PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 9 October 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
 The PNCR encourages the Jagdeo Administration to conduct the diplomacy of prudence and caution, enriching and improving with all neighbouring states but complementing this course of action with the need to ensure the existence of the capacity to defend and protect the nation, should this become necessary;
 The principal reason for the economic hardships of the Guyanese people is the unconscionable 16% VAT tax;
 The people of the mining community of Linden are being made to live in conditions that are hazardous to their health. At present the people of Linden are experiencing a situation in which there is increased emission of dust from the Bauxite Company, Bosai. The emission of dust has reached unbearable levels and is particularly difficult for children and those persons suffering from asthma.

PPP/C POLICY ON VENEZUELA DANGEROUS:

At its last Press Conference, the PNCR called on the Jagdeo Administration to declare its policy on the arms build-up by our western neighbour. We did so against the background of the silence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the studied cowardice of the Office of the President. When the latter summoned up enough courage to respond to the timely observations of the PNCR, it was a mixture of misplaced arrogance and political equivalent of whistling in the dark.

Instead of treating this question with the seriousness it deserves, the Office of the President, according to the Kaieteur News of the 6th October 2008, dismissed the PNCR’s concerns as “irrelevant.” It passes all understanding how the questioning of the arms build –up of our western neighbour can be “irrelevant”, given its long standing claim to five eights of Guyana’s territory and that state’s disposition to use force to achieve its aims, in contravention of international law. But the Office of the President moves in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform.

The concerns of the PNCR are not born of a mere need to oppose the Jagdeo Administration. Rather, they spring from the worrying accumulation of negative factors in the recent developments in Guyana/Venezuela relations. Apart from the arms build-up, there is the very relevant question of the erosion of Guyana’s diplomatic strength in the region and the seeming misunderstanding of Venezuela’s strategic intentions. Caracas’s strategic aims have been bolstered by the attractions of the Petro Caribe initiative and the Bolivarian Alternative to the American led efforts to unify the region economically.

The end result of the diplomatic moves by Caracas has been a weakening of Guyana’s position in the region as a whole, if not its isolation. This nation has always relied on the Caribbean Community as our first line of diplomatic defence, but it is a matter of speculation if this continues to be the case. In this regard, it is also a relevant question whether the ill-advised attacks on the esteemed Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, the manner in which the Jagdeo Administration pursued its dissatisfaction with, and its unwillingness to sign, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) might not translate into the further weakening of this country’s diplomatic standing in the region.

When consideration is given to the state of the Foreign Ministry and the lack of a coherent policy on Venezuela, in addition to the worrisome factors already noted, anyone who is a patriotic Guyanese must be puzzled by the inaction of the Jagdeo Administration and its dangerous policy of appeasing Caracas. Here it must be noted that the PNCR does not wish to comment adversely on the nascent tenure of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We are fully aware that the distinguished Chief Diplomat has inherited a very difficult situation and is doing what is necessary to repair the consequences of years of neglect and partisan Administration.

What the Party is definitely critical of is the Jagdeo Administration’s imprudent decision to starve the Foreign Ministry of essential resources, so that it cannot adequately carry out its primary task of defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of this nation. The neglect of the Foreign Ministry and the foreign policy of this nation are particularly exemplified by the silence that has overtaken the Good Officer process, which is an important mechanism in the management of our affairs with Venezuela. Since the unfortunate death of Oliver Jackman, the Jagdeo Administration appears to be locked in a battle with Caracas as to who should succeed him.

The PNCR, as a Party of longstanding in this region, knows the importance of having good relations with all of its neighbours. Indeed, while in Government it promoted such relations. We have always believed, however, that the pursuit of such relations cannot be at the expense of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation. We have maintained this principled position while in Opposition and have always supported matters relevant to our territorial integrity. The Leader of the Opposition has always participated in discussions at the highest levels when invited to discuss Guyana’s territorial integrity and has been willing to offer constructive advice to the Jagdeo administration on these matters. This approach is born out of recognition that matters of Guyana’s territorial integrity transcend narrow partisan politics. Guyana’s territory cannot be bartered away by any political party to satisfy narrow short-term political interests. It is therefore instructive that the inept Jagdeo Administration failed to use the timely constructive comments by the PNCR as an opportunity or excuse for a major diplomatic offensive. The PNCR, therefore, encourages the Jagdeo Administration to conduct the diplomacy of prudence and caution, enriching and improving with all neighbouring states but complementing this course of action with the need to ensure the existence of the capacity to defend and protect the nation, should this become necessary.

COST OF LIVING:

The Jagdeo Administration continues to do nothing of a substantive nature about the harsh effects of the escalating cost of living and must be reminded of its duties as a Government. The primary function of a government is to protect its citizens and create the social space in which they can enjoy a comfortable and productive life. Regrettably, the Jagdeo administration has abandoned these responsibilities even as the prices of most basic commodities such as flour and sugar have risen sharply and the cost of living continues to soar.

In addition, Guyanese are now being subjected to new stresses and strains caused by the horrendous bills that they are receiving from the Guyana Power and Light Company. Citizens in the urban and other areas of the country have been the recipient of bills that bear no relationship to their consumption of energy. They are also beyond their capacity to pay. The result is further suffering. GPL on the other hand is showing no tolerance or understanding of the plight of the Guyanese people even when it is directly responsible for their plight. There are many reports of electricity being disconnected from premises even when a bill has been paid or an investigation is in progress. Once this has occurred it is very difficult to get it restored since GPL, instead of remedying its error, seeks to justify its actions.

The principal reason for the economic hardships of the Guyanese people is the unconscionable 16% VAT tax. The PNCR reiterates that, as a beginning, it must be reduced to 8% in order to ensure some measure of relief for the Guyanese people. The rise in the cost of living characterised by increase commodity prices and high electricity and other utility bills are a reflection of the economic crisis facing this nation. The Jagdeo Administration must begin to examine the means by which the Guyanese people could be effectively cushioned against this crisis. The PNCR proposed recently and does so again that there be established a Commission of Inquiry, consisting of all relevant stakeholders, which can examine the bases of our economic hardship and make concrete proposals to reduce its effects. This course of action can lay the foundation for assisting the Guyanese people to cope with harsh consequences of this economic crisis.

DUST HAZARD AT LINDEN:

The neglect of the people of Linden and the insensitivity to the circumstances under which they live continue to be a hallmark of the Jagdeo Administration. For example, the people of the mining community of Linden are being made to live in conditions that are hazardous to their health. At present the people of Linden are experiencing a situation in which there is increased emission of dust from the Bauxite Company, Bosai. The emission of dust has reached unbearable levels and is particularly difficult for children and those persons suffering from asthma.

The PNCR is supportive of and welcomes investment in the bauxite industry. However, it is constrained to state that investment and development must occur in the context of sustainable development which ensures a healthy and safe environment for the people of the mining community of Linden. As it stands the opposite is true.

Many Lindeners are complaining that apart from the dangers that the dust hazard poses to their health, it also has an economic dimension, since they are compelled to spend more on their health and to keep their properties clean at a time when they lack the resources to undertake those unwanted expenditures.

The PNCR is aware that there exists the technology and approaches to mining that will significantly reduce and possibly end the present dust menace that is plaguing the Linden community. Previously, Bauxite Companies were required to address this issue and it is worrying that neither the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nor the Government has addressed this matter. The PNCR, therefore, calls on the Jagdeo/PPPC regime to mandate the EPA to work with Bosai to ensure that the dust pollution is dealt with and create the conditions for the people of Linden to live in an environment that is void of the present health hazard.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 9 October, 2008