PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 27 November 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia



• The economic crisis in Guyana is severe and pronounced. Let us look at the facts;
• The PNCR dares the Jagdeo Administration and the PPP to deny that severe pain and suffering, mental or physical, were not inflicted on Victor Jones, Patrick Sumner, Alvin Wilson, Michael Dunn and Sharth Robertson, in order to obtain information in relation to criminal activities in Buxton and the loss of an AK-47 by the GDF;
• The PNCR wants to make it clear to all, that this Party has not been a barrier to the appointment of Mr. Henry Green;
• The PNCR has proposed the establishment of a suitable mortgage lending institution, or the utilization of the existing banking facilities, to make affordable loans to ensure house construction by the poorer segments of the society.

COST OF LIVING:

The Jagdeo Administration continues to downplay the severity of the economic crisis in Guyana. Accordingly, its propaganda machine has been peddling the misperception that Guyanese are comfortable with the existing situation. They have gone so far as to say that the country is better off than most other Caribbean countries. This is a dangerous delusion, as the reality is quite different.

The economic crisis in Guyana is severe and pronounced. Let us look at the facts. In its study, April 2007, entitled “Guyana: Why has growth stopped? An Empirical Study on the Stagnation of Economic Growth” the IMF has this to say:

“For several years, Guyana enjoyed one of the fastest rates of growth in the region and among low income countries. Subsequently, however, economic activity slowed dramatically beginning in 1998, with average growth falling from 7.1 percent during 1991–97, to 0.6 percent in 1998–2004, well behind the Caribbean region, and one of the lowest among highly indebted poor countries (HIPCs) and among eligible countries for the Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PRGF).”

This stagnation continued and some semblance of growth only resumed in 2007/2008. It translated into a high cost of living, stagnant wages and salaries, relatively high inflation and high unemployment, especially among young people.

The introduction of the unconscionable 16% Value Added Tax (VAT) only compounded this difficult situation. Among other things, it caused a spike in prices which has eaten into the disposable income of the Guyanese people. As a result, most Guyanese are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet.

The Jagdeo Administration, to date, has failed to demonstrate that they have the vision, policies and management capabilities to implement a suitable programme of economic and social measures to place the economy on a path for sustained growth, as is necessary if the country is to be catapulted out of its present economic bind.

President Jagdeo recently continued the PPP propaganda, when he gave the impression, in a recent press interview, that the current international economic and financial crisis is likely to have a limited impact on the Guyana economy. The PNCR argues that the impact is likely to be felt through a decline in remittances, lower levels of investment and pressure on our traditional exports, as demand weakens in Europe, North America and the Caribbean.

The President however agreed with the PNCR that the crisis needs to be studied and remedies sought. Yet, instead of taking bold action to put together a team of experts, representing a wide cross section of stakeholders, he seems to be personalizing the issue by meeting with individual sectors of the society.

What the nation can expect, therefore, is the continued fiddling at the margins of this crisis, rather than the development and implementation of a focused programme to bring it under control.

THE TORTURE REPORT:

In a response to the demand, by significant sections of the society, that the Torture Report be published, the Jagdeo Administration has issued two versions of that document. One version is a comprehensive document in which the names of those who perpetrated acts of torture are clearly stated, and the other is the sanitized version of carefully selected extracts from this document with the names excised.

The names of the members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Board of Inquiry have been edited out, as are the names of those who, within the Military Criminal Intelligence Department (MCID), conducted the interrogation of individuals.

The Jagdeo Administration could have saved themselves the trouble of engaging in such a wasteful exercise. By now every school child knows the names of the officers who conducted the interrogation for the MCID. In this regard, the PNCR has taken careful note of the fact that Major O. Khan and Captain S. Sukull, among others, were asked to give evidence to the Board of Inquiry.

The report regrettably seeks to redefine the nature of torture even though the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) explicitly states what this is. It would be appropriate, therefore, to give both definitions.

