these adverse economic and social conditions, that the Jagdeo regime seems to have abandoned its primary responsibility to seek to ameliorate their suffering of all segments of the Guyanese people, by merely appealing to the private sector to do what it can to aid the workers in the private sector;
• The PNCR wishes to condemn those who planted the device in the Cultural Centre as such activities do not lend themselves to the peace and stability of the nation;
• The Leader of the Opposition, on the invitation of the President, met with the President, on Tuesday 17 June 2008. The occasion of this meeting was used to bring formally, to the attention of the President, and discuss the serious matters affecting Guyana, at this time, and which have been the reasons for the recent marches and demonstrations by the PNCR, over the past several weeks;
• GUYSUCO has the responsibility to give assurances to the Guyanese people about future supplies of sugar to the local market;
• The confusion and uncertainty that continues to surround the secretive Sanata deal makes it imperative that the Agreements, including the specific concessions granted, be speedily laid in the National Assembly;
• The PNCR condemns the proposed unconscionable increase in electricity rates at Linden which, despite assurances to the contrary by President Jagdeo, is being implemented by July 1, 2008. These increases of over 500% are not only unbearable but will make it impossible for residents to take care of their families.

PNCR COMMENDS GUYANA CULTURAL ASSOCIATION FOR POST-HUMOUS GRANT OF WORDSWORTH MC ANDREW AWARD TO OUR FOUNDER LEADER:

The PNCR wishes to commend the Guyana Cultural Association, for the 2008 posthumous grant, of the prestigious Wordsworth Mc Andrew Award, to our Founder Leader, Cde. L.F.S. Burnham, in recognition of his role, as the intellectual author and host of the first CARIFESTA, in 1972. The first CARIFESTA provided an important stimulus for the revival and development of culture, not only in Guyana but in the wider Caribbean region.

The Party believes that, by their decision, the executives of the Guyana Cultural Association have engaged in an act of notable maturity that stands in stark contrast to what appears to be a concerted effort to deny and undermine the significant role played, by the late Mr. Burnham, for cultural development in Guyana and the wider Caribbean.

The PNCR supports the implied contention of this recognition that, especially in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, due acknowledgement must be given to all who have played a significant role in the development of our Republic. This is a vital requirement for Guyana to move forward and build the kind of society in which there is harmony, as a necessary condition for our long term development.

POLICE TORTURE MUST ALSO BE INVESTIGATED:

The Guyanese public must not allow the focus on the unacceptable delayed release, of the Report on the torture of Guyanese citizens by officers of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), to distract attention from the abuse of the human rights of citizens of the Republic by elements of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

The PNCR has already made public its revulsion over the torture of David Zammett by ranks of the Police Force. Zammett was so barbarically and obviously tortured that he could not stand up in courtroom, in November 2007, with out the aid of members of the Police Force. Justice Jainarayan Singh was so distressed by his poor physical condition, evidently, as a result of being subjected to torture by elements of the Police Force that he ordered that Zammett be medically examined.

The PNCR is concerned that, in this and in several other notable cases, the various arms of the state, under the Jagdeo regime, have ignored the instructions of the court. The medical report on on Zammett, which the court stipulated should be undertaken, has not yet seen the light of day.

The PNCR considers it both dangerous and unfortunate that the Jagdeo regime seems to be encouraging an environment in which the security forces in Guyana are engaging in use of torture, in defiance of the major conventions against this act, such as the UN Convention against Torture and the relevant statutes of the OAS. The Party is particularly alarmed that the mentality and the belief which facilitate torture, and which gave rise to such barbarities as Abu Ghraib, may already have infected the security forces in Guyana.

The Party demands that there must be an investigation into the torture of David Zammett and Terrence McKenzie, among others, by ranks of the Guyana Police, and that the perpetrators of such atrocities be brought speedily to justice. In addition, victims should be compensated, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the International Conventions against torture.

CASE MADE FOR IMMEDIATE RELIEF FOR THE GUYANESE PEOPLE:

The figures released last week by the Statistical Bureau are both sobering and frightening. They reveal that the prices of vegetables and vegetable products have risen by 20.6%; sugar and honey related products by 18.3%; cereals and cereal products by 11.7%; fruit and fruit products by 10.8%. Although we are satisfied that these figures err on the side of conservatism, they, nevertheless, confirm the stringent and demanding economic conditions under which the Guyanese people are forced to live.

The PNCR has no doubt that these massive increases have been triggered primarily by the unconscionable 16% VAT tax.

In the face of these severe and testing economic circumstances, the Jagdeo Administration has only offered derisory palliatives. Public Servants have been offered a miserly 5% increase. It should also be a matter of concern to all Guyanese, who are fighting a losing battle against these adverse economic and social conditions, that the Jagdeo regime seems to have abandoned its primary responsibility to seek to ameliorate their suffering of all segments of the Guyanese people, by merely appealing to the private sector to do what it can to aid the workers in the private sector.

