PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform Friday June 27, 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR believes that former President Raymond Arthur Chung has left a legacy of rich service to this nation. As a consequence, he set a noble precedent of the dignity required of the Office of President of our Republic;
• The Party notes that the eight (8) miners killed were the financial supporters of their families and their deaths are bound to place additional burdens on these families, at a time when the economic situation in Guyana is having a devastating social impact on most of our citizens;
• It must be noted that Mr. George Arokium has stated publicly that, when the Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs visited his home, they tried to persuade him to give a statement to the Media to the effect that Rawlins was responsible for the deaths of his employees. He, however, rejected that request;
• The deliberate delay in the publication of the Report on Torture has diminished the credibility of the Jagdeo Administration and the GDF;
• The Party is very concerned that, when allegations of torture are not investigated and the ranks who might be responsible are not punished, an environment is created in which these elements are led to believe that they can abuse the rights of the citizens of Guyana with impunity;
• Yesterday in the National Assembly, PNCR Parliamentarians, led by Mr. Winston Murray, exposed the farcical nature of the motion brought by the PPP/C for a Debate on the Cost Of Living Crisis in Guyana.

THE PARTY EXTENDS SYMPATHY TO THE FAMILY OF FORMER PRESIDENT ARTHUR CHUNG:

The PNCR extends condolences to the wife, family, relatives and friends of Guyana’s first President, the late Raymond Arthur Chung, who died at his Bel Air Gardens home on 23rd June 2008. During his lifetime, Mr. Chung gave dedicated and selfless service to the Guyanese nation.

In 1970, he was called to serve as President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana at a time when Guyana was still in the embryonic stage of nationhood. He brought to this prestigious position a quiet dignity, a sense of purpose and an unflappable temperament. It was good that he possessed these qualities, for he had to preside, as Head of State, over an important period in the life of this nation. Guyana was making a seminal transition from monarchical system to Republican status and there was a clear need for someone at the helm who had a sure touch and who was respected by the Guyanese people. Raymond Arthur Chung was such a man.

The PNCR is grateful and deeply appreciative that this son of Chinese immigrants was the Head of State for a significant period during its governance of the Republic. The Party must, therefore, place on record its gratitude to him and his family for working so hard to ensure that Guyana became a harmonious, cohesive political unit. We recall his significant visit to the People’s Republic of China, in the 70s, which helped this nation to strengthen and develop important ties with this Asian giant, in the wake of the bold decision to recognise China, in 1972. We recall too the important impact of President Chung’s visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a visit which also served to strengthen relations with this important Asian state. On the whole, President Chung was an important part of Guyana’s diplomatic establishment and he brought to his duties, in this regard, suavity, tact and diplomatic finesse. He, indeed, was one of the early torch bearers in the evolution of the diplomatic history of this nation.

The PNCR believes that former President Raymond Arthur Chung has left a legacy of rich service to this nation. As a consequence, he set a noble precedent of the dignity required of the Office of President of our Republic.

PNCR EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS OF THE LINDO CREEK MASSACRE:

The PNCR tenders its sincere condolences to the families of the eight (8) diamond miners, Dax Arokium, Cedric Arokium, Compton Spiers, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres, a teenager from Kwakwani, who were shot and their bodies burnt at Lindo Creek last week.

The Party offers special personal condolences to Mr. George Arokium who has lost a son and a brother in this tragedy and who, despite these challenging circumstances, has remained steadfast and dignified as the tragic events are played out from day to day.
The Party regrets the loss of life and, in particular, the undignified manner in which they were killed and their bodies disposed of. The PNCR recognises the devastating impact that such losses have had on the families and close relatives.

The Party notes that the miners were the financial supporters of their families and their deaths are bound to place additional burdens on these families, at a time when the economic situation in Guyana is having a devastating social impact on most of our citizens.

The Leader, Executives and members of the PNCR, wish the families concerned the strength and spiritual fortitude to take them through what must be a most trying moment for them. The Party is confident that some solace would be found in the role that these miners played in the support and protection of their families, during their lifetime, and the individual characteristics and strengths which made them assets to their families.

PNCR SAYS: STOP THE PREVARICATION AND APPOINT A CREDIBLE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO THE MASSACRE AT LINDO CREEK:

The PNCR wishes to repeat the call, made by the Leader of the Party and Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, since Sunday June 22, for an independent investigation into the circumstances leading to the deaths of eight miners. The controversial circumstances and reports surrounding the deaths of these miners at Lindo Creek make it incumbent for a credible and independent Commission of inquiry to be appointed to determine who was responsible for this tragedy.

The Party has taken careful note of the fact that there are at least two versions of the events surrounding the deaths of the miners. The mine owner, Mr. George Arokium, is confident that his employees were killed by the security forces and he has spelt out the reasons for this belief in several interviews with the media. There is no need to repeat them.

On the other hand the Joint Services, and more recently the Commissioner of Police have issued vigorous rebuttals to Mr. Arokium’s claim. The Joint Services are contending that the miners were killed by the gunmen who were fleeing them after they were surrounded at Christmas Falls. More puzzling is the recent statement by the Commissioner that they are trying to locate two members of the Joint services who were stationed in the area at the time.

