LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM PRIOR TO ELECTIONS--PRESS STATEMENT Thursday 16 April, 2009




SUMMARY:
• Justice Kenneth George will long be remembered for his contribution to the strengthening of the laws of Guyana and the justice system;
• The PNCR expresses its concern about the manner in which the diplomacy of the nation is being conducted;
• The PNCR joins those organisations and individuals who have expressed their concern over the fact that the existing legislation and programmes have, so far, been unable to stem the rise of domestic violence;
• The Party warns, in the strongest possible terms, that chronic unemployment and rising levels of extreme poverty, provides an incubator for involvement in crime, narcotics use and trafficking, as well as other anti-social behaviour, including domestic violence;
• The PNCR calls upon President Jagdeo and his PPP cohorts to stop playing dangerous and destructive games with the urgently needed reform of the Local Government system, which is necessary for the establishment of any meaningful democracy at the community level in Guyana;
• The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Robert Corbin, submitted a second Motion, on 7 April 2009, resulting from the developments with regard to the CLICO debacle.

PNCR EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES ON THE PASSING OF JUSTICE KENNETH GEORGE

The PNCR has noted the death of Justice Kenneth George, O.R., C.C.H. who died at the St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, on 6th April 2009, at the age of 79. The Party tenders its condolences to his wife, Mrs. Hazel George, his children and grandchildren, and all of his close relatives and friends.

Justice George was one of those individuals who rendered exceptional service to this country in the field of law. Few can dispute his pre-eminence in jurisprudence. He had a long and distinguished career, characterised by his elevation to the post of Chief Justice, in 1981, and Chancellor of the Judiciary, in 1988.

Justice George was known not only for his scholarship but also for his emphasis on the integrity of the legal profession. A friend to the legal community and an exemplar to the younger members of the profession, Justice George will long be remembered for his contribution to the strengthening of the laws of Guyana and the justice system.

May his soul rest in peace!

CRITICAL NEED FOR COHERENT FOREIGN POLICY

For sometime now, the PNCR has withheld comment on the conduct of the foreign policy of the nation. The Party assumed that, overtime, the Jagdeo Administration would have seen the necessity for crafting a coherent and effective foreign policy, sub served by the required institutional support. Sadly, the Party recognises that it has been very wrong.

The drift and confusion that has been the hallmark of conduct of foreign policy, since the PPP took office, has continued unabated. This situation, if it remains unchanged, is likely to continue to jeopardise the national interest in the region and beyond.

The most alarming feature of the conduct of foreign policy is the apparent institutional shift from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Office of the President. Unfortunately, the Office of the President seems to be conducting the nation’s diplomacy at the whims and fancies of President Jagdeo. Ever so often, the nation is informed of some initiative or the proposed visit of the President overseas without being told in what framework such diplomatic activity is taking place. Moreover, after the activity is complete the nation is given very little information as to its actual nature and outcome. A Press Conference is hardly a sufficient basis for informing the nation about any important diplomatic exercise or visit.

The PNCR also expresses its concern about the manner in which the diplomacy of the nation is being conducted. “Megaphone Diplomacy” is hardly the best method to treat with fellow Heads of State, especially those of the Caribbean Community.

The PNCR spent many decades, while in Government, building and strengthening our relations with the States of the Caribbean Community. Regrettably, we cannot remain silent as this foundation is threatened by the lack of the requisite diplomatic finesse. We urge President Jagdeo to use the well tried and tested methods of diplomacy, such as prudence and sensitivity, when he is dealing with the Heads of State of the Caribbean Community. Language that falls just short of abuse is hardly the best method of conducting our relations with the distinguished Caribbean Heads of State. Overtime this could end in isolation.

It is past time that the Jagdeo Administration set out, in a clear and documented format, what is the foreign policy of this nation, especially in such critical areas as the Caribbean Community and our important relationships with the states in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The PNCR would advise that such a statement could be issued on the enunciation of the foreign policy of the nation, at a Sitting of the National Assembly or at some major national event. The template that can be followed is that of Sir Shridath Ramphal’s address to the National Assembly, in 1971, or Fred Wills’ pronouncement at the same forum, in 1977, or Rashleigh Jackson’s presentation of the nation’s foreign policy, in 1981.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NEEDS URGENT NATIONAL TREATMENT

The PNCR joins those organisations and individuals who have expressed their concern over the fact that the existing legislation and programmes have, so far, been unable to stem the rise of domestic violence. The Party, therefore, urges that the existing legislation and programmes need to be re-examined to determine whether there is need for amendments. It could be that the problem lies in the administrative and institutional capacity for implementation and enforcement or that related public education programmes are inadequate. Whatever are the reasons, the need for re-examination is clear and urgent.

