PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform At The Press Conference on Thursday, February 20th, 2003 In the Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia



GOVERNMENT REJECTS OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS GUYANA’S CRITICAL PROBLEMS: The response of the PPP/C to the PNCR’s initiative to have the national crisis facing Guyana debated in the National Assembly has been most disappointing. The PPP/C has confirmed what the PNCR had always claimed, that is, that the PPP/C does not accept the reality that there is a crisis of enormous national proportions confronting the nation.

The debate also confirmed that recent mouthings by the government about their concerns over Guyana Power and Light were no more than a smoke screen to hide their most devious intention of caving in to the company responsible for electricity supply in this country.

In fact, both Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Minister Shaik Baksh appeared more to be representing the interests of GPL than those of the people of Guyana.

Consumers can well expect that the PPP/C government will soon announce their agreement to substantial increases in electricity rates which will adversely affect all the consumers of this country.

The details of the agreements between the government and the Power Company remain a secret and they failed to use the opportunity to lay them in the highest forum in the land, the National Assembly.

The unresponsiveness of the PPP/C, both in the manner in which they handled GPL and in respect to the other issues before the National Assembly yesterday, clearly indicates that the PPP/C is not ready to work constructively for the good of the nation.

The PNCR has made its position clear that unless there is evidence that the government has implemented decisions already made there will be no further participation in the work of the National Assembly.

The PNCR has demonstrated sufficiently, its unwavering commitment to put Guyana First. It is now for the PPP/C to act and demonstrate its good faith and earn our trust as President Jagdeo recently boasted.



CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT:

The PNCR has made it clear to the nation that we are prepared to engage with the PPP/C Administration in a constructive way in an effort to contribute to addressing what we regard as the pressing problems which face our nation.

It was in that spirit that the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform submitted a motion for debate in the National Assembly. We regarded our offer to debate the crisis issues facing the nation as sufficient justification to veer from our well known and consistent position that we will not participate in the National Assembly unless and until the outstanding matters, which have not been implemented or rectified by the Administration, are addressed.

We had hoped that the Government would have taken positive steps to show that they are ready to address the PNCR’s concerns. We have had no such response. Indeed, the Government would appears to have believed its own propaganda; that the PPP/C was blameless in all these matters, that the country was doing extremely well, and that there was no need for any radical or significant movement on the political impasse which besets this country.

We note with sadness for the future of our Nation that the PPP/C seems satisfied, like the proverbial ostrich to continue to bury their head in the sand of their continued denial that we are in the midst of a national crisis with the potential to have us all embroiled in a national disaster. We have done our part. There will be no further movement until we see action from the PPP/C.

PPP/C SAYS THERE IS NO CRISIS IN GUYANA:

The PNCR sought to debate, in the National Assembly, what we believe to be the crisis situation evidenced by all of the indications of economic and social collapse which all but the politically blind or blinkered and irresponsible have recognised.

The immediate crisis facing us all is the total shambles which has emerged in the electricity sector as a result of the mishandling of the privatised GPL. As the whole country knows, we warned the government against the terms and conditions under which they had proceeded with this privatisation. We sounded the warning signals as the evidence that there was no genuine effort to recapitalise the company, as agreed, to strengthen and improve the efficiency of its rundown Transmission and Distribution system. We are faced with what is the open and barefaced use, by GPL, of the unfettered monopoly power it is endowed with, by courtesy of the Government, to fleece the Guyanese consumers of electricity.

We have complained consistently in our Press Conferences and other public statements about the unconscionable and ultimately unsustainable hikes in electricity rates which have not only gone past the ability of the average consumer to pay but has become counterproductive in that it has encouraged some consumers to give up the use of GPL or to steal electricity or find alternative power sources.

This situation represents a crisis by any definition. It affects all sections of society, it threatens other sectors and industries and we have not heard from the government any explanation or plan of action which is reasonable, truthful or hopeful of a remedy to the situation.

