RE-INTRODUCTION OF OVERSEAS VOTING, LIKE PRESIDENTIAL THIRD TERM, IS A PIPE DREAM THAT WILL NOT MATERALISE--PRESS STATEMENT Thursday February 11, 2010




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR extends congratulations to Ms. Dawn Hastings, MP, on her election to serve in the highest decision-making forum of the land;
• PARTY’S OUTREACH TO MATTHEWS RIDGE, ARAKAKA AND PORT KAITUMA: A development plan is urgently needed to rescue the sub-region;
• The Budget highlights huge expenditure in several sectors, yet there was no mention of measures being put in place to address corruption, when it is known that Guyana ranks high on the world’s Corruption Index and the huge leakages from the public purse continues to be highlighted in the Reports of the Auditor General and elsewhere;
• The PNCR has already categorically stated its position on Presidential Term Limits and now states that the idea of overseas voting will not be entertained even at the level of discussion;
• Emergency measures are still required by Ministry of Agriculture to save rice crop in Essequibo;
• Accidents have been reported involving vehicles of President Jagdeo, Ministers of Government, the Commissioner of Police and Agencies of the Government. In such circumstances there are no proper examples being set.

MS. DAWN HASTINGS OF KAKO VILLAGE IS NEWEST PNCR MP

The Representative of the PNCR/1G List of Candidates for the 2006 General and Regional Elections, Mr. Robert H O Corbin, has extracted the name of Ms. Dawn Hastings from the Akawaio Village of Kako, Upper Mazaruni, to fill the vacancy in the National Assembly of the Parliament of Guyana created by the resignation of Mr. Anthony Vieira.

Ms. Dawn Hastings is a trained teacher and she also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education Administration from the University of Guyana. She has been a teacher for several years in the Upper Mazaruni area with her present substantive position being that of Headmistress of the Jawalla Primary School. She is at present acting as the District Education Officer of the Kamarang sub-Region of Region 7, Cuyuni/Mazaruni. Fluent in speaking and writing the Akawaio language, she brings to the National Assembly, a wealth of experience from her service to the indigenous people of Guyana in the area of education and social welfare. She is expected to take the Oath of Office at the next sitting of the National Assembly.

The PNCR extends congratulations to Ms. Dawn Hastings, MP, on her election to serve in the highest decision-making forum of the land.

PARTY’S OUTREACH TO REGION # 1 COMMUNITIES OF MATTHEWS RIDGE, ARAKAKA AND PORT KAITUMA

A DEVELOPMENT PLAN IS URGENTLY NEEDED TO RESCUE THE SUB-REGION

The overall neglect and discrimination of their communities by the PPP/C Administration were the major complaints of the residents of Matthews Ridge, Arakaka and Port Kaituma during a recent visit by a PNCR Party and Parliamentary team to the Matarkai sub-Region of Region One. During the visit, which is part of the continuing Party outreach programme, the team walked around and interacted with residents of these communities to get a first hand look at problems affecting them, visited several functioning and non-functioning facilities and held a series of meetings with the residents who largely comprised miners and farmers. The team, which was led by PNCR and Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, MP, visited the area over the weekend, 5 – 7 February 2010, included, PNCR Regional Member of Parliament, Mr. Desmond Fernandes, MP, GYSM National Chairman (ag), Mr. Christopher Jones and Vice Chairman of the Matarkai NDC, Mr. Richard Allen.

The major complaints at all meetings came from the small miners who expressed grave concern for their continued existence in the context of the Government’s proposed new mining regulations. They also expressed their dissatisfaction over the failure of the Administration to consult or even inform them of the issues that would affect their livelihood and the development of their communities. The concerns of the residents are quite understandable, since the existence of most of these communities is very dependent on the activities of small miners. These small miners were angered at the complete disregard and disrespect shown to them by the Administration as they explained that no Government Official has so far considered it important enough to visit and inform them of the implications of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), even if they were not considered relevant for the consultations, which the Government publicized they were holding with stakeholders.

The residents complained that the manner in which they were completely over looked and ignored in the mining sector was typical of the treatment that they have received from the administration for several years resulting in the poor state of health, transport, education and other services to their communities.

