PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. Robert Corbin, MP, Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform To the Media on Friday March 15th, 2002

Today the PNCR parliamentary group withdrew from further participation in the business of today’s sitting of the National Assembly to register its total disgust at the failure of the PPP/C Government to honour its responsibility for good governance, their refusal to implement agreed constitutional changes, their refusal to implement many decisions made during the process of dialogue and the clear intention of the Government to subvert the functioning of the Parliament in accordance with the Guyana Constitution.

The PNCR has remained fully committed to the principles of good governance. Therefore, on behalf of the people of Guyana, we have been striving to ensure that transparency, equity, fairness, probity, and all those internationally accepted norms which define good governance, become the norm in Guyana. The People of Guyana, as is their right, deserve and demand nothing less!

It is evident that Freedom House and its representatives in Government perceive themselves as being above the law of our land! This is indeed a frightening and threatening perception, since the PPP/C regime does not appear to have accepted that it must govern for all of the people at all times! Mendacious propaganda cannot fool the Guyanese people. The pain that they have continued to suffer since October 1992 has driven the nation into a state of despair. The people can only see a future of continuing pain, suffering and turmoil while the ruling clique and their corrupt cronies enrich themselves through plundering the resources of the State – the resources of all the People of Guyana! Instead of the promised lean and mean administration, the Guyanese people have seen the growth of a fat and greedy administration!

The implementation of the constitutional amendment for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission must not be deferred any longer. However, the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission is not sufficient, it must be supported by the long awaited and urgent reform of the underlying public procurement systems, procedures and mechanisms.

The PPP/C, at the levels of Freedom House and the Government, seem to be insensitive and oblivious to their responsibilities to the Nation. Incompetence, ignorance and the all pervasive run-away corruption alone cannot explain the apparent contemptuous manner with which the PPP/C regime has treated with the rule of law and national institutions such as the National Assembly. This is amply illustrated by the high-handed and cavalier manner in which the National Assembly has been summoned for this presentation and debate of the 2002 National Budget. The National Assembly cannot continue to be used at the whim and convenience of the Government! The Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC), which was prescribed as an urgent measure by the St Lucia Statement (1998 July 04), must be immediately constituted and made to function effectively. Given the nature and purpose for the PMC, the Opposition cannot compromise on the requirement that there should be parity of representation (5:5) for the Government and the Opposition!

It is intolerable that the strengthening of the National Assembly, to ensure that it functions as the effective watchdog of the People, is being deliberately frustrated. The entrenchment of a democratic culture in Guyana requires that the National Assembly be free from manipulation and domination by the Executive. Opposition questions and motions - such as the motion calling for an immediate Public Enquiry into the working of the Guyana Police Force, including the infamous Black Clothes Police and the large number of extra-judicial killings by the Police - continue to be kept off of the Order Paper of the National Assembly. The nation can no longer allow the present anti-democratic arrangements to continue!

Promises, agreements and commitments are capriciously disregarded and conveniently forgotten by the PPP/C regime. This attitude and modus operandi have not created, and cannot create, the needed environment of trust and trustworthiness which are necessary conditions for continued co-operation for peace and development.

The patience of the PNCR is exhausted! The PNCR and the rest of the Opposition have continuously taken the initiative and have compromised to achieve positive results for the nation. We have come to the end of the road! There can be no further compromise for the appointment of the long overdue (since 2000 December) Ethnic
Relations Commission and the seven(7) new Standing Committees of the National Assembly – the PMG, the 4 Sector Committees to be responsible for “…. the scrutiny of all areas of Government policy and administration including: Natural Resources, Economic Services, Foreign Relations and Social Services …. “, the Committee for the Appointment of Members of Commissions and the Committee for on-going Constitutional Reform.

The Opposition insists that, in accordance with the constitutionally enshrined principle of Collective Responsibility, Ministers of the Government should not be members of the 4 Sector Committees.

We demand that the government take credible steps immediately to implement all outstanding constitutional and parliamentary reforms. The imperative of constitution reform must be kept on the front burner of measures which are critical for the reform and modernisation of the State.

