PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday November 28th, 2002 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
* The Worsening Crime Situation.
* A Government with its head in the sand.
* Another Foreign Affairs Debacle?
* The Social Partners Initiative.
* President Jagdeo, the Undertaker.
THE WORSENING CRIME SITUATION:
The solution to the crime and security disaster that has descended upon Guyana must assume that the government of the day is scrupulously committed to strengthening and giving support to the legitimate institutions and forces of law and order. Instead, it is the considered view of the PNCR that some of the recent actions and policies of the government represent a further descent into disorder and confusion with potentially tragic consequences for all of law abiding citizens.
It appears that rather than cooperating with the international agencies and friendly countries to move to root out the escalating drug empires, the PPP/C regime has been moving closer to the gang lords and giving them support and protection. We have information that the government seems to have agreed a pact with the drug barons and have even gone so far as to swear in known members of drug gangs as Special or Rural Constables. We are also aware of the fact that one well-known drug lord has been given permission to open a security service!
In the meantime, the ‘Black Clothes’ Squad has stepped up its terrorist campaign and continue their rampage against the population masquerading in the uniform of regular Tactical Service Unit officers and are frequently accompanied by gunmen in the pay of the drug barons. If this trend persists, the Guyanese public must wonder whether the engagement of the United Kingdom government with the Jagdeo government in the matter of security reform may not tarnish the good name of the British Police and draw that government into the compromising position of having being associated with this ever widening stain of atrocities. How, for example, can anyone justify the use of the Black Clothes Policemen to serve writs as a means of terrorizing persons against whom the regime or its acolytes has a dislike?
The standard rules of operations in Buxton have been for the Police to inform the Army when they propose to visit Buxton. However, the Police have now begun to ignore the Army and instead are accompanied by ‘Soldiers’ of the drug barons. The Police have intensified their raids upon homes of innocent persons in Buxton by, kicking down their doors, by throwing away cooked and uncooked food, destroying and damaging items of furniture, deliberately tumbling and throwing around items of clothing; taking away and/or stealing people’s property, e.g., money television and stereos sets. Indeed it is now impossible to distinguish between the performance of the police and the bandits. We have approached the stage where excesses of rogue policemen and their criminal accomplices far exceed the transgressions of the bandits. The police have become the problem and not the solution.
We have seen within the last few days, television footage of the cane fields of several small farmers at Buxton having being burnt allegedly by members of the Security Forces. The PNCR calls upon the GDF to clear the air with an early public statement of this very sinister and dangerous development.
The whole sorry mess is worsened by the fact that there seems to be the suppression of reports of crimes and killings. For example, in one incident four dead bodies were found yet only one was reported; the weapons finds have been completely misleading and incomplete, the ownership of the vehicles involved in serious criminal incidents have not been reported. The Police seem to be ‘deliberately provoking’ a reaction from the people of Buxton by the intensifying of their outrageous attacks.
The PNCR believes that in the light of these atrocities and the deteriorated confidence of the public in the government’s commitment to law and order, there must be an open public inquiry into the operations of the Guyana Police Force, including the ‘Black Clothes’ Squad. This is the only way to assure the public and restore some level of confidence in the Guyana Police Force and restore the confidence of the professional majority in the force now tainted by the crimes and excesses of the corrupted few.
A GOVERNMENT WITH ITS HEAD IN THE SAND
The Jagdeo regime seems oblivious to the collapsed economy and social conditions facing Guyanese. While the drug barons seem to be given free reign and some sections of the Police continue to act as oppressors of the public, the economy is grinding to a halt; the cost of living continues to escalate; GPL continues to take advantage of the Guyanese public with the encouragement and complicity of the government. The rice industry is still in a terrible state and the President seems to have forgotten all the promises he made to the farmers and is trying to fob them off with so-called consultations. The forestry sector is also ailing and the bauxite industry which once drove the development of Guyana is on the verge of collapse. The effect of PPP/C neglect is an ever widening circle of disaster.
The government has imposed a contemptuous 5% increase upon Public Servants, suggesting that they are doing the best they can for Public Servants while really seeking to undermine the GPSU. Life has become a bed of thorns for the Public Servants. They are paid the worst salaries in the Caricom Region if not the Western Hemisphere. Quite often they do not receive their monthly salaries in time. A basket of basic foodstuffs costs around $25,000. If you add to that, the continuously rising costs of electricity, water, rents or interest rates on a mortgage, an average public servant with a family needs many times the current salaries to make ends meet. Let us take, for example, salaries for the nursing profession. A Nursing Assistant receives a gross salary of $28,717.00, a Midwife - $31,848.00, a Staff Nurse-$36,057, a Staff Nurse Midwife-$40,918. How could they survive on such salaries after the sacrifices for their training and career development?