For example, at Matthews Ridge:

• the roads, particularly those main access routes to Heaven Hill and Hell Hill, are in a deplorable situation;
• there is an absence of any senior Health personnel at the Hospital apart from the Lone dispenser;
• the “so-called” mortuary is an empty shed with a dilapidated door and residents claim that dead bodies left there are occasionally mutilated by wild animals;
• the primary school is not only short staffed, but most of the teachers remain untrained and this is a cause of grave dissatisfaction to parents;
• A central electricity service, which was there in the past in now non-existent with residents having to depend on their own individual generators. Residents took the PNCR team to visit the generator promised by President Jagdeo prior to the 2006 Elections. The generator, which was sent to the area, has been there for three years and has never been started. The arrival of the new generator created high expectations but the residents were later informed that for it to be functional there is further need for three transformers which after three years are yet to arrive. They have now concluded, however, that the entire electricity episode was an election hoax, intended to deceive them at the last General Elections. It has become pellucidly clear to them that the new generator, now housed in a well-protected building at the top of Heaven Hill, will remain a monument to the deception of the PPP.
• The absence of any proper telephone service has angered residents at Matthews Ridge since they are restricted to a single GT&T public phone booth located in the Hospital Compound but which can only receive calls. Consequently, they are forced to rely on an expensive private internet satellite telephone service from a service provider in the USA; Calls from Matthews Ridge to Georgetown are therefore long distance calls from the USA. The Leader of the Opposition has since written to both GT&T and DIGICEL to address this serious issue for residents.
At Arakaka, many of the complaints were similar to those at Matthews Ridge.

• Transportation for children to attend school was, however, a major concern, as parents explained that children from as far as the Six-mile Area had to walk over eight miles on that desolate road to the school at Arakaka unless they benefitted from an occasional ride from a passing vehicle.
• The cost of living is unbearable with the prices of flour being $100 per pound, rice $480 per gallon, milk $500 per pound, sugar $80 per pound, to name a few. The absence of an agent from the GGMC has also placed the small miners at a disadvantage, as they have no alternative than to sell their gold to the few authorized buyers who are also the owners of shops.
• Despite the spanking new impressive building named Arakaka Medical Center, there is no electricity and the availability of water at this centre is a regular challenge. The health centre is also in need of medical and communication equipment. The highest-ranking health personnel is a Community Health Worker and the facility closes at 4:00 pm weekdays. There are no weekend services for sick patients and in the case of emergencies, sick persons are forced to pay the transportation cost of $3,000 to receive treatment at Port Kaituma and in some situations as high as $15,000 for private transportation from business people. The absence of any form of communication in the area apart for the police radio set makes any response to a medical or other emergency almost impossible. This situation is compounded by the fact that the police have no transportation to take them anywhere when they are called on emergencies or in the performance of their normal duties.
At Port Kaituma, in addition to the already stated problems of miners, the residents were disturbed at the blatant acts of discrimination in the allocation of lands in the area by the Regional Administration.

• The water supply system is a serious health hazard as residents explained that, in the absence of a water treatment facility, water is pumped directly into the distribution pipes from the Kaituma River, which is contaminated with sewage and garbage.
• The roads are also in a state of total disrepair and, while resident road users are required to pay a toll, serious concerns were raised about the exemption from payment of the road toll by the Jailing Chinese Lumber Company that is a major contributor to the deteriorated state of the road.
• At the meeting held at Port Kaituma on Saturday evening, residents expressed serious concern that this Company has not employed any Guyanese at Port Kaituma and that their entire work force of over seventy persons are from overseas. Efforts by the NDC to obtain information from the Prime Minister’s Office about the Agreement between this Company and the Government of Guyana have so far been fruitless. Government needs to provide information about the conditions under which these foreign companies are permitted to operate in Guyana.
The overall problem in the sub region is the absence of employment opportunities other than small-scale mining and this poses serious challenges for parents and the community. It is evident that there is need for a development plan for the sub-region without which the ad-hoc interventions by Government from time to time would be counterproductive.

The PNCR recommends that Government urgently identifies and appoint an interdisciplinary planning team to draft a new development plan for the Matarkai sub-region of Region One, which would take account of its potential in agriculture, particularly livestock, forestry, mining and tourism. Such an approach would lift the present gloom and the despair of the citizens in that sub region

THE 2010 BUDGET: LONG ON WORDS; SHORT ON VISION

In an uncharacteristically, lack luster fashion, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh presented his 2010 Budget to the National Assembly last Monday, 11 February 2010, with his predictable boast of it being the largest in Guyana’s history. After spending three hours outlining his $142.8 billion Budget Guyanese were still at a loss to discern how this Budget would help to improve their well being. It is, therefore, understandable why the Minister and his colleagues appeared unimpressed by their own Budget.

