On October 5, 1992 the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration assumed the reigns of Government under the well publicized theme of, “Time for Change: Return to Democracy”. President Cheddi Jagan further promised a, “Lean and Clean Government”. The people of Guyana soon recognized that there was indeed a change, but for the worse. The lean and clean Government became a top-heavy bureaucracy characterized by the largest Cabinet in the history of Guyana, bolstered by an array of highly paid Presidential consultants and numerous contract employees including those paid by the Office of the President merely to maintain a host of phantom propaganda letters to the media. The cleanness was manifested in a lack of transparency, lack of accountability, discrimination, corruption and a plethora of scandals, which this shameless Administration has refused to address. The continued failure to observe the rule of law, the political interference and manipulation of the Judiciary, harassment and victimization of all opponents, including the media, lack of tolerance for differing opinions, arrogance, vindictiveness and high-handed behaviour by successive Presidents, the political control of the state media have all contributed to the now well accepted assertion that the advent of the PPP signaled the beginning of an “elected dictatorship”.


Seventeen years later, the situation has further deteriorated with the Jagdeo Administration’s heightened arrogance and total disregard for public opinion to the extent that fear stalks the land. The result has been the deterioration in the crime and security situation, an economy that has declined and a dissatisfied and unhappy population whose recourse has been to use every opportunity to seek their fortunes in different lands.

Despite these realities, October 5th is usually the date on which the PPP/C Administration would celebrate the so-called return of democracy to Guyana. On this day in the immediate past the Administration was one to parade its successes, real or imagined. However, it is noteworthy that on the 17th Anniversary of its election to office, the PPP/C Administration has been strangely quiet about the benefits of the return of democracy. It is not difficult to ascertain the reason for this muted response. They recognize that they can no longer deceive the people of Guyana. Guyana is beset by a plethora of difficult problems. The entire democratic fabric of the nation is in tatters. The anti-democratic practices and one-man rule are manifest and, increasingly, commentators in Guyana and beyond the borders of this Republic are now referring to Guyana as an “elected dictatorship”.


The hallmark of any true democracy is the triumph of the rule of law. The opposite is true in contemporary Guyana. It is an inescapable fact that over the last 17 years the rule of law has been so badly eroded that legal scholars now fear that we are on the brink of anarchy. The PPP/C Administration is entirely answerable for this unacceptable situation. The example was set by the Presidency when Mrs. Janet Jagan threw a court order over her shoulder to ensure that she was sworn in as President and since then the PPP has shown nothing but contempt for the rule of law. Not only has the Administration undermined the independence of the judiciary, it has repeatedly flouted court orders internally and regionally. Guyanese are fully aware of the attempts to manipulate and politicize the functions of the Chief Justice and Chancellor, the prolonged refusal to appoint an acting Chief Justice and the frequent attacks on the judiciary and its decisions. The Government's continued contempt for Court decisions has made them so comfortable that they have now moved to demonstrate that contempt externally by disregarding decisions of the newly established Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) and the subsidiary TCL Guyana Inc. have recently been forced to file an application to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against the Government of Guyana to hold this country in contempt of court for failing to implement the Common External Tariff (CET) on cement from non-Caricom sources as ordered by that Court. It is a truism that democracy can only thrive in a rule-governed environment. After 17 years of the PPP/C, Guyana is far from being a democratic state.


One significant fall out from the decline in the rule of law is the wanton trampling of the human rights of our citizens by the State. In recent years, the unprecedented number of allegations of torture by the security forces has only been surpassed by the state sponsored and supported execution of more than three hundred Guyanese citizens. What is troubling is that instead of rectifying the situation, the PPP/C Administration takes refuge in propaganda and distortion. When members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) were clearly guilty of torturing their fellow soldiers and other citizens, the Administration deemed such illegal activity “roughing up”. It was only with the killing of Dweive Kant Ramdass that the GDF and the PPP/C Administration seemed to have awakened to the fact that elements of the security forces were out of control, as the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) had argued regularly and persistently over several years.


As the rule of law went into a downward spiral, this created conditions for the security situation to decline. Nothing defines the PPP/C Administration more clearly than the out of control criminal activities, which have resulted from its inability to reform the security forces and to ensure that it is properly manned and led. The Administration has chosen to ignore the recommendations of the Simmons Report and that of the Disciplined Forces Commission. Instead of seeking legal means of bringing the crime spree between 2002 and 2005 under control, the PPP/C Administration decided to hitch its star to a well-known self-confessed drug dealer, Shaheed “Roger” Khan. The facts are well known as emerged from the trial of Khan’s former lawyer, Robert Simels that the Jagdeo Administration authorized the purchase of the “spy computer” which played a significant part in the deaths of more than 200 of our citizens.

