GUYANA IS UNDENIABLY NOW A LAWLESS STATE: TIME FOR GUYANESE TO RETAKE THEIR COUNTRY--PRESS STATEMENT Friday 6 November 2009




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR supports all initiatives to force the Jagdeo Administration to deal with the issue of Torture or Resign;
• Guyana is undeniably now a lawless state, it is time for Guyanese to retake their country;
• In the seventeen years of the PPP/C Administration the dismal performance of the Administration in the Agricultural sector is also being brought into sharp focus by current events in the rice and sugar sectors;
• The attempts by the PPP/C Administration to frustrate Local Government Reform must be resisted by all Guyanese.

PNCR SUPPORTS ALL INITIATIVES TO FORCE THE JAGDEO ADMINISTRATION TO DEAL WITH TORTURE OR TO RESIGN

On Saturday 31 October, last, following the shocking photographs published in the Kaieteur News on the same day, the People’s National Congress Reform condemned the most recent reported acts of torture by ranks of the Guyana Police Force on a fourteen year old while in their custody. The Party called on the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Henry Green, to provide an immediate response and account to the people of Guyana for his stewardship. Regrettably, the response of the Commissioner to date has failed to provide any assurance that serious efforts will be made to deal with the issue of torture, which has now become endemic within the ranks of the security forces, as part of their standard operational procedure. The statements by the Government, the PPP, and, particularly, the Minister of Home Affairs and now President Jagdeo, demonstrate the ambivalence of the Administration over this gross violation of the human rights of citizens in contravention of Guyana’s Constitution. In any other democratic society, the resignation of the Minister would have been the norm. Unfortunately, Guyana is far from being normal or a democracy and any such expectation would be illusory.

Why has there been no publication of the Report of the Board of Inquiry on the torture of Michael Dunn, Alvin Wilson and Sharth Robertson, in January 2008, by members of their own ranks in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF)?

Why were there no investigations into the torture of Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones, David Zammett and many others by the security forces?

The silence of many in our society during these previous incidents gave the Administration the false impression that such practices would remain unchallenged. No justification can be offered for such brutal acts. Torture is abhorrent irrespective of the age of the victim. No human being should be exposed to such atrocities and the refusal of the Jagdeo Administration to take condign action, whenever such cases are reported, has demonstrated that the Government condones such behaviour.

It is unfortunate that it took the torture of a fourteen year old and a photograph in the Kaieteur News to arouse the conscience of many in our society. This notwithstanding, the opportunity presents itself for all Guyanese to lend their voices and support for an independent inquiry which the PNCR had been demanding for years so that this criminal behaviour by our security forces can be brought to an end. The PNCR, therefore, joins the other civic organizations that have now realized the dangers facing Guyana and again calls for an independent investigation, not only of the most recent incident, but also of all incidents that have occurred over the past years. The only credible way to approach such investigations, however, is by an independent commission, consisting of upstanding citizens of this Republic whose integrity are beyond question. The PNCR calls on all its members, supporters and Guyanese generally, to support all initiatives being presently organized to force the Government to act on this matter. The only other alternative is for the Jagdeo Administration to resign.

GUYANA IS UNDENIABLY NOW A LAWLESS STATE: TIME FOR GUYANESE TO RETAKE THEIR COUNTRY

Since January 2003, the PNCR warned of the unpleasant truth that Guyana had become a lawless state in which corruption is rife and a few powerful overlords have dominated the society with guns and bullets. The intransigence of the Jagdeo regime in taking positive action on allegations, of state sponsored death squads and the involvement of its Minister of Home Affairs in directing these gangs, were the latest examples, at that time, of the failure of the Administration to observe the Rule of Law. There can be no doubt now that the breakdown in the Rule of Law in Guyana has surpassed crisis proportions. Every aspect of our lives has been thrown into uncertainty, anxiety and fear. All Guyanese, regardless of race or political allegiance, feel the effects. All Guyanese are crying out for a New Order now.

