PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, November 13, 2003 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

 The PNCR believe that the only way forward is for Guyanese to live and work together in harmony eschewing racial and ethnic conflict and working for the economic prosperity of Guyana.

 The Party believes that GECOM’s stated intention to move to continuous registration (for which the current database is totally incompatible) provides an additional rationale to dump the current database and embark on a new national registration process in time for the 2006 election.

 The PNCR wishes to congratulate the many graduates who received degrees and diplomas at the recent convocation of the University of Guyana.

 The PNCR wishes to express its condolences to the relatives and friends of Mr. Eustace Small who died during a police shoot out in Stanleytown.

THE CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT AND THE LEADER OF THE PNCR:

On Tuesday last, I wrote to President Jagdeo giving my assessment of the present status of the constructive engagement, in the hope that some special effort would be made by his administration to salvage, if at all possible, the last remnants of public confidence in the process, and avoid the continuous decline towards the state of anarchy in Guyana. The Communiqué is however a matter of national interest and The PNCR has a responsibility to keep the nation informed of developments.

Following my address to the Nation on August 17, 2003 and subsequent meetings with the President, it was public knowledge that serious doubts existed over whether the delays being encountered in the implementation of the May 6th Communiqué were not deliberately contrived to frustrate the process. Since then the difficulties in having the monitoring mechanism functioning in the manner envisaged and agreed in the Communiqué and the Follow-Up Agreement are well known to the Stake Holders. The agreed monitoring mechanism has been deliberately undermined by the actions of the President’s representatives and it is believed by many to have been sanctioned by the President himself. It is, therefore, evident that the monitoring mechanism has proved ineffective and must be reviewed.

At our last meeting of September 15, 2003, [an agreed Press Statement was released], it was agreed that the next meeting between the President and the Leader of the Opposition would have been held within two weeks of that date, i.e., on or around September 30, to discuss outstanding agenda items. Naturally, it was my hope, and that of the PNCR, that when the Leaders met again to discuss, inter alia, the important matter of Inclusive Governance, there would have been progress on the many matters of concern raised in my address to the Nation and those matters discussed at our meeting on September 15, 2003.

The meeting between the President and me is six weeks behind schedule and, irrespective of the reasons for our failure to meet, one would have expected that by now we would have been in a position to report to the nation that substantial progress has been made since the Communiqué was signed on May 6th 2003. Regrettably, any honest and objective assessment would reveal that this is not the case.

Many Guyanese and other stakeholders had very high expectations that the process of constructive engagement would have brought an end to certain problems and ushered in a new era of peace, progress and understanding. It is now one hundred and ninety one days since the signing of the communiqué and one hundred and forty seven days since the signing of the Follow Up Agreement. Yet, those expectations have not been realised.

For example, the Constitutional Service Commissions are still to be established; the appointment of a Commissioner of Police, due since consultation with my predecessor in April of 2002, is yet to be made; the agreed review of the procurement legislation has failed to produce any results, indeed the impression gained is that the agreement was a facade; the Public Procurement Commission has not been established; the Depressed Communities Needs Committee has not yet commenced work on three of the agreed second phase projects as Mrs. Philomena Sahoye, the Co-Chairman of that Committee, still claims that she has no instructions from the President; the modalities for operationalising the decision on equitable access to State media appears as elusive as a dream; and , the statements of Officials from Government and the PPP/C over the past weeks seem especially designed to provoke a response that could not be helpful to the process.

The above facts are indisputable. Consequently, the constructive engagement process has suffered and there has been a loss of confidence in the Leadership of this Nation. Propaganda exercises to inform the Nation of an impending meeting between the President and the Leader of the Opposition will not change the reality and Guyanese are too sophisticated to be taken in by such petty manoeuvres. Only real progress and a demonstrated will to act in good faith will restore confidence in the process. What is relevant is not whether the two leaders meet, but what the Leaders can honestly report to the nation on progress made after any such meeting. At this stage I would venture to say that there is not much to report.

I believe that whenever the President and I meet, we ought to be in a position to report that real progress has been made on all the matters that have so far engaged our attention. Our discussions on the all-important subject of Inclusive Governance would then be free from any constraints of unimplemented decisions.