The PNCR in collaboration with all Opposition Parties has called for, and will continue to do so, an international tribunal to investigate the links between the Jagdeo Administration and a criminal enterprise led by Roger Khan. One would have thought that with all that has occurred, the security situation would have been tackled with imagination and energy after there were clear signs that the lull, consequent upon the arrest of Roger Khan, was coming to an end. Regrettably, the security environment continues to deteriorate, characterised by robberies, murder, and all types of criminal activities as vividly publicized in the daily newspapers.


The lack of transparency and accountability has now been established features of the current Administration. The discrimination in the award of contracts to PPP/C fat cats and the questionable employment practices so evident in the number of persons, including Judges of the High Court, in acting appointments continue to be a cause for genuine dissatisfaction and resentment by most Guyanese. Guyanese citizens are unaware of the criteria used for the award of such contracts, much more the names of those to whom the contracts are awarded. This unhealthy situation has come about because the Administration has refused to finalise the appointment of the Public Procurement Commission to ensure some degree of transparency in the award of contracts, despite a commitment given in the Communiqué of May 6th, 2003 to have this constitutional body established within four months of that date.

Despite the objection and protest of the opposition parties and other respectable members of our society, President Jagdeo continues to refuse to place the earnings from the Lotto Fund into the Consolidated Fund, as required by the law. Instead, the Funds remained in a private account, contrary to the directions of the Auditor General, creating the opportunity for the President to spend the nation’s money as if it were his own without any Parliamentary oversight. To add insult to injury, the PPP/C Administration apparently sees no reason why it should account for monies garnered from various international sources to help the nation cope with the floods of 2005, the monies spent on the Cricket World Cup and the monies spent on CARIFESTA X. The Jagdeo Administration behaves as though it is accountable to no one.


Any democracy worth its salt will seek support from other institutions of the society. The PPP/C Administration, rather than seeking such co-operation, has done its best to miniaturize most of the important institutions of our nation. The attempt to destroy the trade union movement is a relevant example; that Administration has pursued this objective with a vengeance matched only by their misuse of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to go after private sector enterprises that refuse to toe the political line. The unilateral cessation of the check off system for union dues from public servants for the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the abandonment of collective bargaining in violation of ILO conventions to which Guyana is a signatory are well known. The willful and malicious withholding of subventions approved by the Parliament for the Critchlow Labour College followed by the refusal to make any further allocations are indicative of the frontal attack by the PPP/C Administration in pursuing its strategic objective of destroying the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) and replacing it with the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG). The PPP/C Administration has not learnt the lessons of history. To try to control the entire political space is likely to provoke violence of one type or another and to further fragment this nation.


President Jagdeo in his speeches to the Parliament promised regular consultation by his Administration to ensure the co-operation of the political parties and civil society in the interest of Guyana. It has become obvious to all that those words were mere rhetoric. Since May 6, 2003, the Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin, signed a Communiqué on “constructive engagement”. This Communiqué was the veritable agenda for the development and progress of Guyana. Not surprisingly, the PPP/C Administration sabotaged it. The country has had to live with the consequences of this shortsighted act, among them, the failure to permit private radio stations, the absence of a Broadcasting Authority, delayed reform of the local government system, the absence of an effective development plan for Linden and the refusal to proceed with serious talks on shared governance. Additionally, consultations have been used as a convenience whenever the Administration finds itself in difficulty. For example, perfunctory consultations were only evident when the crime spree and security situation reached alarming proportions with the massacre at Lusignan and Bartica. Civil society who had been hoodwinked into the belief that Jagdeo was serious soon realized that they were pawns in Jagdeo’s political game of convenience. These consultations came to an abrupt end after the PPP were able to make political mileage of the event in a Parliamentary debate. What is interesting also is that instead of working with civil society the Administration over the last 17 years has sought to undermine it or bring it under its control. The attacks on leading members of the private sector such as Chris Corriea and Yesu Persaud and the recent attacks on the Kaieteur News have been typical examples of the modus operandi of the Administration. Instead of cooperation and consultation, the 17 years have been characterised by vilification, victimization and autocratic rule.


It is for this reason that the PNCR has viewed with skepticism the alleged intentions of the Jagdeo regime to engage in consultation on Avoided Deforestation and their, now well-touted, Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). It is obvious from their track record that the PPP cannot be trusted to undertake any serious consultation with the citizens of Guyana. The Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) approach is yet another example of the type of deception that Guyanese have become accustomed.

An informed and knowledgeable citizenry is necessary to the development of a democratic culture. When citizens are armed with the relevant information, they can make decisions, which can improve their lives and the society in which they live. Clearly, the PPP/C Administration does not agree with this proposition. In the modern world, it is routine for Governments to allow their citizens access to information from multiple sources so that they can understand what is going on in their own backyard and the rest of the world. The PPP/C Administration, on the other hand, has unashamedly limited the access of Guyanese to information by maintaining a radio monopoly and limiting access to the state media and ensuring that freedom of information remains a pipe dream. The promised Freedom of Information (FOI) Act remains another unfulfilled promise.