The first major example was the total disregard for a Court Order by Janet Jagan, shortly before she was secretly and swiftly sworn in as President, when she threw the Court Order over her shoulder in full view of the Nation through national television and the Court Marshal was ejected from State House. Given this display at the highest level of the nation, it was not surprising that the PPP/C Administration continued to preside over the continuous breach/violation of Court Orders; the abuse of the rules and regulations governing the State for discriminatory and other purposes; the escalation of corruption and other illegalities in every aspect of national life; the denial of just and legitimate rights of many citizens; the violation of human rights by institutions and agents of the State; and, the breach of agreements and commitments made by the Government to political parties, trade unions, the private sector, international organizations and Governments.

While the violent crime, the illegal narcotic trade, drug abuse, domestic violence and corruption assumed center stage over the years, manifestations of the breakdown of law and order were evident in every aspect of life in Guyana. In all of those manifestations, the one common thread has been the failure of the Administration to act responsibly and with integrity, despite public exposure of the facts. The response of the regime to the recent exposure, in a New York Court, of its connection to organized crime and the demand for an international inquiry must, therefore, be viewed in the wider context of the refusal of the Jagdeo regime to uphold the rule of law in Guyana. Jagdeo believes that this issue will blow over with time. He is sadly mistaken.

The most recent incidents of attempted arson on the High Court and the Richard Ishmael Secondary School and the wanton shooting up of the Brickdam Police Station demonstrate the fragile security situation in Guyana today. It also illustrates the scant regard now being paid to law and order and the extent to which people feel comfortable in carrying out certain acts. It is significant that these developments are occurring at a time when the Government of Guyana has rejected the British Security Sector Plan funding merely because they will not be allowed to mismanage the programme or misuse the funds allocated for it. No one has been fooled by the wicked propaganda peddled by the Administration. This recent action by the British Government is not the first instance of the cancellation of foreign funded projects. It is only the first to have attracted such publicity. The repeated behaviour of the Administration in diverting resources allocated by International agencies and Governments has led to the cancellation of several projects in the past by the IDB and other International Financial Institutions (IFI). It is disgraceful that the Administration could feel comfortable with the excuse that they will continue the project with local resources. The fact is that those local resources could have been utilized to improve other conditions in the security sector including, the salaries of ranks of the disciplined forces to attract a higher quality of recruits. The result is that the people of Guyana are paying for the incompetence of the Administration and suffering from the consequences.

This situation can no longer be allowed to continue if Guyana is to survive as a Nation. It is time for all Guyanese, who are concerned about the future of our nation and the legacy that we will bequeath to our youth, to let the Regime know, in no uncertain terms, that we will no longer condone this behaviour. Unless we take a stand now, especially on the human rights abuses, the situation is sure to escalate and Guyana may well become, apart from being one of the poorest, one of the most repressive states in the world. Truly a failed state!

Guyanese must take back their country. There must be a resounding call for the Jagdeo Administration to resign now!

17 YEARS OF MISMANAGEMENT OF THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

During the month of October 2009, the PNCR featured the dismal performance of the Jagdeo regime in several sectors, notably the power sector and in the supply of potable water to citizens. In their usual style, the Administration has resorted to grandiose promises believing that with the passage of time Guyanese would forget. The most recent example was the promise by the Prime Minister that the frequent blackouts imposed on citizens by Guyana Power and Light (GPL) would end on November 5, 2009. Today is November 6, 2009 and the nation will soon judge for themselves how reliable are the statements of Prime Minister, Sam Hinds.

Unfortunately, the dismal performance of the Administration in the Agricultural sector is also being brought into sharp focus by current events in the rice and sugar sectors. The countrywide strike by sugar workers has served to illustrate the shortsightedness of the PPP/C plan for that sector. The well-publicised construction of the modern sugar factory at Skeldon was promoted as the answer to the development, if not survival, of the sugar industry in Guyana. Guyanese can judge for themselves at this time the manifestation of that promise. The PNCR had warned that the plan was deficient; that it did not take account of the requirement of expanded acreages under cultivation to satisfy the demands of the new factory. Years after, the management has now awakened to the reality that there is insufficient cane to allow this factory to produce at optimum capacity. The decrease in production costs to enable greater competitiveness with the world market prices has also not occurred. Instead, the Industry is plagued with continuous labour disputes that further affect its productivity.

