PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. H. D. Hoyte, S.C., M.P. Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform & Leader of the Opposition To The Press Conference on Thursday March 7th, 2002 Congress Place, Sophia



In my address to the nation on Friday, 2001 March 30, I pointed out that:

. . . If Guyana is to have any realistic hope of a prosperous future, some important realities must be understood and some courageous responses put in place as a matter of urgency. We must not deceive ourselves; what is at stake is our ability to achieve social cohesion and economic development as a nation. . .

I made the observation that:

. . . Those of us who have endured the pointless, arbitrary and brutal police raids on our villages, the frustration of joblessness and discrimination, the neglect of our community infrastructure, the exclusion of our young people from jobs and opportunities for education and training, the politicisation of the public services, and the deepening corruption of public life, can only view the election day fiasco as the final insult . . .

I warned that:

. . . It is the considered view of the leadership of the People’s National Congress Reform that business as usual is neither reasonable nor possible at this time. We take the view that radical changes in Guyana must occur if we are to make progress and have any guarantee of peace, stability and development . . .

. . . Let me make it clear that we are not talking about superficial dialogue designed to frustrate and defer the necessity for hard decisions. The People’s National Congress is interested in real, comprehensive and permanent change . . .

. . . The fundamental principles of our agenda for political change are clear. They are:

1. Radical reform of our system of governance.
2. The immediate arrest of the deterioration in the performance of key national institutions in order to
rebuild public confidence
3. The drastic reduction of the causes of ethnic grievances and perceptions of injustice . . .

Today, almost one year since the holding of National and Regional Elections on March 19, 2001, the state of our Republic is grave. It is, therefore, appropriate for me to use this opportunity to take stock of where we are and to evaluate the prospects for the future.
Shortly after the commencement of the Dialogue between President Jagdeo and me, we agreed (2001, mid-May) to establish Joint Committees to deal with the following:

1. Local Government Reform;
2. Border and National Security Issues, including Recapitalisation of the GDF;
3. National Policy on Distribution of Land and House Lots;
4. Bauxite Industry and Communities Resuscitation;
5. Depressed Community Needs; and
6. Radio Monopoly and non-Partisan Boards.

The current status of the work of the Committees is as follows:

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM:
The unjustified and unprincipled wrangle over the appointment of Professor Andrew Reynolds to advise on the Local Government Electoral system. This resulted in a delay in the selection of the Expert, and as a consequence, the Committee can no longer guarantee the completion of its Report on time.

BORDER AND NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES:
This Committee submitted its Report on schedule. However, nothing has been done to give effect to their very valuable recommendations.

NATIONAL POLICY ON DISTRIBUTION OF LAND AND HOUSE LOTS:
The work of this Committee was hampered and frustrated by the antics of the PPP/C members led by the Minister of Housing and Water. The work of this Committee having been aborted, President Jagdeo undertook to have a Policy Paper on Housing and Land Distribution laid in the National Assembly.

It should be recalled that, in accordance with the decision of the National Assembly, that paper was required to be submitted to the National Assembly by 2000 end-December.

The National Assembly specified that:

• The Policy paper be underpinned by the following principle:

• The need for transparency and equity in the distribution and allocation in conformity with good land use principles, practices and management;

• An independent authority be established and charged with:
a. the investigation of complaints, including discrimination in the distribution process; and
b. the providing of redress in proven cases.

The month of February has ended and no Policy Paper is in sight.


BAUXITE INDUSTRY AND COMMUNITIES RESUSCITATION:
The performance of the Prime Minister with respect to the work of this Committee, particularly with regard to the negotiations with Alcoa for the now nationally owned Aroaima Bauxite Company is well known to the public. Since then, the President and I have reaffirmed the negotiating role of the Committee and it has now been charged specifically with responsibility for supervising a technical team – two members of which would be nominated by the President and one member by me – which undertake negotiations with Cambior/ Omai for Linmine. I have submitted the name of my nominee to the President and await his notifying me of the names of his nominees.

DEPRESSED COMMUNITY NEEDS:
The difficulties encountered by this Committee are a matter of public record. Suffice it to state that after nearly one year, the people of De Kinderen have not yet received the supply of electricity that they identified as their priority needs.

RADIO MONOPOLY AND NON PARTISAN BOARDS:
This Committee submitted its report with their recommendations – only the question of the NFMU remains to be resolved.

We are still awaiting the implementation of their recommendations.

CONSTITUTION REFORM:
Establishment of the seven new Standing Committees of the National Assembly.

The negotiations with the PPP/C for the appointment of the 7(seven) new Standing Committees of the National Assembly have been taken to the point where, although all ministers are collectively responsible for the policies of the government, the PPP/C is insisting that Ministers should be members of Four(Natural Resources, Economic Services, Foreign Relations and Social Services)Sector Committees (which will be responsible for the scrutiny of all areas of government policy and administration). This will render the Constitutionally enshrined Principle of Collective Responsibility meaningless and fly in the face of transparency. The Opposition finds this wholly unacceptable!

The Opposition submitted draft proposals for the Distribution of Ministerial Responsibilities to the four Sector Committees since 2001 November 09. To date the government has not responded.

The Opposition has pointed out that, given the purpose for which the Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC) is being established, there should be parity (5:5) of representation between the two sides of the National Assembly. The PPP/C has rejected this.

