PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform Thursday October 23, 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia
• Rohee, as Minister of Home Affairs, is a disgrace to Guyana: He should apologise to the mothers of the hundreds of youth whom the Police unlawfully arrest weekly, from mainly African villages, and detain for several days without charge;
• The Leadership of the Guyana Police Force must recognise that, the powers, vested in them under the law, were never intended to be used as a tool to deliberately frustrate the exercise of the Constitutional and human rights of Guyanese;
• The Wire tapping Legislation is part of the Jagdeo’s Administration infrastructure to institutionalize PPP Oppression and breach the Constitutional rights of Guyanese: It is also a breach of the property rights of the telephone companies.
• PPP/C Government hides from parliamentary debate on PNCR Torture Motion while prisoners continue to die in prison and the Torture Report remains Guyana’s closely guarded secret;
• PNCR Leadership Outreach activities exposes PPP/C continued discrimination and marginalization in villages across the country: Vryheid lust, Bare Root, Paradise, Bachelors Adventure, Victoria and other East Coast villages, as well as villages along the Corentyne coast, such as Fyrish, Gibraltar, No 51, Leeds, Brighton, Eversham and No 78, are suffering from lack of potable water, poor roads, dilapidated infrastructure, poorly staffed schools, erratic electricity supply, unemployment etc.
• PPP arrogance and dictatorial behaviour as reflected in the treatment of Local Government bodies and their recent treatment of the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown over the Cubana Air Disaster Monument, explain their refusal to advance Local Government Reform.
• The PNCR Human Services Department will continue its Senior citizens month activities with breakfast for inmates of the Palms on Sunday October 26, 2008;
• GYSM to hold Symposium on Human Rights at the Georgetown Library, tomorrow, Friday October 24, 2008: Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Nigel Hughes to make major presentation.
ROHEE IS A DISGRACE TO GUYANA: HE SHOULD APOLOGISE:
The attempt by Clement Rohee, on Friday last in Parliament, to justify the regular, unlawful arrests by the Police of young men from predominantly African villages and their detention for several days without charge, is a serious matter which all Guyanese should note and be prepared to take preventative action.
Over the past three years, as has been regularly reported in the media, the Police have been descending upon villages such as Agricola, Bare Root, Buxton, Rosignol and the towns of Linden and New Amsterdam and indiscriminately arresting young men in these communities. These young people are provided with no reason for their arrest, but are herded into vehicles and taken to Police Station lock-ups where they are forced to endure imprisonment for several days before being released without charge or after the intervention of a lawyer. Recently, parents from Agricola were forced to mount a protest demonstration in front of the Brickdam Police Station in order to have their sons released. Young men in these communities live in constant fear, where they cannot enjoy normal recreational activities and have developed such paranoia that they begin to run as soon as a police vehicle enter their community. This then prompts the police to indulge in action that is more irresponsible by assaulting and physically abusing them. South African conditions under apartheid could not be worse
The Leader of the Opposition, in debating the Wiretapping Bill, highlighted these matters to illustrate that the law is no guarantee that people’s rights will be respected in Guyana. Consequently, the legal procedure of obtaining warrants before tapping phones is meaningless. He pointed out the circumstances under which the Law provides for the arrest of persons and the invasion of their homes, yet the Police constantly and flagrantly abuse those laws. Minister of Home Affairs, Rohee, who took the oath to uphold the Constitution and who holds constitutional responsibility for the Police force, sought to justify the police actions and dismiss these allegations. His assertion in that context that the police have a right to arrest all persons who are suspected of committing a crime was most insultive and disrespectful to the residents of the affected communities. By inference, he was accusing all the young men in these predominantly African villages of being criminals. Such an insult must not go unnoticed.
Instead of ensuring an investigation of these lawless allegations, Rohee is condoning these unlawful acts by the police and, obviously, giving them licence to continue. Such a response by a Minister of Home Affairs in Guyana is a disgrace to Guyana. Rohee should hang his head in shame and apologise to the unlawfully arrested youths and their parents for such flagrant breaches of their constitutional rights. The fact that the Minister of Home Affairs of Guyana expresses such views in the highest forum of the land is sufficient to put all Guyanese on notice that such behavior must be resisted at all cost. Rohee must remember that one of his predecessors, Gajraj, had also felt that he could break the law and violate the Constitution. He should also not forget that the PNCR would, like in the case of Gajraj, not allow him to break the law unchallenged.