There is also a prevailing view that these strikes have been deliberately orchestrated by the PPP to cloud the reality of their failed sugar industry programme and provide an excuse for these failures. This view is not far fetched, having regard to the history of the PPP in the area of sabotage in this industry. The nation would recall that for several years the PPP used the burning of cane fields, strikes in the sugar estates and other acts of sabotage, as political weapons against the PNC Administration. The chickens have now come home to roost. Either their students are using the weapons that they were taught to use in the past, or, the PPP has found this as a convenient measure to hide their incompetence.

Whatever is the reality, the fact is that the promised resurgence of the sugar industry under the PPP remains another unfulfilled dream.

The same incompetence is reflected in the rice sector despite the glowing speeches of the Minister of Finance in the last Budget debate and the regular propaganda flowing from the lips of the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud. The PPP/C continues to believe that political propaganda is a substitute for effective policy measures. Instead of implementing relevant programmes, such as, improvement in the research capabilities to develop more high yielding varieties, the Agricultural Ministry believes that fiscal measures such as the reduction of the rice export tariff or legal provisions to regulate the industry will suffice. Consequently, rice farmers, millers and producers face the reality of fluctuating fortunes in the industry.

The most recent example is the passage of the Rice Factories (Amendment) Bill 2009 through the National Assembly, in the false belief that such a measure was the core issue affecting increased rice production, better prices and prompt payment of rice farmers. Speaking on the same Bill in Parliament, the Minister of Agriculture was forced to admit that it was the hard-working farmers that suffered the most and that many challenges remain. What he failed to do, however, was to outline, in a coherent manner, what the Administration proposes to do to overcome these challenges.

This Bill, like many other policy measures that have been introduced over the last decade, is more reactive than seeking to address the fundamental issues negatively affecting an economic subsector that is critical to our country’s wellbeing. The Government, confronted with the dilemma of having to ensure rice farmers are promptly paid for paddy sold to millers, in true authoritarian style, moved to impose punitive measures on millers to appease rice farmers. These measures, however, could ultimately lead to a miller or group of millers deciding to wait out a crop, thus threatening the ability of the farmer to receive compensation for over three months of economic and physical sacrifice.

Despite claims of higher paddy prices, increased production and productivity, the rice industry has never been on such shaky ground. The fact is that the PPP/C Government, which boasts of widespread support from rice farmers, has been shortsighted in adopting measures that can guarantee consistent improvement to the lot of millers and farmers. In Guyana, over 6,000 families are directly involved as farmers. When one considers millers, traders, transporters, seasonal labour, traders in fertilizer, bags, chemicals, fuels and related services, such as the banking industry, it is evident that the industry substantially affects the national economy.

At the start of the 2009 second crop, the panic experienced by farmers on the Essequibo Coast, when they were offered paddy prices that barely allowed them to break even on the cost of production, was well publicized in the media. The issue then was not prompt payment, but low prices for their commodity. The government, in response, promptly announced the injection of $400 million as a plan to relieve the situation while pinning their hopes on accessing the Venezuelan market at a price that should see the farmer receiving G$2800 per bag of paddy. Despite their grandiose announcement, until the end of October, the nation was left in the dark as to how the announced G$400 million was to be accessed by the suffering farmers. Recent pronouncements of the use of these funds to cushion the price of fertilizers confirm that, at the time of the announcement, the response of the PPP was a political one void of any real plan or programme.

The question left to be answered is whether the new Venezuelan market has benefitted the farmers in the manner promised by the Administration.

Guyana enjoys preferential treatment with markets in CARICOM and the Jamaican market is known to be lucrative. Yet, Jamaica routinely purchases paddy and rice from extra-regional sources without first offering to buy from Guyana. Having regard to the Government’s behaviour over the CCJ ruling on the issue with TCL cement and the Common External Tariff (CET), one wonders what moral authority the Government would have to raise this issue at the CARICOM level to protect rice farmers in Guyana.