Public Servants work for a regime that has stated as one of its goals the eradication of poverty. Yet, for ten years, these Public Servants in Guyana have been experiencing the harshest form of poverty. They tell us they cannot meet even the basic minimum needs of their families without remittances from the extended family and friends abroad. "We are lucky if we get one meal a day. Just to have enough for two meals for our children would be a miracle!", many Public Servants say. They also add that they pray to God every day to keep their children in good health. Any serious or life-threatening illness is considered a "death sentence" because they lack the money for medical treatment. And, what does the Jagdeo government do? It gives the Public Servants a 5% increase in wages! This is the level of callousness from an uncaring government.
It is not surprising, therefore, that thousands of Guyanese continue to migrate. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Guyana has one of the highest negative net migration rates in the world. And Professor Manuel Orozco, Project Director for Central America at the Inter-American Dialogue, is quoted in the press as reporting to a symposium recently in Guyana that in a study he conducted named "Remitting Back Home and Supporting the Homeland”, he found that “In one-decade migration by Guyanese shot up by some 150 per cent, soaring from 20,000 in 1992 to an alarming 50,000 today, with predictions that resettlement will climb astronomically in another eight years.”
ANOTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEBACLE?
Evidence has come to the PNCR that the incompetence of the PPP/C regime has created another costly and embarrassing mess in our foreign policy and defence of our border. We have been following with some perturbation certain developments in the international oil industry. The Alexander Gas and Oil Connection website reports that on 26 August 2002, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela signed agreements with seven multinational oil and gas companies for blocks in the Plataforma Deltana Region. The area signed away by President Chavez includes an area which is part of Guyana’s Continental shelf. What is the government of Guyana doing? The People’s National Congress Reform has information which suggests that the government has been advised of these developments and has been neglectful in its pursuance of the national interest in this matter. Even though the matter was brought to President Jagdeo’s attention and that of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the government has done nothing to protect these valuable oil and gas fields within our maritime boundaries. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has stated in writing that the government plans to do nothing to protect our interests of this matter. We understand that Grenada, which has similar concerns about encroachment on the Western end of its maritime boundary, has applied for Special Arbitration under Article VIII of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The PNCR calls on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to defend his stewardship of Guyana’s foreign policy in this matter and if he cannot, we call on him to do the honourable thing and resign! The pious statements by the Foreign Minister seem hollow in the context of developments that are taking place ‘under his nose’.
On the matter of foreign policy, we wish to publicly raise the issue of Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. We understand that Ms. Sonia Elliott who was acting as Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations has now left the Foreign Service. Could the government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs inform the Guyanese people whether a Permanent Representative to the United Nations has been appointed and, if not, who is performing the functions of the Permanent Representative?
THE SOCIAL PARTNERS INITIATIVE:
The PNCR wishes to reiterate our support for the work and patriotism of the Social Partners group and their efforts to contribute to the rescuing of Guyana. The PNCR wishes to publicly congratulate the Chairman of the group, Dr Peter De Groot for his patience and skill and his courageous work in the national interest. We wish to make it clear that we support the initative on governance and we support their initiative on crime and the communiqué they wish to negotiate and publish. The negotiations on the communiqué have been going well and the PNCR expects progress in this matter to continue. Of course, the communiqué will not by itself help the crime situation. We are only too well aware in the PNCR that the good faith of the PPP/C cannot be taken for granted after the conclusion of the negotiations.
PRESIDENT JAGDEO, THE UNDERTAKER:
President Jagdeo ambitions now seem confined to converting Guyana into a virtual grave yard where we are inundated everyday by reports of new killings - extra-judicial and otherwise - which seem to be conducted by a ‘Phantom Squad’ under the control of the drug barons. Mr. Jagdeo seems to be oblivious to the fact that he is rapidly assuming the function of undertaker to the people of Guyana. His only contribution to public debate on our grave national conditions is to treat the public to his vulgar abuse and invectives against whom ever he perceives disagrees or is opposed to him. We wish to remind him of our well-meant advice; he should resign and depart the Office of President in the national interest. If he is unwilling to do so, his Party should ensure that he goes and give Guyana a chance at recovery.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday November 28th, 2002
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