Press Statement The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday September 12th, 2002 Halls of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia

The People’s National Congress Reform learnt with great distress of the serious injuries to two ranks of the GPF as a result of the collapse of the decayed platform at the top of the stairs leading to the Bartica Magistrates Court. We hope that these officers will recover quickly and completely and we share with their relatives and close friends the anxiety and anguish which they feel.

We know that the Regional authorities had brought the decayed state of the building to the attention of Central Government authorities and we are advised that this matter was even brought to the attention of the President himself and the Minister, responsible for Home Affairs, Mr. Gajraj.

There seems to be no end to this Minister’s incompetence and neglect of his duties. When will the nation be relieved of this unbearable appropriation from the resources of conscientious Guyanese Taxpayers?

The PNCR feels forced to return to the issue of the crime wave sweeping over the country and condemn the callous and cavalier attitude which characterises the approach of the government to our national crisis.

The recent brazen slaying of Inspector October and the outrageous and bold attack on the Bank of Nova Scotia offices in Kitty have further emphasised the breakdown of law and the absence of order in our society. The Party grieves with October’s family and is forced to ask, “How long will we have to tolerate this carnage of our nation’s Police Officers before there is some decisive response by the government?”

Whilst law abiding and decent citizens cower indoors at nightfall and gangs of all types and styles roam the country unchecked, the PPP/C has taken an astonishingly blase attitude. They have launched a propaganda offensive, the primary focus of which seems to be, to convince the public that there is no problem and that the crime wave is a figment of the imagination of Journalists and the Opposition. They seem not to recognise the seriousness of the situation and the fact that our citizens continue to hear the guns and suffer the anguish. The People see the collapse of order and the shrinking of business and social activity.

It is not good enough to remark that some parts of the country are not yet affected by the crime wave. It is not enough to try to brush the matter under the carpet. The problems will not go away without a menu of appropriate strategies. At the risk of overemphasis, we wish to repeat our suggested approach for the systematic and systemic solution to the problems faced by the GPF.

• We believe that the current security situation is so serious and so threatening to the existence of the state that it requires a national, non-partisan, consensual response at the highest level.
• We are convinced that there can be no improvement in the situation without a thorough and effective inquiry into the operations of the Police Force, which would take evidence and views from all competent persons, including the Force itself, and make recommendations for its strengthening and modernisation.
• We are convinced that such an inquiry should include in its ambit the conditions of service in the Force including pay, recruitment, promotion and training.
• We believe that the Police must take the urgent and necessary steps to restore public confidence, which is essential to its successful operation.
• We believe that the ‘Black Clothes’ must be disbanded and replaced by a properly trained professional and competent unit. Those in the squad who are guilty of crimes must be disciplined or prosecuted. Let their innocence or guilt be established by a properly constituted court of law in Guyana.
• We recommend the establishment of a professional and credible Public Relations Department.

The PNCR is curious to know what advice has been offered to the government by the advisers from the Metropolitan Police of the United Kingdom. Surely they cannot be advising the torpor and inactivity of the regime!
Empty propagandising and rhetoric will not solve the problems. Neither will it be resolved by disrespect for the Officers of the Army and Police. Mr. Rohee’s assertion, that the government could order our Security Forces to jump in the river and they would simply ask when, demonstrates the crassness and stupidity of that criminous gang at the head of governmental affairs.

The current circus of so-called consultations is another contemptuous attempt by the government to divert our attention from their signal failure and disarray. The consultations are attracting no public interest; some of them have been abandoned early or have not commenced at all for lack of public support. The harsh reality is that citizens want clearly focused action that is policy driven, firm, decisive and organised. As we predicted, the consultations will inevitably collapse as a failure and an irrelevance to the real issues. When will the Government get serious and recognise that they are fooling no one but themselves?

The PPP/C continues to bask in the self-deception that the war on crime is to be won by the purchase of heavier weapons and protective gear. That approach will also have little effect and the Government, we hope, will come to an early realisation of the self evident truth. Otherwise the nation’s collapse will be even more profound and accelerated.

