ARROGANCE OF THE PPP/C TO A PHANTOM SQUAD PROBE ILLUSTRATES NEED FOR UN SANCTIONS--PRESS STATEMENT Friday 21 May 2010




SUMMARY:
• The predictable arrogant response by the PPP Regime’s to the call by UNCHR Conference in Geneva for an Inquiry into the phantom squad in Guyana illustrates that only Sanctions on the Guyana Government will bring any response. Alternatively, the International Inquiry must be commissioned by the United Nations;
• It is time for the Government to make a reality of their guarantee and provide a timeline for re-payment to CLICO policy holders the moneys due to them by CLICO;
• The fiasco surrounding the G$500M Supenaam Stelling is only the latest example of the PPP regime’s incompetence, corruption and wastage of Guyana’s financial resources throughout its period in Government since 1957: Its time the people of Guyana to demand accountability:
• The PNCR, rejects the latest manoeuvres of the unconstitutional Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and its Chairman to justify their existence and will not validate any of its programmes: All Guyanese should boycott their activities until the Constitutional requirements are fulfilled;
• The PNCR is planning an extensive programme during August 2010 to commemorate the contribution of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham to Guyana on the occasion of his 25th Death Anniversary on August 6th 2010.

ARROGANCE OF THE PPP/C TO A PHANTOM SQUAD PROBE ILLUSTRATES NEED FOR UN SANCTIONS

The behaviour of the Jagdeo Administration over the past week, including, statements by Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee, and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, confirm the statement by the PNCR at its last Press Conference, (Friday 14 May 2010), that it is unreasonable to expect that the Government of Guyana will be influenced by the UN to hold an inquiry of its own into the activities of the “phantom gang” that has been responsible for the killing of several hundred Guyanese between 2002 and 2006. The PNCR, therefore, restates its position that the only solution lies in an International independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry and we intend to continue our advocacy of this matter internationally.

The call for an Inquiry, first made by the UK and followed by Canada, was supported by many other countries at the conference including, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Brazil and Mexico. The Conference urged that independent impartial investigations be conducted into the many allegations of human rights abuses, including, the “phantom gang” killings, and recommended that Guyana obtain technical assistance from international and regional organizations for adequate implementation of an independent mechanism in conformity with the Paris Principles. Significantly, the Canadian representative also recommended that Guyana invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to assess claims of torture in Guyana. Canada also recommended that, in ensuring thorough and independent investigations of all allegations, account should be taken of the findings in the report of the United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues on the “phantom death squad.”

The participants of the UNHRC failed, however, to appreciate that they were dealing with a deceptive and untrustworthy Administration. The PPP/C Administration disregarded the report of the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues after she had conducted extensive consultations in Guyana. The PPP/C propaganda machinery went into overdrive after Ms. Gay McDougal presented her report. Instead of addressing the findings of her report, the Government produced a response almost longer that the report and embarked on a programme to assassinate the character of the Rapporteur. Guyanese have become accustomed to this tactic of the PPP, to engage in character assassination of anyone expressing opposing views.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, informed the conference that Guyana would examine the recommendations to set up an independent commission to investigate the abuses allegedly committed by the “phantom squad” and provide responses no later than the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council in September this year. Yet, at a press briefing by the Cabinet Secretary, yesterday, Thursday May 20th, Dr. Roger Luncheon stated that the Government does not intend to hold any investigation other that those allegedly being conducted at present by the Guyana Police Force. At the same time, Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee, appeared to be upset that he was asked to comment on this matter and had, according to the media, “no take on that…not at this time of the day.”

The failure of the Guyana Government to observe the guidelines in the preparation and presentation of the Guyana Report should have alerted the UN to the deception. The report, which should have benefitted from wide consultations before and after preparation, was clouded in secrecy until its presentation to the Conference. It is now evident why the Government wanted to keep the report secret. The many distortions would have been exposed before the UNHRC Conference in Geneva. The Government failed, however, in their attempt to deceive the International Community because the dismal record of human rights violations in Guyana, including, torture and the activities of the “phantom gang”, were well known to all foreign Governments. The PNCR and other groups in Guyana have been keeping them continuously informed.

For example, the Guyana presentation placed emphasis on the revised Guyana Constitution and lauded what it called a model of inclusive governance that was unique. It emphasised that the revised Constitution provides for the appointment of several Commissions, including, a Human Rights Commission by a consensual mechanism with participation from civil society. The Minister of Foreign Affairs did not enlighten the UN, however, that the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), despite the elaborate constitutional provisions, is unconstitutional and has been so for years. She also did not advise the UN that a Chairman of the proposed Human Rights Commission cannot be identified because the President has failed for more than three years to address concerns raised that the upward revision of remuneration for the post was essential to the appointment of a competent person.

