LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM MUST BE IMPLEMENTED BEFORE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS--PRESS STATEMENT Thursday 12 March 2010




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR pays Parliamentary Tribute to former Region 6 MP and CEC Member, the Late Mr. Nasir Ally: Parliament to convey sentiments to his widow and family;
• PPP rejects adoption of natural justice procedure by Privileges Committee of Parliament as they remain embarrassed by use of Torture by disciplined Forces;
• PNCR holds successful Regional Conference in Region 2, Pomeroon/Supenaam as Kabakaburi and Hackney residents of the Pomeroon expose PPP/C discrimination in the Region;
• The PNCR reiterates its often stated position that Local Government Reform must be implemented before Local Government Elections;
• Reports coming to the attention of the PNCR suggest that approximately 450 workers, most of whom, have more than twenty years (20) service with Diamond Estate, could be affected by the devious plan of the Company.

PARLIAMENTARY TRIBUTE TO THE LATE, MR NASIR ALLY, J.P., M.P.

Yesterday, Thursday 11 March 2010, the National Assembly of the Parliament unanimously passed a Motion, recording its deep sorrow at the death of the late, Mr. Nasir Ally and paid tribute to his dedicated service as a Member of Parliament from 17th April, 2001 to 2nd May, 2006. The Motion also directed that the National Assembly conveys its expression of sympathy to his bereaved family and relatives. The Motion was moved by PNCR through the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Robert Corbin, M.P. and was unanimously passed with PPP/C Members of Parliament, Mr. Mansoor Nadir and Ms. Indra Chanderpaul and AFC Leader, Mr. Raphael Trotman, M.P. speaking in support of the Motion.

Moving the Motion, the Leader of the Opposition highlighted the life long service of Mr. Ally to Guyana, particularly, his community of Corriverton and the East Berbice Region. These sentiments were also expressed by the other speakers. Born on 7 January 1941 in the village of Bloomfield, Berbice, Ally spent most of his sixty eight (68) years in service of the people of his community and Guyana in various and varying capacities including, as a dedicated teacher; community worker; Party Activist; member of the Corriverton Town Council and Deputy Mayor; Regional Councillor of the Regional Democratic Council of Region 6, East Berbice; member of his Masjid and the CIOG; and, Member of Parliament.

Mr. Ally spent his entire professional working life in the teaching profession from 1963 to 1996 preparing Guyana’s youth to face the challenges of the future until he retired while serving as Headmaster at the Skeldon Scots School, now Skeldon Primary School. He was a dedicated party activist who served at all levels from the local group to the highest forums and who demonstrated by work and example that he was committed to national unity and genuine national reconciliation and development. He gave distinguished service as, group and District Chairman in the Corriverton District, Regional Secretary and Regional Chairman of the East Berbice/Corentyne Region of the Party and elected representative of Region 6 to the Central Executive Committee (CEC) and the General Council. He was last elected as a member of the CEC at the 16th Biennial Congress of our Party in 2009. Shortly after this election, Mr. Ally died in the USA on 14 November 2009, during a brief vacation.

Mr. Nasir Ally was also a well recognised member of the No. 78 Masjid and the Council of Islamic Organisations of Guyana (CIOG). As a person, he was gracious, friendly, quiet but well spoken and honest in his personal and social relations. On Sunday 14 March 2010, a commemorative programme for Mr. Nasir Ally would be held from 2:00 PM at the Corriverton Civic Center. All are invited to attend.

PPP/C REJECTS NATURAL JUSTICE PRINCIPLES
In their usual dictatorial style the PPP/C rejected a Motion before the National Assembly yesterday which sought to provide for the application of the principles of natural justice in the work of the Committee of Privileges of the Parliament. The Motion, moved by PNCR-1G MP, Ms. Deborah Backer, to have Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, questioned before the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges in relation to allegations made by him to have her disciplined by the House, was voted down by a 30 to 26 majority by PPP/C Members of Parliament.
The Finance Minister had moved a Motion which misrepresented what Ms. Backer had said in the Parliamentary Debate. The Hansard record confirms that he was wrong. Yet, on the basis of his Motion which was passed by a Government majority, Ms. Backer was required to appear before the Privileges Committee. She had requested that her accuser appear before the Committee to be cross examined by her Council on his misrepresentation in the Motion and other related matters, but was advised that she could only do so with approval from the National Assembly.
The heated Debate provided an opportunity for all of Guyana to witness the undemocratic and autocratic behaviour of the PPP/C, brazenly supported by all of its Members of Parliament. The people of Guyana would be the ultimate judges of whether concerns by Members of the Parliament about torture by the security forces ought not to be reasonable in the context of the sad revelations particularly, over the past three years in Guyana. The most recent incident of the torture of a fourteen (14) year old shocked the conscience of the Nation and is now a matter before the High Court.

