JOPP DOSSIER EXPOSING STATE INVOLVEMENT IN CRIME, EXECUTIONS AND TORTURE LAUNCHED DESPITE PPP/C ATTEMPTS AT SABOTAGE --PRESS STATEMENT Thursday 19 November 2009
• Jagdeo and the PPP’s failed attempt to sabotage the public launching of the Dossier by the JOPP at City Hall and has SERVED TO reenergize the opposition parties to intensify their efforts to ensure that an International Inquiry into matters involving grave human rights violations in Guyana, including, murder, executions and torture, is established;
• PPP’s political vendetta against the Mayor and City Council and the City of Georgetown is a disgrace and exposes the crass nature of both Jagdeo and the PPP;
• Robert Persaud and the MMA should be put on notice that their renewed efforts to seize the lands of from rice farmers who have occupied them for generations in West Coast Berbice and to hand those lands over to political activists will be resisted by the PNCR and the people of that Region;
• Black-outs continue throughout the coast over the past week and it appears that there is no light at the end of the tunnel despite the announcement by the Prime Minister that November 5, 2009 was the date for the end of all blackouts;
• The PNCR has always been in the forefront of environmental issues as exemplified by Iwokrama. However, the LCDS, which Jagdeo is now championing is devoid of any developmental strategy, exposes the deceptive consultation and provides no assurances that there will be transparency, accountability and equitable distribution of the benefits to all the people of Guyana.
JOPP DOSSIER EXPOSING STATE INVOLVEMENT IN CRIME, EXECUTIONS AND TORTURE LAUNCHED DESPITE PPP/C ATTEMPTS AT SABOTAGE
Jagdeo and the PPP/C failed miserably in their attempt to sabotage the public launching of the Dossier by the Joint Opposition Political Parties (JOPP) at City Hall On Tuesday 17 November 2009. The disconnection of electricity by the Guyana Power Light (GPL) from the City Hall on the eve of the public launching of the Dossier, under the ruse of non-payment of outstanding accounts by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), could fool no right thinking Guyanese. The action by GPL came two days after the public announcement by the JOPP of the launching of the Dossier at that venue and immediately following a threat by the Minister of Local Government to cease any assistance to the City Council unless rates and taxes allegedly owed by the People’s National Congress Reform are collected. The threat by the Minister to hold the City to ransom was also made one day after the PNCR exposed Minister Kellowan Lall’s attempt to illegally take over the Georgetown City Council by the imposition of a so-called, “implementation committee”. The political motives behind the wicked and disgraceful disconnection were, therefore, obvious. According to the Mayor, 60% of the alleged outstanding electricity bills related to the street lighting of the city. Why then did GPL not disconnect streetlights but choose to disconnect City Hall and the abattoir? The crude behaviour of the Administration, however, has only served to re-energize the Opposition Parties to intensify their efforts to ensure that an International Inquiry is established.
The Dossier, makes the case for an International Inquiry into matters involving grave human rights violations including, but not confined to: extra-judicial killings carried out against hundreds of mainly young male adult Guyanese by a cabal consisting of Government officials in the executive, security and intelligence branches of the state, political bosses of the ruling party (People’s Progressive Party/Civic – PPP/C), working in consort with their allies in organized crime; and, torture, degrading and inhuman treatment conducted against Guyanese citizens by arms of the country’s Security Forces (Guyana Defence Force – GDF, Guyana Police Force – GPF and the Guyana Prison Service).
It is the intention of the opposition parties to mobilize national and international support for the Inquiry as well as to make the case to parliaments, governments and international organisations around the world. Legal advice is also being sought to take the issues before international judicial bodies clothed with authority to deal with such criminal matters.
The issue of torture returned to the center stage of public concern after the exposure of the latest acts of torture by the Police Force against a fourteen (14) year old boy. The PPP/C and Jagdeo’s attempt to divert attention from this issue have not succeeded as their deceptions are being exposed daily. The promised inquiry by President Jagdeo is now fading into the horizon as new conditionalities are being introduced daily. The latest proviso is the admonition by the Speaker of the Parliament that the President should seek legal advice before he establishes the Commission of Inquiry while the matter before the Court is being adjudicated. In effect, the two-week deadline announced by Jagdeo for the appointment of an Inquiry was an obvious deception.
