THE PNCR EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES FOR THE PASSING OF MINISTER DESIREE FOX AND SENIOR COUNSEL PETER BRITTON -- PRESS STATEMENT Friday 11 December 2009




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR extends sincere condolences to the families, relatives and friends of Dr. Desiree Fox and Senior Counsel, Mr. Peter Britton;
• The PNCR welcomes to Guyana, the newly Consecrated Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Guyana, Cornell Jerome Moss, and his wife Carol Moss;
• The PNCR calls on RUSAL and the Jagdeo PPP/C Government to honour the C.L.A and the Laws of Guyana: RUSAL record of anti workers practices in Guinea and elsewhere must not be allowed to take root in Guyana;
• The PPP has brazenly moved a motion in the National Assembly with the intention of deceiving the world that there is national consensus on their LCDS, despite its failure to have any meaningful consultation with the Parliamentary Opposition;
• The Court Of Appeal (Amendment) Bill No. 12 of 2008 represents an ominous creation of the new sentence of Life imprisonment without conviction;
• The pilgrimage to the next Local Government Elections continues as PPP continues to subvert the recommendations of the Task Force.

THE PNCR EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES FOR THE PASSING OF MINISTER DESIREE FOX AND SENIOR COUNSEL PETER BRITTON

The PNCR extends sincere condolences to the family of Dr. Desiree Fox, the news of whose death was sadly received by the Party this morning.

Dr. Desiree Fox, MP, and late Minister within the Ministry of Education, did extensive research on the indigenous peoples of Guyana and made significant contributions for their welfare.

The PNCR salutes her contributions and extends our sympathy not only to her family but also to the people of Waramadong, Upper Mazaruni from whence she came.

Senior Counsel Mr. Peter Britton

The PNCR extends sincere condolences to the relatives, close family and friends of Senior Counsel Peter Briton who passed away on Wednesday Last.

Professor Britton has made tremendous contributions to the legal profession both as a criminal lawyer and as a Professor at the University of Guyana.

The PNCR tenders its heartfelt sympathy to his sorrowing wife, children and other relatives.

PNCR WELCOMES BISHOP CORNELL JEROME MOSS, B.A., AS HEAD OF THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF GUYANA

The PNCR welcomes to Guyana, the newly Consecrated Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Guyana, Cornell Jerome Moss, and his wife Carol Moss.

The Bishop, who was consecrated at an impressive Ordination and Consecration ceremony held on Tuesday December 8, 2009 at the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr, in Georgetown and attended by all members of the House of Bishops Church in the Province of the West Indies, as well as high representatives of church and state in Guyana, was ordained as the seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Guyana. The Venerable Cornell Jerome Moss was Archdeacon of the Northern Bahamas Archdeaconry prior to his elevation to the position vacated by the last Anglican Bishop of Guyana, Randolph George, who held the office for twenty-eight years from 1980 to 2008. .

The new Bishop and his wife are especially welcome to Guyana and can count on the support of the People’s National Congress Reform as they assume the leadership of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Guyana.

RUSAL AND THE JAGDEO PPP/C GOVERNMENT MUST HONOUR THE C.L.A AND THE LAWS OF GUYANA: RUSAL RECORD OF ANTI WORKERS PRACTICES MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO TAKE ROOT IN GUYANA

The PNCR continues to unequivocally support the just cause of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (G.B&G.W.U) and the workers at Kwakwani, whose executives and workers brought their grievances to Georgetown, on Tuesday, December 8, 2009.

These Guyanese Bauxite workers, whose well being and interests have been under brutal attack by RUSAL, picketed the Office of the Prime Minister, who has responsibility for the Mining sector, as well as the Ministry of Labour. The workers and the union are concerned that the Government has not applied the same level of attention and concern to their plight as has been applied to the GUYSUCO sugar workers dispute and GAWU. The Minister of Labour, who should be an impartial Mediator, has openly sided with the foreign company by criticising the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (G.B. & G.W.U) for allegedly agreeing to the termination of 75 workers, as claimed by RUSAL, but denied by the Union. Moreover, the long serving Chief Labour Officer, Mr. Mohamed Akeel, who only recently, in June 2009, mediated in the dispute concerning the poor Occupational Health and Safety standards in RUSAL, on behalf of the Government, is now employed by RUSAL as its Adviser on labour matters and, presumably, complicit in the current tactics being employed by RUSAL against the Bauxite workers at their Berbice Operations.

