JAGDEO ADMINISTRATION INVOLVEMENT IN CRIMINALITY--PRESS STATEMENT Friday 12 June 2009




SUMMARY:

* Because of the fundamental reforms to the Local Government Electoral System, it is vital that there should be the early implementation of a comprehensive and people friendly Public Education Programme, so that the electorate of this nation can understand the system under which Local Government Elections are to be held;
* There can be no excuse by either GECOM or the Government of Guyana over the non preparation and publication of a final new NRR and the PNCR will accept none;
* The demarcation of constituency boundaries has caused serious problematic issues all over the world and GECOM would be naive to believe that the process of demarking the NDC in Guyana would be any different;
* The PNCR has taken careful note of the launching of the Low-Carbon Development Strategy by the Jagdeo Administration;
* The PNCR believes that the allegations against Dr. Ramsammy are serious enough for him to demit office, in spite of his strong denials;
* The global financial and economic crisis continues to take its toll on the local economy;
* President’s College has been subjected to the whims and fancies of a known PPP party hack and is being administered, on an ad hoc basis.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The People’s National Congress Reform and the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties have consistently argued that the reform of the system of Local Government is a necessary condition for the holding of Local Government elections and the promotion and nurturing of democracy at the “grass roots” levels in Guyana . Therefore, the Local Government Reforms must be implemented prior to the holding of Local Government Elections.

The Jagdeo Administration has evidently been committed to a strategy of frustrating the process of Local Government Reform and, thereby, delayed the holding of Local Government elections. Accordingly, as has become their usual mode of behaviour, they used every possible manoeuvre to delay the completion of the work of the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform.

Finally, having arbitrarily and unilaterally aborted the work of the Task Force, the President imperiously announced that the Draft Bills which were still before the Task Force would be Tabled in the National Assembly where, given the Government’s majority, it is expected that they would seek to foist, on the Guyanese people, arrangements which fall short of the comprehensive Local Government reforms that are needed.

In the circumstances, the PNCR-1G and the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties have insisted that all of the Bills, which together represent the package of expected Local Government reforms, should be Tabled, in the National Assembly, together and referred to the same Special Select Committee to ensure that the members of the Select Committee are enabled to arrive at a consensus on the reform of the Local Government system.

Contrary to the Government’s self serving propaganda, the PNCR-1G and the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties have made the commitment that, provided there is the political will and good faith by the Government members, the issues that remain to be resolved can be concluded expeditiously, in time for the holding of Local Government Elections.

Five Bills have now been Tabled in the National Assembly and referred to the same Special Select Committee. These are: The Local Government Elections (Amendment) Bill; The Local Government Commission Bill; The Local Government (Amendment) Bill; The Fiscal Transfers Bill; and The Municipal and District Council Bill.

The PNCR wishes to draw attention to the fact that, because of the fundamental reforms to the Local Government Electoral System, it is vital that there should be the early implementation of a comprehensive and people friendly Public Education Programme, so that the electorate of this nation can understand the system under which Local Government Elections are to be held. It is, therefore, a source of concern to the Party that such a programme has not yet started.

National Register of Registrants, NRR: a Prerequisite for Voters List

It is instructive to note that, despite the expressions of urgency, by the Jagdeo Administration, GECOM has not yet published the National Register of Registrants, NRR, which should have been prepared from the House-to-House Registration, for scrutiny and cleansing, through the usual process of Claims and Objections, prior to its finalisation.

The Nation needs to be reminded that a credible Voters List has always been a reason for serious controversy at previous Elections in Guyana . Verification of the Voters List at the last 2006 General and Regional Elections was also a major issue. Consequently, all major political stakeholders agreed that the continuous controversy over a credible Voters List in Guyana should be brought to an end by the preparation of a new, acceptable, National Register of Registrants through a mutually agreed process of House-to-House Registration to be monitored by scrutineers from political parties. This new national register, NRR, would then be the basis for the preparation of future Voters Lists including, the Preliminary List of Electors, PLE, (Voters List) for the upcoming Local Government Elections.