The GDF Board of Inquiry seeks to offer this definition of what it considers to be torture:

“It should be noted that from the Board’s interpretation of the UN convention Article 1 definition of torture, that the words “severe pains or suffering” allows for a threshold where torture can be described at the highest point or level of an interrogation process comprising cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Once an act therefore crosses this threshold where severe pain or suffering is inflicted, a distinction can then be drawn between acts of torture and physical abuse or ill-treatment.”

This torturous and misleading definition of torture cannot obscure its political purpose. It is intended to prevent the conclusion that persons, such as Victor Jones and Patrick Sumner, and members of the GDF, to wit, Alvin Wilson, Michael Dunn and Sharth Robertson, were not tortured. The Guyanese public have all heard the PPP propagandists engaging in vulgar and distasteful politicking by saying that those interrogated, by the MCID, were “roughed up” and not subject to torture.

The UN Convention Against Torture, contrary to what the GDF, at the behest of the Government, seeks to deny, is very clear about what torture is. Here is what Article 1 (1) of the UN Convention Against Torture states:

“For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

The PNCR dares the Jagdeo Administration and the PPP to deny that severe pain and suffering, mental or physical, were not inflicted on Victor Jones, Patrick Sumner, Alvin Wilson, Michael Dunn and Sharth Robertson, in order to obtain information in relation to criminal activities in Buxton and the loss of an AK-47 by the GDF.

It is noteworthy that, even though Sharth Robertson alleged that he was tortured by the MCID, he does not seem to be the subject of the sanitized Report, for some strange reason. The Chief of Staff, Commodore Gary Best, might wish to offer an explanation.

The fact of two versions of the Torture Report, gives credibility to the belief that the Jagdeo Administration is prepared to go to any lengths to cover up the fact that it has condoned torture and to protect those who are engaged in this nefarious activity, especially the two GDF officers, who conducted the interrogation on behalf of the MCID.

THE APPOINTMENT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE:

In one of his many arrogant assertions, President Jagdeo had said that he would be appointing the Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr. Henry Green, to the substantive post of Commissioner of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), before the end of this 2008. He did indicate that he would do this without any further consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, as required by the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana.

As is usual, President Jagdeo’s rhetoric was not a prelude to action. A considerable period has elapsed, and even though the Jagdeo Administration continues to lavish praise on the force, Mr. Green has continued in the position of Acting Commissioner of Police.

The year is coming to an end and there is no indication that Mr. Green will be appointed.

The PNCR wants to make it clear to all, that this Party has not been a barrier to the appointment of Mr. Green. Those who have been engaging in such mischievous utterances seem to have conveniently forgotten that President Jagdeo is primarily responsible for the appointment of the Commissioner of Police.

HOUSE LOTS:

The Jagdeo Administration and the PPP/C should have the courage to attack the PNCR without resorting to the use of anonymous proxies. After the Party, at its last Press Conference, pointed out that the House Lots programme had become a shambles and was raven with corruption and nepotism, the Jagdeo PPP Administration and the Ministry of Housing and Water, appointed phantom writers to attack the Party. The PNCR, however, will not budge from its original observations that the programme is raven with corruption and nepotism.

The recent decision to repossess house lots is callous and insensitive. Surely, the Jagdeo Administration can work out the means by which those who are not financially capable of paying for their house lots, at the present time, can do so in the future.

The only reason why the Jagdeo Administration can resort to this course of action is because they always regarded the House Lots programme as a political gimmick rather than a genuine attempt to make it possible for the average Guyanese citizen to purchase their own homes. This argument seems all the more persuasive because the Jagdeo Administration must have known that with the rising cost of living, most poor Guyanese could not build on the lots allocated to them. Yet, even though this was known, the Jagdeo PPP Administration has put nothing in place to help the poor man.

The PNCR has proposed the establishment of a suitable mortgage lending institution, or the utilization of the existing banking facilities, to make affordable loans to ensure house construction by the poorer segments of the society. Without such a course of action, the wealthy acolytes of the PPP/C will continue to gobble up the house lots of our poor brethren.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 27 November, 2008