The greatest deception in the Guyana presentation to the Conference was the statement of the Minister that, allegations of the “phantom squad” are currently being addressed and investigations are ongoing by the Guyana Police Force. She also advised that the public have been invited to assist in providing information that will aid in the successful completion of the investigations. She failed to tell the Conference, however, that many statements were already in the possession of the Guyana Police Force, including sworn Affidavits, for a very long time and that there is a mountain of evidence in US Court records, which the Guyana Government has been very reluctant to obtain for reasons already exposed by the PNCR.

The draft Conference report recommended that an independent commission, supported by international experts is necessary to investigate the allegations. The PNCR provided a historical perspective of the PPP response to any Inquiry in its last Press Statement, (Friday 14 May 2010), and remains convinced that only an International Inquiry under the auspices of the UN will yield any tangible and reliable results. Alternatively, the UN must be prepared to go a step further and impose sanctions until the PPP regime responds positively to their recommendations.

WHEN WILL THE JAGDEO GOVERNMENT HONOUR ITS COMMITMENT TO POLICYHOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS OF CLICO?

The news that the Liquidator of CLICO (Bahamas) has rejected almost US$34 million worth of claims made against the insolvent insurer by its affiliate in Guyana has come as no surprise to the PNCR. Information on irregularities with respect to money from CLICO (Guyana) being transmitted directly to purchase real estate in Florida was in the public domain since the Company filed for liquidation and required full investigation to determine if any illegality was involved and who was culpable. The report of the CLICO Bahamas Liquidator is therefore significant when he stated that,

“My preliminary view of the documentation suggests that policies were never issued by [CLICO Bahamas]. Moreover, the premiums received by Guyana and Suriname were never paid to [CLICO Bahamas]. …. “It appears that the funds were remitted directly to a bank account held in the name of [CLICO Bahamas] at Ocean Bank, Miami, Florida, and to another account held by the company in Trinidad.”

The PPP/C Administration resisted, however, any attempt to have an investigation done. In a Press Statement dated Friday, April 24, 2009, the PNCR restated its call upon the Government to hold an urgent and impartial inquiry into the CLICO matters, including the disbursement of the funds obtained from the sale of the Bonds held by CLICO in the Berbice River Bridge Company. It was not the first such call. On February 26, 2009, the Leader of the Opposition moved a Motion for the adjournment of the National Assembly to discuss a matter of urgent public business, to wit, the debacle at CLICO. The Speaker disallowed that Motion, on the grounds that the matter was before the courts. This did not, however, prevent President Jagdeo from causing such an investigation to take place, with the very terms of reference identified by the Leader of the Opposition. These were, inter alia,

a) To examine whether there was any breach of fiduciary duty to policyholders, depositors and/or shareholders, on the part of the management or any particular official of CLICO (GUYANA), in the management of the Company’s affairs, that contributed to the present financial state of the Company;
b) To examine whether there was any malfeasance, irregularity and/or misconduct by any official of CLICO (GUYANA) in the recent management of the Company;
c) More particularly, to determine whether there were related party dealings and/or the misuse of insider information which led to the speedy dissipation of the $2.6B received by CLICO (GUYANA) from the sale of its Bonds in the Berbice River Bridge and to identify the beneficiaries if any;
d) To determine whether there was any irregularity and/ or malfeasance in the use of money invested/entrusted by the National Insurance Scheme in CLICO (GUYANA) and to present the details of all transactions involving NIS funds.”

Today several questions about CLICO (Guyana) remain unanswered and the Jagdeo Administration must take full responsibility.

The Bahamas Liquidator has already signalled his intention to call on the US$58 million guarantee its Trinidadian parent made to it, to cover any shortfall in sums due to policyholders and creditors. Guyana is not included in that guarantee, but it was President Jagdeo who on repeated occasions gave the assurance to all Guyanese that no one will loose any money from the CLICO debacle. The latest development in the Bahamas signals the urgency for the Guyana Government to make a reality of their guarantee and provide a timeline for re payment to CLICO policyholders and depositors the moneys due to them by CLICO.

The PNCR, accustomed to the unreliability of the PPP/C to honour promises, took the issue to Parliament and in a Motion, moved by Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, the National Assembly endorsed the guarantee made by the Government. Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, was very meticulous in the wording of the final version of the Motion before the PPP/C finally supported and voted for the amended Motion. The only question now is when, how and in what manner the guarantee would be honoured.