The PNCR, in its last statement, (12 November 2009), had also exposed the deception by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Henry Green when he promised swift action. Within a day, he was reneging on that commitment, by stating that he had to await the identification of the accused torturers by the victim. Anyone acquainted with police procedures would know that the police would normally have records of every rank exposed to a prisoner and the time of such occurrences. The Commissioner’s excuse for delay is an insult to the intelligence of Guyanese. What has in fact happened is that the PPP/C and the Commissioner have used the present situation to foist on the people of Berbice a police officer, in the person of Steve Merai, who was involved in such acts in the past as Deputy Head of the Black Clothes Squad, which was accused of hundreds of extra judicial executions of young Guyanese mainly of African descent.
MERAI’S APPOINTMENT AN INSULT TO THE PEOPLE OF BERBICE
The appointment of Steve Merai to head the Police Berbice Division is yet another example of the disregard, which the Jagdeo Administration has for the citizens of this country. Steve Merai was accused of executing Shaka Blair in cold blood in his home at Buxton early one day at around 5:00 AM. This incident proved to be the genesis of bad relations between the residents of Buxton and the Police Force and created the climate for several other developments since then. The wife and relatives of Shaka Blair never got justice. Steve Merai was also accused of executing the “Mandella Trio” who were also shot in cold blood. An inquest was only held after the PNCR moved to the High Court and had a Mandamus Order issued to the Commissioner of Police to hold one. While Merai was under cross-examination during that inquest, he disappeared from Guyana to Canada and went missing for almost one year while he sought to stay in Canada by applying for refugee status. The Inquest was, therefore, never properly concluded. His application to stay in Canada was denied and he was forced to return to Guyana. The Police Force then covered up his long absence by claiming that he was on leave, slipped him back into the Force and stationed him away from public view in the TSU Headquarters at Eve Leary. Now that the Jagdeo Administration believes that the people have forgotten, or, are distracted with the torture issues, they have used the occasion to unleash upon Berbice this Officer whose career has been under the microscope for these other serious matters. This recent blatant act, however, is a clear indication that neither the Police nor the Jagdeo Administration has any remorse.
It should be obvious to the Administration, however, that Guyanese are not prepared to sweep this latest example of torture under the carpet as so many have been treated over the years. President Jagdeo may well be advised to support the International Inquiry, which the Joint Opposition Political Parties are advocating, if indeed he wants to be vindicated from personal involvement in these violent and unconstitutional acts. In the light of all these developments, Dr. Ashni Singh too should avoid further embarrassment and seek to withdraw his irrelevant and erroneous complaint to the Privileges Committee of the Parliament and apologise for his indiscretion.
PPP’S POLITICAL VENDETTA AGAINST THE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL IS A DISGRACE
The political vendetta by the PPP regime against the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown is a disgrace and exposes the crass nature of both Jagdeo and the PPP/C. On 12 November 2009, the PNCR rejected the latest illegal attempt by the PPP/C to take control of the Georgetown City Council through the establishment of an implementation Committee. The PNCR stated inter alia:
“The obvious intention is to make the elected City Council, indeed obsolete, by giving the hand picked Committee all the power to make and implement decisions without 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 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”
The PNCR was not indulging in political propaganda, but was in possession of the letter signed by Kellowan Lall, but written by Clinton Collymore, to the City Council. That letter, addressed to the Mayor and dated 30th October, 2009 stated,
“This committee, independent of Council …… will study, analyze, implement and monitor all the recommendations of the Commission’s report …..
All organizational and other changes resulting from the implementation of the recommendations of the commission would be binding on the Georgetown municipality……”
The Georgetown City Council was, however, not intimidated and rejected this letter at the last Council meeting. They decided by resolution, supported also by some PPP/C councilors, to write the Minister pointing out to him that he was in violation of the Local Government Law and to seek legal advice to challenge the usurpation of the functions of the Council by the Minister of Local Government. Government faced with this potential revolt even by PPP/C councilors, in their usual fashion, resorted to intimidation and threats, including the holding of the city of Georgetown to ransom.