PARTY’S REGION 2 CONFERENCE: RESIDENTS OF POMEROON HIGHLIGHT PPP/C DISCRIMINATION

The continued discrimination of their communities by the PPP/C Administration were the major complaints of the residents of Lower Pomeroon particularly, from the areas of Hackney and Kabakaburi Village, during the PNCR’s Regional Conference for Region Two, Pomeroon/Supenaam held on Sunday 7 March 2010 at Dartmouth Village, Essequibo Coast. Meanwhile, the twenty four (24) Delegates and Observers from Wakapow Village expressed grave dissatisfaction over the lack of proper consultation by the Government on the LCDS. The apparent use of their lands and resources by the PPP/C Administration to raise money without any explanation to them on its utilization was also a matter of grave concern.

Delegates from Hackney explained that it was now quite evident that their community was singled out for discriminatory treatment because of their support for the PNCR over the years. They highlighted several examples of the manner in which they were neglected during the period of the Floods with relief going to most areas of the Pomeroon, except theirs. The same treatment is being meted out to them at this time of the El Niño conditions. At a time when the dry conditions could have been used by the Administration to carry out certain essential drainage infrastructural works, the Hymac sent to clean and maintain the Hackney canal was out of order since 25 November 2009. Their regular complaints have fallen on deaf ears while the Hackney canal is almost impossible to navigate due to silt and mud. Children are unable to go to school on a daily basis. The deplorable conditions have resulted in several other hardships to the community including, a woman being forced to have the delivery of her baby in a canoe that was stuck for several hours in the canal. The situation with the Hymac was similar to what occurred more than a year ago when a bulldozer was sent to the area, allegedly, to aid the residents during the flood. The Bulldozer did very little work and has been stuck there in a state of disrepair for almost a year without any attempts at repair to enable the completion of the job.

Additionally, because of the salt water in the Pomeroon River water due to El Niño, residents can only obtain fresh water from the Akawini creek several miles away. However, getting there is almost impossible due to the deplorable state of the Hackney canal. They suggested that the solution to their problem lies in the drilling of a well at Hackney.

Delegates from Kabakaburi highlighted the high-handed manner in which the village Captain, who is also the PPP/C Group Secretary in the area, has been managing the affairs of the Village, particularly in the area of accountability. The villagers had questioned the Captain and Councilors over several irregularities including, the Captain’s refusal to allow the treasurer to manage the financial affairs. Instead of accounting for the assets, the Captain organized the support of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, which promptly sent officials to the area late last year. Rather than investigating the complaints of the residents, the visiting Officials promptly removed the Treasurer and another Councilor, leaving the Captain to unilaterally carry on the mismanagement of the Village. On 13 November 2009, the villagers sent a Petition to the Minister of Amerindian Affairs complaining of this high-handed action and requesting an investigation. In December 2009, another petition signed by most of the villagers was sent to the Minister of Amerindian Affairs but to date no action has been taken. The villagers are therefore of the firm belief that the position held by the Captain, as Secretary of the PPP/C Group, has sheltered her from strict accountability for their resources.

Among the other complaints of the villagers of both Wakapow and Kabakaburi was the failure of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to supply birth certificates for hundreds of residents who filled the necessary application forms, paid the required fees and entrusted them to staff of that Ministry. Attempts to get the Ministry to respond to their queries have failed. What was disturbing, however, was the fact that several residents were able to obtain Birth Certificates from PPP/C activists of the area to complete the recently concluded Registration while several other non-PPP supporters were denied.

