PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 6 November 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia



 The PNCR extends condolences to the families of the late David DeCaires, Byron Lee, Vivian Jordan and Melissa Payne;
 The PPP/C and the Jagdeo Regime are actively pursuing a propaganda campaign to persuade the public that members of the GDF did not torture our citizens but merely ‘roughed’ them up or interrogated them aggressively;
 The blackouts have continued causing enormous losses to our citizens and discomfort in their homes;
 Very few Guyanese in the capital city and in the outlying and hinterland areas are privileged to have adequate potable water supply on a daily basis.

PNCR EXTENDS CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILIES OF DAVID DECAIRES, BYRON LEE, VIVIAN JORDAN (VJ) AND MELISSA PAYNE:

Death of Mr. David DeCaires, Editor-in-Chief of Stabroek News
In a Press Release, dated 4 November 2008, conveying condolences to his family, the Party noted that Mr. David De Caires was a pioneer in the expansion of the private media in Guyana and believed that the problems of Guyana and the rest of the region could be solved, in spite of their seemingly intractable nature. He also believed in the freedom of the Press and used his considerable influence to ensure that it was not eroded.

The PNCR again extends its sincere condolences to Mrs. Doreen De Caries, the children and immediate family of Mr. David De Caires, the late Editor-in-Chief of the Stabroek News, on his passing on Saturday1st November 2008.

Death of Byron Lee
Condolences are also extended to the family of the great Caribbean musician, Mr. Byron Lee who passed away on November 4th in Jamaica. Byron Lee was a Caribbean music icon. He produced music of an outstanding quality and used this medium as the means of uniting the Caribbean people. Byron Lee was indeed a Caribbean man.

A modest, even gentle individual, he was one of the finest promoters in the region and was widely regarded as a transformative figure in the development of musical forms in Jamaica and the rest of the region. His passing will therefore leave a major vacuum in the Caribbean music industry.

Death of Vivian Jordan (VJ), Calypsonian
VJ, as calypsonian Vivian Jordan was popularly known, made a contribution to the development of calypso in Guyana and will always be remembered for his catchy, popular and his topical calypso, ‘VJ for President’. He also took an active interest in the development of the Amerindian community.

The PNCR extends sincere condolences to his family.

Death of Melissa Payne
The PNCR mourns the tragic death of Melissa Payne and hastens to extend condolences to her sorrowing family. Her death is particularly poignant as she served as an employee at the Region 3 PNCR Regional Office.

The Party believes that the faith of her family will enable them to overcome the shock and pain of her loss.

THE ELUSIVE TORTURE REPORT:

The PPP and the Jagdeo Administration appear to be in total confusion, as they continue their acts of deception, over the torture report and its release to the public. Initially, the PPP/C resisted calls by the PNCR and others to have an independent investigation into credible allegations of torture against members of the Guyana Defence Force. Some of those allegations were made by serving ranks, of the GDF, who were able to identify the perpetrators of those horrible acts. In an attempt to quell the persistent calls for an independent inquiry, the Jagdeo regime stated that an internal investigation would be conducted by the GDF.

From the inception, the PNCR stated that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) could not investigate itself, since such an investigation would inevitably lead to irregularities and the resulting report would lack credibility. The Government, however, announced that an investigation team was appointed and had commenced its work. Nothing was heard of the so-called investigation until there was another public outcry and, after some bungling and conflicting statements by the GDF and the Government, the Nation was informed that the Report was finally submitted to the Defence Board. There was then a protracted period when nothing was heard of this report. It took persistent queries again by the media and other organisations before the Nation was advised that the Defence Board finally received and considered the mysterious Torture Report.

The motives of the Government became evident when Dr. Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, revealed that it was never the intention of the Government to punish anyone found culpable in the torture investigation. Later, the Jagdeo PPP Administration refused to support the PNCR Torture motion, in the National Assembly, that merely called upon the Government to honour its obligations under the International Convention on Torture.

In that debate, it was evident that the Government of Guyana has approved and supported the use of torture, by the security forces, to the extent that the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud, described the horrible acts committed against Guyanese, by the GDF, as “merely roughing up”. Despite the National Assembly debate, the Government failed to release the Torture Report. It took further public demands before another statement, on this matter, came from the Government.

Dr. Luncheon, at a post Cabinet Press briefing, finally stated that the Report would not be released to the public. Within days of Luncheon’s announcement, he was contradicted by President Jagdeo, who stated that the Report would be released, but only an edited version with the names of the perpetrators removed.

Meanwhile, neither the original, nor the edited version, has yet been released. Had this matter not been so serious, the unsavoury saga of the Torture Report would qualify as farce and comedy rather that an example of a Government making a serious effort to respect the fundamental rights of the citizens of Guyana, as enshrined in and guaranteed by the Constitution.

