PNCR MPs REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN JIM CROW COURT DISGUISED AS COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES OF THE PARLIAMENT --PRESS STATEMENT Thursday 12 November 2009




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR refuses to participate in the PPP/C’s attempt to convert the Committee of Privileges into a Jim Crow Court to censor Ms. Deborah Backer for remarks made on torture;
• President Jagdeo’s announcement of an inquiry into the latest incident of torture of a fourteen year old, and, the PPP/C attempts to divert attention by the masquerade in the Committee of Privilege of the Parliament will not deceive the people of Guyana;
• The continued black-outs by GPL throughout the coast over the past week have led to the impression that the announcement by the Prime Minister referred to November 2010 instead of 2009;
• The PNCR rejects the latest illegal attempts by the PPP/C to take control of the Georgetown City Council by the establishment of a so-called Implementation Committee in its thrust to delay and frustrate Local Government Reform;
• The PNCR condemns the seizure of lands donated by the PNCR Government of Guyana to the GPSU for use as recreational facilities for public servants;
• After 17 years: the administration’s continues with a cavalier approach to the Guyana bauxite industry

PNCR MPs REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN JIM CROW COURT DISGUISED AS COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES OF THE PARLIAMENT

PNCR Members of the Parliament, Ms. Cheryl Sampson, Mr. Dave Danny and Dr. John Austin walked out of first meeting of the Committee of Privileges after presenting a statement of the PNCR’s position on the matter assigned to that Committee. The statement made it clear that the PNCR refuses to participate in the PPP/C’s attempt to convert the Committee of Privileges into a Jim Crow Court to censor Ms. Deborah Backer for remarks made on torture.

The PPP/C, aware of the serious allegations of torture against our security Forces should have been ashamed to pursue this matter, particularly, in the context of the most recent reported cases, including that of the fourteen (14) year old victim. The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, who was used by the PPP to initiate this action should have apologised to the National Assembly for being misguided by the Party to raise such an erroneous issue. The Nation, however, has become accustomed to such indecency without apology.

This is the first time in the history of the Parliament of Guyana that a Committee of Privileges has been activated. There have been several incidents in the past which could possibly have qualified such as, the throwing down of the mace during the Sitting of the Assembly by Cheddi Jagan; the pelting of a drinking glass at the Speaker by a PPP MP during a Sitting of the Assembly; the throwing down of law books during the Sitting of the Assembly; the attempt to burn a Bill before the Parliament in the National Assembly; and more recently, the continuous scandalous remarks about the character of opposition members by members of the Government benches, during the Sitting of the National Assembly of the Parliament. It is, therefore, ironic that the matter deemed by the PPP/C to warrant the invoking of this Committee is a single line from a member’s speech, which stated,

“Because it is soldiers who we are worried about going to torture people”

The PNCR reaffirms its earlier stated position, that the words expressed by the Honourable member were justified and were premised on serious and repeated allegations of torture by the Army occurring before that debate - allegations which have never been addressed by the PPP/C Administration. Instead, the Government condoned such activity in breach of their obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the Fundamental Rights provisions of the Guyana Constitution.

The Government would do well to address the myriad problems that beset our country instead of seeking to divert public attention from current issues. The full text of the Statement of the PNCR members of Parliament was released to the media and attached for further information.

CONTINUED DECEPTION IN RESPONSE TO TORTURE ALLEGATIONS

President Jagdeo’s announcement of an Inquiry into the latest incident of torture of a fourteen (14) year old, and, the PPP/C attempts to divert attention by the masquerade in the Committee of Privileges of the Parliament will not deceive the people of Guyana. The well-publicised announcement of an Inquiry was reduced in reality to a quiet, in-house investigation by the very accused agency, the Guyana Police Force (GPF). The later public announcement that police were charged was soon followed by a statement from the Commissioner of Police that the Police were awaiting the identification of the perpetrators by the victim to continue with the matter. The nation cannot be fooled by this latest manoeuver. Guyanese read the news report that the doctor who examined the victim while in custody reported that the police had the victim hooded during the medical examination. More significantly, the President has shown no resolve to deal with the issue of torture and his actions are reminiscent of his announcement of the Board of Inquiry in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), when the torture of the GDF ranks by that organisation was exposed. To date, despite the undertakings the report is still secret. The President had also adamantly refused to have that Inquiry investigate the other allegations of torture against the security forces.

