PRESS STATEMENT - Thursday 31 March 2011




· The PNCR offers heartfelt condolences to the families, relatives and friends of Isabella Smartt, Olive Batson Yaw, Beryl Antrobus, Esther Giles also known as Joy Cole, and Kenneth McNicol Croal;

· Very little attention has, so far, been placed on the preparation of a viable National Development Strategy that sets out clearly how the benefits from the Carbon Sink services of the Guyana Rain Forest, through the REDD-plus mechanism would be utilised for the transformation of the Guyana economy;

· The Party calls on the authorities to take expeditious action to address the effects of flooding in communities that have seriously affected farmers and residents;

· The PNCR is calling for a comprehensive, independent, judicial inquiry into all aspects of narcotics-trafficking in Guyana.

· The time for action is now. Workers of Guyana ought to realise that so long as the PPP/C Administration remains in office their rights will continue to be abused;



CONDOLENCES



The People’s National Congress Reform offers heartfelt condolences to the families, relatives and friends of Isabella Smartt, Olive Batson Yaw, Beryl Antrobus and Esther Giles also known as Joy Cole, all of whom were outstanding members and activists of our Party over past decades. Their contributions to the Party’s and Country’s development were noted by those who were identified to pay tribute on behalf of the Party at their funeral services.



Condolences were also offered to the wife, children, grand children and other relatives of the late Kenneth Mc Nicol Croal, an outstanding Public Servant who died on 21st March and was laid to rest last Monday 28th March. His outstanding contribution in the Agricultural field and more especially Guyana’s Rice Industry will be remembered and revered for many a year to come.



May their Souls rest in Peace!



VISIT OF NORWAY MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT AND THE LCDS



The People’s National Congress Reform welcomes Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development, Mr. Erik Solheim, to Guyana and will be pleased to meet with him, along with other Opposition Political Parties, to express our views on the Norwegian cooperation with Guyana. Unlike Guyana, Norway is a democratic state with the Executive being fully conscious that it is accountable to the Parliament and people of that country. Consequently, the Minister would obviously like to reassure himself that the Agreements between Guyana and his country, including the Norway/Guyana Agreement on Avoided Forestation, meets the standards expected in any democratic society.



Since the launching of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) by the Jagdeo Administration on 8th June 2009, the PNCR has made its concerns known. The Party’s also made a detailed presentation to the Parliament when the matter was brought to the National Assembly on the 17th December 2009, one day before the Environmental Summit in Norway.



The PNCR has always stated that any strategy, aimed at fostering economic development in an environmentally sustainable manner, is to be commended. Yet, as is so often the case with the Jagdeo Administration, the PPP methods and procedures adopted in its pursuit of the LCDS, continue to undermine its goals. In its Press Statement of Friday 12th June 2009 the PNCR stated that,



“Since the Administration’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy is primarily premised on access to and the utilisation of Carbon Credit benefits from Avoided Deforestation. It is a matter of curiosity that the Jagdeo Administration did not think that the work and research being undertaken by the Iwokrama Centre to be of sufficient importance for informing the development and implementation of the plan for realising the benefits from the Low-Carbon Development Strategy.



Of greater concern to the PNCR, however, is the manner in which the people of Guyana will benefit from the financial and other benefits accruing from the proposed Low-Carbon Development Strategy and the Avoided Deforestation initiative of President Jagdeo. So far, the Administration has proceeded on the assumption that the natural resources of Guyana are under the exclusive control of the PPP Administration to do as they please. Consequently, the benefits to be derived may be treated in the same inequitable and discriminatory manner in which the Jagdeo regime has been conducting the affairs of Guyana. The Jagdeo Administration should be put on notice, however, that the PNCR is determined to ensure that any benefits, which Guyana derives, from its natural resources endowment are equitably distributed, for the benefit of all citizens and free from political partisanship.”



The Jagdeo Administration has, however, persistently excluded from consideration the views expressed by the PNCR and other Organisations in Guyana and treated as their exclusive preserve the decision making on how any benefits, which Guyana derives, from its natural resources endowment would be equitably distributed for the benefit of all citizens. This still remains a major concern of the PNCR. The lack of transparency that has become endemic in national affairs provide no assurance that that the major stakeholders will ever be involved in the process thus leading to the conclusion that the PPP/C intends to use any resources obtained from Norway in a political partisan way to earn political advantages, particularly in this Election year.



