PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform Thursday May 22nd, 2003 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia



PNCR LEADER RETURNS FROM SUCCESSFUL VISIT TO THE USA: Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert H O. Corbin and members of his delegation returned to Guyana on Tuesday morning last after an eight-day visit to the United States of America. Members of the delegation included, Ms. Myrna Peterkin, MP, Regional Representative of Region 4 to Parliament and Mr. Muntaz Ali, Chairman of the Associated Regional Chambers of Commerce. During this visit the PNCR Leader addressed several Town Hall meetings, attended several receptions held in his honour, participated in several fund raising activities of the New York No. 1 PNCR Group and participated in TV and radio interviews.

The large attendance at the Town Hall Meetings held in New York, New Jersey and Washington DC and the response of the audience clearly indicated that Guyanese abroad were deeply concerned about developments at home and were prepared to assist in any way possible. At all these meetings participants pledged their support for the PNCR and congratulated and endorsed the new Leader of the PNCR on his recent election as both Party Leader and Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition.

During the visit, members of the Party delegation were the special guests of a three-hour radio programme on the popular Caribbean Radio Station WLIB during which several residents in the US were able to call in and have their questions answered. The delegation also held discussions with the Caribbean/American Chamber of Commerce in New York and several other business organizations in the Tri-State area. In Washington DC a meeting was also held with the State Department of the USA where the situation in Guyana was discussed.

The PNCR Leader was also presented with special proclamations by the Mayor of Irvington, New Jersey, State Senator John Rice and the Guyana New Jersey Association headed by Ms. Sandra Harte. The PNCR expresses its appreciation to the New York No 1 PNCR Group, and several Guyanese who assisted in making the Leader’s visit to the USA the success it was. These persons include, Ms. Sandra Harte and Odinga Tu Fail of New Jersey; Ms. Claire Goring, Edgar Henry, Halim Majeed, Vincent Britton, Jennifer Ferriera, Bernita Primo and Ovid Morrison of New York and Valda Forsythe, Danny Ainsworth and Clarence Ellis of Washington DC. .



MONITORING MECHANISM FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT:

The People’s National Congress Reform has noted the concerns of many citizens around the country who have expressed some degree of skepticism about the communiqué signed between Mr. Corbin and Mr. Jagdeo on May 6th, 2003 and in particular whether there is any guarantee that the government would honour its many undertakings and live up to the spirit of that agreement. Many citizens have accurately pointed out that previous attempts to implement bi-partisan solutions to our national issues have foundered on the intransigence many sections of the administration and the clear bad faith demonstrated by many government Ministers and Officials in relation to carrying out undertakings agreed with the opposition.

Citizens should note that the 9th and final clause of the Communiqué of May 6th refers to the establishment of a monitoring mechanism which will be discussed between Mr. Corbin and Mr. Jagdeo at their next meeting. This acknowledges very clearly that the implementation of the agreement will not be left to chance but will be the subject of a rigorous and transparent monitoring arrangement. More importantly, it should be the duty of every citizen as well as political and civil society organizations to maintain keen surveillance of the implementation process to have early warning of evidence of slippage and bad faith. The PNCR wishes to make it clear that it will be ever vigilant in ensuring that agreed measures are implemented and militant in taking political action should these slippages become the norm.

CAMPAIGN OF TERROR LAUNCHED IN BUXTON:

The PNCR extends its profound sympathy to the family and relatives of Shemton Dodson, the young GDF Officer who was killed in the line of duty and in the fight against the serious crime situation in Guyana.

The PNCR also wishes to congratulate the GDF for its successful operation in rescuing the kidnap victim, Mr. Viticharran Singh recently. Such efforts are indeed commendable and would continue to receive the support of the PNCR.