The burden of the 16% Value Added Tax (VAT), which collected billions of dollars last year over the projected target, remains as a millstone around people’s necks. The Government’s failure to lift the income tax threshold for yet another year means that a large proportion of the 6% increase in wages and salaries to public servants will return to the Government in taxes with little benefit to the workers. The escalating cost of living, particularly, the increased cost of food items, will ensure that worker earning minimal wages and salaries remain close to the poverty line, while Old Age Pensioners, who received a ludicrous increase of $300 last year and are now to get another ridiculous $300 this year, will continue to be disadvantaged Consequently, while the budget announces ad hoc allocations in several sectors they have little relevance to taking the large and increasing number of Guyanese out of poverty.

The Budget highlights huge expenditure in several sectors, yet there was no mention of measures being put in place to address corruption, when it is known that Guyana ranks high on the world’s Corruption Index and the huge leakages from the public purse continues to be highlighted in the Reports of the Auditor General and elsewhere. The continued failure to commit to the early establishment of the Public Procurement Commission in 2010 confirms that the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration has no interest in addressing this problem of corruption and discrimination in the award of Governmental contracts. It is evident that to do so would damage their entire political hierarchy.

The Budget also failed to address the issue of unemployment and the ad hoc allocation of resources, allegedly, for specialized training of youth outside of the long established training institutions, is a blatant attempt to politicize this activity, while ensuring the continued strangulation of the Critchlow Labour College by withholding allocations to that institution.

It is also ironic that, while the Minister has announced such huge allocations for technical training outside of the established institutions, nothing has been allocated to improve the quality of training at our Government Technical Institutes, even in the face of current industrial action by the teaching staff of those institutions.

Despite the prediction of economic growth, the production projections in our major sectors, apart from gold mining, are not promising. Rice production for 2010 has already been affected by the incompetence of the Ministry of Agriculture in failing to take early action to alleviate the El Nino conditions. The projected sugar production target of 280,000 tonnes is lower than that which was projected in 2008 despite the lofty presentations about the new Skeldon Sugar Factory. Guyanese and, more particularly, the sugar workers, are not fooled by these grandiose speeches, since the failure by GUYSUCO, for the first time in its long history, to pay workers on time, in 2009, is still fresh in their memories.

The Government’s continued failure to engage in consultations with relevant stakeholders, before the preparation and presentation of the 2010 Budget, is typical of the arrogant and high handed behaviour of this Administration over the past three years. However, this is understandable since any such consultations would only have revealed that the 2010 Budget would be long on words but short on substance.

Commencing Monday 15 February 2010, PNCR Members of Parliament will expose the numerous deficiencies in the Budget and illustrate the lack of vision, which attended its preparation leading to the inescapable conclusion that the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration is incapable of presenting any coherent plans to create the necessary economic and social conditions to lift the growing army of pauperised Guyanese out of poverty and improve their quality of life.

RE-INTRODUCTION OF OVERSEAS VOTING, LIKE PRESIDENTIAL THIRD TERM, IS A PIPE DREAM THAT WILL NOT MATERALISE

The recent statement by PPP Central Committee member and Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, about the re-introduction of voting for Guyanese living abroad is, like the sterile debate on the possibility of a third term for President Jagdeo, yet another distraction. The PNCR has already categorically stated its position on Presidential Term Limits and now states that the idea of overseas voting will not be entertained even at the level of discussion.

It is amazing that the PPP, and particularly Mr. Ramkarran, which fought so resolutely locally and internationally for the removal of the overseas vote should entertain thoughts of its re-introduction. Guyanese should not be surprised, however, at this volt face. The PPP and the same Central Committee Member had also viciously criticized the 1980 Constitution as a dictatorial tool of President Burnham, but years later, both President Cheddi Jagan and Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, praised its efficacy. When questioned by the media about his dramatic change of positions, Mr. Ramkarran is reported to have said words to the effect that the 1980 Constitution was bad if the PNC was in Office but excellent once the PPP was the Government of the day.

The PNCR would not be enticed into a debate on this latest attempt to divert us from the pressing issues of the day.

EMERGENCY MEASURES STILL REQUIRED BY MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE TO SAVE RICE CROP IN ESSEQUIBO

Emergency measures are still required by the Ministry of Agriculture to save the rice industry from ruin. The reported 32,500 acres of rice which have been sown in Region Two are now threatened by both a lack of irrigation water and the damaging effects of salt water which came in from the irrigation water pumped directly from the river.

