PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 4 December 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia



• The Party hastens to tender its sincere condolences to the family of Fiesal Ferose Ali at his sad passing and at this time of their bereavement;
• The PNCR rejects this characterisation of its campaign, against the conduct of torture, by officers of the Military Criminal Intelligence Department of the GDF, as untrue and misguided;
• The Leader of the PNCR and Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, MP has returned to Guyana after participating in the PNCR North American Regional Conference held in Toronto, Canada recently and the Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network of the World Bank held in Paris, France;
• The Leader of the Opposition at the invitation of the President met with President Jagdeo on Monday last. The consultation related to the proposed policy initiative of the Government on global warming, climate change and the environment;
• The PNCR has been informed of an alleged serious miscarriage of justice at the Guyana Court of Appeal, where a Judge proceeded to hear and determine a matter before him after allegedly refusing to allow an Attorney at Law into the Court to represent his client;
• The working atmosphere at GWI is poisonous and is not calculated to improve the efficiency of the organisation;
• The effects and consequences of the global financial crisis are likely to result in greater economic and social burdens for the average Guyanese citizen;
• The PNCR outreach to Region # 2 and # 9 reveals major problems in the communities;
• The fourth and final General Council, for 2008, will be held at Congress Place, on 6 December 2008.

PNCR SENDS CONDOLENCES ON THE DEATH OF FIESAL FEROSE ALI:

The PNCR has learnt of the death of Mr. Fiesal Ferose Ali who was a candidate on the PNCR-1G List in the 2006 Elections. From all accounts Ali’s existence was snuffed out by those who seem to have scant regard for human life. It is the sincere hope of the Party that the police will track down his killer/s and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

The Party hastens to tender its sincere condolences to his family at his sad passing and at this time of their bereavement.

THE PNCR WILL CONTINUE TO OBJECT TO THE USE OF TORTURE:

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) has a consistent record of support for the men and women of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). That support has not wavered over the years. Indeed, the Party has had to come to the defence of the GDF when it was being pilloried by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in the 1970’s and when it was recklessly accused by the incumbent PPP Government, in 1998, of seeking to overthrow the PPP/C Administration.

It seems that a certain misguided section of the Guyana Defence Force intends to arrogantly engage in cheap partisan politics. In its recent release, in response to the PNCR’s last Press Statement, that section of the GDF has accused the Party of seeking to destabilise and demoralise the GDF by sowing “seeds of hatred, enmity and discord among the populace towards ranks of the GDF.”

The PNCR rejects this characterisation of its campaign, against the conduct of torture, by officers of the Military Criminal Intelligence Department (MCID) of the GDF, as untrue and misguided. Indeed, far from seeking to demoralise and destabilise ranks of the GDF and sowing seeds of enmity and hatred, the Party is doing the GDF a service by helping it to rid itself of the existing image of an institution which encourages and condones the reprehensible and criminal act of torture.

The PNCR has iron clad proof that respected members of the GDF have been embarrassed by the torture of its own ranks and civilians, such as Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones. The Party is, in this respect, the voice of those who believed that the GDF must conduct its activities in a professional manner and in accordance with national and international law.

The PNCR holds steadfastly to the view that neither the GDF nor the Guyana Police Force can conduct credible and acceptable investigations of themselves. The Party would only be satisfied by independent and impartial investigations.

The Chief of Staff, Commodore Gary Best, must, nevertheless, recognise that the GDF has only investigated allegations of torture of its own ranks. There is the outstanding matter of the allegations of torture, made by Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones, which cannot be ignored. The apparent refusal, by the Chief of Staff and the GDF hierarchy, to take firm action to investigate these allegations would continue to tarnish the image of the GDF and raise questions, in the eyes of the Guyanese people, as to whether the leadership of the GDF has joined the growing ranks of the Government that continue to display contempt for the rule of law in Guyana.

The Party, therefore, wishes to put the Chief of Staff, and the rest of the leadership of the GDF, on notice that their attempts to obfuscate matters by determining their own peculiar definition of what constitutes torture, will not protect them from having to answer to the international community, in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture, for the unacceptable conduct of acts of torture, which violate the human rights of Guyanese citizens, Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones, Alvin Wilson, Michael Dunn and Sharth Robertson.

LEADER OF THE PNCR AND OPPOSITION RETURNS TO GUYANA FROM USA AND FRANCE:

The Leader of the PNCR and Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, MP has returned to Guyana after participating in the PNCR North American Regional Conference held in Toronto, Canada recently and the Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network of the World Bank held in Paris, France.

