GOVERNMENT MUST RESTORE THE SUBVENTION TO CRITCHLOW LABOUR COLLEGE AS A FIRST STEP TOWARDS GOOD FAITH WITH TRADE UNIONS-- PRESS STATEMENT Thursday 1 October 2009




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR is justly proud of the successes of the NIS after 40 Years and pays tribute to the workers who have contributed to its success over the years as well as to the visionary, Mr. L.F.S. Burnham, who made the scheme possible;
• In the seventeen years of the PPP/C Administration, Guyana has witnessed several glaring cases where issues critical to good governance and public morality have been swept under the carpet;
• The General Secretary of the PNCR, Mr. Oscar Clarke will be away on leave for one month;
• Government must restore the subvention to Critchlow Labour College as a first step towards good faith with trade unions.

PNCR ACKNOWLEDGES/COMMENDS 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NIS

THE PNCR PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE NIS WORKERS FOR FORTY YEARS OF SUCCESS AS WELL AS TO THE VISIONARY, MR. L.F.S. BURNHAM

Forty years ago, the PNC Government, under the visionary Leadership of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, conceptualized, organized and launched a social security scheme aimed at providing benefits for all workers of Guyana. On September 29, 1969, the National Insurance Scheme (N.I.S.) commenced operations as an agency within the then Ministry of Labour and Social Security under the guidance of Labour Minister, the late, Mr. Winslow Carrington.

To guarantee the scheme’s success, the first executive officers appointed to set up and manage the agency were recruited, through competition, based on their qualifications, experiences and established work accomplishments in their respective spheres. These officers were: Captain IRB Robinson, General Manager; Lloyd Joseph, Deputy General Manager; Roy Charles, Director of Claims and Benefits; Arnold Cholmondley, Director Staffing, Training, Operational Facilities; Milton Noble, Legal Adviser; and Carl Veecock, Finance Officer. Mr. Claude Merriman was the Chairman of the Board. The International Labour Organisation, [ILO], sent Mr. Matthews to guide and assist the first executive officers in the setting up of the organisation. They proved very good at their new assignments and succeeded in setting up the NIS as the envy of all for its well-organised and effective management.

Over these forty years, the National Insurance Scheme, (N.I.S.), has been highly successful and has provided major assistance and a multiple of benefits for Guyanese of all races and classes. These benefits covered include areas such as sickness benefits, employment injury benefits, maternity benefits and allowances, invalidity grants, invalidity pension, old age pension, survivors’ pension, disablement pensions, overseas medical care, survivors’ grants, funeral grants and industrial death pension. Today many citizens of Guyana look forward to and in some cases depend upon N.I.S. benefits. Consequently, it has now been acknowledged as an indispensable institution in our society. It is instructive to remind the Nation that the PPP, not only criticized the scheme as a PNC political instrument intended to penalize sugar workers, but also vigorously organized demonstrations by sugar workers against the scheme. Ironically, these workers became the largest single category of beneficiaries of the scheme.

The institution has become a major source for the PPP/C Administration to finance many projects, including, US$4M (four million United States dollars) loaned to Government to build the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters at Liliendaal, ECD, in excess of G$250M loaned to Laparkan to facilitate, among other activities, their hire purchase programme, and, the investment of G$6B (six billion Guyana dollars) in the Berbice River Bridge.

The PNCR hopes that as the N.I.S. celebrates its 40th anniversary, the PPP/C Administration would pledge to return that institution to professional management free from political control and direction. It is the only way to guarantee that such an important institution is preserved to fulfill the goals that it was intended to achieve: social security for all Guyanese. For example, the actuarial report as at 31 December 2006 made many recommendations for the future viability of the scheme that have been ignored, while the Government, in an attempt to avoid those recommendations, caused the Board to embark on, so-called, national consultation aimed at circumventing the professional recommendations. Among the ideas being peddled by the Board was the extension of the pension age from 60 to 65, to which the PNCR has already objected in Parliament as being unacceptable, having regard to the life expectancy of Guyanese.

Another example was the over ruling of professional advice on investment of N.I.S. funds from the professional employees of the scheme for political reasons, which eventually led to the resignation of that Officer.

Of greater concern to the PNCR, as it should be to all Guyanese, is the fate of the significant investment of six billion dollars of N.I.S. funds in CLICO. Both President Jagdeo and the Parliament of Guyana assured N.I.S., like other policyholders, that the Government would guarantee to all policyholders that they would incur no losses. Yet, to date, the people of Guyana have heard nothing of significance from either the President or the Government. On this 40th anniversary, the PNCR urges the Jagdeo Administration to make an unambiguous statement to the contributors of the N.I.S. scheme, on the timing, manner and procedure that would be used to reimburse the N.I.S. the money invested in CLICO.

On this 40th anniversary, the PNCR also urges the management of N.I.S. to seriously review its systems to improve its efficiency and service to the contributors and beneficiaries. The complaints are many; among them, the unusual practice of forcing living pensioners who present themselves to incur expenditure to obtain life certificates from specially identified persons before they could obtain their entitlements, and, the length of time spent by beneficiaries to obtain their entitlements. These are some of the matters that need serious attention and it is hope that they would be urgently addressed.

While we laud the NIS on this significant milestone, it is incumbent upon the Government to ensure that the Scheme does not remain static, but strives to expand its scope and benefits. Among the issues for serious consideration are the expansion of the benefits and the incorporation of a scheme for unemployment benefits to persons out of employment. The PNCR is justly proud of the successes generally of the scheme it initiated forty years ago and pays tribute to the workers who have contributed to its success over the years. We also pay tribute to the visionary who made the scheme possible, Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.