In recent days, the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defense Force were involved in intensive joint operations in the village of Buxton. Since the commencement of these operations the security forces announced the killing of a notorious wanted-man and two other persons, the arrest of scores of youths and the cordon and search of dozens of homes. All of the activities were announced in the context of progress in the fight against crime. Regrettably, however, several reports were received that the manner in which the recent operation was being conducted appeared to target the village rather than advance the fight against crime.

In response to numerous appeals from residents, a PNC Reform team, headed by Party Leader, Mr. R.H.O. Corbin visited Buxton yesterday, May 21, 2003, to investigate allegations of harassment, intimidation and acts of violence against villagers by members of the security forces. While in the village the team received reports of the wanton and indiscriminate shooting of homes, savage beating of youths who have been barred from walking the streets of the village or being involved in any recreational activity, malicious damage to stalls, freezers and other materials used in pursuit of economic activities.

Villagers reported an incident where a stallholder, Michelle Blair, was ordered to close her stall and go home. Immediately after she locked the stall members of the joint patrol, both soldiers and policemen broke open the stall. All the contents were thrown into a near-by trench.

One grandmother complained of her grandchildren, ages ranging from 3 to 12 years, being extracted from her home and interrogated by soldiers and policemen who were menacingly armed with automatic rifles. These children are traumatized by this episode.

The PNCR delegation was able to observe the evidence of this wanton destruction and its obvious effects on the law-abiding citizens of that community. It is obvious that the campaign of terror launched by the security forces against the men, women and children of Buxton could not be part of any legitimate exercise to rid this community of any criminal elements as is claimed. These terror tactics could only serve to alienate a community that has, from bitter experience, lost confidence in the Guyana Police Force.
The manner in which the security forces behaved was identical to their unprofessional behavior on January 9th last, that nearly resulted in a village revolt. At that time a delegation from the PNCR met with Acting Commissioner of Police Floyd Mc Donald to discuss the issue. At that meeting the Acting Commissioner gave the assurance that the Police Force was making serious efforts to improve on the conduct its ranks and had commenced training in the use of correct procedures. It is obvious that these efforts have failed to produce any improvement in the conduct of the security forces.

The PNCR cannot understand what useful purpose could be served by exercises intended to arrest the serious crime situation when the manner in which the security forces conduct themselves result in several atrocities, including the beating of young men in the streets. These acts serve only to alienate members of the community whose help is obviously needed in dealing with the crime situation.

The citizens of Buxton have concluded that they are now experiencing the effect of the Order by President Bharrat Jagdeo to the Security Forces “clean out Buxton.” The order to clean out Buxton appears to have given free licenses to the security forces to treat all residents as criminals and commit the atrocities which they have unleashed on this village already plagued with several social and economic problems.

The PNC Reform is particularly disappointed by the Guyana Defense Force somersault on the nature and extent of its involvement in internal security operations and hope it is not too late for corrective actions to be taken. The PNC Reform wishes to remind the commanders of the Guyana Defense Force that compliance with legal Order to carry out an illegal act does not absolve them from liability for their individual actions in an International Court for gross violation of human rights.

The People's National Congress Reform is on record as supporting legitimate efforts by the Police to arrest the serious crime situation in Guyana. Our support is unequivocal in so far as the acts of the security forces are within the law and achieve results. We cannot and will not, however, condone or support the flagrant breaches of the people’s legal and constitutional rights in the guise of security exercises.

The Party therefore urges that a serious review be made of the present exercise being conducted in the village of Buxton, if the Guyana Police Force is really serious about solving the crime problem and not instigating a village revolt.

The PNCR Leader last night wrote to the Commissioner of Police and the Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force requesting a meeting to discuss this matter, which the party considers of paramount importance and extreme urgency.

The PNC Reform again urges that urgent consideration be given to a number non-law enforcement measures as part of the solution to the problems of Buxton. In this regard, the PNC Reform calls on the Government to urgently consider the Buxton Development Plan that was articulated by the late, Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte and the Sustainable Village Revival Project that is currently being implemented by the PNC Reform.

PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday May 22, 2003