Bearing in mind that the Preliminary Voters List, for the holding of Local Government Elections, must be extracted from the new NRR, GECOM must inform the public when the NRR as agreed by all Parties, including GECOM, would be ready for scrutiny.

On Thursday June 14, 2007, the Government of Guyana, the Parliamentary Political Parties and the Guyana Elections Commission signed an Agreement, “on the preparation of a new National Register of Registrants by House – to – House Registration prior to the holding of Local Government and all future Elections.”. This Agreement was signed by Gail Texiera on behalf of the Government of Guyana, Donald Ramotar on behalf of the Peoples Progressive Party/Civic, Robert Corbin on behalf of the Peoples National Congress Reform One Guyana, Khemraj Ramjattan on behalf of the Alliance for Change, Everall Franklyn on behalf of Guyana Action Party- Rise Organise and Rebuild and by a representative of the United Force in the presence of Mansoor Nadir who represented himself at that meeting as the Leader of the TUF. The signing of this Agreement was done in the presence of Ambassadors and Diplomatic Representatives in Guyana who were invited by President Jagdeo for that historic event. They included representatives from the UK , Canada , the European Union and the USA .

The Agreement states inter alia, that:

“prior to the holding of the forthcoming Local Government Elections, a national 2007 House –to- House Registration, of all eligible registrants aged 14 years and over, will be undertaken by GECOM and this will constitute the country’s new National Register of Registrants (NRR).

All the abovementioned Parties agree that a Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) will be extracted from the new NRR for the upcoming Local Government Elections, on the basis of which a Revised Voters List and a Final Voters List will be prepared for that Election.

All of the abovementioned Parties agree that the procedure of Continuous Registration will, thereafter, be used by the Guyana Elections Commission to update the NRR, on an ongoing basis, to ensure that a Voters List could be readily extracted for the holding of future elections.”

The Parties to the Agreement also pledged:

“that they will fully recognise and accept the new NRR, compiled by the 2007 House – to - House Registration Exercise and will equally support its use for the extraction of the PLE for the Local Government Elections scheduled for 2008 and, as updated …..”

In the context of the abovementioned Agreement and its signatories, neither GECOM nor the Government of Guyana could be under any illusion that the preparation and publication of a final new National Register of Registrants, NRR, is the starting point for any Voters List for the upcoming Local Government Elections. GECOM’s original work programme for 2009 as shown on their project document, “Work Programme 2009” dated February 2, 2009, indicated that the production and distribution of the, “Final NRR and Alpha Lists (Hard Copies)” would have been carried out over a ten-day period, commencing Wednesday, April 22, 2009 and concluding Friday, May 1, 2009. This projection was repeated in the GECOM revised Project Work Plan for 2009 dated Tuesday April 7, 2009.

Regrettably, at a meeting called by GECOM, on Wednesday June 10, 2009, to brief scrutineers of Political Parties on the preparation for Local Government Elections, the Chief Election Officer, Mr. Gocool Boodoo, could provide no coherent information to those present on the Final new NRR. Instead, GECOM seemed to have jumped the gun, apparently answering the cracking whip of the Office of the President, and proceeded to outline their plans for the publication of a Preliminary List of Electors for the upcoming Local Government Elections and the Claims and Objections period to arrive at a final Voters List for that Election.

The Elections Commission cannot now claim to be unaware of what is acceptable since their own documents, referred to earlier, confirm that they recognised the procedural steps necessary for the preparation and publication of a final NRR. The major question for political stakeholders at this time, therefore, is why would GECOM strive to undermine their own work programme at the risk of creating further controversy over future Voters Lists? The PNCR has already raised this issue at the meeting called by GECOM last Wednesday and await a proper response from them. It should, however, be known in advance that, there can be no excuse by either GECOM or the Government of Guyana over the non preparation and publication of a final new NRR and the PNCR will accept none.