Thousands of policyholders were assured that not a single cent would have been lost. Guyanese workers, reliant on the NIS and other pension schemes that were threatened, were urged to be calm. The Government reported receiving millions of dollars from several sources to pay the money due to policyholders, including, US$15M from the Caricom Petroleum Fund. The Nation was also informed that an account had been established at the Bank of Guyana. Today, affected persons are still unaware of the arrangements, timing and procedures that would be used to honour the Government’s guarantee. The PNCR calls upon the Jagdeo Regime to inform the Nation urgently on these matters and deal with this issue in an open and transparent manner.

THE G$500M SUPERNAAM STELLING: THE LATEST EXAMPLE OF THE PPP’s INCOMPETENCE, CORRUPTION THROUGHOUT ITS PERIOD IN GOVERNMENT SINCE 1957:

The fiasco surrounding the G$500M Supenaam Stelling, which has now been condemned as “inoperable” and unsafe for use, is the latest example of the PPP/C regime’s incompetence, corruption and wastage of Guyana’s financial resources throughout its period of its existence in Government since 1957. The inconsistent explanations from the various agencies of the Government, and, the ‘rip-van-winkle like’ call by President Jagdeo for the Prime Minister “to undertake a formal review of this project, particularly in the specific areas of dispute”, may have been an amusing episode if the resources involved were not the property of the tax payers of Guyana.

The actions of the President and his men create the impression that such shoddy work is an unusual occurrence when, in fact, such shoddy performance, accompanied by corruption and unaccountability have been characteristic of the PPP Government since 1957. Older Guyanese would remember the infamous, Del Conte road on the East Bank of Essequibo. Millions were spent, but nothing was there to show. The squander mania and mis-management of the British Guiana Rice Marketing Board is another example. Millions were siphoned off to party supporters until the Board collapsed. Younger Guyanese would be more familiar with the fiasco of the disappearing or floating wharf at Essequibo. Millions were again spent on construction of a wharf, which disappeared into the Pomeroon River shortly after completion. The Nation was advised that the contractor responsible would have been penalised, but within months, the very contractor delivered further sub-standard works on contracts awarded to him at Wakenaam, Essequibo Islands.

The collapse of a koker door at Garden of Eden, East Bank Demerara one week ago resulted in another blame-game, but the reality is that these are every-day occurrences in Guyana. The sub-standard work being delivered on most Government contracts have been the subject of regular media reports. Regrettably, the Government appears satisfied to issue regular statements of the huge amount of money awarded on contracts rather than whether the people of Guyana have had value for money spent.

The various news reports on the Supenaam Stelling provide useful information for analysis. The contractor claims that the stelling was built according to the design and in full compliance with all technical specifications. They claimed that the sunken pontoon was not part of the design and thus was not built or placed by them, hence they were not the ones who “messed -up”. They expressed the view that modification of the structure should not have proceeded without consultation with the design and construction firms. They concluded that the project was satisfactorily completed and a Completion Certificate, issued on 19 January 2010 by the employer certifying that all defects, if any, were made good to the satisfaction of the consultants. The structure, they claimed, was successfully tested “in the presence of two ministers of the government and other stakeholders”.

Significantly, the Minister, who has earned national recognition for his competence at destruction, took over modification of the stelling and, in his usual style, did an excellent job at that. The said Minister of Demolition, who remained silent for days after the initial exposure, eventually found his voice, accused the contractor of “oligarchic aspirations” and stated that their public statements were simply “eye pass” of him and rude. He then claimed that earlier defects as identified by his Ministry had not been addressed by the contractor. Yet, in the same statement, he informs the nation that his Ministry was not responsible for supervision. He went on to say, however, that guided by “economic reasons” his Ministry proceeded with the installation of the 1.7 ton steel drawbridge to guarantee the safe offloading and reloading of vehicles, particularly trucks. The question Guyanese want answered is how was a completion certificate issued?

Later, Guyanese were surprised to learn that the Ministry of Local Government, had supervised the work and issued the completion certificate. To whom then did the Minister, whose official responsibility is to ensure quality of works, channel his observations about the defects? Did the Minister abandon his assigned responsibility for Works?

Minister Robeson Benn claims that he was guided by economic considerations. Where is the economics? According to him, the Ministry was losing millions in fuel costs every month in the Essequibo area and that the new Supenaam facility was estimated to save around $1M a day once it was operational. The Nation was advised that the original contract price was $431M. Benn then spent an additional $17.2M for modification works. Four days after the stelling was opened for use, the Ministry was forced to close it down. The end beam of the loading ramp buckled when vehicles were being loaded onto a vessel. In addition to the millions of taxpayers money already spent on this project, Guyanese will continue to pay an additional $1M daily, which should have been saved. Certainly, this PPP economics has been part of their culture since 1957.

