EVENTS IN HAITI SHOULD COMPEL GUYANA TO REVIEW ITS DISASTER PREPAREDNESS STRATEGY--PRESS STATEMENT Thursday January14, 2010




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR conveys its sympathy to the Government and people of Haiti and will support all initiatives to take relief there;
• The tragedy in Haiti should be used by Guyana as an appropriate opportunity to review its own disaster preparedness;
• Arrogance by government on financial matters will not be condoned by the PNCR
• The PNCR Leader has written the Minister of Labour demanding that he honours his constitutional responsibility and intervene in the dispute at RUSAL;
• The PNCR urges all Guyanese to register and uplift their Identification Cards during the present Claims and Objection period;
• Health services are failing the Guyanese people: The Minister of Health must act now to correct the situation.

PNCR CONVEYS SYMPATHY TO GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF HAITI ENCOURAGES ALL GUYANESE TO SUPPORT RELIEF EFFORTS:

Yesterday, Wednesday January 13, 2009, the People’s National Congress Reform expressed its shock at the tragic events in Haiti because of the devastating earthquake and conveyed the Party’s sincere sympathy to the Government and people of Haiti. Following that release, a Party delegation, which included, Party Leader, Robert Corbin, Party Chairman, Bishwaishwar Ramsaroop, General Secretary, Oscar Clarke and PNCR Parliamentary Chief Whip, Lance Carberry, participated in the meeting at the Office of the President to discuss and co –ordinate a National response to the tragedy.

As the tragedy, from what has been described as the largest earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years, unfolds the sad predicament of the people of that country becomes more incomprehensible and almost beyond imagination.

Latest reports indicate that the death toll is being counted in the thousands, while thousands more are either still trapped in rubble from collapsed buildings or suffering serious injuries. The homeless are being counted in the millions.

It is difficult for Guyanese, who have been blessed not to be living either in a hurricane or earthquake belt, to fathom the depth of the devastation in Haiti that the published photographs of the scenes attempt to convey. Difficult as it may be, however, it is sufficient for Guyanese to appreciate that such suffering requires an immediate response from the entire world community. In this context, the PNCR supports all initiatives by the Government and people of Guyana to bring relief to the people of Haiti.

The PNCR calls on all its members and supporters to support the Co-Coordinated national effort by making significant contributions of both cash and kind. The representative of the Guyana Red Cross, Mrs. Fraser, advised the consultation yesterday, that cash is the immediate means of providing relief, while contributions in kind could be accumulated for later delivery. Such advice is important at this time and the PNCR urges all Guyanese to pay attention to the various advisories that may be issued from time to time by the newly established Committee to co-ordinate Guyana’s effort.

The Leader of the Opposition will represent the PNCR on this Committee.

The PNCR will continue to monitor development in Haiti and will continue to support all activities designed to take immediate relief there. We urge all Guyanese and their organizations to do likewise.

EVENTS IN HAITI SHOULD COMPEL GUYANA TO REVIEW ITS DISASTER PREPAREDNESS STRATEGY:

The tragic events in Haiti should provide the occasion for Guyana to seriously review its own disaster preparedness strategy. There is the Guyanese proverb, “When you neighbour house pun fire, start throwing water on your own”.

While Guyana is not located in either the Caribbean hurricane or earthquake belt, our country is not immune from natural disasters. The ever-present threat of the Atlantic Ocean along our about six feet below sea level Coast line and the continuous reality of Sea-level rise from global warming, should be sufficient to motivate Guyanese not to behave like the five foolish virgins as highlighted in the Holy Bible.

The memories of the 2005 flood along the Coast of Guyana are still with most Guyanese. Many still shudder when they contemplate what would have been the fate of Guyanese if the threatened conservancy dam had collapsed at that time. The unpreparedness of Guyana for such a disaster was evident. It took weeks to assemble boats to assist communities flooded by some ten feet of water.

Relief efforts were stymied by inadequate transport facilities and the politicization of the food relief efforts were deplorable. As Guyanese mobilize our resources to assist the suffering people of Haiti, it is perhaps an appropriate time for us to review our own system.

How prepared is the Civil Defence Commission of Guyana?

While we use their services as the secretariat for the present relief efforts, we must, at the same time, evaluate their performance from this perspective. The PNCR believes that such an evaluation must be carried out by a non-partisan professional group to ensure an objective assessment of our capability. This would enable corrective action, if found necessary, to be urgently undertaken.


