PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform For the Press Conference on Thursday June 12, 2003 In the Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
PPP/C’S EFFORTS TO CONTROL LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND OTHER PEOPLE’S COUNCILS: During his most recent visit to Linden, President Jagdeo turned his attention to the Mayor and Town Council of Linden and in so doing essayed his desire to have the Councilors replaced. The replacement of any municipality can only be done through the holding of Local Government Elections.
In that regard the work of the Local Government Reform Committee should be hastened to allow for the quick determination of the electoral system to be used for the holding of municipal elections. The People’s National Council Reform put forward its proposals for the new electoral system about one (1) year ago.
The PPP/C regime seems to be on a calculated campaign to replace Councils by executive diktat rather than through elections. In three instances, in Regions No. 5, 4 and 3, respectively, elected Councils were replaced by the hand-picked Councilors of the Minister of Local Government. In each instance the Minister by-passed the non-PPP/C groups which won seats at the 1994 Local Government elections.
The non-PPP/C groups, for whom the electorate had shown some preference, were not holding any executive positions in the dissolved Councils and, therefore, could not be held accountable for the failure of the Councils. However, when the Minister stepped in he totally by-passed those elected non-PPP/C groups and appointed PPP/C Councilors.
In its usual dictatorial and high-handed approach, the PPP/C has misused the legislature to justify their refusal to hold legally due elections for Mayors and Deputy Mayors of the Municipalities and Chairpersons and their Deputies of the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils. This has persisted for six consecutive years, while Attorney-at-Law, Llewellyn John’s Court challenge of the legality of the Government’s actions is still awaiting completion in the High Court.
The PNCR is paying keen attention to the activities of Mrs. Philomena Sahoye-Shury who continues to misuse and abuse her office as Coordinator for Community Development Committees to establish pro-PPP/C Community groups while stifling and annihilating independent groups.
The PNCR is not unmindful of the problems being experienced by citizens in many Local Government areas as a result of the absence of Local Government elections. In this context the PNCR will be prepared to discuss any temporary arrangement which acknowledges the original will of the electorate as reflected in the present composition of the Councils. The PNCR will not condone the use of Ministerial power to change existing Councils into PPP/C cronies.
The People’s National Congress Reform has noted the recent convening of the National Tushou Conference in the Amerindian Village of Mainstay/Whyaka in Region No. 2 from May 27-29, 2003. The PNC Reform wishes to applaude the Tushous for their effort to be organized and united. This initiative will certainly enhance their ability to provide effective leadership and service to the people who elected them.
The PNC Reform understands that the Toshou Conference is an indigenous initiative which was a natural outcome of and follow up to the formation the Upper Mazaruni Amerindian District Council of Region No. 7 and the Toshou Councils of Regions No. 2 & 9.
Working with the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs as an integral part of the planning committee, the organizers demonstrated broad inclusiveness as all of the country’s 76 Toshous were invited and of these 69 attended. The organizers must be commended for a genuine effort to be inclusive.
Now that the National Toshou’s Council has been formed it must proceed to fulfill its mandate.
The PNC Reform has noted statements emanating from the Government suggesting that the organization of the Toshou Conference was not transparent because the Regional Chairmen of Regions No. 1 & 2 were not invited. The PNC Reform is alarmed that the Government would attempt to undermine the success of the Conference because two non Amerindian Regional Chairmen were supposedly not invited. The truth is that they were both invited but only one chose to attend albeit for one session
Once again the PPP/Civic Government has demonstrated that its primary interest is control and domination for partisan advantage. The People’s National Congress Reform rejects this latest effort to undermine the solidarity of the Amerindian people. .
THE TROUBLED FORESTRY SECTOR:
The Forestry sector in Guyana, like Bauxite and other Natural Resources based sectors, is struggling to survive because of low productivity, the lack of modern capital equipment, poor export market intelligence and marketing, low value recovery from the logs harvested and marginal value added production.