The PNCR reiterates its positions on these matters. The Jagdeo Administration must immediately revise the VAT rate downwards to no more than 8%. Public servants must be accorded a much more significant increase in their salary and wages to compensate for the drastic erosion of the real value of their incomes, as a consequence of previously imposed increases which were blatantly below the official rate of inflation and the now confirmed current spike in the cost of living.

Pensioners and the vulnerable in our society must be the beneficiaries of an upward revision in the sums paid to them by the Jagdeo administration.

The PNCR is convinced that if these measures are not taken to cushion the cost of living increases, especially in relation to fuel and food prices, thousands of Guyanese will be abandoned to unacceptable conditions of poverty. This will, inevitably, fuel the many social pathologies, such as crime and drug trafficking, which are now threatening to overwhelm this society.

The Party also notes the deafening silence and studied avoidance of addressing the commitment, of the Administration, to urgently undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the existing tax regime in Guyana, as a vehicle for promoting investment, competitiveness and growth.

PNCR CONDEMNS PLANTING OF INCENDIARY DEVICE AT CULTURAL CENTRE:

The PNCR has learnt from reports in the media that on Monday the 16th June last a small fire was caused at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) by a device consisting of four small cylinders. The Party is relieved that no major damage was caused to the Cultural Centre and in particular there were no injuries to the persons present in the Cultural Centre at the time. The PNCR nevertheless wishes to condemn those who planted the device in the Cultural Centre as such activities do not lend themselves to the peace and stability of the nation.

The Party however takes exception to the attempts by some members of the Jagdeo Administration who have attempted in their usual way to suggest and imply that the incident in question is some how attributable to the actions and activities of the PNCR. This nonsense flies in the face of any logical analysis of the situation. It is a well known fact that the National Cultural Centre was the crown jewel in the strenuous activities undertaken by the PNCR in order to host the first and historic CARIFESTA in 1972. Only a twisted mind would suggest that the PNCR would now seek to destroy what it has so proudly created. On the other hand it was the PPP which led a sustained campaign to undermine and tarnish the Cultural Centre as a symbol of our national life.

Ever since the attempted fire-bombing of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports the PNCR has found it rather unusual that the Jagdeo Administration has taken no measures to increase security at the main Government buildings in the city or those which might be associated with the hosting of CARIFESTA X. This circumstance might lead any intelligent Guyanese to believe that this is so because there is prior knowledge of the acts committed. It is highly suspicious that in the case of the fire-bombing of the Culture Ministry and the planting of the incendiary device at the Culture Centre, only sufficient damage was done so that other parties can be blamed and only sufficient damage was done which could easily be repaired.

History has one instructive example of a Government burning down its own buildings for political reasons. The NAZI regime burnt down the Reichstag in 1933 so that it could reinforce its power and implement a number of draconian measures in the name of improved security.

THE MEETING OF THE LEADER OF OPPOSITION WITH PRESIDENT JAGDEO:

The Leader of the Opposition, on the invitation of the President, met with the President, on Tuesday 17 June 2008. The occasion of this meeting was used to bring formally, to the attention of the President, and discuss the serious matters affecting Guyana, at this time, and which have been the reasons for the recent marches and demonstrations by the PNCR, over the past several weeks. The President raised matters relating to Carifesta X and, informally, raised the matter of the appointment of a substantive Commissioner of Police.

The matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition Leader, presented below, were documented under three (3) broad categories, viz. The Devastating Impact of the Escalating Cost Of Living, Human Rights Issues and Governance Issues

(1) The Devastating Impact of the Escalating Cost Of Living:

The need for a comprehensive programme to deal with the situation, including an adequate menu of measures to bring relief to the people of Guyana. Such measures to include:

o Reduction of VAT.
o Relief for pensioners (significant increase over $6000, possibly to $20,000).
o Relief for vulnerable persons (significant increase of social assistance from $4,500).
o A review of the 5% increase to Public Servants.
o Increase in payment for Police Special Constables.
o Review of payment for Policemen on inline duty.
o Special intervention to cushion the rising fuel costs.
o A freeze on the proposed hike in electricity rates at Linden.
o Measures to stem the rising food and transportation costs.
o Immediate payment of the Single Parent relief which was announced several weeks ago.
o Programme to promote employment for youth in various villages.

(2) Human Rights Issues:

o Suspension of CNS Channel 6 licence.
o The detention of Oliver Hinckson on sedition charges.
o Release of the Torture Report
o Undue harassment and imprisonment of youth in several communities without charge by the Police.

(3) Governance Issues:

o Undermining of the functioning of GECOM and interference in the conduct of the House-to-House Registration by the deliberate non payment of Scrutineers.
o Continuation of National Stakeholders meeting.
o The need to continue urgent discussions on the issues of Inclusive Governance/ Shared Governance as a necessary prerequisite for progress, development and security for its citizens.

The Leader of the Opposition gave no assurances since, while President Jadgeo listened carefully to all the issues raised and sought to give explanation of the Government’s position, there was no definitive declaration by him or any indication that he would improve on the package of relief measures which the Government had presented to the nation.