Another concern of the PNCR is the lack of clarity about the determination of the precise elements of the Government’s long term development strategy, based on the promotion of low-carbon alternatives. Moreover, the LCDS document does not spell out how the funds, expected to be realised from the Avoided Deforestation compensation commitments, would be utilised within the context of a well thought out strategy for the economic and social development of Guyana.



Very little attention has, so far, been placed on the preparation of a viable National Development Strategy that sets out clearly how the benefits from the Carbon Sink services of the Guyana Rain Forest, through the REDD-plus mechanism would be utilised for the transformation of the Guyana economy. It should be self evident that such a National Development Strategy must earn the consensual endorsement of the people of Guyana. While the MOU recognises this deficiency all Guyanese know that the Jagdeo Administration has done everything possible to avoid any commitment to the existing National Development Strategy which was developed by Civil Society. The PNCR effort, by way of a Motion in the National Assembly, to have the Government commit to having this document updated and modified, to take account of current economic and social realities, was rejected by the Government’s majority in the National Assembly. At that time, the Minister of Finance arrogantly stated in the debate that the Government intended to revise that strategy singlehandedly and that the views of the Opposition Members of Parliament were irrelevant.



The objective reality is that Guyana, far from being a truly democratic state, has descended into the dictatorship of an elected cabal, dominated and characterized by one man rule, as the USAID Country Strategy 2009 to 2013 has confirmed.



An informed and knowledgeable citizenry is necessary to the development of a democratic culture. Clearly, the PPP/C Administration does not agree with this proposition. In the modern world, it is routine for Governments to allow their citizens access to information from multiple sources so that they can understand what is going on in their own backyard and the rest of the world. The PPP/C Administration, on the other hand, has unashamedly limited the access of Guyanese to information by maintaining a radio monopoly, limiting access to the state media and ensuring that freedom of information remains a pipe dream. The Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds, after extreme public criticism, had undertaken, by letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Leader of the Opposition, to ensure that the FOI Bill was laid in the Parliament by January 2011. The promised Freedom of Information (FOI) Act remains another unfulfilled promise. Equally, the Government has adamantly refused to establish an Independent National Broadcasting Authority as agreed since May 2003. The result is the continued abuse of the National Radio and Television, NCN, for political propaganda.



The concerns of the PNCR were made known to the New Norwegian Ambassador to Guyana, H.E. Torbjørn Holthe, when he paid a courtesy call on the Leader of the PNCR and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin at his Congress Place, Sophia office on 12th November 2009. It was emphasised that the establishment of a Public Procurement Commission as required by law should be a precondition for the release and monitoring of any financial resources being made available to Guyana.



The PNCR expected that such international exposure of the deficiencies of the Jagdeo Administration would have stimulated the implementation of the long outstanding Constitutionally mandated Public Procurement Commission and the correction of the absurdity of the Office of the Auditor General being a Budget Agency under the Office of the President. Regrettably, the Jagdeo Administration has remained adamant and has not even considered it important to submit its nominees for this Commission to the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament.



The Government, however, must be made accountable to the people of Guyana through their representatives in the National Assembly. In this context, the PNCR reiterates its previously stated position, in our Press Statement of 3rd December 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 need for such a procedure has been demonstrated by the recent exposures on the One Laptop Per Family project, (OLPF), where, even in the face of parliamentary allocations, the Government appears determined to ensure lack of transparency and the creation of conditions for continued corruption.



The PNCR will reiterate its position on these matters to the Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development, Mr. Erik Solheim.



GOVERNMENT MUST TREAT COMPENSATION FOR FLOOD LOSSES WITH URGENCY



The recent spring tides and incessant rainfall has wreaked and continues to wreak havoc on the lives of many, especially residents living on the Coast and other low lying areas. Even though water has receded in some areas, residents are still suffering from the effects as many farmers continue to count their losses. The PNCR remains apprehensive about the management of the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC), the continuing threats posed by breaches to the river defense dams and inadequate maintenance of drainage infrastructure. The Party, therefore, calls on the authorities to take expeditious action to have these matters addressed.



The Region Three Administration is well aware of the continuing problems faced by the farmers of this area, as a direct result of flooding during the high tide and persistent rainfall. For example, the staff at Vreed-en Hoop Secondary School was forced to suspend classes for one week due to flooded grounds. The PNCR notes the efforts by the Drainage and Irrigation Authority to clear alleyways; however, it is obvious that this action alone will not solve the problems, because even though the water level dropped temporarily, it quickly rose again.