I stated at the inception of the constructive engagement process that I was not interested in photo opportunities and at this time I am, unprepared to engage in any activity that amounts to a deception of the people of Guyana. It has not been easy for me, as Leader of a party whose supporters have suffered massive discrimination and victimization at the hands of this Government, to enter into this process. However, I turned my eyes from the experiences of my predecessor, cast aside my trepidations and entered into a process, which I though could only be in the interest of the Nation. I was fully aware of the pit-falls and jeopardizes but I had hoped that the PPP/C Government had learnt from past experiences and were prepared to work for the interest and benefit of all the people of Guyana.

The PNCR and I believe that the only way forward is for Guyanese to live and work together in harmony eschewing racial and ethnic conflict and working for the economic prosperity of Guyana. However, our own history has shown that wherever there is injustice there can never be peace. The Leaders of this country have a special responsibility to create the necessary conditions for harmony to exist. I believe that the PNCR has over the last year, in the face of public criticism and in some cases at the expense of popularity, done its part to put Guyana First but my Party cannot do it alone. The PNCR, however, has a responsibility to the people and must now review the entire situation. Consequently, the PNCR will from this weekend commence a series of meetings around Guyana to inform our members of the situation at hand and the options to be pursued.

It is difficult for me to accept that the President is unaware of the matters that I have referred to above. Indeed, if that were so, I would be even more concerned about the possible success of the process. While a detailed analysis of the facts will substantiate our position, what is more important, is the approach that ought to be taken to ensure progress and save Guyana. Consequently, in my letter to the President I attached a brief note on the status of some of the above matters in the hope that urgent solutions could be found. Among the matters dealt with in that note are,
1. Proposals to expedite the Constitution of the Service Commissions
2. The immediate appointment of a New Commissioner of Police
3. Expediting work on the projects agreed on by the Depressed Communities Needs Committee
4. Public procurement legislation & public procurement commission
5. Equitable access to state media
6. Parliamentary facilities
7. State media boards
8. Illegality in parliament
The note will be circulated for your information. I am sure you will agree that the resolution of these matters will enhance the prospects of any future meeting between the President and the Leader of the Opposition being taken seriously by the people of Guyana.
ADDRESSING PNCR’S CONCERNS ABOUT GECOM’S DATABASE:

The many problems which arose during the processes of preparation of the Voters List for both the 1997 and 2001 General and Regional Elections compel the PNCR to continue its critical examination of the process and to require the Guyana Elections Commission to take all necessary actions to ensure that the systems in place is able to generate the Electoral Roll can and will deliver a truly reliable and credible Voters List.

Any process which will result in the disenfranchisement of thousands of electors as was the case in both 1997 and 2001 will not be satisfactory and requires in-depth examination with a view to the application of the appropriate remedies.