The PNCR believes that what might be helpful, at the present time, is that there should be further training for the police force, a stepped up public education campaign on the evils of domestic violence and consequences for the society, and the systematic effort to place this issue on the national curriculum. Equally, there must be an understanding of why the socialisation process of, particularly, young males has broken down to the extent that they resort to violence as the instrument for regulating their relationship with their female counterparts.

Guyana must follow the examples of other countries and persuade the University of Guyana to launch continuing research and studies into the pathology of domestic violence. The results of this research should inform important policy decisions and the related public education programmes and campaigns.

UNEMPLOYMENT IS A MAJOR CHALLENGE

Even before the onset of the global financial and economic crisis, unemployment was a serious problem for Guyana. No reliable official statistics are available but it is generally believed that the level is in double digit figures. The most seriously affected category being our young people. They have not been able to find jobs and those graduating from High School, Technical institutions and the University have to spend years looking for appropriate employment. It is well known that there are thousands of young people who have not been able to find work and who see no prospect of finding suitable employment.

With major businesses having to reduce staff, because of the crisis, and CLICO facing insolvency, the unemployment figures are shooting upwards and the Jagdeo Administration is, as is usual, resorting to propaganda, instead of putting effective programmes in place to tackle the scourge of unemployment in Guyana. Perhaps, they are still awaiting the IMF to hold their hands and dictate what economic policies they should implement.

The Party warns, in the strongest possible terms, that chronic unemployment and rising levels of extreme poverty, provides an incubator for involvement in crime, narcotics use and trafficking, as well as other anti-social behaviour, including domestic violence.

The time has come for the Jagdeo regime to demonstrate that they have the vision and capacity for the development of policies and programmes for the generation of growth and development. After all, they need to prove that they understand the import of their responsibility for the well being of all in the society.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM PRIOR TO ELECTIONS

The sad reality for us, here in Guyana, is the widespread recognition that President Jagdeo seems to be congenitally hostile to the truth. His practice of deliberately distorting or blatantly misrepresenting the truth is very evident from his pronouncements on the reform of the Local Government system and the holding of Local Government elections in 2009. Unfortunately, the assault by the PPP propaganda machine and the utterances of cohorts, such as Mr. Clinton Collymore, the Joint-Chairman of the Bi-Partisan Task Force on Local Government Reform, suggest that the disrespect for the truth is pervasive within the ranks of the PPP.

In the PNCR Press Statement, of 19 March 2009, it was stated:

“The People’s National Congress Reform, conscious of the proclivity of the Jagdeo Administration to engage in exercises of bad faith, has continually warned the Guyanese people of the manoeuvres, of the regime, to prevent the reform of the Local Government system before the holding of Local Government Elections in 2009. The recent statements, by President Jagdeo and his PPP cohorts, simply confirm our long held suspicions that the Jagdeo Administration is about to repudiate yet another agreement.

It is evident, to the PNCR, that, among the reasons for their desire to hold Local Government elections in 2009, without the agreed reforms of the Local Government system, is the belief, of the Jagdeo Administration and the PPP, that they need the old Local Government system to consolidate their political hold on the country, prior to the holding of National and Regional Elections in 2011.

The PNCR members of the bi-partisan Local Government Task Force, have always co-operated to expedite the reform of the Local Government system. However, it has been clear, from the inception, that despite agreements and statements to the contrary, including the 2003 Communiqué, the PPP members seem committed to frustrate the process.

The PNCR states categorically that, if there is the political will and good faith, on the part of the Jagdeo Administration, the reform of the Local Government system can be completed in time to hold Local Government Elections by November 2009.”

In that Press Statement, the PNCR also stated the following:

“The People’s National Congress Reform reminds the Jagdeo Administration of their agreement, with the Opposition Parties, that Local Government elections would be held under the reformed Local Government system, using an Electoral List extracted from the new National Register of Registrants, produced as a result of the recent House-to-House Registration process.

