PRESS STATEMENT At The Press Conference, Thursday 27th March 2003 By the People’s National Congress Reform Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia



SUMMARY:
• We will not be taking part in the budget debate; we will be taking the budget debate to the people.
• The resumption of inter-party discussions and construction of meaningful engagement is important to the future of the nation and the restoration of normal political and economic life.
• We have honoured our undertaking to the Government’s emissary to keep the nature and conduct of the discussions between the emissaries of the two parties confidential so as to endure that no accidental misunderstandings derail the process.
• The erroneous impression is being created by the Government controlled media to the effect that the Government must somehow approve of the appointment of the Opposition Leader.
• It is the duty of the Minister of Education to resolve the dispute with the GTU and restore the morale of the teaching profession.
• The crisis of domestic security, law and order has not abated. Nothing will satisfy the conscience of the nation apart from a full and public enquiry into the operations of the GPF.

BUDGET DEBATE:

Tomorrow is Budget Day. The Government’s economic strategies for 2003 will be presented to the Nation. Given the Government’s poor track record in managing the economy, the long suffering Guyanese can only expect more pain. The Government has failed to attract investment, it has failed to inspire growth, it has failed to manage the utility and other key sectors, it has failed to generate serious development in agriculture and it has supervised the destruction of the Bauxite sector. It has in effect been presiding over the de- industrialization of Guyana and the escalation of unemployment. Tomorrow’s budget will therefore be more pain, more taxes, and a further deterioration of the condition of the working class as the Guyana crisis deepens.

The PNCR had hoped that with the impending constructive engagement between the major political parties and their Leaders, the reform of parliament and other matters would have been so far advanced that the political rejuvenation would have made it possible for the PNC Reform to take part in the budget presentation and debate. Regrettably, we have to report that not only has the process of preparation for the meeting between President Jagdeo and the Leader of the PNCR been hindered by the stalling tactics of the Government, but it appears that they have deliberately set about to derail the process and prevent it from moving ahead. As we made clear in our Press Release of Sunday March 23rd, 2003 the PNCR has continued to act in good faith. However, the issues which caused the PNCR to leave the National Assembly have not yet been resolved. Consequently, unless these matters are resolved before then, we will not be taking part in the 2003 budget debate but, as we did in 2002, we will be taking the budget debate to the people.

CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT:

The resumption of inter-party discussions and meaningful engagement are important to the future of the nation and the restoration of normal political and economic life. The PNC Reform has made it clear that it is committed to that process and we will do all that is reasonably in our power to make it happen and make it successful. We have honoured our undertaking to the government’s emissary to keep the nature and conduct of the discussions between the emissaries of the two parties confidential so as to ensure that no accidental misunderstandings derail the process. We have, however, become very concerned at the apparent deliberate attempt to deceive the public in relation to the progress of the talks between the emissaries preparing for talks between the two leaders.

In particular, we were very disturbed by the fact that the government knowing full well that it had proposed changes in its representation on the 21st of March and that its emissary was meeting with the Speaker on preliminary matters necessary to the summit talks should nevertheless allow its mouthpieces and propaganda outlets to convey to the nation the impression that they expected the summit talks, to commence on that same day. This ruse had more than one motivation. Quite apart from the attempt to convey the erroneous impression that the PNC Reform was holding up progress on the talks, it was also an attempt to divert attention from the fact that President Jagdeo was going off on a joy ride to China leaving his country in the depths of a crisis and his emissaries in disarray.

Since the President’s departure, further attempts have been made to divert and derail the preparation for talks by unilateral action being taken on some of the matters which are on the agenda. At the same time, a diversion concerning the election of the leader of the opposition is being created. We wish to point out two things to members of the media. First, the election of a Leader of the Opposition has never been an issue. What matters most is the resolution of the myriad political and other problems which must be resolved so that the role of an Opposition Leader would be meaningful. Second, we must point to the erroneous impression being created by the government controlled media to the effect that the Government must somehow approve of the appointment of the opposition leader. The constitution provides that the opposition parties in parliament shall elect their leader at a meeting which the Speaker of the house will be invited to chair without a vote. This we are prepared to do whenever we deem it necessary to do so.