The Island of Leguan experienced a seawall breach, which resulted in losses of cattle and crops. It was reported by residents that Government and the Agriculture Ministry sent in an excavator, but what good is an excavator without the materials to mend the breach? The excavator is reportedly digging earth from the area, a process that certainly will not be a long-term solution, as the residents have repeatedly experienced in the high tides. The earth is again washed away causing continuing losses to residents. Long-term solutions are required to ease the flooding woes of these communities. This is particularly needed in the Pomeroon, which has been under water for weeks without any serious efforts by the PPP/C Administration to provide relief. Rice and provision farmers have also had significant losses as water covered their cultivation and paddy could not be harvested.



On the East Coast of Demerara particularly, areas at Buxton South and North, Vigilance South, Paradise Housing Scheme and Sections of Bare-Root were under flood waters for several days while at some areas, such as Friendship Village, the flood waters took about one week to completely recede. One of the poor residents reportedly lost sixty Hatching Egg Ducks and another lost twenty five Ducklings, forty Hatching Egg Ducks and about 80% of his Vegetable Garden. While such losses may appear small, they represent the only assets of some of the affected residents and a direct loss of their livelihood. These losses occurred despite assurances by the authorities that the drainage facilities, canals, kokers and drainage pumps, were well maintained and operational.



The PNCR understands that visits were made to Mahaica and the Ministry of Agriculture is working out a plan to provide relief to persons with verifiable losses. How long are these residents and farmers to wait, while the Ministry works out details? What about a similar effort to provide relief to East Coast farmers and residents from other communities who have suffered losses? Should not such matters be part of a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Guyana? After eighteen years in Government the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government appeared not to have learnt any lessons from our floods.



There has also been serious flooding in several Berbice River Communities, including at Ebini where over 30 acres of farmlands are still under water, and the entire crop of peas, peanuts pumpkins and other vegetables as well as plantains have been lost. At Kimbia, over 60 acres of crops were totally wiped out; at DeVeldt some 40 acres of crops lost and other areas such as Sand Hills, Wiruni and Calcuni have reported losses.



Parts of West Watooka, a farming community in Linden, are inundated and the Kara Kara Creek has overflowed its banks and flooded some farms in the Lower Kara Kara/Speightland area. The produce from these farms represent the only means of income to provide for the livelihood of these farmers and their families. The Ministry of Agriculture is, again, said to be assessing the extent of damages in these areas. How long will this assessment take? Will these unfortunate farmers and residents ever be compensated? The PNCR joins with the Regional Chairman, Mr. Mortimer Mingo and the Regional Democratic Council in emphasising the urgency of assistance for these farmers. Their losses will impact their ability to sustain their families at this time and in the long term, as they will have to now plant and await the maturity of new crops before they can be assured of an income.



In the PNCR’s Press Statement dated Thursday 11th March 2011, the Party called on the PPP/C Administration to “treat as a matter of national priority the effective and efficient organisation of the Civil Defense Commission”. It was pointed out that “past experiences illustrate that there remains an urgent need, not only for a disaster preparedness plan, but for the details of that plan to be well known to citizens to avoid any panic during emergencies”.



No response has come from Government so far on this issue as the Administration continues to ignore the call by the PNCR at the onset of the crisis for a professionally run Natural Disaster Task Force. If this was established, assessing damages and contemplating compensation would not take forever as currently persists. This is another one of many reasons why the PPP/C must be voted out of office in the 2011 General Elections.



JUDICIAL INQUIRY INTO NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING NEEDED



The PNCR is calling for a comprehensive, independent, judicial inquiry into all aspects of narcotics-trafficking in Guyana. The discovery in Jamaica of 122.65 kg of cocaine in a container of timber from Guyana on the MV Vega Azurit on 12th March was only the most recent in a series of discoveries of shipments of illegal narcotics from this country over the past decade.



The PNCR feels that, without an independent investigation, the criminal cartel behind this crime will remain undetected and unpunished and Guyana will drift further towards becoming a narco-state. It is evident that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration is unable and unwilling to counter narcotics-trafficking despite the harm being done to our people.



The United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ International Narcotics Control Strategy Report – released only four weeks ago on 3rd March – iterated the well-known fact that “Guyana is a trans-shipment point for cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela destined for North America, Europe, and the Caribbean.”



That Report pointed out that, owing to weak law-enforcement on the country’s land and maritime border and vast hinterland, narco-traffickers were able to conduct operations without significant interference from law-enforcement agencies. Over the past decade, the Guyana Police Force Narcotics Branch and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) which has the most institutional knowledge and experience have not been given adequate governmental financial, material and personnel support to conduct effective counternarcotics operations.



