PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday 8 January 2009 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia



• The plight of the army of the working poor has worsened, while the suffering of the vulnerable groups, such as pensioners, single parents and the unemployed continued to be ignored;
• The horrors of the massacres at Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek represent a lasting stain on the society and are indicative of the levels of cruelty and callousness which have invaded our society;
• The use of torture is condemned by the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) as totally unacceptable conduct which is a violate of the human rights of the tortured Guyanese citizens;
• The Guyanese people are yet to be presented with the audited accounts for the funds expended during the 2005 floods, the Cricket World Cup and CARIFESTA X;
• The public is now confronted and affronted by the appointment of Mr. Steve Merai, as an Assistant Commissioner of Police;
• The floods of 2008/2009 represent the stark result of the Administration’s incompetence, neglect and corruption;
• Compensation for losses as a result of the flood must be paid and the procedure must be transparent;
• The political, economic, social and psychological challenges now facing the nation are bound to increase in complexity, beyond the capability of any single Political Party to resolve in a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural society such as Guyana.

2008: YEAR OF WOE FOR GUYANESE PEOPLE

No amount of PPP/C spin or propaganda blitz can change the reality that the Jagdeo Regime, through the combination of its incompetence, insensitivity, downright cussedness, obsession with controlling all political space and disregard for the fundamental rights of the people of Guyana, made 2008 a year of woe for all Guyanese.

Taxation and the Cost-of-Living:
The populace continued to be punished by the economically and socially crippling impact of the unconscionable 16% VAT. The spiralling cost-of-living pushed a rapidly growing number of Guyanese into the ranks of the poverty stricken, while the Government seems only concerned about how much revenue it has garnered from this source.

The plight of the army of the working poor has worsened, while the suffering of the vulnerable groups, such as pensioners, single parents and the unemployed continued to be ignored.

In the face of the suffering and deprivation, it has inflicted on large segments of the Guyanese people, the Government spent in excess of G$800Mn on CARIFESTA X, to further its own narrow political ends.

In its usual arrogance, the Administration seems to have conveniently forgotten that the introduction of the VAT should have been accompanied by the comprehensive reform of the Tax system, to ensure that it did not continue to be punitive and a disincentive for investment and enterprise.

Crime and Security:
The crime situation continued to deteriorate and seemed increasingly to be beyond the control of the Law Enforcement agencies which, in any event, have been undermined and weakened by the political short-sightedness and cussedness of the regime.

It became evident to all, apparently, except the Government, that the influence and presence of organized crime had become a growing menace. This was evident by the rise of highly organized and brazen armed robberies and the rapid growth of narcotics trafficking. Guyanese no longer feel safe on the roads and in their homes.

The horrors of the massacres at Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek represent a lasting stain on the society and are indicative of the levels of cruelty and callousness which have invaded our society.

The Government was compelled to seek a national consensus to deal with the events of Lusignan and Bartica. Therefore, against its normal instincts and inclinations, it convened a National Stakeholders Forum, which, despite its own shenanigans, agreed the Bourda Accord. However, as is its usual practice, the return to some semblance of normalcy, has enabled the Administration to engage in the specialized exercise of M(aximum) A(dministrative) D(elays). The Jagdeo regime has become afflicted by collective amnesia about the commitments made in that Accord, particularly, the commitment to institutionalise the National Stakeholders forum.

The Torture of Citizens:
The brutal torture of Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones, by officers of the Military Criminal Intelligence Department (MCID) of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), and later of the army ranks, Alvin Wilson, Michael Dunn and Sharth Robertson, opened yet another chapter of the violation of the fundamental human rights of Guyanese citizens, by agents of the PPP Administration.

In accordance with Article 1 (1) of the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT):

“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 use of torture is condemned by the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) as totally unacceptable conduct which is a violate of the human rights of the tortured Guyanese citizens. However, the Government and the GDF, even in the face of the glaring evidence of the injuries inflicted on Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones, have bare-facedly set out to deceive the public that torture was not committed.

Bad Governance:
The President continues to behave as if the Public Purse is his to dispose of as capriciously as he alone determines. This is evident from his refusal to have the Lotto funds placed in the Consolidated Fund and his practice of the extra-budgetary allocation of public funds as he deems fit.

The Guyanese people are yet to be presented with the audited accounts for the funds expended during the 2005 floods, the Cricket World Cup and CARIFESTA X.