The G.B. & G.W.U, executives and the RUSAL Bauxite workers have been protesting the failure of the Government to enforce the Labour Laws of Guyana by ensuring that the foreign company, RUSAL, desists from breaching the existing Collective Labour Agreement (C.L.A), which is of three (3) years duration - beginning from 1st January 2008 and ending on the 31st December 2010 - by unlawfully and unilaterally seeking to terminate the C.L.A and to derecognise the Union.

The G.B. & G.W.U is demanding: the reinstatement of the dismissed workers; a lump sum payment of a 10% across-the-board increase in wages retroactive from 1st January 2009; and, the impartial and professional intervention in the dispute by the Chief Labour Officer. RUSAL cannot unilaterally derecognise the G.B. & G.W.U since recognition or non-recognition is in the province of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board, established under the Trade Union Recognition act No. 33 of 1997. The G.B. & G.W.U has also stated that, contrary to the claim by RUSAL, there was no resumption of work by the striking bauxite workers.

The conduct and actions of this Russian Company are not new. They have employed similar tactics against workers in other countries that they have operated in including, Guinea. The Industrial Relations Manager of the Russian bauxite and steel producer RUSAL was recently expelled from Guinea following revelations of the company’s horrid labour practices in that country. Mineworkers in Guinea, backed by leaders of the trade union federations, provided vivid evidence on working conditions, including child labour, at Compagnie des Bauxite de Kindia, RUSAL’s joint venture bauxite mining concern with the government. The testimony resulted in the government, led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, expelling Anatoly Pantchenko from Guinea. Trade unionists told how the RUSAL manager had organized a culture of outsourcing at the mine and at RUSAL’s wholly owned Friguia alumina smelting plant. The company utilises some 120 outsourcing companies and it was determined that the system has aggravated poverty and created extremely poor work conditions and salaries, leaving workers under RUSAL’s umbrella with little means for improved living conditions.

It is evident, therefore, that RUSAL wants to carry on such anti workers strategy in Guyana. The people of Guyana must not allow this to occur here. The PNCR calls on RUSAL and the Jagdeo PPP/C Government to honour the C.L.A and the Laws of Guyana. Industrial relations norms and practices must be observed and the unlawfully and vindictively dismissed workers must be immediately reinstated. The struggle must continue.

NON-CONSULTATION OF OPPOSITION OVER LCDS FOR GUYANA

The PPP has brazenly moved a motion in the National Assembly with the intention of deceiving the world that there is national consensus on their LCDS, despite its failure to have any meaningful consultation with the parliamentary Opposition.

The PNCR has, in its Press Statement of 3 December 2009, stated its support for the position of developing states, such as Guyana, that, as stated in paragraph 8 of the Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration:

“A global climate change solution is central to the survival of peoples, the promotion of development and facilitation of a global transition to a low carbon development path. The agreement in Copenhagen must address the urgent needs of developing countries by providing financing, support for adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building, approaches and incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and for afforestation and sustainable management of forests.”

However, as stated in that Press Statement, “While we are encouraged by the pronouncements of the Commonwealth Heads and recognise the potential for Guyana to benefit from funding under a REDD+ mechanism, we are deeply concerned that the Jagdeo Administration continues to avoid a credible commitment for the articulation, and presentation for public scrutiny and consideration, of a National Development Strategy which is designed to transform the Guyana economy to a low carbon path while ensuring the social and economic development of the Guyanese people. Such a strategy should be capable of achieving a national consensus and ownership by all the people of Guyana.”

The Governmental propaganda mouthpieces and the President have sought to pretend that the intensively touted, so called, “A Low Carbon Development Strategy: Transforming Guyana’s Economy While Combating Climate Change”, has benefited from meaningful consultation with all Guyanese Stakeholders. This is far from true, since the Government has studiously excluded the Opposition Parties from any Consultation.

The reality is that the titled Amerindian Communities have been subjected to a propaganda blitz, by a well-supported and funded official circus, replete with dazzling promises of financial resources, which can be anticipated from the Copenhagen process.

The PNCR is convinced that the Administration has not yet recognised the merit and importance of achieving National Consensus on this strategy, which would fundamentally affect the livelihoods and well-being of the majority of our citizens. This is illustrated by the fact that the Government has tabled a Motion, entitled, “Guyana’s Model of a Low Carbon Development Path”, for Debate in the National Assembly, without making any prior attempt to obtain the views and co-operation of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties. It is, perhaps, significant that that Motion is now scheduled for Debate on 17 December 2009 when the Copenhagen process is expected to be completed on 18 December 2009.

As was stated in our Press Statement, of 19 November 2009, “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.”