ARROGANCE BY GOVERNMENT ON FINANCIAL MATTERS WILL NOT BE CONDONED BY THE PNCR:
The arrogance displayed in the National Assembly by Government Ministers, particularly by rookie Minister of Housing and Water, Irfan Ali, as Government unilaterally passed $8 billion in supplementary provisions for 2009, cannot and will not be accepted by the PNCR. This arrogance forced the PNCR to walk out of the National Assembly as the Ministers refused to provide the National Assembly with adequate explanations on the allocated expenditure.
The consideration of financial papers presented under the Supplementary Appropriation (No.3 of 2009) Bill 2010, totaling $8,245,758,278 failed to provide details for the use of the funds and the timing of the spending of those resources. It was evident that the Finance Ministry had breached the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, which specifies the procedure for the withdrawal of money from the Consolidated Fund for use by the Government. The Act specifies that any such withdrawal requires the relevant Minister to come to the National Assembly immediately after such withdrawal is found necessary for approval. The limited and evasive answers provided to the questions from opposition members were intended to obscure those breaches.
The ignorance or disregard of Minister Irfan Ali of the Law requires an immediate response from the Auditor General whose Office is required to investigate such flagrant breaches of the Financial regulations of Guyana.

The Minister of Housing, in his ignorance, believes that the additional expenditure of $4 billion sought for the housing sector could be justified by broad explanations of providing 17, 000 house lots for Guyanese. Political expediency cannot be a substitute for accountability and transparency.
The $4 billion was being sought in addition to the $430 million, which was originally allocated for housing development in the 2009 budget. Ali stated that the money was being used to facilitate the government’s plan to provide 17,000 house lots to Guyanese in need, in the various regions of the country. The absence of detailed project profiles, outlining how the money would be spent, however, provides another opportunity for corruption as the Assembly would be in no position to monitor how such a large sum is being spent.
The PNCR calls on the Auditor General, who is empowered by Law, to immediately undertake an audit of the relevant Ministries and provide a report to the Public Accounts Committee. This report will form the basis for any punitive action that may be necessary for breach of the relevant Laws.
The PNCR will be pursuing this matter through the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly.
THE MINISTER OF LABOUR MUST HONOUR HIS CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO BAUXITE WORKERS:

The Leader of the Opposition has written the Minister of Labour, Mr. Mansoor Nadir over his failure to carry out his constitutional duty to intervene in the dispute between the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and RUSAL’s Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. The two-month old dispute which started in November 2009, when RUSAL’s workers went on strike for increased pay shutting down the Aroaima and Kwakwani sites. RUSAL subsequently, in breach of the Collective labour Agreement and the Trade Union Recognition Act, announced that it was derecognizing the union. More than 50 workers, including the union’s shop stewards, were dismissed as workers returned for the Christmas and sites restarted operations. Meanwhile the Minister has refused to intervene in a matter that can set unacceptable precedents for the industrial relations climate in Guyana.

The Union has, in the meantime, taken their case to the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Trade Union Recognition Board. This is not a substitute, however, for the functions of the Minister of Labour as required under the Laws of Guyana.
The PNCR again calls upon Minister Nadir to carry out his constitutional responsibility and intervene in the interest of the Bauxite workers.

PNCR URGES ALL GUYANESE TO REGISTER AND COLLECT THEIR IDENTIFICATION CARDS:

The Claims and Objections period to correct any errors made in the last House-to-House Registration and to enable those persons who missed registration to register is in progress. While the PNCR is very dissatisfied with the absence of an effective Public Education Programme to inform the Guyanese electorate of the new fundamental reforms of the Local Government electoral and governance systems and the boundaries for the newly demarcated constituencies, Guyanese are still urged to make full use of the period for registration.

The PNCR will continue to engage the Government to ensure that all the reforms in Local Government are completed before the holding of Local Government Elections. Such reforms are a prerequisite for Local Government to be meaningful and it would be a mockery to proceed unless this is achieved. The public would be kept updated on developments in this area.

HEALTH SERVICES ARE FAILING THE GUYANESE PEOPLE:

The Year Two thousand and nine left the citizenry of our country feeling more and more insecure as the foundations of just and equitable health service delivery systems continued to be undermined by the PPP/C regime. The sector continued to suffer and crumble even as the Government claimed it had made massive investments in Health.