When will the President show courage and fire Gajraj and banish his useless gang from the Ministry of Home Affairs? Or is Mr. Jagdeo and his Freedom House handlers so bereft of ideas and moral mettle that they are content to let that Minister’s incompetence continue to carry the Government to its inevitably disgraceful failure. History will sadly judge the Jagdeo administration as the lowest point in governance in Guyana.

The PNCR has been giving much serious and careful thought to the involvement of the Guyana Defence Force in the deteriorating internal security situation. The Government has undermined and demoralised the Guyana Police Force by crude political interference in its operations. It now seems bent on dragging the GDF into the quagmire created by its own incompetence, insensitivity, corruption and bad faith.

The use of the army should be carefully circumscribed within their constitutional mandate and as authorised by law. Such an approach will serve to prevent the demoralisation of the army, the undermining of its professionalism and the diminishing of its operational competence and capacity.

The Police seem to have abandoned their legal and constitutional responsibilities for the maintenance of law and order and appear content to surrender their duties to the army unfettered by any limitations.

The constitutional and legal position is that the GDF’s loyalty should be to the constitution not to any government or political party. A careful reading of Act No. 7 of 2001, Constitution (Amendment) (No. 5) Act 2001, which inserted Title 6A Defence and Security and Article 197A in the Constitution, is instructive.

197A (2) states:
The Defence and Security Forces shall be subordinate to national defence and security policy and owe allegiance to the Constitution and to the nation. The oath taken by members of the Defence and Security Forces shall establish their duty to respect the Constitution.

We believe that the law and the Constitution clearly specifies the responsibilities of the GPF and its primary role of maintaining law and order.

197A (4) states:
The Police Force established under the Police Act shall function in accordance with the law as the law enforcement agency of the State responding to the daily need to maintain law and order by suppressing crime to ensure that citizens are safe in their homes, the streets and in other places.

Government calling out the troops is good propaganda but is patently not good for the morale of the police or the army because it is purely intended to allow the Government to continue to avoid honestly addressing the fundamental causes of the national crime and public security problems.

It has been more than a week since the blatant corruption at the GPHC has been made public by the PNCR. It is also many months since the corrupt practices of the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Michael Khan, were brought to the attention of the Minister of Health and the Chairperson of the Board of the GPHC, Mrs. Doreen De Caires. At least a week has elapsed since the Auditor General’s report confirmed some of the illegal acts, which have been perpetrated. The nation’s public property has been invaded and used for private benefit. The evidence fingers senior staff as well as known businessmen yet to date no punitive action is forthcoming.
Why has the Government failed to take decisive action to punish this?

We are appalled that this public exposure of the abuses of power and public trust and the abundant evidence of corruption has not warranted any corrective action by the Administration.

One illustrative example is the following: For more than one year a local popular pharmacy imported a stock of injections at the behest of, it is claimed, Mr. Michael Khan and sold them to the GPHC at a price of $1,100 per vial. The same pharmacy normally sold the injection over the counter for $900. It should be noted that the GPHC never advertised publicly inviting bids from suppliers for these injections. Instead, a clandestine private arrangement was made by the CEO.

Another example is the supply of another drug to the tune of $9,574,872.00, which should have been sanctioned by the Central Tender Board. This drug was usually purchased from T. Geddes Grant Ltd who are the sole distributor of the drug in Guyana on behalf of the manufacturer, Pfizer Corporation of the USA. It is alleged that the Assistant Director/Materials Manager was instructed by Mr. Khan to request quotations for the supply of the drug from Pharmagen Enterprises as well as T. Geddes Grant Ltd. The quotations were addressed to Mr. Khan and opened by him.