THE MEDIA AND OTHER ORGANISATIONS SHOULD NOT FALL PREY TO JAGDEO’S DIVERSIONARY TACTICS

In a recent Press Statement, the PNCR stated that the Jagdeo Administration has developed a penchant of making grandiose promises to the people of Guyana during crises, but failing to implement them when the issue disappears from the front pages of the newspapers. In this context, we urge the media and other civil society activists to avoid being distracted from the real issues by the shenanigans of President Jagdeo and his Government. In the seventeen years of the PPP/C Administration, Guyana has witnessed several glaring cases where issues critical to good governance and public morality have been swept under the carpet. These include:

• The misuse of the Lottery funds by the Office of the President and, in breach of the law, the failure to place these funds into the consolidated fund notwithstanding the direction of the Auditor General;
• The failure to take any disciplinary action in several cases of gross misconduct, including the Dolphin scam involving Presidential Adviser, Odinga Lumumba; the refusal to take any action against the Secretary to the Treasury, Rekha in the malfeasance with duty-free vehicle concessions; the failure to sanction Minister of Local Government, Kellowan Lall over the misuse of his firearm at a liquor restaurant on the East Coast of Demerara; the promotion of former Minister Ronald Gajraj to High Commissioner after his alleged involvement in the operations of the “phantom gang” in Guyana that was responsible for the murder of over two hundred Guyanese youth; and more recently, the failure to respond to the alleged actions of Presidential Press Laison Officer, Kwame McCoy;
• The continuous refusal to establish an independent Broadcasting Authority to remove political control over the media and to permit the operations of private radio stations in Guyana;
• The Official sanctioning of torture by the security Forces under the guise of, “roughing up” and the refusal to have independent investigations into several serious allegations in this regard; and,
• The refusal of the Government to correct several discriminatory practices in the employment and the award of contracts: The well publicized cases of the non-appointment of Ms. Ingrid Griffith as Head of the Customs and Trade Administration of the GRA, and, the refusal to appoint Ms. Genevieve White-Nedd to the substantive post of Chief Education Officer are only two examples of the widespread discrimination and politicization of the Public sector.

The strategy of the Administration varies according to the circumstances. For example, the practice of making grandiose promises in times of crises that never materialize has been used effectively to divert attention from troubling issues. The promise of a G$200M Single-Parent Relief Fund during demonstrations by the PNCR over the escalating cost of living never materialized. The public announcement of the Government guarantee that no policy holder or contributor to CLICO would suffer loss, has to date has not materialized, and it is doubtful if the recent promise of G$400M for the rice sector in the context of falling market prices and other difficulties affecting the industry will ever materialize. Another methodology is to support a number of recreational and entertainment activities to divert the attention of our Youth.

The holding of CARIFESTA X in Guyana, the regular approval of foreign artistes to perform in Guyana, the organization and promotion of International 20-20 cricket, the Government sponsorship of the Main Big Lime, and GUYEXPO are just a few examples. Of greater concern, however, is the intimidation of individuals and agencies that express views or engage in activities, which the Government believes, threatens to expose the Administration and its corrupt practices.

The removal of advertisements from Stabroek news recently and the attack being currently waged against Kaieteur News are only two noteworthy examples in the public domain. The private threats to agencies through the actions of regulatory agencies such as the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) are, however, widespread. A recent methodology has been to recruit and pay picketers to protest at the Homes and Offices of those persons who are waging the campaign for good governance in Guyana in the hope of curtailing the present protest activities of the PNCR to ensure an international Inquiry into the Jagdeo regime’s involvement with Roger Khan, the drug trade, the “phantom gang” and the execution of several hundred Guyanese youth.

In the above circumstances, individuals, the media and other organizations need to be wary and confront these activities of the Jagdeo Government. We urge them to ensure that the burning issues are not removed from the current news agenda. The PNCR, therefore again calls for the support of all Guyanese in the Joint Opposition efforts to have an International Inquiry launched into the unsavory activities of this Administration.



GOVERNMENT MUST RESTORE THE SUBVENTION TO CRITCHLOW LABOUR COLLEGE AS A FIRST STEP TOWARDS GOOD FAITH WITH TRADE UNIONS

In declaring open the Biennial Conference at the Meridian Pegasus Hotel yesterday, Wednesday 30 September 2009, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, representing President Jagdeo, stated to the amazement of his audience, that the present Administration was “rooted in a working class identity”. The union members and special invitees to the event, at best, greeted his address with skepticism. However, as he sought to use the occasion to bolster the fading image of the PPP/C Government by claiming many so-called achievements since 1992, he recognized that his audience was becoming restless and changed his focus.
Of significance is President Jagdeo’s desire, as stated by Luncheon, to have a new era of co-operation with the labour movement. Unless the President believes the workers of Guyana are naive then action must speak louder than words. No longer will workers accept empty promises. Consequently, if the President is serious he must demonstrate his desire by positive action. In this regard, the PNCR suggests that there are a few measures that will demonstrate his good faith. These include, restoration of the check-off system to the Guyana Public Service Union, the restoration of the annual subventions to the Critchlow Labour College, the appointment of all the persons in acting appointments in the public service to substantive positions, including Ms. Genevieve White-Nedd as Chief Education Officer, and, the restoration of collective bargaining for Unions representing Government workers. This will represent only a start, but it would at least demonstrate the Administration’s willingness “to reconcile the interest of these many players to get a win-win situation.”
PNCR GENERAL SECRETARY ON LEAVE

The General Secretary of the PNCR, Mr. Oscar Clarke, left Guyana on September 29, 2009 and will be away for one month. Arrangements have been made for several persons including, Ms. Amna Ally, Mr. Alan Munroe and Mr. Clarence Charles, Party Treasurer to carry out the duties of the General Secretary in his absence.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 1 October 2009