In fairness to the GECOM it has shown a willingness to confront the problems so far identified by the PNCR. It is this willingness of GECOM to critically examine itself in the light of PNCR representation, which led PPP/C General Secretary Donald Ramotar to make critical comments about the cost associated with this exercise. Our only comment at this stage is to point out that a free, fair and transparent electoral process will continue to be a costly exercise.
In July this year, the party wrote GECOM to express its concerns over the reliability of the security safeguards of GECOM computer network (which is the system that stores and processes the voter registration database), and our resulting uneasiness over the quality and integrity of the very database itself.
As a background to the issue, we provide the following facts:
1. In May this year, at the invitation of GECOM, the PNCR attended along with other stakeholders the opening of the two GECOM databases that were used at the 2001 election and which were reportedly frozen after the IDEA audit of June 2001.
2. At the said opening, GECOM ran checks on the two databases (one housed in computers located at GECOM Headquarters, and the other at the UNDP office in Brickdam) to test their “integrity”. The results of these checks were made available to the PNCR and other stakeholders in the form of CDs.
3. The PNCR enlisted a team of its own experts to run independent checks on these results. From these independent checks, several abnormalities regarding the security and integrity of the database were revealed.
4. In a letter to GECOM, dated 15 July 2003, the party outlined these concerns. These concerns emanated from evidence that strongly suggested that (i) that attempts were made to gain unauthorized access to the GECOM database; (ii) that some attempts may have been successful; (iii) that the computer and administrative audit trail that could have been used to conclusively determine these issues was not created in the key areas and, where created, was partially deleted with no backup copies kept, in accordance with the known and standard practices in such highly sensitive operations; and (iv) serious security flaws existed in the system.
5. In response to the PNCR’s queries, GECOM, in early October, imported into the country a Database and IT Forensic expert to investigate the issues raised by us. It should be noted that the expert, Mr. Roy Vedove, had been a member of IDEA team that did an audit and systems review of the 2001 election process in Guyana.
6. Mr. Vedove reported that despite the various security holes and vulnerabilities (in both the electronic and physical and administrative aspects of the IT operations), he holds to the position that the GECOM database was not compromised. Indeed, he felt the country was “lucky” that this did not occur, given the inadequacy of security measures.
After careful study of Mr. Vedove’s report as well as the IDEA audit report of 2001, and in consultations with our own experts, the PNCR’s position on the continued use by GECOM of the 2001 database is as follows:
Given the highly porous nature of the electronic and physical security measures in place to protect the integrity of the voter registration database, and given the poor administrative practices in the IT department prior to and after the 2001 election (where, for example, computer logs were deleted without any backup copies being kept, and low-level personnel given unsupervised access to the computers), the party has no confidence in the integrity of the current database and demands that GECOM scraps it entirely and immediately.
In addition, GECOM must move urgently to implement the recommendations in the IDEA report on tightening the security of its IT operations.
The party believes that GECOM’s stated intention to move to continuous registration (for which the current database is totally incompatible) provides an additional rationale to dump the current database and embark on a new national registration process in time for the 2006 election.
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE UG GRADUATES:
The PNCR wishes to congratulate the many graduates who received degrees and diplomas at the recent convocation of the University of Guyana. We wish in particular to note the fact that many graduates achieved their success in very difficult circumstances and their success is a tribute to their discipline, hard work and perseverance. We also wish to commend the work of the staff of the university who have had to endure trying times to achieve the results for which all of Guyana can take pride. It is unfortunate that the state of the national economy and the low level of investment means that many of the recent graduates will find it difficult to secure jobs and opportunities commensurate with their new qualifications as a result of the poor policies of the government. Sadly, many of them will be forced to leave these shores to fulfill their dreams and ambitions.
While the PPP/C propaganda machine continues to churn out fibs about the Government and the progress it is supposedly making, a major institution, The University of Guyana, and so many others, continue to suffer from the neglect, ineptitude and the vindictive nature of the PPP/C Government.
The PPP/C raided the University for human resources and in the process removed Jeffery, Kowlessar, Baksh, Permaul, Warsili, Pooran, Ramdas, Bisnauth, Homenauth, and Rai among others to higher and more financially rewarding offices in Ministries and other agencies and then cried foul on the University accusing it of being packed with PNCites. It should be noted that without the so – called PNCites the University may have collapsed. It then packed the University Council with the likes of Nadan Gopaul as the farmers’ representative, Chandarpal as the women’s representative, Sukhai as the Amerindians’ representative, Ramsarran as a representative of the medical profession and most ridiculously Misir and Hydar Ally as nominees of a non - existent Chancellor. All of the afore-mentioned are PPP/C cronies masquerading as representatives of those diverse groups without the groups themselves having had a say in the identification of their representatives.
To add insult to injury, the University remains cash-strapped, as the Vice Chancellor reported at the recent Convocation, thanks to the PPP/Cs approach to funding the University. The consequential failure of the University to deliver the best of services is then blamed on its staff; rather than complimenting them for keeping the University open and subsidizing its existence with their labour.
Against that back-drop, the President in response to a group of concerned students tells them that there is little he can do for them in the face of PNCR dominance at the University. However, when invited, as patron of the University’s 40th anniversary celebrations, to present medals to employees for distinguished service he keeps the audience guessing and waiting for one hour after the appointed starting time, never turned up nor did he send a representative or an excuse. To put the icing on the cake, he failed once again to put in an appearance at the University’s Convocation even though his security detail was very much present.
The highest institution of learning passes for naught in the President’s estimation of things in Guyana as he and his Government pursues a course of deceit and mismanagement in the administration of the affairs of the State.
CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY OF EUSTACE SMALL:
The PNCR wishes to express its condolences to the relatives and friends of Mr. Eustace Small who died during a police shoot out in Stanleytown. We are saddened by this needless loss of life. This incident only serves to amplify our calls for the reform of the Guyana Police Force and its operations. This incident is a reflection of the poor training and operational methods of the force. The time for reform is now.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, November 13, 2003