It is claimed that on the quotation submitted by Pharmagen Enterprises ‘white out’ was used and the price quoted by T. Geddes Grant Ltd. was substituted. No immediate action was apparently taken on these quotations but the following week, the Assistant Director was again asked to request new quotations for half of the original request of the drug from the two local drug companies. Both quotations were allegedly opened by Mr. Khan and the prices from both companies were “discovered” to be the same. Representation was then made to the GPHC Tender Board that both tenders qualified. On that basis, we understand, the GPHC Tender Board approved of each bidder supplying fifty percent of the quantity of the drug. A clear case of dishonestly breaching Tender Board rules and violating confidentiality of information and forgery.

The Minister had been notified, by letter written by Mr. Mahase Pertab, that Mr. Khan had commited a financial impropriety by selling his personal used items to the hospital. Instead of the Minister calling for an investigation into this matter he sought to deal with it as though it was his personal household. His response in writing to Mr. Pertab was that he had a chat with Mr. Khan and Mr. Khan had agreed that the sale was unwise. Therefore, Mr Khan had agreed to return all payments and donate the items to the hospital. Further, on being notified that tender board procedures were breached, the Minister said that he was quite satisfied with the explanation given by Mr. Khan. It is clear that the Minister has no intention or political will to fight corruption.

This sting operation has given the health sector a nasty stench of corruption. We have pointed out before, it all stems from the pervasive climate of disrespect and disregard for the law and procedures which are intended to ensure accountability by the government. The decision of the Minister to disregard the normal procedures for dealing with such misconduct typifies the open corruption within the Government.

Because of the grave seriousness of these revelations, we call for the removal of, not only Mr. Michael Khan from public office but also the Minister, the Chairperson of the GPHC and all others who have actively participated in these scams.

The resignation of the Minister and the Board and, where appropriate, prosecution of those guilty of impropriety, will be a good demonstration of public accountability. Such action would help to restore public confidence in the President’s claim that he will take firm action wherever there is hard evidence of corruption by Public officials and Ministers of the Government

The PNCR has been drawing the attention of the nation to the government’s inept management of the economy. The rice industry, one of the economic pillars of rural Guyana, continues to suffer from the PPP/C regime’s unconcerned attitude and ambivalence.

Minister Navin Chandarpal’s disappearance from the political radar is either a signal that he has given up or is totally clueless on what to do and has left the talking to underlings of the administration.

What we do know is that there has not been a single significant policy initiative since October 1992, and we are yet to see a policy paper addressing concerns about seedling, disease control, irrigation, marketing including guaranteed regional markets, financing, etc. that could serve as a catalyst for the revitalisation of the Rice sector.

What we do know is that farmers are abandoning their land and that the Guyana Rice Development Board has confirmed that only 47,000 hectares of land will be cultivated for the autumn crop. This is a significant drop from the estimated 70,000 hectares that were earlier earmarked for cultivation.

In Leguan, for instance, only 2,500 hectares are being cultivated a drop from 8,000 hectares just a few years ago. The yield per acre has dropped to an uneconomic level.

The Guyana Rice Producers Association, another mouthpiece of the PPP, continues to access funds from the state’s coffers to wage war against the Commercial Banks. The recent statement by the PPP’s handpicked GRDB General Manager, Jagnarine Singh, that “We need to start marketing our rice not wait for people to come and buy our product” is typical of the casual attitude of senior functionaries of the PPP. Certainly any wise child can tell us that marketing is key to sell our products. We do not need a highly paid GM to tell rice farmers what is obvious to them.

The PNCR is convinced that something foul is afoot with respect to the MARDS rice complex at Burma. Up to the time of writing of this Press Statement the management of MARDS were refusing to purchase paddy from farmers. Farmers have been forced to sell to private millers from whom they have historically faced a mountain of problems to collect their money.

Of greater concern is the reported statement of Mr. Bridgemohan to farmers that he is awaiting instructions from Minister Chandarpal on whether to purchase any paddy. Workers at MARDS are now alarmed and some 50 workers are uneasy about their future.

If the government intends to close down the MARDS operation it needs to say so and say what it intends to do with the workers and all the families that depend on MARDS for their livelihood.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
Thursday September 12, 2002