It is time that the people of Guyana demand accountability.

THE PNCR, REJECTS THE LATEST MANOEUVRES OF THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL ETHNIC RELATIONS COMMISSION (ERC)

The PNCR recently received an invitation to participate in what has been described as a strategic assessment of the work of the Guyana Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). It is a mystery where the purported Chairman of that Commission has sourced the funds for such an assessment, but it is evident that this body had not seriously considered its own constitutionality. The huge resources being utilised by this body and the questionable activities undertaken, have confirmed the view that it is another political imposition without due regard to its objectives as outlined in the Guyana Constitution. Any agency/contractor attempting to undertake an assessment should, first assess, therefore, the constitutionality of that body and whether it has a proper mandate to commission such a study.

When the PPP/C Administration took the unusual step without consultation to preserve the life of the ERC beyond its constitutional period their motives were obvious to all. Their blue-eyed/favoured Chairman was no longer the representative of the Christian Community to the ERC. The PPP/C then sought to foist another group on the appointive Committee from which representatives could be nominated. It was clearly double representation because the individual members of the group being foisted was already represented in its own right on the Commission. The PNCR made it clear that if further representation was to be considered then it ought to come from Organisations not previously represented and not as a convenience to facilitate the current Chairman to retain his post. Instead of addressing this issue objectively, the Motion presented to the National Assembly by the PPP/C, dated August 9, 2007, stated inter alia,

“that this National Assembly calls on the President to take such steps so as to enable the Ethnic Relations Commission to continue to carry out its constitutional responsibilities in the interim.”

The PNCR issued a Statement, dated 16 November 2007, rejecting this procedure as transparently unconstitutional. The Party’s Statement on that occasion said inter alia that,

“The life of the Commission has come to an end. The Constitution requires that the categories of organisations, which elected their representatives, for appointment to that Commission, should be asked to do so again, using the specified Consensual Mechanism. However, the PPP/C is clearly reluctant to follow the Constitution and is seeking to use surreptitious manoeuvres to add pliant organisations, which would enable the Administration to manipulate the ERC. Naturally, the PNCR has refused to go along this unconstitutional road.

The PNCR wishes to make it clear that the ERC is a Constitutional body, which is governed by Article 212B, which states clearly how the ERC is to be constituted and which Groups of Entities should be invited to elect a substantive and alternate representative for appointment to the Commission. The only Constitutional role for the President, in the above process, is to appoint the elected Commissioners representing the Christian Religion, the Hindu Religion, the Muslim Religion, the Trades Unions, the Private Sector Organisations, Youth Organisations and Women Organisations.

In the light of the foregoing, the PNCR wishes to make it clear that the ERC, as presently constituted, is illegal and would not be recognized by the Party.”

The President has extended the life of the old Commission in violation of the Constitution to facilitate its Chairman. Since that time, nothing has happened to change the situation and the PPP/C has arrogantly presided over this unconstitutionality. The PNCR has made it abundantly clear that it rejects this latest manoeuvre of the unconstitutional Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and its Chairman to justify their existence and will not validate any of its programmes. All Guyanese should boycott their activities until the Constitutional requirements are fulfilled.

EXTENSIVE PROGRAMME TO COMMEMORATE LINDEN FORBES SAMPSON BURNHAM ON HIS 25TH DEATH ANNIVERSARY ON AUGUST 6TH 2010

The Central Executive Committee of the PNCR has approved of an extensive programme during August 2010 to commemorate the contribution of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham to Guyana on the occasion of his 25th Death Anniversary. August 6, 2010 will mark two and a half decades (25 years) since the death of our Beloved Founder Leader, and First Executive President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. It is therefore, the view of the Party, including, its membership in the diaspora, that the PNCR, as an organization should observe this significant period in the nation’s, and the Party’s history, by facilitating a series of activities to commemorate this occasion.

The focus of the activities will be on educating, particularly our youth, on the legacy of Forbes Burnham. There will however be additional activities including a proposed sports tournament. A special Committee including representatives of the North American Region (NAR) of the Party and representatives of other organisations supportive of the work of Forbes Burnham has been established to implement the programme. Traditionally, the Death Anniversary of Forbes Burnham is observed annually on the 6th August with a programme at Seven Ponds, Place of Heroes and an activity at the Memorial Bust at the National Congress of Women (NCW) Headquarters, Kitty. The public would be kept informed of the details of the programme for the year 2010.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 21 May 2010