THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF OUR CITIZENS CONTINUE TO BE VIOLATED--PRESS STATEMENT Thursday 7 May 2009




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR and Mrs. Corbin acknowledge with appreciation the many expressions of concern and good wishes for a speedy recovery from friends, supporters and well-wishers;
• The PNCR has taken the principled position that the entitlements and benefits, for all Constitutional Office Holders, should be clearly spelt out in legislation so that the Office Holder and the public would not be at the mercy of the capricious determination of who enjoys which benefits;
• The Public Utility Undertakings and Public Health Services Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2009: BILL No. 13 of 2009 widens and deepens the category of "Essential Services", from which the workers and their Unions cannot strike;
• The Jagdeo Administration must understand that the violation of the rights of our citizens are not only inconsistent with our Constitution but also violate the several international treaties against such practice that it they have signed on to;
• The PNCR calls upon the Jagdeo Administration, in view of the ongoing economic crisis and the difficulty the average Guyanese encounters, in barely eking out a living, to take urgent measures to improve the wages and salaries of public servants and the public assistance offered to our less fortunate citizens.

UPDATE ON PNCR LEADER’S HEALTH CONDITION

The People’s National Congress Reform wishes to advise of the significant improvement in the health of its Leader, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, MP, who was taken to the United States of America, on Monday 27 April 2009. He is still receiving medical attention in Long Island, New York.

Mr. Corbin was initially hospitalized at the Heart Center, St. Francis Hospital, Long Island where he underwent tests, evaluation and medical procedures, including angiography. Following his discharge, Mr. Corbin was subjected to a series of other medical tests and evaluation as a result of which, he is expected to undergo surgery tomorrow, Thursday 7 May 2009, in Long Island, New York. His doctors expect a full recovery shortly thereafter.

The PNCR and Mrs. Corbin acknowledge with appreciation the many expressions of concern and good wishes for a speedy recovery from friends, supporters and well-wishers. These messages have been conveyed to Mr. Corbin who has asked us to express his personal appreciation to all those persons and organisations.

Mr Corbin plans to resume duties in the shortest possible time.

BENEFITS FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICE OF LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

It has not escaped the attention of the PNCR that there are insidious intentions, by the Jagdeo Administration, for bringing the LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION (BENEFITS AND FACILITIES) BILL 2009: BILL No. 16 OF 2009 to the National Assembly, at this time. Clearly, the intention is to suggest that there was some quid pro quo with regard to the FORMER PRESIDENTS (BENEFITS AND OTHER FACILITIES) BILL 2009: BILL No. 12 OF 2009.

The PNCR has taken the principled position that the entitlements and benefits, for all Constitutional Office Holders, should be clearly spelt out in legislation so that the Office Holder and the public would not be at the mercy of the capricious determination of who enjoys which benefits. In other words, the Party is advocating transparency for these matters.

It should be evident, to anyone who examines the two Bills, that there is no similarity of intention. The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION (BENEFITS AND FACILITIES) BILL 2009 is intended to set out the entitlements and benefits of the occupant of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and not the benefits which would apply after the occupant demits that Office. In contrast to this, the FORMER PRESIDENTS (BENEFITS AND OTHER FACILITIES) BILL 2009 is intended to fix benefits for the President after he has demitted that Office.

The Leader of the Opposition is a Constitutional Office and any entitlements and benefits applicable to that Office are not tailored for the particular person occupying the Office. When the incumbent Leader of the Opposition demits office, those benefits would apply for the succeeding Leader of the Opposition. There is no life long entitlement.

The Party is particularly concerned that, even as the Jagdeo Administration is claiming that they are in the process of making the entitlements of Constitutional Offices statute-bound, the various propaganda arms, of the Jagdeo regime, are peddling misinformation in relation to the benefits of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

The PNCR, therefore, considers it a public duty to set out the entitlements and benefits, which have been agreed, for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition:

1. The salary, allowances and other conditions, including a vacation travel allowance, equivalent to that of a Cabinet Minister.
2. Suitable office accommodation, paid for and furnished by the state, with the following staff:
 One (1) Research Officer at the Public Service level of Band #10.
 One (1) Executive Assistant at the Public Service level of Band #6.
 One (1) Clerical/Office Assistant at the Public Service level of Band # GS3.
 One (1) Cleaner at the Public Service level of Band #GS1.
3. One (1) Chauffeur.
4. One (1) Gardener.
5. Two (2) Household assistants/ Domestic Servants.
6. 24-hour Personal security as well as for the office and the official place of residence.