The PNCR had, more than two months ago, disclosed that it was in discussion with the Mayor and City Council to settle completely all its outstanding accounts with the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown. This was also the subject of a news report in Stabroek newspapers. The raising of this issue by the Minister is, therefore, clearly a red herring and an excuse to be vindictive against the City Council. The fact that the PPP/C feels comfortable placing the lives of the citizens of Georgetown at risk to satisfy narrow political objectives should be instructive to Guyanese. It is just a continuum of their involvement in the murder and execution of hundreds of Guyanese and demonstrates that the PPP/C has absolute no regard for human life and no moral authority to continue to manage the Affairs of Guyana.
ROBERT PERSAUD AND THE MMA RENEWED EFFORTS TO SEIZE LANDS WILL BE RESISTED
One week ago, the Government seized land belonging to the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) that was donated to them by the Guyana Government more than forty years ago. This recent penchant for seizing land appears to have shifted to Berbice. The MMA has issued hundreds of notices to farmers and residents of West Coast Berbice threatening to seize lands, under their control for generations, if all fees owed to the MMA are not paid in full. This is another attempt to dispossess many farmers since the Government is aware that the failure of the very MMA to maintain drainage and irrigation facilities in the scheme has affected their productivity. One year ago, the MMA made a similar attempt to dispossess farmers. The outcry of farmers all across the region, including supporters of the PPP/C forced the Minister to hold a series of meetings with farmers. At those meetings, several promises were made by Minister Robert Persaud to address their concerns. More than a year later very little has been done while the MMA attempts to repeat the same exercise.
The Minister and the Ministry of Agriculture should concentrate on addressing the problems of the farmers rather than dispossessing them with the aim of giving these lands to PPP supporters. Robert Persaud and the MMA should, therefore, be put on notice that their renewed efforts to seize the lands from rice farmers, who have occupied them for generations in West Coast Berbice, and to hand those lands over to political activists will be resisted by the PNCR and the people of that Region.
SAM HINDS FAILED PROMISE: BLACKOUTS INCREASE AFTER NOVEMBER
Blackouts continued throughout the coast over the past week and it appears that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, despite the announcement by the Prime Minister that 5 November 2009 was the date for the end of all blackouts. The PNCR had earlier stated that the Prime Minister was mistaken about the year that his promise would be fulfilled. The events of the past week appear to have given validity to the PNCR’s contention. Instead of disconnecting lights of city Hall, GPL may be advised to utilize their scarce resources in correcting the many deficiencies that contribute to this grave state of affairs.
A LOW CARBON DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY FOR GUYANA
The forests of Guyana represent the National Patrimony which belongs to all Guyanese. Therefore, any commitment for its use must recognise that all Guyanese should benefit from its deployment. As the song says, “it belong to all aw we”.
However, the approach of the Jagdeo Administration, in making international commitments for the deployment of the forests of Guyana for international climate mitigation benefits, has all of the usual arrogant hallmarks of a disregard for the views and interests of the majority of the Guyanese people.
It seems that the President has forgotten that it was President Hoyte who, in 1989, offered the world, at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to set aside an area of Guyana to develop the methods and techniques for the sustainable development, utilisation and management of Tropical Rain Forests. The Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Development is the result. It is the PNC Government which ensured that Guyana played an active and prominent role in the negotiations and activities which culminated in the 1992 Rio Summit – the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Therefore, the PNCR has a proven track record of commitment to environmentally responsible development.
The reality is that the Tropical Rain Forests, as exists in Guyana, are a rich biologically diverse reservoir of genetic resources, apart from ecological and environmental services, such as a Carbon Sink, which they provide.
In the context of the international Climate Change concerns, emphasis has been placed on Carbon Emissions (CO2) as a major contributor to Global Warming and the consequential impacts such as Sea Level Rise. Therefore, immediate attention has been placed on the contribution of Tropical Rain Forests as a Global Carbon Sink.