The public is continuously regaled with claims of the expenditure of massive sums of public money for infrastructural and other projects, yet we are witnessing the rapid deterioration of our bridges, drainage systems, roads, etc. The latest examples are the sorry state of the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the claim that the Government has spent G$1.7Bn to prepare the drainage system for the current rainy season.

All of this points to the importance of Public Oversight and Accountability. There is evidently the need to have an effectively and efficiently functioning Office of the Auditor General, equipped with the resources to undertake value-for-money audits of Public sector expenditure.

The appointment of a substantive Auditor General and the completion of arrangements for the autonomy of the Office of the Auditor General are all part of the scheme to avoid effective Oversight and Accountability to the People of Guyana, through the National Assembly.

Security Forces Appointments: A National Disgrace
It should be clear to all that the political agenda of the Government does not include the strengthening of the capacity and leadership of the security forces.

There is no doubt that the program of the Government has resulted in the loss of public confidence in the integrity, trustworthiness and competence of the leadership of the security forces.

The willingness to comply with the wishes and whims of the Administration seem to be the major guideline and qualification for appointment of the leadership of the security apparatus. This can only continue to undermine the morale of those members of the security forces who wish to perform their duties professionally and in the public interest.

The appointment of a Commissioner of Police without the constitutional requirement of consultation is yet another flagrant breach of the Constitution by President Jagdeo for which he will eventually be required to account to the people of Guyana.

The public is now confronted and affronted by the appointment of Mr. Steve Merai, as an Assistant Commissioner of Police. Given the record and history of Mr. Merai, could there be any doubt that he is being rewarded for his nefarious services to the PPP regime and their infamous associates? The killing of Shaka Blair in cold blood in Buxton; the murder of the three young men at Mandela Avenue; taped conversations with alleged drug lords clearly providing evidence of collaboration in the drug trade; allegations of contract killings on behalf of drug Barons; and, involvement in the murder of several young men while serving in the Special Target Squad (The Black Clothes Squad); are only a few of the matters associated with the career of Steve Merai.

It is also no secret that Steve Merai was missing from the Guyana Police Force for more than one year while seeking to remain permanently in Canada. His disappearance from Guyana was deliberately intended to undermine the inquest into the Mandela Trio killing. No one was fooled when he returned to Guyana and was re-admitted into the Guyana Police Force under a concocted PR release from the Police Force. Commissioner Winston Felix was so embarrassed that he assigned Merai to a desk job at Eve Leary. To date, no investigation or inquiry has been held to clear the air on those serious allegations about such a senior member of the Guyana Police Force. In such circumstances it is outrageous that the Police Service Commission could sanction such a promotion. The Guyanese public deserves an explanation particularly, in the context of the precarious state of crime and security in Guyana.

THE 2008 FLOODS

The floods of 2008/2009 represent the stark result of the Administration’s incompetence, neglect and corruption. We are seeing the full extent of the PPP culture of coping with disaster only when it arises, rather than seeking to avoid its occurrence, in the first place.

As usual, when the evidence of their failures struck, the PPP/C spin doctors and propagandists, starting with the President, began to inundate the public with their litany of excuses. There were adequate long-term warnings, based on the predictions of the MET Office, for the Coastal drainage system to be made ready for the rains.

In the midst of the disastrous flooding, in Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice, the President informed the people that he was satisfied that the G$1.7Bn was well spent to protect them from floods, due to the expected and predicted rainy season. The public needs to know precisely what the money was spent on and who was responsible for executing the works funded by this expenditure.

Many areas have been under water for more than one month and, instead of determining how immediate help could be brought to bear, to compensate persons who have suffered heavy losses of their crops and livestock, due to the seemingly uncontrolled flood waters, the Government was busy blaming Climate Change and everything else except their own neglect and incompetence. They have even sought to explain that the rainfall was above the predicted levels and more intense than that of 2005.

It is only after intense pressure from the PNCR and the people in the flood hit areas that the President and his Government, almost as if they are doing the people a favour, have now belatedly announced that they would offer financial help to the suffering flood victims. There is, however, need for transparency in such arrangements if the discrimination which was evident in the 2005 flood relief operations is not to be repeated.

In 2008, only on December 11 and 12, did the rainfall exceed the established design criteria, of 2 inches in 24 hours, of the Coastal drainage system. Whereas, in 2005, there was 25.66 inches of rain in 5 days (14 January – 18 January, 2005) – the heavy rainfall ended on the 18 January 2005.