The obvious message from the PPP/C Administration to the security forces is that torture is approved to be used against anyone except that fourteen (14) year old and three (3) ranks of the GDF. Empty statements and promises no longer impress the PNCR and most Guyanese. Only positive action would be recognised. The PNCR reiterates that the Force against whom the allegation is made cannot investigate itself. There must be an inquiry by independent persons of integrity if any report is to be credible.

The Jagdeo Regime has again failed to uphold the Constitution.

Jagdeo and his clique should resign!

SAM HINDS FAILED PROMISE: BLACKOUTS CONTINUE AFTER 5 NOVEMBER 2009

Three weeks ago, Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, stated in the National Assembly that frequent and prolonged blackout would have ended on 5 November 2009. He was responding to a Motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, to have the National Assembly adjourned to discuss the frequent and prolonged blackouts by the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) under the item of urgent public business. The next day, GPL stated that they were well ahead of their schedule and that the newly installed generators would be operational before that date. Guyanese looked forward to the much-promised relief on 5 November 2009.

Regrettably, the continued blackouts by GPL throughout the Coast over the past week have led to the impression that the announcement by the Prime Minister referred to November 2010 instead of 2009. As usual, despite the earlier assurances by GPL, we have been provided with a variety of excuses, the last one being that the new generators are being tested. The PNCR does not consider this as only a political issue but one that seriously affect the lives of all citizens. The story carried in one of the daily news papers yesterday, Wednesday 12 November, stated inter alia,

“As consumers raise questions over continued, intermittent blackout, the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) has assured that tests are still ongoing but the situation should be alleviated by next week. GPL officials, in response to the blackouts which continue to plague residents, especially on the East Bank Demerara and parts of Georgetown, asked yesterday that consumers just bear a few more days.

We have to carry out some mandatory tests and monitoring. Our three new engines are working fine. But it is important that some more checks and monitoring be continued. We expect that by next week, the outages which are only happening for short periods will ease considerably,” a public relations official said. Consumers have been calling in complaining that the blackout situation, while it has decreased in duration, is still prevalent.

Yesterday, the New Diamond Housing Scheme reported outages for the greater part of the day while Grove said that they had power outages twice. GPL official noted that there is continued line maintenance, which may leave some areas without power. However, the actual generation from the three new engines, which adds an extra 20 megawatts to the system, is going smoothly.”

Did GPL not have this information at the time they made their earlier statements? On the other hand, is it that GPL feels that it has no obligation to the people of Guyana who will eventually have to pay for the huge public expenditure being committed by this public utility?

It is time for the Management of GPL and the Prime Minister to account to the people of Guyana for the gross mismanagement of the power sector after seventeen (17) years in Office. The Nation needs to know when the daily blackouts will end.

CONTINUED EFFORTS TO DELAY AND FRUSTRATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM

The PNCR rejects the latest illegal attempts by the PPP/C to take control of the Georgetown City Council by the establishment of a so-called Implementation Committee. The insincerity and lack of commitment of the Jagdeo Administration to ensure Local Government Reform are clearly manifested in the establishment of this Committee by the Minister of Local Government. The obvious intention is to make the elected City Council, effectively obsolete, by giving the hand picked Committee all the power to make and implement decisions without the approval or involvement of the elected Council. This latest move is in breach of the Local Government Law and must be resisted by all councilors.

The PPP/C having recognized that it could not legally disband the Council without a specific inquiry recommending such action has now sought to implement their desired Interim Management Committee through this new mechanism. The PNCR, however, wishes the public to know that any such action is illegal being contrary to the existing local government laws and will be challenged by the PNCR.