We believe that it is in the public interest for us, as a responsible national Party, to offer the olive branch of a National Assembly debate through which all the citizens of this country can be made privy to the truth about the electricity sector. We had hoped that the government would have the opportunity to put its case to the people and allow the PNCR to offer constructive criticism and helpful suggestions for solutions to the problems we face.

We presumed that the Prime Minister, who is the Minister responsible for the sector, had been working feverishly to find a solution which prevents the GPL from imposing their latest travesty on the long suffering and, so far, unprotected Guyanese consumers. Alas, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to justify and defend GPL’s predatory behaviour. We have to ask the pertinent question, “Whose interest is the Government protecting and why?

The Government, in the debate, took the view through all of their speakers that there was in essence no crisis in Guyana nor in any of the sectors which we highlighted in our motion.

The only exception was the Prime Minister himself who, in opening the debate, conceded that there was crisis but that the crisis in governance in Guyana will be continuous.

The PPP/C regime, in the end, voted against our motion. Citizens must judge for themselves. The terrified citizens and the unemployed and hungry must decide for themselves who cares and who understands their fear and their pain.

The PNCR has not closed the door and we will wait to see if the PPP/C will move in the direction of decisive action despite their rhetoric in the debate yesterday. The bottom line, from the PNCR point of view, is that we must see evidence of action and forward movement in the resolution of our differences and the solution of our problems. We want to see deeds not continue to hear empty words and insincere promises.

If the GPL crisis, the disaster imposed by governmental incompetence and political spite on the bauxite industry, the shambles in the rice industry, the chaos and disaster on the crime and security front, does not require urgent and immediate attention, we are left to wonder what level of degradation and national humiliation the government wishes to bring us to before recognising that there is something rotten in the Republic.

The PNCR remains convinced that there is a social, political and economic crisis in Guyana. We have found no recognition of this truth on the part of the government and no response to the olive branch offered. The PNCR is, therefore, forced to accept that there is no basis for a change in our stand. Accordingly, we will resume our boycott of the sittings of the National Assembly and our pause in any dialogue until we see evidence of action by the PPP/C regime that inspire trust and encourage continued good will on our part.

PNCR STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP RETREAT:

The leadership of the PNCR went into Retreat over the past weekend. The Strategic Leadership Retreat was aimed at charting the future of the Party, restructuring its operations and repositioning the Party to deal with the issues facing Guyana at this critical time.

The participants included Members of Parliament, Members of the Central Executive, and Regional Leaders of the Party.

We dealt with our policies, strategies and tactics against the background that it was imperative that the PNCR is organised to win the next general election whenever it shall be.

This was a frank and open series of sessions and no part of the Party’s operations or position was excluded. There were no sacred cows, our positions on the National Assembly, the economy, ideology, the management of the Party, our nationwide operations, on constitutional reform, power-sharing and governance, our views on culture and ethnicity were all dealt with over the weekend. In addition to our internal discussions, we also hosted guests from civil society for dinner. Our guests, who were not members of the Party, were able to give us objective and useful views on the Party’s role and the outsiders’ perceptions of our position.

The discussion and atmosphere was distinguished by its openness, frankness and honesty.

Resource persons were invited from within and outside the Party. They represented a sparkling range of Guyanese intellectuals from at home and abroad. The main Facilitator, Dr. .Aubrey Armstrong, was supported by Prof. Clive Thomas, Brigadier David Granger, Ms. .Supriya Singh, Mr. .Carl Greenidge and Dr. Cedric Grant.

Some of the conclusions of the workshop included:

 A stepping up of our efforts in the direction of strengthening the cultural, religious, social and ethnic inclusivity and identity of the Party.
 A complete revamping of the structure for the Party and its secretariat.
 Greater outreach to the Guyanese Diaspora and a revitalizing of our work among youth and women.
 The articulation and widespread publication of a renewed vision for Guyana, its economy and our society to bring hope once again to our citizens that Guyana can become safe, secure, prosperous and respected in the world.

We agreed to have half yearly reviews and assessment of progress as regards implementation of our decisions.


PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM
Congress Place, Sophia
2003 February 20.