PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday July 24, 2003 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia



Summary

o The PNCR reminds all Guyanese that it is important that we respond to the DISCIPLINED FORCES Commission’s requests for information on the various aspects of its work be it by constructive criticism, praise, or suggestions and recommendations
o The PNCR expects the draft legislation on broadcasting and the national Broadcast Authority to faithfully honour the recommendations contained in the report of the Hoyte/Jagdeo broadcast committee
o The State-owned media continue to operate as the mouthpieces of the ruling party and are largely reluctant to accept attempts by the PNCR to gain access to this publicly-owned resource
o The PNCR is of the view that transparency in, integrity of, fairness and pubic confidence in the procurement process will not be achieved without an independent oversight authority and review process.
o Nanda Gopaul has entered the political fray against the GPSU, another instance of politicization of the public service.

GUYANA POLICE FORCE ANNIVERSARY:

The PNCR extends congratulations to the Guyana Police Force on its recently observed anniversary of 164 years of service to the people of Guyana. The observance of this anniversary comes at a time when the performance of the Police Force is under scrutiny as it has drawn both praise and criticism for its work. The Guyana Police Force has always been an important institution in the architecture of the state of Guyana and the PNCR considers it vital that it continues to discharge its mandate in a professional and acceptable manner. Many ranks have lost their lives in the struggle to maintain law and order, and, as has been pointed out by others, their deaths must NOT BE IN VAIN. Justice, honour and service to the people must continue to be the defining hallmarks of the force as it passes through the process of transformation and modernization.

THE DISCIPLINED FORCES COMMISSION:

The PNCR is delighted that Commissioner Ms. Maggie Beirne has arrived in Guyana to strengthen the ranks of the other Commissioners. Her arrival was due in large part to the dedicated attention given to this matter by the Commonwealth Secretariat and NGOs as friends of Guyana. We are very grateful for the assistance given that permitted Ms. Beirne to surmount the unnecessary and unhelpful obstacles erected in her path. We wish to publicly express our SINCERE THANKS TO THE COMMONWEALTH SECETARY GENERAL AND THE NGO’S IN THE UK for the sterling services which these agencies have rendered to Guyana.
We take this opportunity to remind all Guyanese that it is important that they respond to the Commission’s requests for information on the various aspects of its work. Constructive criticism, praise, suggestions and recommendations are what we hope will characterize the hearings with the result being Disciplined Forces that can perform the task of guaranteeing the safety and security of all Guyanese and our beloved Republic. The Party will continue to sensitize its members, and the public, as regards the Commission’s work with a view to ensuring maximum participation.

BROADCASTING AND GOOD FAITH ISSUE:

The PNCR would like to take this opportunity to update the nation on the status of implementation of agreements on broadcasting issues. The Leader of the Opposition and the President agreed in the joint Communiqué of 6 May 2003 that:

a) The draft broadcasting legislation, which will include provisions for the creation of a National Broadcasting Authority, would be ready for consultation within two (2) months and be laid in the National Assembly within four (4) months from 1st May 2003.
b) Equitable access (based on Parliamentary representation) to the state-owned media by all Parliamentary Parties (as distinct from government) would be instituted without undue delay.

Draft broadcast legislation:
The Communiqué obligates the government to have ready draft broadcast legislation, on or before 7 July 2003, for public discussion and consultation. The government has notified the PNCR that it needs a further 2-3 weeks to accomplish this task. The PNCR has therefore requested that the ACB be immediately reconstituted as the 4-month time frame for the establishment of the broadcast authority is unlikely to be achieved.

The PNCR expects the draft legislation to faithfully honour the recommendations contained in the report of the Hoyte/Jagdeo broadcast committee. In fact, it should be remembered that the broadcast committee took pains to lay down drafting guidelines in its report to facilitate the early emergence of the legislation.

The public should be reminded of some of those drafting guidelines, especially those that concern the establishment, functions and powers of the National Broadcasting Authority (NBA). The report stated among other things that:

The NBA must be independent and autonomous within the framework of the constitution, true to the spirit and letter of its establishing legislation, answerable only to the National Assembly and must serve the public interest and the national good. The authority should have powers to:

 issue guidelines, standards and regulations under the broadcasting act and to encourage broadcasting of the highest possible quality;
 formulate the terms and conditions for issuing licences for radio, television or any other new broadcast technologies;
 investigate complaints as well as initiate investigations into alleged broadcasting violations;
 institute a hierarchy of penalties and sanctions for violations of broadcasting law and standards;
 recommend to the National Assembly through the relevant Minister new legislation or changes to existing broadcast legislation in light of new developments in technologies, public policy, international practices, etc

In the granting of licenses and in the setting of conditions, the authority shall ensure that:

 Licensees be given a sense of security and continuity and encouraged to invest in their operations by granting licenses between 5 to 7 years.
 It imposes no undue financial, administrative or technical burden on licensees.
 All broadcasters make provisions for a person’s right of reply.

Equitable access to the State media by parliamentary parties:
There has been no movement on this front. The State-owned media continue to operate as the mouthpieces of the ruling party and are largely reluctant to accept attempts by the PNCR to gain access to this publicly-owned resource. This attitude on the part of the governing party flies in the face of the recommendations of the broadcast committee, which were adopted in full by Messers Hoyte and Jagdeo in January 2002, and reaffirmed in the joint communiqué of 6 May 2003. What are some of these recommendations?

The broadcast committee agreed that State-owned media should, in line with their public-service function:

 Facilitate, during election season, access of political parties and candidates to the State media, based on objective and fair criteria governing allocation methods, airing times, and qualification thresholds as established by the broadcast authority on advice from the Guyana Election Commission.
 Provide news and current affairs coverage of the views, statements, activities and policies of political parties in a manner that is impartial, balanced and accurate, thereby allowing the public to make informed political choices.
 Facilitate political parties and candidates in their right of reply.