The President, early in December 2009, declared that the health sector budget has grown from $750M in 1992 to $12B today, when the new $1.8B Linden Hospital Complex in Region Ten was officially opened on 2nd December 2009. At this very function, the Minister of Health vainly announced that his Administration has almost entirely rebuilt and reconstructed the physical infrastructure of the health sector with brand new hospitals through a massive investment programme of the Government.

In just three weeks after these bold declarations by the President and the Minister, Guyanese witnessed the tragedy of a deplorable state of health services at this very ‘state of the art’ facility. The operating theatre at this new hospital, like most of the others around the country, we are told, malfunctioned and the lives of a 35-year-old mother of three and her unborn child were snuffed out.

To Guyanese it has become increasingly evident, over the past 17 years, that the way health care is managed in our nation does not encourage the right care, at the right time. People, especially women and children, are dying from unknown causes and suspected negligence. At this newly commissioned hospital in Linden, because of a number of deaths already, a series of investigations are being launched. The headlines of the national newspapers and other news media, in the most recent weeks, declared: “Woman dies in childbirth-$$B Linden hospital theatre not working”; “West Demerara maternal Death – Negligence Cited”; “Lethem Residents Blame Negligence for Baby’s Death”; and it goes on.

The death of a Government Minister, after being admitted for injuries in an accident, has caused the Leader of the Opposition, followed by President Jagdeo, to call for an investigation into the circumstances of her death at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

We are aware that our nation’s health care providers — doctors, nurses, technicians, technologists, and others — work hard to provide life-saving and life-improving care to us. However, the level of quality and efficiency of care provided across our nation is worrisome. While spending is high, our nation ranks horribly low in many areas of quality provision of health care. Various reports have concluded that our current health care system is not making progress toward improving the quality of care. This combination of high spending and appalling quality is unsustainable for this young and under populated nation. What we are witnessing is a health system that is a beautifully muscled chicken with its head cut off.

As we know it, hospital facilities, of the nature of the one at Linden, should provide specialist care in four basic areas of health delivery, namely; obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, surgery and internal medicine. This requires specialists in the areas to head and supervise all four of these areas. In Linden, we are told, these basic and critical specialties are not available. Further, the Accident and Emergency Unit at this spanking new hospital does not have on call staff that should be physically present at the hospital 24 hours per day. Unfortunately, on many occasions the patients’ health circumstances are in serious jeopardy while they await the arrival of a doctor after varying long periods in the Accident and Emergency Unit.

Our health sector, under this Jagdeo regime, faces a variety of human resource problems, primarily an overall lack of personnel in key areas, which is worsened by high numbers of trained personnel leaving the sector. It is true that a number of young medical interns have returned from Cuba but they must first be certified for internship rotation. Many of them have not been adequately given the required exposure to the volume of patients required or supervised by experienced superiors. As a result, they are unable to perform on par with those who have done their internship in the only approved facility the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

The qualified nursing staff is leaving the health sector in droves while the Minister of Health boasts that the regime is training large numbers annually. What he does not tell the nation is what he is doing to retain the large numbers. If the qualified human resources cannot be retained health care delivery cannot be guaranteed, no matter how many new buildings are commissioned.

Furthermore, the disjointed human resource management in the health sector is resulting in a number of ethical issues arising among the personnel. All doctors should be required to take a course in medical ethics and law for registration. There has not yet been a move in that direction in spite of the serious problems arising in this area with our medical personnel.

It is no secret that the quality and availability of essential services, such as health care, are a key measure of governance. Such services underpin the social contract between the government and citizens and, as such, are an indicator of the health of a society. The Minister has stated, from time to time, that the health sector has numerous programs of health care but has failed to inform the Guyanese public, on a regular basis, of the success and failures of these programs.

The people of this country want to know what is happening with Vector Control as we are swarmed by mosquitoes in the city and much more in the rural areas. We are not gaining control of diseases such as filaria, dengue fever and malaria. The people of this country are yet to know the truth of the maternal and child health programme. We are seeing a high incidence of maternal and child death at our principal health care facilities, the GHPC, Linden, New Amsterdam, to name a few.

The people want to know what is happening with HIV/AIDS in our country. Usually, when representatives of the Government speak on this subject, the public is told about the millions of dollars being spent but very little is said about the impact or is an assessment given of this spending. Are we getting value for money? Is the incidence of HIV/AIDS less?

The nation feels insecure about the performance of the health sector and needs to be adequately informed.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday January14, 2010