The PNCR supports any measure that would ensure prompt payment of rice farmers, but the Party is not convinced that by merely passing coercive legislation, without any other measure, directing millers to pay farmers 50 per cent of the value of the sale within two weeks of the purchase and the other half within 42 days, that long term assistance to rice farmers in Guyana would be assured. Millers depend on the export of their commodity and the prevailing market prices internationally to survive. While there may be a few delinquent rice millers, the inability of millers to pay promptly cannot be attributed only to bad faith. The solution must be based on measures that would permit millers who are in genuine difficulty to survive without the rice farmers having to pay the price. The legal imposition of compulsory payment dates could also force millers to take other actions to avoid the penalties of the law.

What was necessary was an approach that would have assisted both millers and rice farmers not to be in financial hardship while awaiting the marketing of the commodity. That was one of the purposes of the now abandoned Guyana Agricultural Development Bank.

In introducing this recent measure, the shortsighted PPP/C Administration, has created the possibility of millers/ exporters, to avoid being sanctioned, deciding not to purchase paddy from farmers unless they have already secured a ready market at an appropriate price. Is this the solution? What happens if a miller/exporter decides to wait out a crop? Would the Government purchase the farmers paddy and mill it? Is the Government or RPA geared to undertake, in an efficient manner, the purchasing, drying, storing, milling and exporting according to the contractual specifications, hundreds of thousands of bags of paddy, or tens of thousands metric tons of rice? On the other hand, would the Government’s next move be to pass further legislation, as they did with private hospitals, to take control over private mills when that situation arises?

How can a Government that claims to be serious about food security for its nation, the preservation and growth of a key economic subsector, and, ensuring that incomes are maintained by thousands who are involved within rural communities, behave in such a myopic manner? Rice farmers understand what is happening in the industry. They are aware that the measures being introduced are of little consolation to the real problems they face in the industry. Having heeded Government’s call to increase productivity and invest in machinery and other equipment; they are very vulnerable in terms of receiving an adequate return on their investment.

The PNCR, therefore, calls on the Government to stop politicizing this industry by trying to appease what they perceive to be their political base with catch phrases and big stick methods. What is required instead is a comprehensive programme and a scientific approach to the management of the rice industry including the engagement of adequate numbers of professionals in the areas of planning and marketing. Our industry deserves better. Our hard working farmers and committed stakeholders deserve better. Our dear nation deserves better. This important economic sub-sector should be allowed to breathe and grow.

ATTEMPTS BY THE PPP TO FRUSTRATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM MUST BE RESISTED BY ALL GUYANESE

The obvious attempts by the PPP/C Administration to frustrate Local Government Reform must be resisted by all Guyanese. The intention of the PPP/C Administration to undermine the Local Government Reform process was exposed in the last Press Conference of the PNCR. This was clearly manifested in the manner in which they continued to undermine the work of the Special Select Committee on the Local Government Bills 2009, after the National Assembly’s Recess, on Tuesday 27 October 2009.

Participation of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties, in the work of the Special Select Committee was premised on the understanding that the consideration of the five (5) Bills (No.21 of 2009, No. 22 of 2009, No. 23 of 2009, No. 25 of 2009 and No. 26 of 2009), would be expedited so that they could all be passed by the National Assembly as a “package” representing the agreed Reforms of the Local Government System prior to the holding of Local Government Elections.

It is now evident, however, that no compromise is possible at that forum, since the PPP/C obviously intends to unilaterally impose their predetermined position to ensure that the Minister retains control and dominance over Local Government, thus making a mockery of their declared intention to have local government reform.

The PNCR and the other Parliamentary Opposition Parties have determined that they will not participate in this game of deception. The PNCR will, therefore, participate no further in the work of the Special Select Committee unless there are clear assurances that the recommendations of the Task Force on Local Government Reform are to be fully implemented.

In those circumstances, the PNCR reserves its position on the holding of Local Government Elections.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 6 November 2009