The Leader of the Opposition made it clear that, while the PNCR is not opposed to the hosting of Carifesta X, given the dire prevailing economic and social conditions facing the Guyanese people, the Party finds it difficult to support the spending of the projected millions, for the celebration of Carifesta X, without immediately addressing the issues which are oppressing the Guyanese people.

While the President gave assurances that the matters, raised by the Leader of the Opposition, would be addressed by the Government and that follow up meetings will be held, the PNCR, based on its past experiences, sees no reason to abandon its present agenda, unless and until the Government takes positive action in relation to the matters raised. The PNCR will keep the nation updated on developments.

President Jagdeo informally raised the need to begin the process of meaningful consultations, for the appointment of the Commissioner of the Police with the Leader of the Opposition, as required under Article 211(1) of the Constitution.

It should be noted that, under the provision of the Constitution, the President is required to consult with the Leader of the Opposition and Chairman of the Police Service Commission. Formal consultations will begin after the required formalities have been complied with by the President. As always, the Leader of the Opposition will make no public comments, as yet, on the nature of the informal consultations.

GUYSUCO MUST COME CLEAN ON SUGAR SUPPLIES FOR LOCAL MARKET:

The PNCR has taken note of the statement by GUYSUCO that it is not importing brown sugar. The Party, however, observes that the GUYSUCO release was not unambiguously about its current ability to satisfy the local market and take care of its external commitments

The PNCR is conscious that the price of sugar on the local market cannot be ignored. Therefore, GUYSUCO has the responsibility to give assurances to the Guyanese people about future supplies of sugar to the local market.



THE SANATA DEAL IS NOT TRANSPARENT:

The confusion and uncertainty that continues to surround the secretive Sanata deal makes it imperative that the Agreements, including the specific concessions granted, be speedily laid in the National Assembly. As it is, the Agreements with Queens Atlantic have already been tainted by apparent bias and conflicts of interest.

It is now in the public domain that, despite the propaganda blitz, by the head of GO-INVEST and the head of the Privatisation Unit, that the concessions which were promised or granted to that entity were not in accord with the existing tax laws in Guyana. Scandalously, this has come after no less a person than the President himself publicly declaring that they were.

The PNCR recognises that this is yet another example which points to the incompetence and mal-administration, tainted by the all too many instances of corruption, of the Jagdeo Administration. If the agreement, with Queens Atlantic, was reached in a transparent manner, the embarrassment, unbecoming behaviour of the President and suspicion of the motives of the Administration, would not have been inflicted on our public life.

The PNCR is disturbed by the public perception that, even after the shambles of the building and sale of the Buddy’s International Hotel, the mysterious and murky nature of the touted investment in the Marriot Hotel, the Jagdeo Administration continues to get involved in business practices which are tainted, by circumstances which give rise to the appearance of being shady and lacking in transparency. The cost of such unacceptable behaviour will, in the long run, redound to the discouragement of the legitimate and serious investment needed for the development of the Guyana economy.

PROPOSED ELECTRICITY INCREASE AT LINDEN UNCONSCIONABLE:

The PNCR condemns the proposed unconscionable increase in electricity rates at Linden which, despite assurances to the contrary by President Jagdeo, is being implemented by July 1, 2008. These increases of over 500% are not only unbearable but will make it impossible for residents to take care of their families. The poverty level, already extremely high, will be accentuated. These increased electricity charges in the midst of the already spiraling and out of control cost of living will force parents to make choices between feeding their children and paying electricity bills. No amount of stakeholders briefing by Prime Minister Sam Hinds or political statements by the PPP will change that reality. What is needed is for government to revisit this draconian proposal, revise the rates downwards and come up with alternative proposal to deal with the problem.

More disgusting, however, is the disrespect shown by the Prime Minister for the entire community of Linden. Having announced the intended increases at a meeting with some stakeholders a few weeks ago, he made a commitment to return to the community to have discussions with them. On two occasions the residents turned up but the Prime Minister was absent without excuse. Instead, a letter was sent to the Linden Utility Co-op Society, responsible for the retail distribution on the West Bank, informing them that the rate increases will commence on July 1, 2008.

Prime Minister Hinds, who spent so many valuable years of his life at Linden earning a living and who boast so frequently of being from Linden should hang his head in shame for not having the courage to face the people and tell them of his draconian decisions. The refusal of the Prime Minister to visit Linden, by itself, speaks volumes about the PPP government’s constant boast about consultations with the people.

The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo Administration to put on hold these unconscionable increases and have reasonable discussions with the affected stakeholders of the community at Linden so that a workable solution can be arrived at in the face of the present crisis. Yesterday’s co-ordinated and united action by the citizens of Linden, including the business community should be sufficient to put the government on notice that the community is fully united in its efforts to resist this latest imposition upon them without any consultation.

JAGDEO PICKETED IN NEW YORK:

President Jagdeo was greeted by a protest demonstration in New York yesterday, June 19, 2008, as he arrived at the Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street in the busy downtown Brooklyn New York area. The event was a Heads of Government Breakfast for leaders of CARICOM from 8:00AM- 9:30AM hosted by Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz and Congressman Charles Rangel, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the US Congress.

A separate release has been issued on this matter.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 20 June 2008