Among the other complaints raised by Delegates to the Conference were, the quality of medical service being offered at the Suddie Hospital including the non-functioning of the operating theatre despite parts being brought from another non-functioning surgery at Charity; the misuse of Government resources allocated to the D&I to pay workers who were constructing the PPP/C new office in Essequibo; and, generally the wide spread corruption in the allocation of contracts by the Regional Administration. These issues were promptly raised with the relevant Government agencies including the President, by the PNCR team on their return to Georgetown.

The feature address to the Regional Conference was delivered by Party Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, M.P.; the Returning Officer was Mr. Llewellyn John while Ms. Clarissa Riehl, M.P. and CEC member delivered the Charge to the newly elected Officers. The newly elected Regional Officers were Mr. Joseph St. Hill - Chairman, Mr. Anthony Mipal - Vice-Chairman, Ms. Doreen Duncan - Secretary, Mr. Olive Pearson - Treasurer, Mr. Hakim Khan - Representative to the CEC and four committee members.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM MUST BE IMPLEMENTED BEFORE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

Over the past four years, the PNCR and indeed all Parties including, the PPP/C, had agreed that the completion of Local Government Reform was a natural prerequisite for the holding of local Government Elections. It is for this reason that the Parliament has continuously postponed the holding of these Elections since they were due in 1997. It is, therefore, amazing that, after all this time and money spent, the PPP/C, as the PNCR had warned seems determined to maintain the old Local Government System while seeking to fool the Public with only the implementation of the reformed Electoral System. The Position of the PNCR on this matter has been regularly stated and is well-known to the Government. Consequently, while the PNCR is ready and prepared for the Local Government Elections it will not be lured into a farce by the Jagdeo Administration.

In a Press Statement dated since April 19, 2007 the PNCR stated,
“The continuous postponement of Local Government Elections which have been deferred for nine consecutive years was predicated on one main reason: an acceptance by all of the need to complete local government reform in accordance with the mandate of the revised Guyana Constitution. It should be obvious that the Elections cannot be held unless and until the recommendations of the Task Force set up for this purpose are fully implemented. …….
The reform under articles 72-79 of the Constitution provides for:-

• a new electoral system
• autonomy for local government
• the establishment of a local government commission
• an objective system for fiscal transfers and revenue garnering
• re introduction of village/community councils
• a system of lower tiers representation on higher tiers
• a system of recall for malfunctioning Councillors”

It should therefore be obvious to all that the reform of the Electoral System is but one small part of the requirements of Local Government Reform as required by the Constitution of Guyana. Consequently, it is questionable whether any Elections in the absence of these Reforms would be Constitutional.

The People’s National Congress Reform, conscious of the proclivity of the Jagdeo Administration to engage in exercises of bad faith, has over these years continually warned the Guyanese people of the maneouvres, of the regime, to prevent the reform of the Local Government system before the holding of Local Government Elections. In a Press Statement dated 19 March 2009, captioned, “PPP/C WANTS LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS WITHOUT REFORMS” the PNCR reminded the Jagdeo Administration of their agreement, with the Opposition Parties, that Local Government Elections would be held under the reformed Local Government system, using an Electoral List extracted from the new National Register of Registrants, produced as a result of the recent House-to-House Registration process.

The Opposition Parties, AFC, GAP/ROAR, NFA and PNCR had earlier emphasized their position in a Joint Press Release, dated Monday 19 November 2007, which stated, inter alia, “… that the reform of the Local Government system, as recommended by the Joint Task Force for Local Government Reform, including the reform of the Local Government Electoral system, … should be fully implemented prior to the holding of Local Government Elections.”

The Parliamentary Opposition Parties had met on Friday 18 May 2007, and were represented by Mr. Robert Corbin, MP (Leader of the PNCR-1G and the Opposition), Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, MP (Leader of the AFC), Mr. Raphael Trotman, MP (Chairman of the AFC), Mr. Keith Scott, MP (Leader of the National Front Alliance and PNCR-1G), Mr. Everall Franklin, MP (GAP-ROAR), Mr. Oscar Clarke (General Secretary, PNCR-1G), Mr. Basil Williams, MP (PNCR-1G and Member of the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform) and Mr. E. Lance Carberry, MP (PNCR-1G and Opposition Chief Whip). That Release is being made available today for the benefit of the Media.