By any of the economic parameters used to judge performance in a sector - contributions to export income, employment or GDP – there has been little or no growth, particularly in the last few years. The Forest sector’s contribution to GDP may have fallen below the 4% mark in 2002 (the five year average ending 2001 was 4.5%) as several previously established concessionaires and manufacturers either contracted, went into bankruptcy or began teetering on the brink.
Among the factors responsible for the decline of the Forest Industry in Guyana are:
The lack of capital investment in downstream modern manufacture of quality wood products;
The failure to recognise and approach the development of the Forest as a rich source of timber and exotic non-timber products; and
The need for organized export marketing intelligence to identify and penetrate niche markets for timber products, particularly the lesser known timber species, as well as for exotic non-timber products.
Unfortunately, since the success of the Hoyte administration’s imaginative and innovative programme to attract major investors, such as Barama, the ambivalence and anti-capital attitude of the PPP/C administration has robbed the sector of a structured and imaginative Government programme to encourage new investment and inject dynamism into the sector.
The Government seems to be unaware of its responsibility to create the necessary environment to halt the accelerating death of the Forest sector. The Guyana Forestry Commission has focused its attention on improving services to the industry but has paid little or no attention to the need for investment in capital equipment.
The PNCR has advocated a comprehensive development plan for the Forest sector which includes:
A programme for renewal based on making available low- cost financing for plant and equipment;
The creation of an independent timber export marketing agency funded by government and the Forestry industry;
The introduction of an attractive regime of fiscal and other incentives designed to encourage greater joint venture arrangements between Guyanese producers and foreign distributors and end users; and
Management training and human resources development to create a progressive attitude to overcome the conservatism that has prevented the introduction of quality competitive products meeting acceptable international standards.
ABSENCE OF POLICY ON YOUTH IS CONTRIBUTING TO SOCIAL DECAY:
An examination of the work of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports reveals that there is no structured framework for the development of youth that provides them with the opportunities to realize their full potential.
The PPP/C Government has failed to provide young people with the social, political and economic support that is required for their development and thereby allow them to resist the various negative social influences. As a result the nation is being robbed of its future human resources – contributors to today’s efforts as well as the inheritors and developers of our future well-being as a nation.
The phenomenon of very young men turning to crime seems to have accelerated in recent years and is an indictment of the PPP/C failure to develop a serious long-term policy for Guyanese youth. The PNCR is confident that urgent policy formulation that addresses justice and rehabilitation issues for young offenders will help to arrest the downward slide. Opportunities for correctional and rehabilitation services outside of prison will return young offenders to society as active participants in our development efforts.
The PPP/Civic has to understand that the youth and youth issues are not areas for political domination and control. The effort to control and dominate has only worked to impede progress in youth development. What is urgently needed is a cohesive, coherent and comprehensive youth policy.
The ill-advised “President Youth Choice Initiative” is a glaring example. In principle there is nothing wrong with the legitimate use of the “Lotto Funds” to rehabilitate playfields and others facilities for young people. In fact there is a dearth of facilities in many communities. However, in an effort to score political points and exercise political control and domination the project was dubbed “the President’s Youth Choice Initiative” and placed under the control of the Office of the President instead of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport where it belongs. This has resulted in a disjointed effort with millions of dollars being spent on projects which today merely stand as “white elephants”.
Because of the Office of the President’s lack of involvement in day-to-day youth development issues, facilities are being rehabilitated and constructed which are out of sync with the development of requisite capabilities in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to manage and co-ordinate programmes to make full use of these facilities. This has resulted in waste of the Nation’s resources, as most of the facilities lie idle and unused.
In the meanwhile the youths in various communities are languishing in conditions of increasing poverty which has created a rich environment for crime. There is a glaring absence of facilities for social outlet or the development of programmes to economically empower youth. The nation must allow the youth to be the protagonist of their own development and not merely recipients of state support. The Nation must provide a foundation and mechanisms for youth participation in socio-economic development.