The Eighth Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank was held in Paris from 20th to 22nd November, 2008. It was hosted by the French National Assembly and the French Government as France holds the Presidency of the European Union. A total of 260 participants, including 150 parliamentarians from 85 countries, attended the conference.

The 3-day programme consisted of the PNoWB General Assembly, the elections of a new Board and thirteen working sessions which offered legislators and partners the opportunity to discuss the response to the food, fuel and financial crises and the climate change challenge with more than 50 experts from International Financial Institutions, national administrations and civil society.

The objective of the Conference was also to provide participating parliamentarians with the practical knowledge, conceptual tools and other resources to address these issues, and to foster development at the country and regional level.

Among the highlights of the Conference was the opportunity to discuss issues with and present direct questions to the International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and World Bank President, Robert Zoellick.

The Eighth Annual Conference was also the opportunity for the Board to present its achievements over the past 18 months since the Annual Conference in Cape Town in March 2007. New Articles of Association and by-laws were approved by the General Assembly and a new twelve-member Board was elected on Friday 21 November. The Board now comprises five (5) members from donor countries, two (2) members from Africa, two (2) members from Asia, one (1) member from Latin America and the Caribbean, one (1) member from the Middle East and North Africa and one (1) additional member, currently filled by a woman from Africa.

CONSULTATION BETWEEN LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AND PRESIDENT ON GOVERNMENT POLICY ON ENVIRONMENT:

The Leader of the Opposition at the invitation of the President met with President Jagdeo on Monday last. The consultation related to the proposed policy initiative of the Government on global warming, climate change and the environment. The President indicated that the Government proposed to present this policy to the nation for discussion. Among the matters to be revealed is the pursuit of a policy to ensure that Guyana is not penalized economically for the non utilization of its forestry resources in aid of world environment protection. The PNCR has always had a policy position with respect to obtaining maximum economic benefits from our forestry resources but would reserve further comment until the details of this policy initiative are known and presented to the Nation for discussion.

STRANGE DEVELOPMENTS AT THE GUYANA COURT OF APPEAL:

The PNCR has been informed of an alleged serious miscarriage of justice at the Guyana Court of Appeal, where a Judge proceeded to hear and determine a matter before him after allegedly refusing to allow an Attorney at Law into the Court to represent his client. The reasons advanced were that certain formalities of introduction were not done according to the Judge’s expectations. While certain formalities are observed when an Attorney-at-Law is about to appear before a Judge for the first time, one does not expect that a litigant should be penalized and justice denied, especially where the other Party is the State.

The PNCR understands that several unsuccessful efforts were made by the Attorney at Law to see the Judge prior to the commencement of the case. Some observers have opined that this incident may just be a matter of Judicial arrogance, however, the PNCR is more concerned about whether such practices have been directly sanctioned by the Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary or whether the incident is a peculiar development related to the particular Attorney-at-Law. The PNCR will make a more complete statement after its investigation is completed.

HARASSMENT AND DISMISSAL AT GWI:

We have, in the past, commented on the unsatisfactory situation at the Guyana Water Inc. (GWI), both in terms of the treatment of workers and the operational capability and capacity of that organisation. At our Press Conference, on 22 November 2007, the Party made the following recommendation: “… the PNCR urges the PPP/C Administration to take the required steps now, by launching a thorough investigation into the functions, management and operations of the GWI, before yet another disaster befalls the nation.” Developments at the GWI now constrain the PNCR to take up this matter once again.

There have been many reports of the violation of the rights of workers at the GWI. This takes the form of a pattern of selective dismissals and staff harassment. Not surprisingly, an atmosphere and a general feeling of insecurity of tenure is plaguing the operations of the GWI, under the unfortunate direction of Mr Karan Singh.

At the start of this year, six (6) senior staff members were peremptorily dismissed, in the manner of the old colonial authorities, and to date those employees have not received their full benefits. Also, it is our information that the senior engineer, Mr. Sizwe Jackson, resigned in frustration. All this is compounded by the fact that several workers are now quaking in their boots, fearing dismissal, over the question of an investigation into the overpayment to a customer. These developments, together, point to the fact that the working atmosphere at GWI is poisonous and is not calculated to improve the efficiency of the organisation.

Apart from the personnel problems and the lack of communication between the workers and the CEO, the GWI seems incapable of providing a reliable supply of water to the residents of Sophia, Mc Doom and Agricola, among others. It seems that the management of GWI does not understand the misery and discomfort it inflicts on members of our society, especially its poor elements, when water cannot be obtained through the taps and has to be acquired after long and painful journeys and at a prohibitive cost. In this regard, the report that the water shortage is affecting the conduct of surgeries, at the New Amsterdam Hospital, should be a wakeup call for the Jagdeo Administration. There can be no more persuasive indicator of the parlous situation of the water sector and the need for urgent and meaningful action.