Indeed, the Opposition Parties, in their joint Press Release, dated Monday 19 November 2007, stated, inter alia, “… that the reform of the Local Government system, as recommended by the Joint Task Force for Local Government Reform, including the reform of the Local Government Electoral system, … should be fully implemented prior to the holding of Local Government Elections.” This remains the position and commitment of the PNCR.”

The unilateral and arbitrary announcement by Mr. Collymore, at end of the 7 April 2009 meeting of the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform, that he was terminating the work of the Task Force “on instructions”, could only mean that he was instructed by President Jagdeo who, in conjunction with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, are the only authority for instructing the Task Force.

Obviously, the public exposure of this duplicitous action forced the Jagdeo PPP machine to “instruct” Mr. Collymore to state that he was acting on his own volition. This is reinforced by the desperate and deceptive statements by President Jagdeo that it is the Opposition that has caused the work of the Task Force to be frustrated and extended.

President Jagdeo must be aware of the strategy of the PPP, since the Task Force was established in May 2001, to use every manoeuvre and antic to impose maximum administrative delays on the process. Perhaps the President needs to be reminded that:

“There has already been agreement on the reforms to the Local Government Electoral system. Discussions on the details of the draft Bill for Fiscal Transfers to Local Authorities have advanced. The PPP members have been dragging their feet on holding discussions on the draft Bill for the establishment of the Local Government Commission. These Bills would all have to be Tabled and passed in the National Assembly. The PNCR and the other Opposition Parties have called for all three (3) Bills to be Tabled in the National Assembly, at the same time, since, if there is agreement on the Bills, their passage, through all stages in the National Assembly, could be expedited.

It is evident that a comprehensive Public Education programme must be held early to ensure that the Guyanese Electors are fully informed and understand the new Local Government Electoral system. There is no reason, given that there is already agreement on the details of the new Electoral system, why such a Public Education programme cannot begin immediately.”

The substantive Bill to be settled is the Bill for the establishment of the Local Government Commission. This is the Bill that the PPP members, of the Joint Task Force, have been refusing to discuss.

The Local Government (Amendment) Bill is simply the Bill which would capture all the needed consequential amendments to the existing Local Government legislation. Therefore, it is a facile excuse, by Mr. Collymore and his colleagues, that this is the cause for his arbitrary and unauthorised action, since, until the Local Government Commission Bill is settled, all of the consequential amendments to the existing legislation cannot be known.

The PNCR calls upon President Jagdeo and his PPP cohorts to stop playing dangerous and destructive games with the urgently needed reform of the Local Government system, which is necessary for the establishment of any meaningful democracy at the community level in Guyana.

THE SECOND PNCR MOTION CALLING FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSIONS OF INQUIRY

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Robert Corbin, submitted a second Motion, on 7 April 2009, resulting from the developments with regard to the CLICO debacle.

The Resolve clauses of this Motion read as follows:

“BE IT RESOLVED THAT the National Assembly of the Parliament calls on the President to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of CLICO (Guyana) with terms of reference which include:
(a). To examine whether there was any breach of fiduciary duty to policyholders, depositors and/or shareholders, on the part of the management or any particular official of CLICO (GUYANA), in the management of the Company’s affairs, that contributed to the present financial state of the Company;

(b). To examine whether there was any malfeasance, irregularity and/ or misconduct by any official of CLICO (GUYANA) in the recent management of the Company;

(c). More particularly, to determine whether there were related party dealings and/ or the misuse of insider information which led to the speedy dissipation of the $2.6B received by CLICO (GUYANA) from the sale of its Bonds in the Berbice River Bridge and to identify the beneficiaries if any;

(d). To determine whether there was any irregularity and/ or malfeasance in the use of money invested / entrusted by the National Insurance Scheme in CLICO (GUYANA) and to present the details of all transactions involving NIS funds.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the National Assembly of the Parliament calls on the President and the Government of Guyana to establish a separate Commission of Inquiry, into the investments made by NIS, with terms of reference which include:
(a). To investigate all investments made with NIS funds with a view to determining if there was any malfeasance or irregularity;
(b). To determine whether all decisions, on the investment of NIS funds, were approved by the duly appointed Board.”

The Speaker of the National Assembly has disallowed this Motion on the grounds that the Motion “…relates directly to matters which are or are likely to be intimately connected with the court proceedings which are now going on and is therefore sub judice.”


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 16 April, 2009