THE GUYANA POLICE FORCE MUST NOT USE POWERS TO BREACH THE CONSTITUTIONAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS OF GUYANESE:
The Guyana Police Force must understand that, if they are to be truly successful in their mission, they cannot use their powers to breach the constitutional and human rights of Guyanese. Mr. Henry Green, a trained Attorney-at-Law and those Policemen who act unlawfully should know that it is no longer a legal defence to say that they were acting on instructions from higher up. Today, policemen and soldiers are individually responsible for their own actions, particularly in cases of human rights abuses. One would have though that the GPF would have learnt from their most recent challenging experiences. These provocative actions have caused reactions from youths in the past and contributed to the deteriorating security situation in Guyana.
The PNCR therefore calls upon the Commissioner of Police, acting, to ensure that unlawful actions by police officers are properly addressed, that investigations into the above matters are carried out and that the Police respect the laws of Guyana and the constitutional rights of citizens.
In this picture is the panel for the Press Conference which was held in the Media Centre at Congress Place October 23 2008. From left are Ms. Africo Selman, M.P., Ms. Niocie Brown, National Secretary of the GYSM, Mr. Robert Corbin, M.P., Leader of the PNCR and Mr. Dave Danny, M.P.
WIRE TAPPING LEGISLATION: PART OF THE JAGDEO’S OPPRESIVE INFRASTRUCTURE TO BREACH THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF GUYANESE:
The haste with which the PPP/C passed the wire tapping legislation through Parliament last week is indicative of the speed with which the Jagdeo regime wants to fortify their oppressive state machinery. Clouding the legislation under the need to guarantee the security situation the regime is using the opportunity to legalise the infringement of Guyanese constitutional rights without any safeguards and oversight. At the same time, it breaches the property rights of the telephone companies.
The Government claims that the Interception of Communication Bill 2008 is a major initiative to enhance intelligence gathering by the security forces that was agreed by CARICOM Heads after their recent Heads of Security Conference. Yet, unlike previous legislation and President Jagdeo’s recent statements about CARICOM during the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) debacle, the Government of Guyana rushed to bring this law without any CARICOM consensus or draft. None of the opposition political parties was consulted and the Government’s consultation with the telephone Companies was a mere formality, since none of their concerns was addressed.
The irresponsible manner in which the Government treated with the telephone spying equipment found in Roger Khan’s truck at Good Hope and their obvious involvement in the illegal tapping of former Police Commissioner Winston Felix’s phone, provide clear evidence that the Government was anxious to cover up their already illegal activities by this law. Guyanese must not be misled by Rohee’s explanations that these activities would be supervised by the Court through the necessity for a warrant from a Judge. The law makes clear exceptions, which permit the designated officer to tap a phone without that warrant in cases of emergency. Consequently, as is so frequently the case in regular police activities of searching homes without a search warrant, there will always be an emergency when phones are to be tapped. The absence of any oversight mechanism, such as in the United States where there is a review every six months by a Congressional Committee, ensures that no one will be able to check any excesses of the Government, since, only the Police and the telephone Company will have the capacity and knowledge to monitor these operations.
Guyanese are, therefore, again exposed to the invasion of their privacy; business men are subject to the invasion of their businesses by the Commissioner of the Guyana Revenue Authority and the Telephone Companies will not only be exposed to criminal proceedings if they fail to co-operate, but the revocation of their licences and the use of their property without compensation.
The PPP has demonstrated that they have no regard for the law or the Constitution. It started when Janet Jagan, as President, discarded an Order of Court in full view of national television cameras. It continued with Jagdeo breaching the law by misusing lottery funds and refusing to pay it into the Jagdeo has appointed an unconstitutional Integrity Commission and the extension of the life of the Ethnic Relations Commission has been in violation of the Constitution. If there is no respect for the law at the highest level of the land, what can Guyanese expect from the wiretapping law?