What is happening at the New Amsterdam Hospital, which is a threat to the lives of our citizens, is certain to be replicated in other institutions in the country. Consider for one moment what might be happening in the homes of Senior Citizens. Once again, under the Jagdeo Administration, the needs of the people are of little moment to those who have the benefit of adequate supplies of potable water at Pradoville.

In 1999, Mr. Karan Singh was relieved of his position, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA), as a result of grievances and complaints against him by senior officials and divisional managers. Indeed, the then Director of Finance stated: “My resignation stems from the corporate management culture which inhibits and stifles progress.”

It seems that GWI has come full circle. Karan Singh, like the Bourbon Kings, has forgotten nothing and has learnt nothing.

COST OF LIVING:

As the Christmas season closes in, the average Guyanese is more than ever concerned as to whether they will be able to meet the challenges of the rising cost of living. The PNCR will never tire of saying that the substantial increase in the cost of living is mainly attributable to the unconscionable 16% VAT, which must be reduced to 8%, in the context of an overall reform and refocusing of the taxation system in the country.

What is of particular concern to the PNCR, and indeed the rest of the country, is the impact of the high cost of living on the poor, the vulnerable, such as our pensioners, single parents and our unemployed youth.

The PNCR reiterates that the hastily conceived measures, taken by the Jagdeo Administration, at the time of the initial spike in food prices, were woefully inadequate to cushion the overall adverse impact of the cost of living. The effects and consequences of the global financial crisis are likely to result in greater economic and social burdens for the average Guyanese citizen.

The Party has already advised that the Jagdeo Administration should put the best minds, drawn from all relevant stakeholders groups, to recommend solutions for relieving the impact on the already suffering and increasingly desperate people of Guyana.

In the meantime, this Party strongly believes that the Jagdeo Administration must bring to early fruition the Single Parent Fund, which President Jagdeo announced almost a year ago. Single parents expected to have benefited already, particularly after the fanfare by the Ministry of Human Services surrounding the registration of those who were likely to be eligible for support from the Fund. The Jagdeo Administration must understand the pain and disappointment it has caused, by so cruelly depriving struggling single parents, by deliberately delaying the implementation of the Fund. The regime must compensate by urgently bringing the Fund into operation.

PNCR OUTREACH IN THE REGIONS:

A PNCR delegation led by the Director of the Party’s Human Services Department, Ms. Volda Lawrence, MP, visited several communities in Region # 9, including Katoonarib, Sawariwau, Aishalton and Kradarnaw.

The problems affecting these communities ranged from the non-receipt of birth certificates, the lack of water supply and electricity, poor roads and transportation, the lack of a post office at Aishalton and the poor condition of the secondary school in that community.

Certainly the outstanding problem of these communities is the collapse of the Rupununi Bridge at Katoonarib. In their usual arrogance, the Administration disregarded the advice of residents who had recommended that the bridge be built at Dadanawa.

The bridge was completed in 2007, and was supposed to link the communities of the Deep South Rupununi and provide access for trucks and other vehicles across the Rupununi River, in order to reduce costs. A few months after the completion of the bridge at Katoonarib, permission was given to the Vanessa Company to take heavy machinery across it. The bridge collapsed under the weight of the first excavator that was placed on it.

On Saturday, 29 November 2008, the Director of Party Organisation, Ms. Amna Ally, MP, led a team of Central Executive Committee members and Members of Parliament to Region # 2 on a fan out exercise.

Thirteen communities along the Essequibo Coast were visited. In the course of these visits opportunity was taken to encourage party members to renew their membership ahead of group elections scheduled for February/March 2009. Among the many problems identified were the lack of drainage and a proper garbage disposal system. The need for a shed on the new wharf constructed for the convenience of farmers at Charity was also highlighted.

GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE PNCR:

The fourth and final General Council, for 2008, will be held at Congress Place, on 6 December 2008.

The General Council is the highest forum of the Party between Congresses and it will be attended by representatives from the ten (10) regions.

The main address to the General Council will be given by the Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin, MP, and, it is expected that, the Chairman of the Party, Mr. Winston Murray, CCH, MP, will give the welcoming address. The General Secretary, Mr. Oscar Clarke, will report on the activities of the Party since the last General Council.

This General Council is taking place against the background of the deepening economic crisis in the country, rampant criminality in our society, the crumbling of the physical infrastructure, and the inability of the Jagdeo Administration to define a purpose and a vision to propel the society forward.

It is, therefore, expected that these and other issues will be analysed by the General Council and generate responses, including recommendations, from the participants.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 4 December, 2008.