PRESS STATEMENT BY THE PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM THURSDAY MARCH 20TH 2003 HALL OF HEROES, CONGRESS PLACE, SOPHIA



SUMMARY:
• The national and international outcry for an independent and public inquiry into the Yohance Douglas murder incident has not been heeded and there is every indication that efforts are afoot to influence the final outcome.

• Decent citizens must be particularly outraged at the continued harassment and intimidation being perpetuated by so-called Police ranks against the grieving families.

• At a time when the traditional sectors of the economy face dire problems because of poor policies and an incompetent Government, Guyana is unable to attract the foreign investment it critically needs to develop non-traditional economic sectors.

• We note the apparent commitment given to the World Bank to remove the discretionary powers exercised in, inter alia, approving investments and the related incentives. We hope it is not too little too late.


When the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform tabled a motion for emergency debate in parliament on February 19th, the Government and its apologists sought to argue that the PNC Reform assumption that there was a crisis or indeed, a series of crises in Guyana was an exaggeration. The citizens of this country are now able to judge for themselves whether Guyana is in crisis or not. The issues which we raised in that parliamentary debate included such matters as security and human rights and the state of the GPL. All of these matters are in state of shambles. The real issue however is that Guyana’s crisis is a crisis of governance. We are administered by a government which has no coherent policy, which is insensitive to the needs of the country and which violates the world norms of human rights and the rule of law. The consequences are inevitable and there will be no improvement in our condition until these things change.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE:

Despite the efforts of the PPP/C and its apologists to minimize the seriousness of the recent shooting incident on Sheriff Street in which five of our brightest and best young men were savaged at the hands of one of the Police terror squads, the nation continues to watch and wait for a humane and civilized response from the Government. We note that to date, there has been no statement of condemnation of the killing or expression of regret by President Jagdeo or Prime Minister Hinds or one comment in support of the call for Justice and improved human rights by any of his senior Ministers.


Since the issuance of the unprofessional and self-serving report by the Commissioner of Police, the citizens of Guyana have not been told what are the complete findings and recommendations of that report. The national outcry for an independent and public inquiry into the incident has not been heeded and there is every indication that efforts are afoot to influence the final outcome. We are particularly outraged at the continued harassment and intimidation being perpetuated by so-called police ranks against the grieving families. Has Guyana descended to such a low level of civilization that the government is not capable of at least leaving the bereaved and suffering families to grieve in peace? We also note the arrogant refusal of the men involved in the shooting to attend an identification parade. The PNCR is reliably informed by the best legal minds that this is not a luxury afforded to any suspect. If the Director of Public Prosecutions has called for an identification parade then there are no legal grounds for the Police High Command to defy the DPP’s authority? We have said so before and again repeat; the PNC Reform has no confidence whatever in the ability of the GPF as currently commanded to carry out an impartial investigation of this incident.

It is already three weeks since the incident and no one, and we repeat, no one has been interdicted or charged for the murder, attempted murder, assaults, and terror perpetrated against these innocent young men. We have pledged our solidarity with and moral support for the efforts of the University of Guyana Students Society and other civil society organizations as they struggle against the PPP/C regime for justice for Yohance Douglas, Ronson Grey, Quesi Heywood Randolph Goodluck and O’Neil King In the next few days the Party will itself begin a series of political action aimed at highlighting the plight of the poor and the dispossessed who cry out for relief and justice


The people of Guyana must hold partly responsible, those Governments and international institutions which have hitherto turned a blind eye to the corruption, criminality, injustice perpetuated by the regime. Guyana made poor and disheveled by the inept and corrupt PPP/C regime, has had to go cap in hand begging for loans and grants and debt relief to finance one corrupt scheme after another. One is tempted to ask what is it about the PPP/C regime that allows them to be treated so differently from other renegade and unjust regimes around the world.

As a people we have grown accustomed to issues being swept under the carpet and forgotten. Each such occasion leaves our people more depressed and hopeless than the time before. We see the effects as thousands leave each year through the official channel of the airport and by the back door illegal route. It is a shame that we have leading the Government a youthful President who is so callous and uncaring, and unresponsive to the needs of our people. He and his Ministers, who mimic his behaviour, obviously believe that the bloodletting must continue undisturbed. What manner of men are these who claim to govern for all of the people of Guyana?

THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY:

Since the tabling of, and debate on, the PNCR motion in the National Assembly dealing with, among other things, the economy, the economic situation has gotten decidedly worse.

Interestingly, while many Government Ministers (with the notable exception of the Hon. Prime Minister) claimed that the economy was not in crisis, the President on his recent visit to New York painted a bleak picture of Guyana and reported to a Richmond Hill meeting that he had raised with the US authorities certain concerns which included the brain drain and the level of unemployment both of which are strong evident manifestations of an economy in serious trouble. The President also informed the meeting that he had appealed for US financial assistance on a number of projects-- a strong sign of low, or no, Guyana treasury resources to fund projects.

Right at this point the budget preparation is delayed because of the need to find resources to close the financial/ financing gap to a prudent level. Revenue is just not available even to fund a minimum programme.

There is increasing evidence everywhere of a worsening economic crisis.

Businessmen and businesses, almost without exception, are slashing the numbers in their workforce as their sales plummet to all-time lows.

Mr. Ebrima Faal, immediate past IMF resident representative in Guyana, in a recent paper noted that the underground economy is almost half of GDP. This indicates that as the Government is becoming increasingly unable to manage, sustain and finance the formal economy many entrepreneurs may have turned to operating in an underground economy with all the attendant problems inherent therein.

The position in the Linden area is even worse where a utilities crisis includes no water or electricity continuously for several days and with no apparent hope of relief in sight. This has not only created intolerable social and health conditions but has also had a debilitating effect on an already battered regional economy in the throes of retrenchment in the Bauxite industry.

The situation in the broader electricity sector may modestly be described as alarming. Yet the Government vacillates over taking firm and resolute action to deal with it. This is symptomatic of the general inertia that has gripped the Government and its various institutions. The number of irate consumers grows daily and businesses are obstructed from taking whatever miniscule opportunity there may be for producing and selling.

In the midst of this gloom we must keep hoping that somehow, soon, the Government would be able to recreate that confidence in Guyana, which existed between 1988 and 1992, as a place in which investment and investors are welcome.

But the stark reality is that even existing investors seem eager to depart. It is public knowledge that CDC/Globeleq is ready to sell its GPL shares and depart Guyana. This is what the head of the firm in Guyana, St. Vincent and Dominica had to say about the Guyana investment "We do not feel welcome in Guyana. Investing in Guyana is not for the faint of heart." Another official said "The risks of investing in Guyana are higher than any other place in the world and a new investor would need to understand those risks."

The overarching concern is that at a time when the traditional sectors of the economy face dire problems because of poor policies and an incompetent Government, Guyana is unable to attract the foreign investment it critically needs to develop non-traditional economic sectors.

We note the apparent commitment given to the World Bank to remove the discretionary powers exercised in, inter alia, approving investments and the related incentives. We hope it is not too little too late since we would do well to remember that the investors of the world have not been standing still waiting for Guyana to be truly ready to welcome them.


PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday March 20, 2003