It should be a matter of national concern that there appears to be a high percentage of very young men who are being killed by the police for alleged involvement in crime. The fact that Dale Moore, Shawn Brown, Shawn Marco Gittens, Romel Reman, were all below 25 years old - children when the PPP/C took office - tells an interesting story.
The National Youth Parliament is another example of the effort to control and dominate. In 1995 when the first Youth Parliament was convened at the Georgetown City Hall under the auspices of the Georgetown Youth Leaders Council, it was an event conceptualized and managed by young people. Participants were drawn from active youth clubs and organizations.
Today the Youth parliament has degenerated into a forum for the privileged under partisan political domination with public “dog-fights” for ascendancy and control by the competing cliques. Even the effort to project role models has been lost as morally questionable characters are seen at the forefront of Youth Parliament. The fact that the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports is facilitating this state of affairs is a grave indictment of that Ministry and its Minister.
Even the President Youth Award Scheme seems to have lost focus with emphasis being placed on building a personality cult for the President rather than the development of youths.
At the Ministry itself things are no better. The Ministry is in a state of drift. Even the so-called National Youth Policy document is embarrassingly deficient. There is no framework or vision for youth development as once again the focus is political control.
The PPP/C has seized control of the Sports department with the appointment of Neil Kumar, a prominent PPP central executive member and activist, as Director of Sports. The Minister herself has usurped the authority of the Director of Youth and is meddling in the most unprofessional way in all aspects of the Ministry’s operations as she tries to micro-manage every activity. The effectiveness and efficiency of the Ministry has been undermined as a result and no serious policy initiates are forthcoming.
There is urgent need for the restructuring of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to allow competent professionals to play the lead role in the formulation and implementation of policy. The PNC Reform calls for an immediate review of the President Youth Choice Initiative and the President Youth Award Scheme to ensure that young people are the principle beneficiaries. A broad based non-partisan committee must be established to assess the projects executed under the Youth Choice Initiative and make recommendations to enhance utilization. The Youth Choice Initiative must be removed from under the control of the Office of the President and handed over to the reorganized Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
The People’s National Congress Reform calls for urgent action to avert the danger facing the nation as our youth slide into the abyss of despair and hopelessness. A lot of work is necessary to ensure that the environment is created for our youth to achieve their full potential. Youth programmes must now be freed from the pervasive backwardness of the political perspectives of the PPP/C. The PNC Reform stands ready to play its part.
THE KIDNAPPING BILL AND THE PPP/C’S CRIME FIGHTING TACTICS:
After a delay of several months the National Assembly finally debated and approved the Kidnapping Bill No. 15 of 2002. The PNCR position on the Bill, as borne out in the debates, is that there is no objection to the creation of a legal framework to curb kidnappings and other vicious crimes. Guyanese have never been known to be a lawless people and the PNCR is confident that the nation accepts that crime must be comprehensively and effectively tackled.
On the other hand the PNCR strongly asserted the position that there are certain aspects of the Bill which are unacceptable. Clause 15 of the Bill unnecessarily infringes the constitutionally recognized right of suspected persons to Bail, since there already exists statutory provisions which give the Court the discretion of granting Bail, taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case. The Guyana Constitution deems a person innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, we believe that the refusal of bail to a person charged with abduction is a blatant violation of citizens’ rights. We believe that it should continue to be left to a court or Judge to decide whether the particular circumstances of the matter before it should lead to the pre-trial freedom of the accused.
The National Assembly should recognize the entrenched doctrine of the separation of powers and, in this regard, eschew any attempt to usurp what are purely judicial functions. Futile attempts at linking the PNCR to this unconstitutional conduct fail to remember that, when in 1988 the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act was introduced, bail was still available to persons who satisfied the Court that there were special reasons for granting same. Hundreds of persons have been admitted to bail through this window of opportunity deliberately left open by the then PNC government.