GOVERNMENT INCREASING CURTAILMENT OF WORKERS RIGHTS

The Public Utility Undertakings and Public Health Services Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2009: BILL No. 13 of 2009 comes up for its Second Reading Debate in the National Assembly, on Thursday 7th May, 2009.

Clause 3 of the Bill proposes that the name be changed to "The Essential Services Arbitration Act." However, by whatever name, this Bill seeks to take away the constitutional right of the workers and their Trade Unions to strike, as guaranteed under Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana.

The Bill widens and deepens the category of "Essential Services", from which the workers and their Unions cannot strike. The workers and their Unions would be punished by criminal sanctions and increased fines if they do strike.

The Bill introduces a new schedule of "Essential Services", which includes a large part of our labour force.

The Bill does not contain any provision for the machinery to identify and finally resolve a trade dispute in an Essential Service. However, the Bill utilises the old framework, in the 1956 Public Utility Undertakings and Public Health Services Arbitration Act, Chapter 54:01.

In the 1956 Act, the Minister is given dictatorial powers over the conflict resolution process. For example, the Minister appoints a three man Arbitration Tribunal, including the chairman, an employers’ representative and a workers’ representative. The Latter two are hand-picked by the Minister from a sitting pool which was to be established by Employers and Workers representatives, respectively. It is the Minister who receives notice of a trade dispute and not the Chief Labour Officer and, if efforts at conciliation fail, it is the very Minister who refers the trade dispute to the same Tribunal which he has handpicked.

The Minister is given a wide discretion to refer a trade dispute to the said Tribunal, within 10 days or such other longer period, if, in his opinion, the circumstances require it. The workers cannot strike before the Tribunal renders its award, after the Minister has referred the trade dispute to the Tribunal.

This Bill also excludes the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions who, in the 1956 Legislation, had to approve the bringing of any criminal charges against the workers or Trade Unions for any breach of the provisions outlawing strikes.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF OUR CITIZENS CONTINUE TO BE VIOLATED

The assault upon the John family at Agricola, on 3rd May 2009, is yet an additional indication that certain ranks, within the Guyana Police Force, are out of control and need to be made to operate within the confines of the law.

It is now in the public domain that ranks of the Police Force descended on the home of Owen and Earlene John and, in retaliation for their protests, arrested and locked up Owen John and his two sons, Fabio and Michael. From all accounts, this was a harrowing experience for the John family which might yet leave serious psychological scars.

The PNCR sympathises with the family and is prepared to stand with them until they obtain justice. What is clear, from this incident, is that ranks of the Police Force are prepared to violate the rights of our citizens because they believe that political protection will ensure their immunity from prosecution. If this continues, as the PNCR has said before, Guyana will soon be ruled by the law of the jungle.

The violation of the rights of the John family should remind this nation that, within recent times, the rights of two of our citizens, Ryan Gordon and Mitchell Thomas, were violated during a raid for narcotics, on Saturday 28th February 2009, in Wakenaam. They alleged that they were tortured by ranks of the Joint Services.

Both the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Home Affairs promised an investigation into this matter. No such investigation has been forthcoming. Further, there is no indication that any such investigation is likely to be mounted anytime soon.

The PNCR calls for an immediate thorough, impartial and complete investigation into the violation of the rights of the John family and renews our demand that the promised investigation, into the allegations of torture by Ryan Gordon and Mitchell Thomas, be held without any further delay.

The Jagdeo Administration must understand that the violation of the rights of our citizens are not only inconsistent with our Constitution but also violate the several international treaties against such practice that it they have signed on to.

COST OF LIVING

The political schizophrenia of the current administration is something to behold. During the recent May Day celebrations, various members of the Jagdeo Administration and their trade unions satellites, hypocritically beat their breast and proclaimed their allegiance to the rights of the workers. Yet, none of them seem to have registered the fact that, while President Jagdeo would depart the Office, hopefully by 2011, into luxurious retirement, no effort is being made to improve the conditions and increase the wages, salaries and pensions of public servants, most of whom will retire into acute penury.

The fact that the Administration appears to be comfortable with this situation is conclusive evidence that it has determined that there are only two classes in our society: the very rich and the very poor. Moreover, it is a demonstration of the extent to which the PPP has moved away from its political philosophy that the State should be the ally of the poor and vulnerable.

The Jagdeo Administration is now a rich man’s Government.

The PNCR calls upon the Jagdeo Administration, in view of the ongoing economic crisis and the difficulty the average Guyanese encounters, in barely eking out a living, to take urgent measures to improve the wages and salaries of public servants and the public assistance offered to our less fortunate citizens.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 7 May 2009