Shortly after the commencement of the Dialogue, between President Jagdeo and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr H. Desmond Hoyte, it was agreed (2001, mid-May) that Joint Committees would be established to deal with the following:

1. Local Government Reform;
2. Border and National Security Issues, including Re-capitalisation of the Guyana Defence Force;
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 results of the dialogue process have been disappointing, particularly since the Government has failed to implement most of the decisions made. 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 resulted in a delay in the selection of an expert. As a consequence, it is uncertain whether the Committee can complete its Report and Recommendations within the original time-frame.

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. The Minister of Foreign Affairs must initiate action to implement some of the critical security 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.

You may recall that, in accordance with the decision of the National Assembly, the Government was required to submit a State Paper on the Distribution of Land and House-Lots 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.

Though President Jagdeo promised the Leader of the Opposition that that State Paper would be submitted to the National Assembly by 2002 end-February, this has not yet happened!

Bauxite Industry and Communities Resuscitation:

You are all aware of 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. Since then, the President and the Leader of the Opposition have reaffirmed the role of the Committee which has been charged with the responsibility of supervising a three person negotiating team – two members of which would be nominated by the President and one member by the Leader of the Opposition. – to undertake negotiations with Cambior/ Omai for Linmine. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr H. Desmond Hoyte, has submitted the name of his nominee to the President and awaits his notification of the two names he has nominated.

Depressed Community Needs:

The difficulties encountered by this Committee are a matter of public record. The people of De Kinderen are still awaiting the supply of electricity which they identified as their priority need. You may recall that the Prime Minister is on record as having instructed GPL to connect that community by 2001 December.

Radio Monopoly and Non Partisan Boards:

This Committee submitted its report with their recommendations – only the question of the NFMU remains to be resolved.

No action has been by the Government taken to implement their recommendations.

Appointment of PNC/R Nominees to State Boards, Commissions and Committees:

The Joint Statement, dated 2001 August 30, by President Jagdeo and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. H. Desmond Hoyte, required Dr Roger Luncheon and Mr. E Lance Carberry to agree the modalities, for giving effect to the agreed guiding principles, dated 1998 December 08, for the appointment of PNC/R nominees to State Boards, Commissions and Committees.

At the meeting, held on Wednesday 2001 September 26, it was agreed that:
• The PNCR would submit 1 (one) nominee for each entity;
• No individual would be nominated to more than 2 (two) entities;
• The first batch of nominees would be for those entities which became due for appointment on 2001 September 30. Thereafter, nominee would be submitted for entities which became due for appointments on 2001 October 31, 2001 November 30 and 2001 December 31.
• For the above entities the stipulated 3 (three) month notification to the PNC/R (prior to the date of expiration of the Boards or Commissions or Committees would be waived, but would apply for appointments to all State Boards, Commissions and Committees in 2002 and beyond.
• Dr Luncheon would provide the PNCR with a complete list of all State Boards, Commissions and Committees and indicate thereon:
 Those entities for which statutory or privatisation stipulations prevent the appointment of PNCR nominees.
 The re-appointment dates for each of the State Boards, Commissions and Committees.
• The General Secretary of the PNCR would submit the list of PNCR nominees to all State Boards or Commissions or Committees.

After several meetings, exchanges of letters, various submissions of information and reminders

Dr Luncheon has failed to provide the PNC/R with:
• A complete and verified list of all State Boards, Commissions and Committees.
• A list of the entities for which appointments would need to be made by 2002 January 31 and thereafter.
According to informal information available to the PNC Reform, there are 134 State Boards, Commissions and Committees. Of this number, the PNCR was requested to submit nominees for only 63 entities. Regrettably, only 51 of the 63 were listed by Dr. Luncheon for appointment. To date all PNC/R nominees have not received official notification of their appointment.

On the basis of all that I have outlined, there can no longer be business as usual! The PNCR will continue to honour its obligations to the people and will expose, for the benefit of the nation, the catastrophe which is now disguised as the 2002 National Budget.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
March 15th, .2002