Seventeen years ago, the PPP inherited an economy that has recorded an average of an annual 7% GDP growth over several years because of the imaginative Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) initiated and pursued by President Hoyte’s PNC Administration. The nation has witnessed the continued decline in our economic fortunes to negative growth and recently a questionable reported 2% in the last year. The obvious reason is the failure to pursue a coherent and well thought out development strategy. The National Development Strategy Paper, prepared by a multi partisan task force with the assistance of the Carter Center was abandoned and attempts to have a joint parliamentary revision of this document was flatly rejected by the very Administration that promised consultation and co-operation. The result is that the PPP has pursued policies that have resulted in poor performance in most of the Agricultural sector as evidenced by the decline in the fortunes of sugar and rice. Today, rice farmers face difficulties with the prices for their product as well as timely payment and workers in the agricultural sector generally are frustrated; the cost of living continues to escalate with workers struggling to survive daily as prices continue to rise and wages remain inadequate; the bauxite industry is in a precarious state; and, the absence of any significant new investment offers no hope for increase in employment opportunities, especially to the thousands of youth who leave the school system yearly. As the PPP marks its seventeenth year, the President appears to be satisfied that the appropriate economic model is to take Guyana’s begging bowl around the planet in the hope that other nations and financial institutions would rescue Guyana. Meanwhile, Guyanese face the reality of the increasingly wide gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

As they contemplate these developments, most Guyanese conclude that the grass is greener on the other side. The recent UNDP Report has confirmed that the level on emigration from this country of highly educated people must constitute a major human resource crisis. Additionally, the quality of life for most citizens, the treatment meted out to the young, the elderly and the vulnerable are all evidence of an uncaring Administration and a crude democratic culture.

It is obvious that the PPP/C Administration report card after 17 years on their alleged “return of democracy” is an unflattering one. There is indeed need for reticence and silence. After all that has happened over the last 17 years and particularly within the last several months, it would be a brave Administration indeed that would boast of its achievements. Indeed, it is becoming clear with each passing day that whatever achievements the PPP/C Administration may have attempted to claim in the past have been overwhelmed by massive failures, poor governance, mismanagement of the economy and its inability to offer the Guyanese people a vision of the future.


The record of non-performance, vindictiveness and poor governance over the last year, in particular, has removed any expectations that the PPP/C Administration can be reformed. Their clear implication with drug barons, criminal enterprise and the execution of citizens; refusal to deal with inappropriate behaviour and corruption by their officials, discrimination and marginalisation of entire communities, particularly African Guyanese communities; and the deterioration in the quality of life for citizens, as exemplified by the poor electricity and water supply situation, have led Guyanese to the inescapable conclusion that the only real solution is the removal of the PPP/C from Office. It is therefore ironic that the theme that ushered the PPP/C into governance of Guyana seventeen years ago is the same theme that Guyanese now echo: Time for Change from the Elected Dictatorship, It is time for a return to democracy and decency in Guyana.


Recent activities suggesting that there are moves for President Jagdeo to have a third term in Office are obvious diversionary tactics to take the agenda from the current issues of the Government involvement in criminal enterprises and the united call by the Joint Opposition Political Parties (JOPP) for an international inquiry of the Administration as a result of the evidence revealed in the recent trial of Robert Simels in the United States. In any event, with such a dismal record of performance, it is stretching imagination that Guyanese would want to return the PPP/C to Office, irrespective of whom the Presidential candidate is. A third term for President Jagdeo, however, cannot be a reality without a change in the Constitution, which requires the support of the Opposition. The PNCR and its Leader have stated repeatedly that the PNCR would never support such an amendment. Consequently, to continue such a debate is an exercise in futility carefully intended to satisfy other objectives. In our last Press Statement, October 1, 2009, the PNCR urged the media and other civil society activists to avoid being distracted from the real issues by the shenanigans of President Jagdeo and his Government so that several issues critical to good governance and public morality would not be swept under the carpet. This recent activity of Jagdeo’s third term is another example of the PPP/C political games.

The PNCR would, however, not be diverted from the real issues. President Jagdeo and his Administration must be made to account for the torture of our citizens and the murder of over three hundred citizens. They cannot escape that reality no matter how much diversion is attempted. In this regard, President Jagdeo needs to take note that, despite several years in hiding after the genocide in Rawanda, the Head of the Intelligence Service has been finally apprehended and will face a certain trial for his role in those atrocities. No amount of international publicity on the protection of the environment or on the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) will spare any one in his Government from accounting for the misdeeds of Office.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 8 October 2009