The PPP must not be allowed to act with impunity. The nation must be alerted to this clear and present danger and must be prepared to act to defend our civil liberties.
PPP/C GOVERNMENT’S AVOIDANCE OF THE PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE ON PNCR TORTURE MOTION ILLUSTRATES DISREGARD FOR HUMAN RIGHTS:
The refusal of the PPP/C to debate the PNCR motion on torture in Parliament, has once again demonstrated its lack of willingness to seriously examine and investigate the allegations of torture, made against the Joint Services in Guyana. It is evident that the government seems bent on ensuring that the Motion on Torture becomes obsolete, by creating the conditions that would ensure a natural and continual deferral of the debate. The Government had indicated prior to the recess that the PNCR’s Motion on Torture would be debated at the first sitting of the National Assembly following the Parliamentary Recess of 2008. The National Assembly had its first sitting on Thursday 16th October and met again on Friday 17th October 2008. The Torture Motion was listed on the Order paper for Debate on both days, but it was obvious by Friday that there was a Government’s filibustering plan to ensure that the Motion could not be debated. The excessively long, repetitive and verbose presentations of Prime Minister Sam Hinds on Thursday and Home Affairs Minister, Rohee, on Friday, followed by a long list of Government speakers who regurgitated the same verbiage, ensured that the Motion did not see the light of day.
The continuous deferral of Motions, such as the one on torture, and PPP’s refusal to indicate support for the Freedom of Information Bill exposes their disregard of the fundamental rights of citizens as provided for in Guyana’s Constitution. The PPP/C recognizes that the debate on Torture in Parliament will expose the failure of the Jagdeo regime to effectively discharge its mandate and responsibility as required by the provisions of the International Convention on Torture to which Guyana is a signatory. The debate will also expose their failure to publish the Report on Torture by the GDF and their continued reluctance to mount independent inquiries against these serious allegations. Meanwhile torture allegations continue to persist and prisoners continue to die in mysterious circumstances in prison. The most recent was James Nelson, who was found dead in the Brickdam lock-ups at around 06:30hrs on Tuesday October 21, 2008. It is shocking that the Police would attempt to offer an explanation that the prisoner had a history of mental illness when the facts are that marks of violence were found on the deceased’s body. There must be an urgent inquest or independent investigation into this recent death.
The Government can run but it cannot hide. Jagdeo and the PPP will be made to account. The PNCR again calls on the Jagdeo regime to publish the Torture Report, order investigations into the many allegations of torture and stop filibustering on the parliamentary debate on the subject. The Party will not abandon its objectives of exposing these issues in Parliament and forcing the Government to account.
PPP/C CONTINUED DISCRIMINATION AND MARGINALIZATION IN VILLAGES ACROSS THE COUNTRY:
Over the last three weeks, the Leadership of the PNCR, led by Party Leader, Robert Corbin has been engaged in a series of outreach activities around Guyana discussing with residents in various communities their major problems and making representation to the appropriate authorities on their behalf. Communities visited included Vryheid lust, Bare Root, Victoria and other East Coast villages as well as villages along the Corentyne coast, such as Fyrish, Gibraltar, and No 51.
At the well-attended meetings following the walk-about exercises, residents lamented the serious problems with which they are faced. The conditions were similar in all the villages. The absence of potable water was a major concern and even where little was available, serious health hazards existed. The pressure of the water at below ground level meant that residents had to dig big holes to obtain a trickle from the unsanitary rubber hoses supplied by the Guyana Water INC. In some areas, the pipes were located in drainage trenches, which meant that to obtain water residents faced the risk of contamination. In addition, the quality of water was unacceptable. The absence of water creates serious difficulties for children to get to school on time and for parents to get to work. In Bare Root, for example, residents have to walk for over a mile to fetch water from the nearest source or purchase by the bucket from an enterprising donkey-cart owner who has developed a business selling water to a community already facing the ill effects of the spiraling cost of living.
Among the other common problems were poor roads, dilapidated infrastructure, poorly staffed schools, erratic electricity supply and unemployment. Evidence of marginalization and discrimination abound. The PPP/C Administration must know that such a situation is sure to have serious adverse consequences. The PNCR will hold a special Press conference to deal with these matters later.