The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to undertake the ongoing assessments and monitoring of progress. However, from the inception, it was clear that the major developed polluters and dominant sources of Greenhouse Gas emissions, adopted an ambivalent and highly sceptical approach which sought to cast doubt on whether there was a real threat from Climate Change. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, which expires in 2012, sought to establish binding targets for CO2 emissions but this has proved to be an uphill struggle which has proceeded at the pace of “molasses climbing a mountain”.
The approach of ,“......reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.....”, now referred to as REDD-plus, is one that has had a long gestation period since the 1997 Bali Action Plan.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of Guyana and the Kingdom of Norway, underpinned by the Joint Concept Note on REDD+ cooperation between Guyana and Norway, represent an attempt to develop suitable and, hopefully, sustainable mechanisms to ensure that a developing country like Guyana benefits from the availability of its forest cover as a Carbon Sink for the world. The devil is in the details!
It is significant that, although the Forests of Guyana are recognised as our collective National Patrimony, a distinction is explicitly made between the forested areas which have been “titled” to indigenous Amerindian and local forest Communities and the rest of our forests. The titled areas are subject to a “voluntary opt in/opt out”, whereas, the views of the Communities representing the rest of Guyana do not seem to be recognised as having equal validity. So far, the Government has not behaved as if it is necessary to pay the same level of attention to the views of all other Guyanese. Fortunately, the MOU seems to have recognised the need for this.
Although the Government has glibly trumpeted their approach as constituting a Low Carbon Development Strategy, it is evident that the emphasis has been placed on the verification of the amount of CO2 which is captured by the Guyana forests. The MOU states, “....The level of financial support will be based on interim arrangements to estimate and verify results in limiting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation....”
Very little attention has, so far, been placed on the preparation of a viable National Development Strategy that sets out clearly how the benefits from the Carbon Sink services of the Guyana Rain Forest, through the REDD-plus mechanism would be utilised for the transformation of the Guyana economy and the economic and social development of all Guyanese. It should be self evident that such a National Development Strategy must earn the consensual endorsement of the people of Guyana. Again the MOU recognises this deficiency by the reference, “recognising the relevance of Guyana’s National Development Strategy (NDS) and National Competitiveness Strategy (NCS) as the overall policy framework for Guyana’s development plans ...” However, all Guyanese, who are fully awake, know that the Jagdeo Administration has done everything possible to avoid any commitment to the existing National Development Strategy which was developed by Civil Society. In fact, the PNCR effort, by way of a Motion in the National Assembly, to have the Government commit to having this document updated and modified, to take account of current economic and social realities, was defeated by the Government’s majority in the National Assembly.
It is clear that there is deep concern about the Governance issues, particularly the issues of accountability and transparency. The MOU states, “It is the Participants’ intention to establish a Guyana REDD-plus Investment Fund (GRIF). The GRIF will be a multi-contributor financial mechanism run by a reputable international organisation. It will be designed to channel results-based REDD-plus funds from Norway and other potential contributors to the implementation of Guyana’s LCDS. Safeguards as well as fiduciary and operational policies of the organisation selected will apply as appropriate to all activities financed by GRIF. The mechanism will also ensure full national and international oversight of financial flows.” Hopefully, this would stimulate the implementation of the long outstanding Constitutionally mandated Public Procurement Commission and the correction of the absurdity of the Office of the Auditor General being a Budget Agency under the Office of the President. The Government must be accountable to the people of Guyana through their representatives in the National Assembly. Therefore, all funds, garnered through the REDD-plus mechanism should be submitted to the Consolidated Fund and utilised only with the approval of the National Assembly.
The MOU also recognises the institutional and capacity weaknesses of the state institutions, such as the Guyana Forestry Commission, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, etc. to safeguard the protection and management of the Forest resources. Therefore, there is a major component for the strengthening of these and other Government entities. It is hoped that the present blatantly discriminatory employment practices would be checked by what appears to be stringent performance requirements.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday 19 November 2009
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