The PPP/C and the Jagdeo Regime are actively pursuing a propaganda campaign to persuade the public that members of the GDF did not torture our citizens but merely ‘roughed’ them up or interrogated them aggressively. These statements not only lack credibility but also are indicative of their contempt and disrespect for the people of Guyana.

Surely, the unedited publication of the self-serving Torture Report would have enabled citizens to judge for themselves the nature of the acts committed by senior ranks of the GDF. However, the fact that the Government is afraid to publish, even that censored and self-serving version, is an indication of how damning the original findings were.

The Government propaganda cannot hide the fact that Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones and ranks of the GDF were tortured. Their injuries were displayed on the television screens in the homes of most of our citizens. These pictures and the statements by the victims tell the truth of their experiences and the PNCR will continue to rely on them, as evidence in the pursuit of these charges at the national and international levels. The Party is continuing, therefore, with its plans to exhaust all remedies before international bodies, including the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the relevant organs of the United Nations.

As confusion reigns at the Office of the President, over the mysterious Torture Report, the Jagdeo Administration must continue to be reminded that acts of torture are in contravention of the International Conventions signed by the Government, including the Convention against Torture (CAT). The perpetrators should also be reminded that they are individually answerable for their acts of torture, as illustrated in the conviction of Charles Taylor, Jr. of Liberia.

COST OF LIVING:
The intolerable burden of the rising cost of living, being faced by thousands of our citizens, on a daily basis, continues. This situation has made their lives a veritable hell. The increase in prices applies to almost all critical items, such as transportation, electricity and water. Our citizens, especially the elderly and those on fixed incomes, simply cannot cope. Regrettably, the Government has callously failed to act in anyway that can bring about some measure of relief

Guyana Power and Light (GPL):
The PNCR notes that, in response to the Party’s exposure of the malfunctioning electricity sector, at its last Press Conference, and its call for an explanation to be provided to the Nation, officials of GPL rushed to hold a Press Conference to inform the Guyanese public of the status of the electricity situation. It was noteworthy that, the top officials of GPL virtually said that all was well and that Guyanese will have a ‘bright’ Christmas. They were swiftly contradicted by reality.

The blackouts have continued causing enormous losses to our citizens and discomfort in their homes. Instead of the anodyne statements made by the GPL big wigs, what was required was a frank and honest explanation of the difficulties being encountered by the corporation. Such honesty would have been better for the Guyanese people and might have initiated a discussion, at the national level, as to how the problems at GPL might be mitigated and eventually resolved. In the absence of such a statement, the PNCR has no choice but to again repeat its proposal that a Commission of Inquiry be appointed, as a matter of great urgency, to determine whether GPL is indeed fulfilling its mandate and whether it is not dysfunctional and causing huge economic losses to the people and the State.

During the press briefing, by senior officials of GPL, it was stated that new generators would be bought and some would be rented, at an exorbitant cost, to improve the electricity supply for the Christmas season. There is no guarantee that these generators will be more effective than those which were bought a year ago, at great cost to the nation, and which seem to have disappeared from the precincts of GPL. GPL must account to the Guyanese nation for the condition and status of these generators, if their decision to buy new ones is to have any credibility.

Guyana Water Inc. (GWI):
The Water sector is in crisis. This can no longer be denied. Very few Guyanese in the capital city, and in the outlying and hinterland areas, are privileged to have an adequate, reliable and safe potable water supply on a daily basis. This deplorable situation places additional burdens on the Guyanese people. It is not surprising, therefore, that the residents at Cotton Tree, on the West Coast of Berbice, and Mahaicony on the East Coast of Demerara, took protest action against the quality of water that they were receiving through their taps. It is almost a certainty that this will be replicated in different parts of the country, in the future, because it appears that this is the only way to get the authorities to respond to their concerns.

The PNCR, in response to the present water crisis, dispatched a delegation - consisting of Members of Parliament, Mr. Keith Scott, Mr. Ernest Elliott, Ms. Jennifer Wade and Mr. Mervyn Williams - to call on the Chief Executive Officer of GWI, Mr. Karran Singh, on Wednesday 5th November 2008. The dire water situation in Regions 3, 4 and 5 were outlined for Mr. Singh’s benefit. In particular, emphasis was placed on the fact that there was non-delivery of potable water, sometimes for years. There is also notable discrimination against residents in Vergenoegen on the East Bank of the Essequibo River.

The CEO of GWI conveniently sought to place blame on the inefficient performance of GPL for his organisation’s inability to deliver a reliable supply of water. However, he failed to satisfactorily explain the myriad problems being experienced by citizens, for years, in various villages across Guyana.

Mr. Karran Singh’s response is a further indication of the crisis in the Water sector. It is incumbent upon the Jagdeo Administration to urgently address the problems at GWI.

The PNCR will continue to relentlessly pursue these matters.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 6 November, 2008