At its last Press Conference, February 4, 2010, the PNCR stated that:
“The farmers of Region 2, Essequibo Coast/Pomeroon, have expressed grave concern that they may suffer severe losses in the current rice crop due to shortage of water arising from the absence of rainfall and the poor distribution of water in the irrigation system. These fears were expressed last Sunday 31 January 2010, when a Parliamentary and PNCR team visited the Essequibo Coast and held discussions with residents.”

At that time, the PNCR called on the Ministry of Agriculture and the Regional Administration to urgently address this situation and provide effective agricultural extension services to relieve the farmers from the impending crisis. After denying the PNCR’s disclosure of the factual situation, the Ministry of Agriculture belatedly announced that it had approved $4M for the purchase of fuel for Region Two farmers to ensure that they can access irrigation water during the arid El Niño weather. It also announced that the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) is currently working with the region and farmers groups to undertake critical works to conserve irrigation water for crops and livestock rearing. (Stabroek News, 10 February 2010)

The PNCR pointed out in its last statement, however, that, even with El Niño conditions, water from the Tapakuma water conservancy should have been held in reserve and be able to service the rice cultivation areas. As the farmers explained, it was the serious flaw in removing the dam which facilitated gravitational flow of water from the high lands to the lower lands and the poor maintenance of the Tapacuma D & I Scheme that have contributed to the present problems.
Mohamed Khan, a letter writer in the Stabroek News, (10 February 2010), has confirmed the previously stated position of the PNCR on this matter. According to him,
“The supply of irrigation water in this region has never been under a schedule to farmers served by the conservancy, causing many problems of gravity feed for the higher lands within the Tapakuma Irrigation Scheme. The major schemes like Mahaica/Mahaicony/ Abary, Tapakuma and Black Bush were all designed to irrigate the higher rice lands first”.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud, was recently beating his chest in the National Assembly about the millions spent in repairing and installing new pumps at the Dawa Pumping station. The Minister fails to recognize that such expenditures are useless when the slow funding for the purchase of fuel for that Pumping Station prevents water from being stored in a timely manner in the main canal; and when no emergency measures to alleviate the irrigation problem were put in place before the El Niño weather took its toll for the second time on the rice industry.

The PNCR hopes that this belated action helps some of the affected rice farmers and that these farmers are provided with emergency relief. It is an appropriate time, however, for Minister Robert Persaud to understand that propaganda and the establishment of institutions such as the new Agricultural Authority cannot replace effective policies for agricultural development in Guyana
PREVENT DRUNK AND RECKLESS DRIVERS FROM ENDANGERING LIVES ON OUR ROADWAYS
The disturbing incidence of deaths and injuries from road accidents since the New Year 2010 dawned requires urgent action to stop the present trend. Newspaper headlines on traffic accidents over the past two weeks indicate that the situation is deteriorating. The situation is further disturbing when revelations are made that police officers who should be enforcing the law are themselves guilty of breaching the very traffic regulations. Accidents have been reported involving vehicles of President Jagdeo, Ministers of Government, the Commissioner of Police and Agencies of the Government. In such circumstances there are no proper examples being set. The recent death of Minister Desrey Fox after a road accident should have motivated all to improve our accident record but this does not appear to have had any effect on the situation.
The PNCR, nevertheless, wishes to bring to the attention of the Traffic Chief its particular concern over the situation with the Linden/Soesdyke Highway.
Fatal traffic accidents caused by drunk and reckless weekend limers, on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway, are inevitable if the Government and traffic authorities fail to take urgent action to ensure safety on our roadways. Citizens using the Highway have complained of being forced off the road by drunk and reckless driving by vehicle operators returning home from their weekend lime on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway. As recent as the evening of Sunday 31 January 2010, at least two out-of-control vehicles torpedoed through the fence of a citizen residing along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway. Residents on the East Bank along the highway are expressing fear of cars operated by reckless drivers ending up in their living rooms and causing damage to property and the death of their loved ones.
The PNCR urges the Government and traffic authorities to immediately take urgent measures to prevent fatal traffic accidents caused by drunk and reckless driving on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway, particularly during the weekends.
Every effort should be made to prevent a recurrence of the 10 October 2007 accident which resulted in a busload of dead and injured passengers.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday February 11, 2010