In addition, the parties endorsed the committee’s recommendation that, while the state media have a special role to play in national development, the monopoly of State radio should be removed and the radio spectrum be opened to other licensees where technically and otherwise possible.

The PNCR justifiably expects that all of these provisions will be genuinely captured in the draft broadcast legislation. Any dilution or distortion of the spirit and letter of the report of the broadcast committee will have to be treated as another example of the deliberate attempts by PPP/C to run away from its obligations under the communiqué.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT:

Prior to the signing of the Communiqué, PNCR Leader, Mr. R.H.O. Corbin, M.P. and President Bharrat Jagdeo discussed the need for the transparent and efficient conduct of public procurement of goods and services by the State. Against this background they agreed that every effort should be made to expedite the early appointment of the Public Procurement Commission since its effective functioning will have a beneficial effect on the efficacy and control of expenditure management for the state.

To ensure the expeditious establishment of the Commission they agreed that both Parties would submit their list of persons who are eligible and qualified to the Public Accounts Committee for nomination by Friday 2003 May 16. These persons are required by the Constitution to have expertise and experience in procurement, legal, financial and administrative matters. Their final selection must therefore be based on the strict criteria of high integrity, competence and expertise.

The PNCR and the PPP/C submitted the names of their respective five nominees on June 4, 2003, to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee was then expected to objectively assess all the nominees to ensure the persons with the highest integrity; greatest expertise and competence are identified for appointment by the President. However, the PPPC in total breach of the spirit of the Constitution and the Communiqué proposed a formula that provides for that Party to name three Commissioners and the PNCR two.

The PNCR has rejected this suggestion on grounds of principle. The Public Procurement Commission is not a representative Commission but rather is a body of experts of the highest integrity who are independent of political influences. The PPP/C formula provides for party loyalist to sit on the Commission to protect party interest, not to fulfill the constitutionally mandated function of safeguarding the national interest in public procurement.

The PNCR is of the view that transparency, integrity, fairness and pubic confidence in the procurement process will not be achieved without an independent oversight authority and review process. In this regard the Public Procurement Commission must be independent and free of political influences. The PPP/C’s proposal for the politicization of the Public Procurement Commission is therefore most counter productive and frustrates all the accepted and stated objectives of procurement reform in Guyana.

The PNCR has proposed an objective evaluation mechanism to the Public Accounts Committee. However, it is apparent that the PPP/C has no intention of allowing the PAC to move forward if it does not get its way to politicize the PPC. To date the PAC has been unable to properly consider the identification of the members of the PPC because of PPP/C filibustering.

The PPP/C determination to ensure that the procurement process is not transparent and fair was revealed by their introduction of the Procurement Act 2003. The Act provides for total Ministerial control of the process and sweeping discretionary powers of Government agencies to reject any tender award and to determine which tenderer must be awarded without explanation.

After not being allowed to control and politicize the PPC the PPP/C proceeded to emasculate the Commission via the Procurement Act 2003. The Act not only created a National Board that is empowered with the constitutional functions of the PPC but also provides for the Government to control the PPC’s review process by appointing the members of the review panel. Now that it has assumed unto itself the powers of the Public Procurement Commission there is clearly no incentive for the Government to proceed diligently with the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission.

The PNCR views the Government’s attempt to dominate the public procurement process as a fundamental breach of the spirit of the Communiqué which has the potential of undermining public confidence in the Constructive Engagement Process. Without public confidence the Constructive Engagement Process will fail to imbue a national sentiment of the existence of genuine inclusiveness and democracy. This no doubt can act as the catalyst for further mistrust and disintegration.

The PNCR therefore calls on the PPP/C Government to act expeditiously to restore public confidence in the procurement process and the Constructive Engagement. The Government must without delay:

1. Allow the objective assessment of the nominees to the Public Procurement Commission so that an independent Commission can be urgently established.
2. Commence genuine national consultation on the Procurement Act 2003 through the constitutionally positioned Public Procurement Commission or the Economic Services Sector Committee with a view to making the necessary amendments.

POLITICIZATION OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE CONTINUES:

The Guyana Public Service Union, in response to the outcome of the motion of the National Assembly, with regards to the bodies to be consulted by the National Assembly on its nominees for the Public Service Commission, issued a statement in which it rebuked the PPP/C for its stance during the debate. One would have assumed that that matter was political and parliamentary. However, the Public Service Ministry in the person of Nanda Gopaul entered the fray to put to right the GPSU. This is yet another instance of the Public Service and the resources of the State being put at the disposal of PPP/C’s partisan political interest.

President Jagdeo had previously agreed that Mr. Gopaul and Mr. Hydar Ally would be asked to behave as professionals and to stop putting their feet in their mouths. But alas, the PNC/R would once again have to engage the PPP/C in the PNCR`s attempt to retain professionalism in the Public Service and to eradicate its politicization which has become the order of the day under the PPP/C. In this context the PNCR expects the early conclusion of discussions on the outstanding issues in the Communiqué. These include the politicization of the public service and inclusive governance, an item placed on the agenda by President Jagdeo.

THE BUXTON PROJECT:

The PNCR congratulates the participants of the Buxton Community Poultry Project for their determination in ensuring its success. The participants in the pilot project began harvesting their second batch of chickens today. The remaining members will market their birds during the next three days. The success of this project has inspired other youth on the East Coast and a new project will be launched shortly in the village of Anns Grove. We salute these young people demonstrating that all they need is an opportunity to contribute to their self development and that of the nation.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday July 24, 2003