There has been agreement however on:

• The Terms of Reference for the 4(four) Sector Committees;
• The text of the Motion for the establishment of the Parliamentary Management Committee;
• The government having a majority of 6:5 on all of the new standing committees except the PMC;
• The rotation of the Chairmanship of the Committees;
• Ministers not Chairing the Committees;

Establishment of the Ethnic Relations Commission:

Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Act No. 11 of 2000, for the establishment of the Ethnic Relations Commission was assented to on 2000 August 11.
The Clerk of the National Assembly should have sent letters to the prescribed organisations to submit their nominees for membership of the Commission since 2000 November. This has not yet been done!

GOVERNANCE
The PPP/C record on Governance has been abysmal and can be summed up in one word as a – Failure! Not only have we witnessed the violation of a commitment to a lean and effective government structure but have been privy to the consequences of abuse of power through the system of patronage over competence and good governance.
The PPP/C has unashamedly bloated the ministerial portfolios from eleven (11) in 1992 to a scurrilous eighteen (18) and now has the audacity to seek funding for the restructuring of the public service when they had the opportunity to continue the implementation of an already reformed public service started in 1991. They have consistently undermined the reformed structure of 1991 to total ineptness and pushed our country to the brink of collapse, and this is characterized by:

• A spiraling crime rate and pervasive lawlessness.
• A weakening judicial system.
• A collapsing educational system bereft of sound policies , a planning system and management and being further exacerbated by teachers fleeing the intolerable conditions under which they are meant to work..
• An estranged relationship between the Government and the public service union.
• A health system that is neglected, corrupt and torpid.
• An inability to arrest the carnage on our roads, and, let me pause here to extend once again our sincere condolences to the surviving relatives of the six persons who died on the Linden Highway on Tuesday March 5. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy.
• A weakening of our foreign relations as evidenced by recent encounters withf our Surinamese counterparts and the handling of the election of the head of IICA,
• A diseased system of land and house lot distribution which, despite claims to the contrary, is dogged by claims of political discrimination, corruption and incompetence.
• Mysterious fires stalking various Ministries and Government agencies whenever there is an audit;
• The increasing number of persons who are committing suicide, are homeless, jobless and of unsound mind.

THE ECONOMY

One after the other, the important sectors of our economy are collapsing and disintegrating be it rice, sugar, bauxite and even non-traditional crops.

The excuses of El Nino and La Nina or depressed world prices and recession in the international economy have been overworked. The depressed conditions which we face are the result of the ambivalence, incompetence and corruption of the PPP/C regime. No amount of spin doctoring, can conceal the severe depression which has descended on the economy and nation.

The phantom 1.9% growth in 2001 is still a hot topic of discussion at every social event in the country, and among economists and analysts. The average housewife will tell a frightening but true story of being ground into the dust by increasing prices and inadequate incomes. Farmers and businessmen have felt the pain of reduced demand and generally depressed conditions. Yet the government claims that the economy grew by 1.9% in 2001.

Who then is the regime attempting to hoodwink with this "three card trick".

As proof positive that something is wrong in the Ministry of Finance, is the fact that the Budget presentation has been once again delayed. The date for the unveiling of the budget has been rescheduled time and time again.

The PNCR is reliably informed that the International Financial Institutions are literally choking on the bile that the PPP/C is feeding them about transparency and accountability. The apparent symbiotic relationship between themselves and the PPP/C appears fractured as the release of vitally needed funds to finance the 2002 budget is being withheld until fiscal discipline and probity can be assured.

The cries of anguish of the Guyanese people we hope have been heard and trust that this is the beginning of a process that will finally lead the way towards public accountability and the reduction of the open and pervasive corruption.

The undeniable effect of this state of affairs is that Guyana is being rapidly gaining the accolade of a “failed state”.

THE GHRA REPORT ON POLICE KILLINGS

The PNCR has noted with interest the recently released report on police killings. Whilst still in the process of examining the report in its entirety, we are prepared to say that the findings support our long and lonely cry for an independent Commission of Enquiry into the workings of the Police Force.

A motion submitted to the National Assembly by PNC/R Members of Parliament in 2001 seeking a unanimous call for a review of policing in Guyana has never been placed on the Order Paper. The PNC/R believes that it will be in the best interest of all Guyanese if this review were to take place as the killing of persons of any race or economic circumstance should be a matter of concern to Government and citizen alike.

THE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS

The PNC's call for the resignation of Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, following the recent jailbreak has been vindicated by the disclosure that he has singularly failed to implement the major recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry into the previous break-out. Mr Peter Willems, the Chairman of that Commission, was quite blunt in saying that the critical recommendations had been ignored. .Mr. Gajraj has now been exposed as being far from honest with the Guyanese public.

It is a damning indictment of the Minister whose inaction has now resulted in a lost life, a seriously injured Prison officer and a band of vicious criminals being let loose in the community.

We can be forgiven for assuming that the convening of another Commission of Inquiry is just another exercise in window dressing to assuage public concern.

Furthermore, the Minister's behaviour since the most recent escape has done little to reassure the public and engender confidence. He has adopted a strange silence. Rather, he seems preoccupied with his own security and now moves around in the manner of a visiting head of State replete with police outriders and a security detail.

The confused inaction being displayed by the Minister is symptomatic of the PPP/C regime. Mr. Gajraj is guilty of an inexcusable dereliction of duty and should resign!


PNC Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
March 7th, 2002