The Party also takes note of the views of a senior military person who is quoted in the Stabroek News, of Wednesday 25th June 2008, as being of the opinion that the shells found, at the scene of the crime, do not match the weapons used by Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins and his gang. In this regard, it must be noted that Mr. George Arokium has stated publicly that, when the Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs visited his home, they tried to persuade him to give a statement to the Media to the effect that Rawlins was responsible for the deaths of his employees. He, however, rejected that request.

The Leader of the Opposition and PNCR, who met with Mr. George Arokium and other relatives of the deceased on Monday June 23 last, is more convinced of the need for such an enquiry after that meeting. The Party therefore strongly urges the Jagdeo Administration to stop the prevarication and urgently appoint a credible Commission of Inquiry. Such an Inquiry will be important for the credibility and public confidence in our security forces, now facing credible allegations of torture, and bring closure to the concerns and distress of the many families affected by this tragedy.

THE REPORT ON TORTURE BY THE ARMY HAS BECOME MEANINGLESS:

It is clear that the findings of the Report on Torture, carried out by elements in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), are unpalatable to the Jagdeo Administration and that, as a consequence, feverish efforts are being made to doctor it and protect those who are loyal to the Administration from facing the full force of the law.

What other explanation is there for the shamble which have characterised the process by which the Report was supposed to be brought to the Defence Board for consideration. The contradictory explanations offered for this situation by the President and Dr. Luncheon are unworthy of consideration.

The PNCR is concerned that the Jagdeo Administration has chosen to politicise a matter which should have been dealt with in accordance with the prescribed law and established procedures. If this had been done, the Jagdeo Administration and the Guyanese people would have had the satisfaction of knowing that out-of-control elements within the GDF, bent on torturing our citizens, had been removed from the ranks of the army. The deliberate delay in the publication of the Report on Torture has diminished the credibility of the Jagdeo Administration and the GDF. It is now left for the victims to utilise the judicial system to obtain redress. It is hoped that that system does not also prove useless in their fight for justice.

TORTURE BY THE POLICE MUST NOT GO UNPUNISHED:

The human rights of the citizens of this Republic have been challenged in various ways by the Jagdeo Administration. The PNCR has repeatedly voiced its concern over the torturing of our citizens, including ranks of the army itself, and has called for remedial action to be taken.

The Party is cognisant of the fact that the barbarous culture of torture is not confined to the GDF. There have been graphic examples of torture by elements within the Guyana Police Force, as evidenced by the case of David Zammet, in November 2007.

The Party then and, as recently as at its 20 June 2008 Press Conference, called for an independent investigation into the reported torture committed by ranks of the Guyana Police Force.

The PNCR is forced to note that, even though the Minister of Home Affairs has promised that such an investigation would take place, nothing has happened to suggest that it would. The Party is very concerned that, when allegations of torture are not investigated and the ranks who might be responsible are not punished, an environment is created in which these elements are led to believe that they can abuse the rights of the citizens of Guyana with impunity.

This is a dangerous situation which would, over time, sap the professionalism and morale of an already hard pressed Police Force and reduces its credibility and capacity to effectively fight crime.

USELELSS PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE AS COST OF LIVING PRESSURES CONTINUE:

While the Jagdeo Administration dithers and attempts to deceive the public through a self serving Parliamentary debate, the pressures of the spiraling cost-of-living continue to assail the Guyanese people. On a daily basis, the average citizen continues to reel from the spiraling cost-of-living, triggered by the crippling 16% VAT.

Yesterday in the National Assembly, PNCR Parliamentarians, led by Mr. Winston Murray, exposed the farcical nature of the motion brought by the PPP/C for a Debate on the Cost Of Living Crisis in Guyana. The Jagdeo Administration, in their usual blame game tactics, cleverly sought to place all the blame for the present crisis on the global rise in commodity prices. Murray, however, was able to illustrate how the maintenance of the VAT at 16% was a major contributing factor. Other factors include the visionless policies of the Government and the lack of a well thought out comprehensive programme to enable Guyana to effectively face the present dilemma. It is evident from the wording of the motion that the Government had no intention of engaging in any serious consultation with major stakeholders, but had planned to use the debate as a diversionary tactic to give the false impression that they were concerned about the plight of the poor at this time. The Parliamentary debate will continue next Tuesday, but the PNCR made it clear that, as presently worded and for other reasons elucidated in the debate, the motion will not have the support of PNCR Parliamentarians.

What is most troubling about this situation is that the greatest impact is on the elderly and the other vulnerable segments of the population. Yet, no relief has been considered by the Administration. The Jagdeo Administration is callously seeking to hide behind esoteric budgetary explanations for its refusal to increase substantially the sums paid to old age pensioners and those receiving public assistance.

The PNCR also must register its disappointment that the payments to single parents, which was boldly announced by President Jagdeo since the first week of May as one of the measures to cushion the rising cost-of – living has not yet been made a reality. Surprisingly the Minister of Human Services is still in a state of confusion about the implementation of this measure. This type of behaviour by the Jagdeo Administration illustrates the level of disrespect for the people.

The Party again demands that the Jagdeo Administration urgently take the required measures to have the relief programmes implemented, particularly to give needed help to vulnerable citizens. Until then the PNCR will not abandon its present Agenda.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Friday, June 27, 2008