The PNCR recalls that when the PPP/C entered office over 18 years ago, it inherited from the outgoing PNC Administration a plan called Guyana’s Strategy for Dealing with the Drug Problem and a working ‘National Drug Law Enforcement Committee’ which was personally chaired by President Desmond Hoyte. The PPP/C, however, abandoned both the Strategy and the Committee. It then introduced its own National Drug Strategy Master Plan, 1997-2000 but never implemented it fully.



The result was that during Ronald Gajraj’s tenure of office as Minister of Home Affairs, there was a surge in cocaine trafficking and narco-terrorism during which CANU’s Deputy Head and another agent were executed. The Administration then introduced a third plan, the National Drug Strategy Master Plan, 2005-2009. This Plan expired a year and a half ago without achieving its original goals. The country now has no functional counternarcotics plan.



To make matters worse, it appears that the Administration deliberately transferred responsibility for drug interdiction at Port Georgetown from CANU to the Customs and Trade Administration of the Guyana Revenue Authority in March last year. It was common knowledge, however, that the CTA had neither the organisational structure nor the financial resources to support its new counternarcotics function.



At the practical level, it was known also that CTA inspectors were not given sufficient training to enable them to conduct counternarcotics searches. At the technical level, a new shipping container scanner which was received only in June 2010 seems, quite mysteriously, to have been disabled or to have become inoperable in less than one year. The result of transferring responsibility from the trained CANU to the untrained CTA was that no successful narcotics interdictions at the port of Georgetown have been recorded although about 500 containers are shipped from the port every month.



The PNCR is convinced that the PPP/C Administration is not serious about the war on illegal narcotics. This is one reason why it has not fully implemented its own counternarcotics plans, not reached agreement with the US Administration about the establishment of a United States Drug Enforcement Agency Office in Guyana and has not brought to justice any major narcotics-trafficker.



The enforcement agencies do not have the capability to stanch the importation of cocaine and have never been given the resources to do so. It is no surprise, therefore, that cocaine continues to pour into the country by aircraft through the dozens of unmonitored hinterland airstrips. The administration knows this very well. Once cocaine continues to come into the country, crooks will find a way of getting it out.



The PNCR is convinced that the country’s two existing counter-narcotic agencies − Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and Police Narcotics Branch – have been deliberately starved of the aircraft, boats, all-terrain vehicles and personnel needed to secure the country’s main international transit points and borders.



The PNCR is convinced also that only an independent investigation will bring to light the deficiencies in the counternarcotics strategy and halt Guyana’s slide towards becoming a narco-state.



The exposure of the PPP involvement with drug lords during the recent Roger Khan and Robert Simels’ trials in a New York Court and their refusal to hold an inquiry into the execution of hundreds of Guyanese Youth, however, make it doubtful whether the PPP/C Administration would ever permit such an investigation. The solution must, therefore, be in the hands of Guyanese who must determine in this election year whether they want a Government of Drug Lord collaborators or a Government of National Unity that is committed to restoring a safe and secure Guyana.



PPP CONTINUED ABUSE OF WORKERS RIGHTS



The recent arbitrary dismissal of Magistrate Omeyana Hamilton has again highlighted the continuous abuse of workers’ rights under the PPP/C. The dismissals of Marcelle Joseph from the Office of the President and Jud Lohmeyer, whom the Guyana Government has accused of trying to blackmail them on the OLPF programme, received national media coverage. Police Officers, Patrice Henry and Simon McBean were also dismissed without due process. In all of these cases the constitutional rights of these workers and their rights to natural justice were ignored.



While some of these matters are the subject of litigation in the High Court, the question remains about the ability of the Judiciary to adjudicate in these matters having regard to their own record as illustrated by the dismissal of a Magistrate because her difficulty in traveling to her place of work by speed boat.



The example of the Government as demonstrated by the manner in which they collaborated with the Berbice Bauxite Company, (RUSAL), to maintain the dismissal of over fifty five workers, gives no assurance that the rights of workers would be protected by the PPP/C Administration. After more than a year, the RUSAL Workers Dispute remains unresolved with the Company still refusing to recognise the legitimate Union of the workers choice. The Minister of Labour, despite his many assurances, has failed to exercise the powers vested in him under the Labour Laws and it is now evident that he is acting under political direction. The time for action is now. Workers of Guyana ought to realise that so long as the PPP/C Administration remains in office their rights will continue to be abused.





People’s National Congress Reform

Congress Place, Sophia

Georgetown, Guyana

Thursday 31st March 2011