Since then the PPP/C Administration has used every opportunity to undermine the Local Government Reform process, the latest being their approach at the Special Select Committee on the Local Government Bills 2009, after the National Assembly’s Recess, on Tuesday 27 October 2009. The Parliamentary Opposition Parties expected that, after the shameless display of bad faith and dishonourable behaviour by the PPP/C, prior to the National Assembly Recess, the PPP would have returned to the Committee resolved to complete the expeditious consideration of the core Local Government Reform Bills. Regrettably, this never materialized.

Their claims of the urgency for the passage of the two (2) Bills (The Local Government (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2009 – Bill No. 21 of 2009 and the Local Government Commission Bill 2009 – Bill No. 22 of 2009,) prior to the National Assembly Recess, was not borne out by the speed with which the Presidential Assent was given (29 September 2009 for The Local Government (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2009). The President has not yet assented to the Local Government Commission Bill 2009. In any event, the Bill passed in the National Assembly is unacceptable since all it does is to remove the overt domineering power of the Minister of Local Government while transferring same to a Commission that is dominated by appointees of the President and the Minister of Local Government.

It should be recalled, that the participation of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties, in the work of the Special Select Committee on the Local Government Bills 2009, was premised on the understanding that the consideration of the five (5) Bills (No.21 of 2009, No. 22 of 2009, No. 23 of 2009, No. 25 of 2009 and No. 26 of 2009), which were laid in the National Assembly and referred to the Special Select Committee, would be expedited so that they could all be passed by the National Assembly as a “package” representing the agreed Reforms of the Local Government System prior to the holding of Local Government Elections. The Parliamentary Opposition Parties, consistent with their commitment to work towards the expeditious consideration of the Bills, were very co-operative but have been frustrated continuously by the machinations of the PPP/C.

The obvious attempts by the PPP/C Administration to frustrate Local Government Reform must be resisted by all Guyanese. Consequently, the PNCR has commenced a series of consultations, commencing with the Parliamentary Opposition Parties and including Civil Society Groups, to determine an appropriate response to the PPP/C attempt to perpetrate a hoax on the Guyanese people.

The PNCR will make a definitive statement to the Nation on this matter in a few days after it has concluded those consultations.
GUYSUCO EXPLOITING DIAMOND ESTATE WORKERS: GAWU MUST REPRESENT THEIR MEMBERS

Workers employed by the Diamond Estate, appear to have been set up for massive defrauding of their benefits and entitlements as GUYSUCO struggles to rescue the ailing sugar industry. While GUYSUCO pursues this devious plan, however, GAWU, the workers union, appears to be collaborating with either the Company or Government, as there are no visible signs that they are actively representing the interests of the Diamond sugar workers.

Reports coming to the attention of the PNCR suggest that approximately 450 workers, most of whom, have more than twenty years (20) service with Diamond Estate, could be affected by the devious plan of the Company. The Company has repeatedly told the public that it has no plans for closing the Estates while silently scaling down the operations of all the Demerara Estates. At Diamond, in particular, no maintenance work is being done on the estate cultivation while the Company vigorously attempts to sell the land to Government and other developers for housing purposes. The recent passage of $4Bn. through the Ministry of Housing to GUYSUCO for housing lands has been well publicized. In the meantime, no maintenance work is being done on the cultivation fields and workers from that estate are transported on a daily basis to work on the fields at LBI Estate. Some workers are transported from Diamond to LBI Estate to work two days a week while others in the crop husbandry category report to work at Diamond daily but are also transported daily to LBI.

The fact is that many of these workers have contracts of employment with Diamond Estate and rather than pay severance or provide early retirement benefits to these workers, the Company plans to unilaterally transfer them to LBI. At this time, the workers report to Diamond Estate at the usual work time for transport to LBI but the PNCR understands that the real plan of GUYSUCO is to force the Diamond workers to report to LBI at the same time at a later date without any compensation for the breach of their contracts of employment or the additional time it will take workers to report to their new place of employment.

The threat to these workers is serious and it is mindboggling why the usually aggressive GAWU is so silent on these issues. Is there a conspiracy afoot?

The PNCR will be following up this matter in the coming days.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 12 March 2010