The PNCR is bemused by the fact that several high-ranking PPP/C officials have sought to state that given the nature of the offence there should be no bail for a person charged under this Act. What they are in fact doing is calling for the punishment of persons long before they are found guilty. This sentiment has in fact permeated every statement and action of the PPP/C as we have seen that their preferred unlawful methods of crime fighting with emphasis on the extra-judicial killing of as many persons as possible without a thought being given to arrests, interrogations and trial in a legally constituted Court of law.
The PNCR warns that this practice of search and destroy is gravely undermining the civility of our society and creating conditions where barbarism will be the order of the day. Let the record show that it was the PPP/C which introduced this behaviour into our society and they alone must accept the blame and responsibility for its consequences.
DR. RAMSAMMY'S RESIGNATION IS WELCOMED:
The People's National Congress Reform is alarmed by the issues surrounding the submission and subsequent withdrawal of the resignation of the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy. The PNCR is on record as calling for the removal of Dr. Ramsammy after the Auditor General fingered him for impropriety and irregular financial dealings. The PNCR, therefore, viewed his resignation as a positive development since his continued functioning as a Minister sends the wrong signals to the populace with regards to the Government’s acceptance of corruption and graft.
The PNCR has noted reports in certain sections of the media that Dr. Ramsammy's resignation was triggered by frustration over his unsuccessful efforts to bring changes to certain operations, procedures and personnel in the Ministry of Health. The Nation expected that Ramsammy would have been dismissed for corruption. Now that he has withdrawn the resignation it would appear that his demands have been met and that he will be allowed to continue his nefarious activities at the Ministry of Health.
Ramsammy has demonstrated that he is capable of illegal and improper financial transactions. The people of the Guyana need to be protected from public officials like Ramsammy who boasted that he would continue to break the law.
The PNCR questions the uniqueness of Ramsammy's portfolio when compared with other Ministers of the present Government or for that matter the numerous Ministers of Health who served before him. Why is it that Dr. Ramsammy seems to be the only Minister who wants greater latitude with finances? How is Dr. Ramsammy’s request connected with his illegally accessing the funds of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation or his illegally accepting Government funds for a Chauffeur when the Government already provided one for him?
Any changes to the system that allow Dr. Ramsammy and people of his ilk greater latitude, control of and access to government funds is not only irresponsible but sends the clear message that there is institutionalized corruption in the PPP/C Government. This Ramsammy episode shows that the people of this country can no longer trust the PPP/C Government to conduct the affairs of the State in a decent and honest manner. It is now evident that this episode is yet another PPP/c plan to deceive the people of Guyana. Ramsammy’s retention in the Cabinet is evidence that the Jagdeo'’ administration condones corruption or that the President is not in charge of his Cabinet.
The PNC Reform demands a full inquiry into all issues related to Dr. Ramsammy’s resignation. There is need for a full examination and explanation of all changes in personnel, standards and procedures to ensure that this miscreant is not allowed to make merry with the resources of the Guyanese people.
LEADER’S VISIT TO MIAMI:
The Leader of the PNCR and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. RHO Corbin, returned from a four-day visit to Florida, USA. Mr. Corbin was accompanied by Central Executive Member and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms. Clarissa Riehl and Central Executive Members and Members of Parliament, Mr. Stanley Ming and Mr. Jerome Khan. During the visit, sponsored by the South Florida Chapter of the PNCR, the delegation attended a memorial Service for the late Leader of the PNCR Mr. H D Hoyte on Friday June 6th, 2003. The delegation participated in a Business Brunch at the Radisson Hotel on Saturday 7th June at which a Feature address was delivered by the Leader. The audience included several Guyanese and Caribbean Businessmen and women, many of whom had done business in Guyana. After the address there was a lively question and answer session during which the members of the delegation had an opportunity to explain the situation in Guyana. On Sunday 8th Mr. Corbin also addressed a well-attended public meeting at the South Florida Memorial College. Several meetings were also held with individual business persons and potential investors.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday June 12, 2003
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