In the Agreement, signed on Thursday June 14, 2007, on the preparation of a new NRR the Government gave clear undertakings:

“The Government of Guyana undertakes to ensure that there are no financial, administrative, legal or institutional impediments for the implementation of the above arrangements …..”

There is no doubt that the Government breached this undertaking when the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, refused to accept a proposal from GECOM to set up a special project unit, that would have been financed externally, to expedite the preparation and issuance of Birth Certificates and other source documents, during the recent House – to – House Registration Exercise. This behaviour by the Government is still inexplicable, but no excuses will be accepted for any further breaches of this Agreement.

Demarcation of Constituency Boundaries is a Sensitive Matter

The Reformed Local Government Electoral System would require the demarcation of the various constituencies necessary for the First-past-the-Post elections for 50% of the Councillors of the sixty-five Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, NDC, and the six Municipalities. GECOM is yet to determine the criteria for establishing the constituency boundaries and how and when they would undertake this demarcation exercise while, at the same time, ensuring the agreement of the Political Parties and other stakeholders. This exercise cannot be under estimated. The demarcation of constituency boundaries has caused serious problematic issues all over the world and GECOM would be naive to believe that the process of demarcating the NDC constituency boundaries, in Guyana , would be any different. The PNCR expects that there would be full consultation and involvement in this process so that friction would be reduced. The PNCR has also made its position known to GECOM.

PRESIDENT JAGDEO’S LOW-CARBON DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

The PNCR has taken careful note of the launching of the Low-Carbon Development Strategy by the Jagdeo Administration on 8 June 2009. Any strategy, aimed at fostering economic development in an environmentally sustainable manner, is to be commended. Yet, as is so often the case with the Jagdeo Administration, its methods undermine its goals.

It is strange indeed that a period of consultation followed the launching of the Low-Carbon Development Strategy. The cart is manifestly here before the horse. The Low-Carbon Development Strategy should have been the end result of such consultation. The Jagdeo Administration is fully aware that very few of our citizens would want to incur the wrath and venom of the Administration by making any major proposals to change the text of the Low-Carbon Development Strategy. In short, by having the consultations, after the plan was launched, the Jagdeo Administration will ensure that its document remains virtually intact.

It is remarkable that, in this country, the PPP and the Jagdeo Administration continue to believe that the history of this nation began in 1992. Anything of worth or which is a credit to any other organisation or group is ruthlessly excised. Not surprisingly, therefore, no mention has been made of the work and research being undertaken by the Iwokrama International Centre.

Since the Administration’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy is primarily premised on access to and the utilisation of Carbon Credit benefits from Avoided Deforestation. It is a matter of curiosity that the Jagdeo Administration did not think that the work and research being undertaken by the Centre to be of sufficient importance for informing the development and implementation of the plan for realising the benefits from the Low-Carbon Development Strategy.

Of greater concern to the PNCR, however, is the manner in which the people of Guyana will benefit from the financial and other benefits accruing from the proposed Low-Carbon Development Strategy and the Avoided Deforestation initiative of President Jagdeo. So far, the Administration has proceeded on the assumption that the natural resources of Guyana are under the exclusive control of the PPP Administration to do as they please. Consequently, the benefits to be derived may be treated in the same inequitable and discriminatory manner in which the Jagdeo regime has been conducting the affairs of Guyana . The Jagdeo Administration should be put on notice, however, that the PNCR is determined to ensure that any benefits, which Guyana derives, from its natural resources endowment are equitably distributed, for the benefit of all citizens and free from political partisanship.

