PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform At the Press Conference on Thursday, January 23, 2003 In the Hall Of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.






SUMMARY:

 A thorough review of crime and national security and the Police Force is required.

 It is appropriate to mention that the recently legislated so-called anti-crime Acts have proved incapable of stemming the tide of criminal activity.

 The rice industry is an example of the tragic mismanagement by an administration which is yet to present a significant Policy Paper on rice.


CRIME, SECURITY AND JUSTICE:

Day after day the nation sinks deeper into a crisis of crime and security characterized by killing after killing and the bloodletting grows torrential. The Security Forces are stretched to their limit and despite the stupid and sadistic acts of some who continue to commit acts of extra-judicial killing with impunity, the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force must be recognized and commended for holding together a very fragile and volatile situation.

The continuing onslaught, robbery, and killing of members of the business community, particularly Indian businesspersons, continues unabated. The scenes of innocent people being shot in their homes or as bystanders are unbearable. The phenomenon of persons abandoning their homes on the East Coast is chilling and warns of a much more serious consequence which must be averted. The PNCR empathizes and sympathizes with all those who continue to suffer the loss of loved ones, whether at the hands of a policeman gone mad or by a bandit, without care or consideration for the value of human life. Ultimately, the responsibility to provide a secure and comfortable Guyana in which the citizens can flourish is that of the government. We should not allow ourselves to be blinded by obscure claims, which seek to pretend that the responsibility is not that of the PPP/C administration.

It is the firm opinion of the PNCR that it is not too late to pull the nation back from ultimate destruction. We are as concerned as the next person or group and, as disclosed over time and time and as recent as last week, we support the Security Forces in their work and are willing to assist. We are not convinced, however, that the PPP/C appreciates the gravity of the situation or is, in any case, prepared to comprehensively address it. A thorough review of crime and national security and the Police Force is required. Anything less is tantamount to fiddling while Rome burns.

The PNCR is not ignorant to the fact that the breakdown in normal parliamentary relations is having concomitant consequences and effects such as those recently alluded to by the Learned Chancellor of the Judiciary but wishes to make it clear that it is not the architect of this situation. The blame should be cast squarely at the feet of the PPP/C, which has undermined the Constitution, the Judiciary, the Police Force, the Defence Force and, consequently, the State of Guyana. The questions which need to be asked are: Why has no Management Committee of Parliament been established since this was agreed to be an urgent need in the St Lucia Statement in 1998? Why hasn’t the Sectoral Committees and the other Standing Committees of the National Assembly which have been mandated by the constitution been established? Why was the Constitution flouted by the refusal of the President to appoint the person duly recommended by the Judicial Service Commission for appointment as a Puisne/High Court Judge? Why has the President shown absolute bad faith by not appointing a new Commissioner of Police and undertaking a review of the Guyana Police Force? And why is the PPP/C sending young men from the GDF to their deaths by phantom gangs when our territorial integrity is threatened?

It is appropriate to mention that the recently legislated so-called anti-crime Acts have proved incapable of stemming the tide of criminal activity. It is passing strange that the recent discovery of a large cache of arms at Good Hope did not lead to the institution of charges under the relevant sections of these Acts. Is it, as we suspected and stated publicly, that these laws were drafted to deal selectively with one section of the society whilst another section would enjoy immunity like the proverbial fat sacred cows?

Amnesty International has recognized the draconian and skewed nature of these Acts and has joined the chorus for their repeal. It is no surprise, therefore, that recent government attempts to source AK-47 assault weapons for use by the Police have met with opposition by the United Kingdom and members of the European Union. The fact that, as been evident to all but the willingly blinkered, the PPP/C has been surreptitiously attempting to create a totalitarian state has finally been recognised abroad.

THE TRAGEDY OF THE RICE INDUSTRY:

The economic mismanagement of Guyana straddles every sector of our national economy. The rice industry is an example of the tragic mismanagement by an administration which is yet to present a significant Policy Paper on rice. It is no surprise, therefore, that the outlook in 2003 is as gloomy for the rice industry as it is generally for the Guyana economy.

It should be recalled that the rice industry under the Hoyte administration expanded in response to new markets that were secured, both regionally and extra-regionally, by a pro-active Ministry of Agriculture and Foreign Service. Markets were secured in Europe as well as in Caricom, including Jamaica. In response to the increased demand for Guyana’s rice both large and small farmers benefited from the governmental institutional support provided by the agricultural extension services, improved drainage and irrigation, and stabilisation of the cost of inputs for the cultivation process. There were several large milling facilities opened and the foundation for sustained growth and profitability in the rice sector was laid.

The price for paddy reached an all time high of GY$2,000 per bag and millers and exporters were receiving as much as US$400 per metric tonne. Millers and exporters made a reasonable rate of return on their investment. Many invested heavily in the rice sector by borrowing from the financial institutions which were prepared to support the rice industry.

Characterized by the blundering and misunderstanding of international trade and the global market in rice, the PPP/C administration led by then Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee, objected to a quota system proposed by the European Union for rice arriving in Europe from countries comprising the African, Caribbean and Pacific states, via the Overseas Caribbean Territories route.

In a letter, dated August 14, 1997, Mr. Rohee, writing on behalf of the government of Guyana to Mr. R Bernard Bot Permanent Representative in Brussels, stated, in the sternest of words, that the government of Guyana found objectionable the concept that a quota originally proposed by the European Union for rice arriving in Europe from ACP sources but via the OCT route should be granted to the OCT.

Mr. Rohee’s objection was that the OCT was developing a role as a permanent intermediary in the trade in rice between the ACP and the EU. He stated that the“ Guyana’s rice industry has no interest in being linked to a long term relationship with the OCT, as it will benefit only a few “wealthy individuals”.

These farmers/millers we know have been labeled by the administration as “fat cats”.

The short-sightedness of Minister Rohee and the PPP/C administration has contributed in a very significant way to our current rice problems. In a document prepared by the Guyana Rice Millers & Exporters Development Association blame is squarely placed on the doorsteps of Mr. Rohee and the PPP/C administration for the “introduction of the safeguard measures restricting the quantity of rice shipped to the European Union via the OCT route”. It is clear from players in the rice industry that the PPP/C handling of the external markets for Guyana’s rice was out of sync with the expectations of our own rice farmers and rice producers.

What is clear is that the government’s attitude towards large-scale farming has been hostile and, while encouraging small farmers to take to rice cultivation, the PPP/C administration has failed to provide the appropriate support in research and development, extension services, proper drying facilities, etc and have neglected the Caricom regional market.

The PNCR believes that the rice industry is the bedrock of rural Guyana and, therefore, calls on the government to lay in the National Assembly a Policy Paper on the rice industry and to clearly state what approaches have been taken with respect to improving research and development, seedling production, appropriate for our climatic and soil conditions, extension services and drying facilities.

The PNCR believes that, as the rice industry faces a gloomy future, the PPP/C administration cannot excuse away their failure by blaming El Nino, La Nina and other factors when clearly the fault rests at the door steps of the Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Trade and International Co-operation.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, January 23, 2003.