In 2005, the major contributor to the disaster in Region #4 was the over topping of the Lama Conservancy Dam. Incredibly, after the Government had three (3) full years to address and rectify this problem, the same phenomenon continues to create the misery which the East Coast residents are suffering. This must be an unforgivable demonstration of incompetence and neglect.

The December 2008 rainfall, recorded by an electronic rain-gauge at Versailles, West Bank Demerara, indicate that 4.30 inches of rain fell on the 11 December, 2.14 inches fell on the 12th. There was no rain on the 13th and, on the 14th, 1.25 inches fell. Therefore, in that 4 day period 7.69 inches of rain fell. Accordingly, if the drainage system was working effectively, it should have been able to drain 8 inches in those 4 days, i.e. 2 inches a day. There was only one other period, in December 2008, when the rainfall exceeded 4 inches in 24 hours and that was 1.13 inches on the 19th December and 3.22 inches on the 20th. Less than a quarter of an inch fell on the 21st and only half an inch fell on the 22nd. Thus, in the 4 day period, only a total of 5.04 inches of rain fell - well within the 8 inch window of the design specifications for the drainage system.

At no other time, during the month of December 2008, did more than 4 inches of rain fall in 48 hours, so there should have been no flooding at all, if the drainage system, which was built in this country 200 years ago, was fully functional.

This assumes that the Government provided adequate resources, to the RDCs, NDCs, Municipalities and the D & I authorities, to ensure that all drains have the right dimensions, the right depths and free of all debris to form catchments, since the water only goes out when the tide is low, and that all kokers and, especially their outfall channels, were in satisfactory condition.

Was this what the touted G$1.7Bn was used for?

COMPENSATION FOR LOSSES AS A RESULT OF THE FLOOD IS AN OBLIGATION

It is evident from all of the above that the damage suffered by citizens as a result of the flood is a direct result of Government’s neglect and incompetence. The Government also gave false assurances to the citizens of this country while encouraging them to expand their agricultural pursuits in their well-publicised “Grow More Food” campaign. Consequently, many persons who relied on those assurances and encouragement expended their limited resources to plant crops and grow livestock. The Government cannot now shelter under such excuses as Climate Change. It is, therefore, not a favour, but, an obligation of the Government to compensate those who have suffered losses. President Jagdeo ought to understand that he is doing Guyanese no favour. Compensation must be paid and the procedure must be transparent.

2009: THE CHALLENGES

The fact that the Government’s first National Assembly salvos were aimed at providing power to the Minister of Local Government to determine when and if elections, for Mayors and Deputy Mayors on Municipalities and Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons of the National Democratic Councils could be held, though the existing statutes very clearly state that these elections should be held annually, is indicative of the continuing mindset of the Jagdeo Administration.

It is evident to all, but the politically naive or blind, that the tabled, Trade Union Recognition (Amendment) Bill 2008 – Bill No. 25 0f 2008, is aimed at the further emasculation of the Guyana Trades Union Council. The Administration is determined that its cronies in FITUG would assume the role normally performed by the GTUC.

It is, therefore, clear that the Administration intends to continue its policy of eroding the constitutional rights and freedoms of the Guyanese people while increasing the dictatorial powers being vested in its Ministers.

Apart from these issues of economic development, endemic corruption, the attack and defeat of organised crime and the narcotics trade, governance issues, such as the need for transparency and accountability, loom large.

In the circumstances, the major challenge for 2009 is the critical need for good Governance. Guyanese need to feel comfortable that, whichever Party is in Government, they would govern for all of the people and not just for some of the people.

The People’s National Congress Reform is committed to the pursuit of a suitable form of Shared Governance, since it should be clear, even to the PPP hierarchy, that it does not have the capacity, capability or vision to solve the problems which now confront the nation and which are likely to become even more acute.

The political, economic, social and psychological challenges now facing the nation are bound to increase in complexity, beyond the capability of any single Political Party to resolve in a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural society such as Guyana.

The present path, being beaten by the Jagdeo Administration, can only lead to confrontation and conflict. The sooner they acknowledge this, the easier it would be to engage in constructive relations, as is required for the long-term social and economic development of Guyana. Let it be clear to the Jagdeo Regime, however, that building trust has nothing to do with exposure of incompetence, corruption, discrimination and poor governance within his present administration.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, 8 January, 2009