JAGDEO ADMINISTRATION INVOLVEMENT IN CRIMINALITY

At the time of the prison outbreak, in 2002, one of the escapees, Andrew Douglas made a tape recording. In that recording, he alleged that Ministers of the then PPP Government and other senior officials played a role in their activities. At the time, the PNCR called for an investigation to determine whether the allegations made were accurate. The PPP, not surprisingly, rejected the call for an investigation. The PNCR pointed out that this was not unexpected as the Government seemed to have a lot to hide. It was argued then, and this remains valid today, that there may be a criminous core in the PPP Cabinet which makes it possible for the Administration to be associated with known criminals in our society.

Fast forward to today. A Minister of the Jagdeo Administration has been directly accused of engaging in a criminal act. The Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, has been identified, by the former lawyer of Roger Khan, Robert Simels, as the person who facilitated the purchase of the ‘spy’ computer, which was used by Khan for, among other things, bugging the office of the then Commissioner of Police, Mr. Winston Felix, and other top officials. Mr. Simels also alleged that Dr. Ramsammy also facilitated the training required to operate the computer.

The PNCR believes that these allegations are serious enough for Dr. Ramsammy to demit office, in spite of his strong denials. However, a culture of decency does not exist in the Jagdeo Cabinet. It took political protest action by the PNCR demanding an inquiry into the phantom squad killing-spree, for former Minister Gajraj to demit Office, before a limited public inquiry was eventually held. Jagdeo had hoped to clear the name of his Home Affairs Minister, Gajraj, who reportedly was taking instructions directly from the President. It backfired. Even after the murder of potential witnesses such as Kerzorskee and Bacchus, Ronald Gajraj had to go. He was, however, promoted by Jagdeo to be Guyana ’s Ambassador to India . The President and Dr. Ramsammy are likely to engage in their usual charade of denials, even though they would be hard put to explain how Dr. Ramsammy’s name ended up on the ‘spy’ computer as the Minister who facilitated both the purchase and the training for its use.

COST OF LIVING

The global financial and economic crisis continues to take its toll on the local economy. A few facts will prove the point. The Government itself has announced that the production of sugar is down by 6,000 tonnes; bauxite production is plummeting; the manufacturing sector is under stress as orders dry up; and the overall economy itself continues to limp along. Yet, the Jagdeo Administration has not taken any measures to stabilise the economy and ensure that it could rebound in the future.

The PNCR considers that the IMF has, over the years, done a fine job in analysing the local economy. However, the results of its recent consultation, on the Guyana economy, which gave the Jagdeo Administration a favourable rating, seem to be flawed.

This assessment seems to take no account of the continued low growth in the economy; the high unemployment figures; the hostile investment climate and the lethal impact of corruption and crime on the local economy.

We wonder whether the IMF officials, who were part of the consultation on the Guyana economy, are as conversant with the local economic and social conditions as they should be. Their assessment stands in stark contrast to our discernable actual circumstances.

DESTRUCTION OF PRESIDENT’S COLLEGE

The onslaught against institutions founded by the PNCR continues unabated. The latest is the President’s College. This was an institution of distinction and excellence, founded by the Administration of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, and was intended to produce scholars of the highest quality.

Since the PPP took over, President’s College has been subjected to the whims and fancies of a known PPP party hack and is being administered, on an ad hoc basis. Not surprisingly, the college is now in a badly run down state. There are other factors which points to serious problems at the institution.

The disaffection of the teaching staff, over the poor administration of the college, has ended in a “sit in”, on Wednesday 10 June 2009. Here are other examples of problems affecting President College :

* The 5% paid to public servants in 2008 was denied to the President’s College teachers;
* Persons earning below $50,000 monthly were denied the payment of $4,000 as a monthly supplement;
* Qualified teachers have been acting in positions, for three (3) years and more, without any confirmation;
* The absence of an adequate and reliable water supply;
* The dilapidated condition of the dormitories, the Home Economics Department and the general condition of the college.

The PNCR demands that the Jagdeo Administration takes urgent measures to address these problems so that President College can continue to fulfil its purpose to produce scholars of the highest quality and calibre.



People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 12 June 2009