The PNCR reiterates its previously stated position, in our Press Statement of December 3, 2009, that, “Given the experiences of the last decade of the Jagdeo kleptocracy, the Party insists that any funds for Guyana from the REDD+ initiative must be managed under a mechanism of strict accountability and transparency. All funds must be deposited in the Consolidated Fund and accessed under the authorisation of the National Assembly.”

THE COURT OF APPEAL (AMENDMENT) BILL NO. 12 OF 2008: AN OMINOUS CREATION OF THE NEW SENTENCE OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT WITHOUT CONVICTION

The Jagdeo PPP/C Government, true to their emerging image of an elected dictatorship, seems hell bent on creating the most repressive legal regime in this hemisphere. In furtherance of its nefarious plans, it has taken the Court of Appeal (Amendment) Bill No. 12 of 2008 to the National Assembly – now before a Special Select Committee.

This Bill gives the Director of Public Prosecutions (D.P.P.) the power to appeal a judgment or verdict of acquittal of a person charged with a criminal offence. In the present context of our dysfunctional Criminal Justice System, a criminal trial in the High Court takes as long as five (5) to seven (7) years to be completed. To give the D.P.P. this power to appeal the acquittal of an accused citizen, therefore, is tantamount to creating a new sentence of “life imprisonment without conviction.”

The effect of this power to the DPP may have the result of a citizen being tried and acquitted, after waiting for five (5) to seven (7) years, based on the current performance of the Courts, yet having to spend another three (3) years in prison before the D.P.P.’s appeal is heard in the Court of Appeal. If his acquittal were upheld in the Court of Appeal, the citizen would be freed. However, the D.P.P. can again appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice (C.C.J.), which, on current trends, could take at least two (2) years. The C.C.J .can uphold the citizen’s acquittal and free him finally, or, order a retrial. On current trends in Guyana, a retrial can take another three years. If the Judge or Jury in the High Court again acquits the Citizen, the D.P.P. can again appeal and the cycle described above could be repeated.

In these circumstances, a Guyanese youth charged with a criminal offence, despite having a presumption of innocence in his favour, that is, he is innocent until proven guilty, can perish in prison, without bail, for a lifetime. The PNCR, therefore, cannot support such a repressive Bill without the necessary amendments to uphold the guaranteed fundamental rights of our citizens.

THE PILGRIMAGE TO THE NEXT LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS CONTINUES AS PPP CONTINUES TO SUBVERT THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TASK FORCE

The PNCR has clearly and unequivocally stated its commitment that any new Local Government Elections should only be held under a Reformed Local Government system. The Party is convinced that the restoration of Local Democracy would only be possible under a comprehensively reformed and adequately financed Local Government system.

The Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform, which was established jointly by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte, and President Jagdeo shortly after the 2001 National Elections, recommended that the Reformed Local Government System should be powered by: a reformed electoral system; the establishment of an autonomous Local Government Commission; the institution of a Fiscal Transfer mechanism which is not subject to Ministerial manipulation; and, the modernisation of Local Government Legislation to ensure that the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, (NDCs) and the Municipalities are effectively empowered to function as truly Local Democratic organs.

It is obvious that the comprehensive nature of these reforms would necessitate the mounting of an effective Public Education Programme, under the aegis of GECOM, to ensure that the Local Government Electorate is made fully conversant with the requirements and expectations of the new reformed Local Government system.

The Government, true to form, has continued to drag its feet and engage in blatantly subversive tactics designed to frustrate the early completion of the Local Government Reforms that is consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force. This is reflected in the responses of the PPP representatives on the Special Select Committee, which has caused the Opposition Parties to withdraw their further participation in its work.

The PNCR is convinced that if there is the will and full commitment by the Government to implement the recommended Local Government Reforms and the concomitant Public Education programme, new Local Government Elections could be held soon.

Local Government Elections were last held in 1994 and, since then, there has been a continuing process of deferments by the PPP/C Government, including their refusal to permit the legally required annual election of Mayors and Deputy Mayors for the Municipalities. Not surprisingly, the consequence is that there is a high level of dysfunctionality induced through the machinations and manipulations of the Minister of Local Government to exert maximum control over the crumbling Local Government system, at the level of the NDCs and the Municipalities.

Once again, the Government has Tabled the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) (No.2) Bill No. 47 of 2009 to have the National Assembly postpone local government elections to not later than 1st December 2010. While the PNCR has no objections to a postponement to facilitate the necessary reforms, the actions of the PPP appear designed to frustrate the implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force.

The PNCR will continue to hold the PPP/C to its undertaking, given in the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform and to the diplomatic community, to implement the comprehensive reform of the Local Government system before the holding of new Local Government Elections.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 11 December 2009