PPP/C ARROGANCE REFLECTED IN THE CUBANA AIR DISASTER MONUMENT FIASCO: EXPLAINS DELAY IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM:
The growing arrogance of the PPP/C Administration is reflected in the manner in which they attempted to crush the efforts of the Mayor and Georgetown City Council to construct a monument to the victims of the Cubana Air Disaster. It is obvious that the PPP/C Government felt embarrassed that the Mayor of Georgetown, supported by corporate citizens, was able to commence this laudable project after years in the pipeline without any support from the Government. They were apparently more embarrassed having regard to the tremendous assistance being received for the Government of Cuba in Health and in Education.
Instead of acknowledging their lack of vision and foresight and seeking to remedy their omission, they chose to destroy the work of Mayor Hamilton Green and the contribution of Demtoco. The flimsy excuse being advanced by Robeson Ben for obstructing the construction is almost laughable if the issue were not so serious. That site has always been blocked by heavy vegetation and at present there exists a huge advertising board. One would have felt that the Government would have been proud of the enhancement of the city. However, personal pride and arrogance became more important than common sense and logic. It is amazing that, in attempting to extricate the Government from their dilemma, the President seeks to invoke the wishes of the late, Forbes Burnham.
This recent behaviour of Minister Robeson Benn and Minister of Local Government, Kellawan Lall is typical of the highhanded way in which the Government has been treating with the elected Local Government bodies throughout the country. It explains their reluctance to allow the Local Government Reform as stipulated in our Constitution to be implemented. Clinton Collymore’s action of attempting to frustrate the work of the Task Force on Local Government is now put in proper perspective. While the Government uses its propaganda machine to publicise on Television that the PNCR does not want Local Government Elections to be held, Collymore is still to respond to the President’s publicised directive of re-convening the Task Force.
THE PNCR HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT HOSTS BREAKFAST FOR INMATES OF THE PALMS ON SUNDAY OCTOBER 26, 2008:
The Human Services Department of the PNCR will be continuing its national programme to commemorate Senior Citizens Month by hosting a breakfast for inmates of the Palms, Brickdam, Georgetown, on Sunday October 26, 2008. This has been an annual feature of the Party for several years and this year will be no different. Executive members of the Party, led by Party Leader, Robert Corbin, will be on hand to serve the breakfast to the various wards. A steel band will also be in attendance to soothe the Sunday morning atmosphere for the institution. Next Wednesday, October 29, the Party will also make a presentation of mattresses, cleaning supplies and other items to the institution
Last Saturday, the department also hosted a successful luncheon at Den Amstel Community Centre, West Coast Demerara, for senior citizens on the West Demerara. Senior citizens were very appreciative of the gesture by the Party and called on Guyanese generally, but particularly the Government, to pay more attention to senior citizens and the issues that affect them
The PNCR Human Services Department programme was launched at the beginning of the month at Congress Place, Sophia with the presentation of awards and hampers to long standing members of the National Congress of Women, NCW, which is the women’s arm of the Party. Included in the list of recipients were Ms. Zena Lashley of Kitty, Joan Baveghems of West Ruimveldt, Ms. Megan Davis of Den Amstel, Region 3, Ms. Albertina Walker Bourne of Linden, Region 10, Ms. Doreen Duncan of Good Hope, Essequibo Coast, Region 2, and Ms. Hyacinth Stewart of Corentyne, Region 6. It is regrettable that Cde. Stewart died a few days after receiving the award. The Party extends its condolences to her bereaved family.
The Human Services Department is also finalising its Christmas programme that will also include Christmas Luncheons, visits and gifts to the indigent and the distribution of toys and gifts to needy children
GYSM TO HOLD SYMPOSIUM ON HUMAN RIGHTS: FRIDAY OCTOBER 24, 2008:
The Guyana Youth and Student Movement will be hosting a Symposium on Human Rights in Guyana. This event is scheduled for Friday, October 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm in the Conference Room of the National Library. Among the key presenters will be Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Nigel Hughes. The organization extends an invitation to members of the media and the public.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday October 23, 2008
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