PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday April 10, 2003 In the Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.



FIRST CABLE AND WIRELESS TEST MATCH AUSTRALIA vs. WEST INDIES:

The PNCR wishes to note the start today of the first test match in the Cable and Wireless series between Australia and the West Indies. We welcome the many visitors to Guyana, players, officials and press. We hope that their stay in Guyana will be enjoyable and that they leave this country with memorable visions of our hospitality and warmth as a people.

THE UTILITY CRISIS IN LINDEN:
Yesterday, April 9, 2003, the Leader of the People's National Congress Reform, Mr. R. H. O. Corbin, M.P., dispatched a letter requesting President Bharrat Jagdeo to visit Linden in order to inform stakeholders, and the citizens in general, of plans to bring relief to the disastrous situation they now face in the mining community. This action was considered necessary after the many requests made by citizens over the past week to be informed by senior government officials fell on deaf ears. Mr. Corbin’s proposal, therefore, is a sincere effort to engage the government on a solution to the rapidly deteriorating social and economic situation in Linden which, if not addressed, will have serious implications for any future developmental plans for the Region and other parts of the hinterland.

Mr. Jagdeo has since responded indicating that Prime Minister Hinds will be visiting the Linden Community today and that he proposes to visit in “the coming days”.

During the past week, major stakeholders, including Omai, Linmine and several timber and mining operations have been suffering serious economic loss. The damage to Linmine’s future operations is immeasurable. For example, a ship arrived at Linmine on Tuesday 8th to uplift a shipment of bauxite but immediately left because Linmine was unable to supply the bauxite.

At the same time, the people of Linden, without television or radio reception due to the absence of electricity, were unable to receive any promises of relief. In any event, the distortion of the situation in the print media only inflamed the situation.

The People's National Congress Reform had hoped that the President would have considered it important enough to visit the area immediately as he had done in similar crisis situations elsewhere in the country. Instead, he sent the Prime Minister, who, while charged with responsibility for Electricity and the Mining Industry had not visited the Community since the crisis began.

We do not wish to interfere, however, in the priorities of the President. We, however, firmly believe that the crisis in Linden demands no less than the executive authority that only the President can wield. It was also disappointing to all concerned that the Linden Community will have to wait until some future date to have their problems addressed. The crisis in Linden requires the urgent presence of the President of the Republic and the People's National Congress Reform and its Leader look forward to that visit and hope that the many issues facing the mining community will be resolved.

The government is now attempting to absolve itself of all blame by shifting the responsibilities for the crisis to the Linden Power Company (LPC), on the basis that LPC is a private company. These attempts by the government to distance itself are irresponsible and hypocritical. It should be remembered that the PNCR opposed the lease of the Linmine Power facility to Texas Ohio on the basis that it was a bad deal. As usual, the government proceeded in secrecy. Later the equipment was sold to Texas Ohio without the knowledge of the people of Guyana and mortgaged by Texas Ohio for some US$5 million. Now that the worst predictions of the PNCR have come to pass the government cannot absolve itself of total blame. The PPP/C government is fully responsible for the present crisis in Linden. It must accept the responsibility and act swiftly to provide lasting solutions.

Unfortunately, instead of responding in a genuine manner to deal with the problems of Linden, the government resorted to measures to score short-term political points. Consequently, the government spurned all efforts to initiate the articulation and implementation of a comprehensive development plan for Region #10. Repeated efforts by the People's National Congress Reform to engage the government on this matter failed to produce any tangible results. The late Leader of the PNCR, Mr. H. D. Hoyte had therefore proposed a Special Joint Committee to deal with the future of the Bauxite Industry and the Bauxite Communities.

Regrettably, unilateral action by the president made that Committee useless. The resignation of Mr. P. Q. DeFreitas from the negotiation team set up to privatise Linmine is also significant and his letter published recently in the Stabroek News is a vivid example of the bad faith of the Administration.


The PNCR is of the firm belief that the measures required to bring genuine relief to the people of Linden are beyond the scope of Mr. Samuel Hinds. The improvement of the social and economic situation in Region #10 require not only the implementation of a short term emergency plan, but the articulation of a comprehensive medium to long-term development plan for the Region. This plan should address the general situation in Region #10, but more particularly, the issues of water, electricity, employment opportunities for youth, attracting investment and promotion of socio/cultural programmes.

The tendering process which permits only extra-regional contractors to be awarded contracts and who import all labour into the community is totally unacceptable and must be addressed if the employment needs of youth are to be satisfied.

The PNCR wishes to caution the government that this situation cannot be dealt with by propaganda. Only resolute action will suffice. If indeed resolute action is intended, the PNCR and its Leader will be a willing participant.

ENERGY CRISIS CONTINUES:

While the situation at Linden deteriorates the electricity situation in the rest of the country remains dubious. We hear the same weak excuses being peddled as in the case of LPC at Linden “they are a private company therefore the government is not responsible”. What now will the government say with this failed privatization and the fact that GPL is now government-owned again?

POLITICAL INTERFERENCE BY GAJRAJ CONTINUES:

The recent disclosure about the interference by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj in the internal functioning of the Guyana Police Force is a matter of national concern and confirms the often stated position of the PNCR, of political interference in the functioning of the Guyana Police Force.

The PNCR understands that following a shooting incident at a soft drink factory at Rosignol, West Bank Berbice, the Police acting in the discharge of their professional responsibilities seized firearms. Shortly afterwards the Minister of Home Affairs instructed Divisional Commander Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe to immediately return the seized weapons. The Assistant Commissioner rightly rejected this interference in the discharge of his professional responsibilities.

The PNCR now understands that Gajraj is moving Heaven and Earth to discipline the Assistant Commissioner. The PNCR will be observing carefully the developments in this matter and in particular, to see how the acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald defends the integrity of the Guyana Police Force.

The distasteful and disgusting behaviour of Mr. Gajraj must be condemned and perhaps this is the correct moment for the President to dismiss him if he refuses to resign. This is a serious matter and we urge the independent media to follow the developments closely.



People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday April 10, 2003