ATTEMPTS BY GOVERNMENT TO SEIZE GPSU LANDS REPRESENT ANOTHER ASSAULT ON GUYANESE WORKERS

The PNCR condemns the recent attempts by the Jagdeo Administration to seize the lands belonging to the GPSU that was given to them by the PNC Government of Guyana for use as recreational facilities for public servants.

This latest action by the Administration, coming so soon after the seizure of the Soft Ball Association ground, raises serious questions about the sinister Agenda of the Government. There are rumors that the PPP/C has plans to dispose of these lands to their political supporters. The Government needs to be reminded that the people will not remain patient when their rights are continuously being trampled upon. This latest assault on the workers deserve a strong response from the trade union movement and the PNCR stands ready to provide any support to the workers on this serious breach of trust.

AFTER 17 YEARS: THE ADMINISTRATION’S CAVALIER APPROACH TO THE GUYANA BAUXITE INDUSTRY

The headline of the Guyana Chronicle article, of 17 December 2004, sensationally proclaimed, in the image of a Wild West Cowboy movie, “RUSAL Rides In”, based on statements by the Prime Minister and the Head of the Privatization Unit. In the vein of old style Promoters, their statements lauded the entry of the dynamic RUSAL, initially as managers, to be followed by ownership of the Berbice Bauxite Operations.

RUSAL would take over the assets and operations of the former Bermine and Aroaima and, based on the high praise from these Administration stalwarts, was seen as the panacea for all the woes of the Berbice Bauxite Operations.

As is to be expected, the glowing statements, by the Hinds-Brassington Promotion chorus, were accompanied by all the now well vaunted RUSAL promises:

 Increased bauxite production;
 Constructing a Conveyor Bridge across the Berbice River to transfer mined bauxite from the East Bank to the Drying plant on the West Bank;
 Building an Alumina refinery:
 Building an Aluminium smelter; and
 Building a Hydropower facility.

In 2006, there was the full handover of the Berbice assets and facilities to RUSAL.

What are the provisions in the Agreement between the Government of Guyana and RUSAL?
Was there a Due Diligence Assessment undertaken?
If so, by whom? And when?
What were the findings?

RUSAL reiterated their promises, this time with firm targets for increased bauxite production and the actual identification of new mine development to achieve those targets.

As the demonstration of goodwill and confidence in this new giant and, as the reward for their promises, the Government placed, under their control, all the large identified Berbice Bauxite resources and, more recently, the former Bermine mine remnants. The total Bermine reserves handed over amounted to nearly 110 million tones. In addition, the Ituni resources, including the highly desirable Lateritic Bauxite deposits estimated at 210 million tonnes and a substantial portion of the Linden resources estimated at 100 million tonnes.

A rich reward indeed!

The deal with RUSAL has not been noted for its transparency. The Nation is still waiting to be told how much was paid, or is to be paid, by RUSAL for the Berbice Bauxite operations assets and resources which belong to the People of Guyana.

Since the handover, all we have seen from this giant is falling production levels - from over 2.6 million tonnes produced by Bermine and Aroaima combined, in 2000, to probably no more than 1.2 million tonnes for 2009. No new mine; no moves to develop an Alumina Refinery and a deafening silence about the Aluminum Smelter and Hydro- power facility.

There is an old Guyanese adage that warns, “When you see your neighbour’s house catching fire, throw water on your own.” We wonder if this has any resonance for the Guyana Government promoters of RUSAL.

RUSAL’s International Profile:
RUSAL’s performance, or non-performance, in Guyana and, failure to honour agreements with Governments appears to have now become the hallmark of that company worldwide. The prime owner, now known as the most indebted of the Russian Oligarchs, Mr. Oleg Deripaska, is managing the following record:

• In 2004, The Government of the former Soviet Republic, Tajikistan, cancelled RUSAL’s agreement for failure to honour their 2001 agreement to complete that country’s major Hydro-power dam, rehabilitate and modernize its existing Aluminum Smelter and to construct a new smelter.
• In 2005, RUSAL was forced, under threat of the repossession of their Nikolayev Alumina Refinery in Ukraine (also a former Soviet Republic) to re-negotiate a new agreement after failing to honour the terms of the agreement for the acquisition of the refinery. The new agreement ends this year with the terms still largely unfulfilled.
• In Nigeria, it is reported that the Parliament, based on the recommendation of the National Committee on Privatization that investigated the sale of the Alscon Aluminum Smelter in that country to RUSAL, is in the process of preparing legislation for cancellation of the sale of the smelter due to their failure to honour the terms of the agreement related to the sale. In addition, there is the apparent questionable acquisition of majority control of the smelter for US$250 million against an alternative competitive bid of US$410 million.
• The Guinea Government has recently announced the re-possession of the Friguia Alumina Refinery in that country acquired by RUSAL, in 2006, due again, to failure to honour the terms of the acquisition agreement, exacerbated by the discovery that RUSAL paid only US$19 million for the facility, valued by reputable independent evaluators at US$250 million.

Worldwide, we see RUSAL closing their three alumina refineries and supporting bauxite mines in Jamaica, closing their refinery in Sardinia, Italy, and cutting production at their Ireland and Guinea refineries by 37% and 50%, respectively.

There is also rumour in the mining community (denied by RUSAL, but again, according to the old adage “where there is smoke, there is fire”), that RUSAL’s 20% stake in the giant Queensland, Australia, Alumina Refinery may be up for sale.

Simultaneously with all these developments, RUSAL is still heavily indebted to Western and Russian Banks, private investors and has reported pending legal liabilities, estimated at US$20 billion. All of this, after negotiating all forms of deals to postpone bankruptcy proceedings by several of its creditors, failing to conclude a deal with Libya for the purchase of 10% of its shares, and failure to establish an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange, RUSAL is currently frantically engaged in initiatives to float IPOs in the Hong Kong and Paris Stock markets for subscribers to 10% of its shares.

With all that is taking place with RUSAL in Guyana and in the rest of the world, we wonder if the Guyana Government promoter have taken heed of Oligarch Deripaka’s profound statement, in his April 2008 interview with a Times newspaper correspondent:

“I see the company expanding mostly in Russia over the future. There are better opportunities here. I’ll invest abroad only in very specific cases, for instance to get into a good coal or bauxite deposit, but when you compare the prices with the same opportunities in Russia, it’s much easier to do it here.
Do people really know what’s going to happen in the future in emerging markets in terms of business?
Here we feel there is predictability and stability.
In my view Russia is the best place to invest in the world right now”

The starry-eyed promoters of RUSAL in the Guyana Government should have seen the above statement as a red flag.

We cannot accept the view that the Government of Guyana is unaware of these developments, since most of this emblazon the web pages of the internet. If, on the other hand, that view is true, it suggests a level of incompetence and ineptitude that can only be frightening to the residents of Kwakwani and Aroaima who are primarily dependent on the Bauxite Industry for their survival.

We hope that the Government is not waiting until there is an announcement of a cessation of operations in Berbice, by RUSAL, before scurrying around for solutions. By then it would be too late!

The Current Performance By RUSAL In Guyana:
While there has been no positive development of the Berbice Bauxite Industry by RUSAL, a paper presented by them, at the recent GGMC Mining Symposium, states clearly that there would be no improvement in the current levels of production for the next 3-4 years.

In addition, the development of the touted Kurubuku deposit, which was to revolutionize the lives of the residents of Hururu, is now rescheduled to 2016.

All these developments, together with:

 The observed poor maintenance and consequent poor state of their mining equipment;
 Their shameless admission of inability to honour even small indebtedness to their local suppliers;
 Unavailability of finance for even routine activities;
 Their recent clumsy, but brazen, move to silence the union by initiating law suits against its members; and
 The recurring thinly veiled threats of “pulling the plug” on the Berbice operations;

have led to a feeling of considerable insecurity and a mood of concern among the workers and the entire Bauxite community in Berbice.