GUYANA TECHERS UNION INDUSTRIAL ACTION:

The PNC Reform wishes to repeat its condemnation of the crude and incompetent way in which the Government has handled the labour crisis in the education sector. We have investigated the issues in dispute and are convinced that there is clear evidence of bad faith on the part of the Government and tangible proof that the government made several promises and undertakings to the teaching profession which have not been honoured. There is no doubt for example that the government made promises to the teachers in relation to the grants to teachers for Whitley Council leave and the allocation of house lots which have not been honoured. What is worse, the government seems to believe that it can resolve the dispute by abuse and propaganda rather than by discussion and honourable dealing. The recent performances of the Minister of Education on the public media and the issue of crude and vulgar press releases and paid advertisements on the part of the Ministry of Education has brought the standards of conduct of government Ministers in general and the Minister of Education in particular to a new low in Guyana. The Government must understand that they assumed office to solve problems not to create them. It is the duty of the Ministers of Labour and Education to resolve the dispute and restore the morale of the teaching profession.

GUYANA POWER AND LIGHT:

When the PNCR raised the issue of the GPL and the scandalous state of affair in the power sector in our motion to Parliament on February 19th, the government benches denied that there was a crisis and tried to give the impression that everything was under control. The government still has not come clean to the nation on its deals and fumbles where GPL is concerned. In the interim, the crisis in the sector grows deeper and the consumers are faced with the twin pain of frequent and crippling blackouts, and unconscionable and unsustainable electricity bills. This mess is crippling our economy for it not only affects the domestic consumer but also deals savage blows to the industrial and service sectors and will contribute to even more bankruptcies, closures, and unemployment. At a political level, the lack of sympathy of the government with the suffering consumer and its lackadaisical attitude to the crisis is very revealing. We must ask what further disaster is needed to get the government to become serious about its duties to the nation.

WATER:

Even as the long suffering household is battered by the unsustainable hikes in electricity rates, the water supply situation has started to heap further worries on the heads of our people. The water supply situation has deteriorated rapidly as a result of the blackout antics of the GPL. In such a situation, we now learn that GWI has hiked rates retroactively to Jan 1st. We warn the government and the managers of the sector that unsustainable rate hikes facilitate leakage and do not solve the problems of public utility industries. Perhaps this government is incapable of learning from the mistakes of the recent past.


SECURITY:

The crisis of domestic security, law and order, has not abated. Since the brutal murder of Yohance Douglas, we have learnt of new and additional horrors including the yet to be explained murder of a businessman in Buxton and the new round of unexplained disappearances of persons in Police custody, as well as several kidnappings and attempted kidnappings. As we had predicted, the so-called report produced by the Commissioner of Police was preliminary to the attempt to whitewash the assassins under his care and sweep the Yohance affair under the carpet. We note that to date, no one has been charged with these heinous crimes and the 'phantoms' , 'fountains' and other gangs have resumed their activities in defiance of national and international opinion and also in defiance of the rules of justice, law and good governance. It appears that there is no scandal, disgrace or embarrassment which will cause the government and its agents to redeem its image and mend its ways. We repeat and will continue to repeat that nothing will satisfy the conscience of the nation apart from a full and public enquiry into the operations of the GPF.

• The public revelation of the miscreants and their prosecution in a court of law.
• An independent inquiry into extra judicial killings in Guyana.
• An independent enquiry which includes representation from local and international human rights organizations into the killing of Yohance Douglas are necessary requirements for addressing this situation.

CRISIS MARCH AND RALLY:

The PNC Reform is convinced that Guyana is in serious crisis which is exacerbated by the failure of the PPP/C Administration to recognize this reality. The utterances of the PPP/Civic give the impression that their leadership lives in a different country. The people of Guyana, however, know that they live in a country that is in deep trouble and beset by myriad problems and severe difficulties. The problems in the utilities sector are serious and make life unbearable for businesses and workers alike. The security situation has reached disastrous proportions. We remain convinced that our economy is on the brink of ultimate collapse. The PPP/Civic would have the nation believe that all is well and that we have never had it so good. They deny that there is any crisis and therefore have not addressed their minds and energies to solving them. It is for that reason that we have decided that since the Police has refused permission for an independent march by the PNCR, we will support the approved march organized by various patriotic forces tomorrow to highlight the fact that Guyana is in crisis. The PNC Reform will encourage our members to assemble at the square of the revolution in support of the effort.


PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday March 27, 2003