The Government has yet to convince the Bauxite Communities that there is the sincere commitment to ensure their viability and long term economic survival. They are still waiting to determine whether there is any credibility in the words of the Prime Minister that similar treatment has been meted out for the Bauxite industry as has been evident for the Sugar industry in Guyana.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 12 November 2009










PNCR-1G STATEMENT
TO COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES
National Assembly
Wednesday 11 November 2009

PNCR MPs REFUSE TO TAKE PART IN JIM CROW COURT DISGUISED AS COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES OF THE PARLIAMENT

Mr. Chairman and Members of this Committee of Privileges:
This is the first time in the history of the Parliament of Guyana that a Committee of Privileges has been activated. In the history of our Parliament no stranger, no entity, no member has ever been hauled before a Committee of Privileges.

 No throwing down of the mace during the sitting of the Assembly
 No pelting of a drinking glass at the Speaker during a sitting of the Assembly
 No shoving down of law books during the sitting of the Assembly
 No scattering of flour on the floor during the sitting of the Assembly
 No scandalous remarks about the character of opposition members including the Leader of the Opposition by members of the Government benches during the sitting of the National Assembly of the Parliament has ever been deemed sufficient to warrant the invoking of this Committee.

Indeed, Parliament is exhorted to exercise this penal jurisdiction:

1. “In any event as sparingly as possible; and
2. only when satisfied that to do so is essential in order to provide reasonable protection for the House, its members or its officers from improper obstruction or attempt at or threat of interference with the performance of their respective functions”.

What then is the gravamen of the complaint which has caused this history making convening of this Committee of Privileges? One line in a member’s speech in a debate in the Assembly:

“Because it is soldiers who we are worried about going to torture people”

Words uttered in the face of the Assembly heard by all present in the Assembly.

• No immediate reprimand by the Speaker.
• No immediate call for an apology because there was general recognition that there was no breach of the privileges of freedom of speech.

Standing Order 32 (5) stipulates: “If during the sitting of the Assembly a matter suddenly arises which appears to involve the privileges of the Assembly and which calls for the immediate intervention of the Assembly, the proceedings may be interrupted, save during the progress of a division, by a motion based on such matter”.

In Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice , it is stated that “a complaint on such a matter is entertained by the House as soon as it is raised”

The procedure used to activate this Committee of Privilege, is erroneous and relates to breaches of privilege, occurring outside of the Assembly but which impacts on the Assembly. It is in this latter context that a motion is brought to the Assembly in the manner used here.

The words expressed by the Honourable member fall miserably below the standard of a breach of privilege. Moreover, the sentiments expressed were premised on serious and repeated allegations of torture by the Army occurring before this debate - allegations which have never been addressed by this Administration. We were promised an inquiry and a report but none was forthcoming. The Administration has been selective in its observance and adherence to its treaty obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or punishment.

In all the circumstances, MP Backer was justified in admonishing the Government to be careful that our soldiers, when representing this country abroad, do not indulge in similar practices.

Further, MP Backer stands vindicated in her views, even after the Debate, as the issue of torturing loomed even larger in this country, with the revelation of the horrific torture of a teenage boy at the hands of the Police - another branch of the Disciplined Forces - all of this occurring under the watch of this Administration.

This complaint of a matter made before the full Assembly and not denounced there and then, comes as an afterthought – a shameless conspiracy hatched by members of the ruling Party to denigrate this Opposition member by seeking to elevate the words expressed to the level of what constitutes a breach of the privilege of freedom of speech.

It is a travesty!

It is important to note that the PNCR-1G fully supported the Motion approving the deployment of members of the Guyana Defence Force to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Indeed, in concluding her presentation, MP Backer stated “Sir, in conclusion we unhesitatingly support our soldiers and we call on the Government to honour in totality, all treaties that we have entered into as a country, including the one on torture”.

The Government would do well to address the myriad problems that beset our country instead of seeking to create diversions. What is happening here is political expediency at work and is tantamount to the convening of a Jim Crow Court.

We the members of the PNCR-1G would have no part of it and wish to dissociate ourselves from this Committee, at this time.




CHERYL SAMPSON MP MR. DAVE DANNY MP DR. JOHN AUSTIN MP



People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Wednesday 11 November 2009