PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, November 27, 2003 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR wishes to join with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Guyana and around the world to celebrate this time of Eid-Ul-Fitr.
• The PNCR’s call for new national registration in time for 2006 is based on its assessment of the critical factors in GECOM’s operations.
• The PNCR extends its best wishes to the interim management committee and urges them to put their shoulders to the wheel in the interest of good governance and development in Linden.
• The PNCR calls on the PPP/C to come clean on the question of the electoral system for local government elections.
• The PNCR call on the government to demonstrate its clean hands and its seriousness by addressing the matter of the JFK drug bust as urgently and fiercely.
• The PNCR also calls on the Acting Director of Prisons, Mr. Tahal to immediately launch an investigation into allegations that both Baijnauth and Alonzo have on numerous occasions been allowed to leave the Georgetown Prisons at nights escorted by members of the Guyana Police Force and/or members of the Guyana Prison Service.
EID GREETINGS:
The PNCR wishes to join with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Guyana and around the world to celebrate this time of Eid-Ul-Fitr. For Muslims, the appearance of the crescent moon indicated the end of a month of sacrifice, struggle, prayer and purification of the heart. The discipline and faithfulness exhibited by so many valuable members of our nation provides a rich example for each of us to follow as we embrace each other and begin to face the challenges of creating a country where every individual irrespective of race, religion or creed is given an equal opportunity to realize his or her full potential.
CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT:

The recent outpouring of propaganda by the PPP/Civic in response to our party’s comments and our stated position highlights fundamental differences in our vision and our attitude to the future of Guyana. In a nutshell, the PPP/C believes or pretends to believe that everything in Guyana is fine, the economy was never better, and the Constructive Engagement is in fine shape. The PNCR’s position is that Guyana is a country with deep underlying problems and facing many pitfalls. Business as usual is in our view not an option. Indeed, it is a dangerous and perilous course. We believe that underlying our security, economic and social problems is a deep-seated crisis of governance and Constructive Engagement and any prior or new process must not only address these issues but must do so to the satisfaction of citizens on all sides of the political table and of our economic and development partners. For example, the reform of parliament is not meant to be a cosmetic exercise to generate the appearance of political normalcy, they are meant to return transparency and effectiveness to the parliamentary process without which democracy in any meaningful sense of the word will not flourish. It cannot be satisfactory for the reform of parliament to be itself haphazard and for parliamentary business to be mired in successive bouts of disarray. The purpose of discussions and agreements on the reform of the management of the media is not to generate a semblance of an agreement whilst the government continues to misuse the state media and harass the employees of the state corporations. An agreement on the nature of the government procurement process is not a cosmetic exercise intended to deceive the donor community but must address a deep seated and dangerous sense of insecurity in a large sector of our business and professional community. We believe that Guyana is in need of a strong dose of clean, effective, consensual and inclusive governance if our social and economic problems are to be successfully tackled. We repeat our view that the nation itself must decide if that is being achieved at the present time.

THE PROBLEMS OF GECOM OPERATIONS:

The PNCR will not be daunted, nor will offer any apologies, in its quest for the institution in Guyana of an electoral process of high integrity, one that is professionally-managed in all aspects, which can win the confidence of all stakeholders. The party is convinced that it would be an act of negligence to accept the position (as articulated in the Stabroek News editorial of Monday, November 17th) that the problems that beset GECOM can be casually waved away as an acceptable level of error, which should give no cause for concern or complaint.

The PNCR’s call for new national registration in time for 2006 is based on its assessment of two critical factors in GECOM’s operations: (i) the poor standard of physical and electronic security measures installed to protect the computer network at GECOM -- which is the system that stores and processes the voters database; and (ii) the vulnerability of the this database to previous and potential tampering in an environment of fragile security.

The evidence on the first issue is irrefutable. Since 2001, the IDEA audit team expressed alarm over, and pinpointed several areas of vulnerability in GECOM’s IT operations. This information has since been in the public domain. The IDEA audit report can even be read on the Internet. There is no indication that GECOM has moved urgently enough to eliminate the critical flaws in the system. The security risks to the system remain high. In the PNCR’s own assessment of the situation, strong indications exist to suggest that the security vulnerabilities may have been exploited for malicious purposes. We therefore have been forced to call for the scrapping of the present database. Simultaneously, we are calling on GECOM to urgently implement the IDEA recommendations on tightening security in GECOM’s IT department.

The PNCR is confident that GECOM is capable of emulating its counterpart organisation in Jamaica (a country with similarly sharp political divisions as ours) in raising the standard of management of the electoral process to a point where stakeholders can have ample confidence in the process. We support the move to continuous registration, incorporating cross-matching of fingerprints, as one important step towards building a more robust system.

In the meantime, we urge Guyanese to ignore those who believe that the country must tolerate the substandard and is incapable of producing an election management system of the highest quality. The PNCR is ready to give GECOM its full support in proving these naysayers wrong.

As for President Jagdeo’s assertion that a new order voters list will delay local government elections, let the registration begin without delay, then and only then will we be in a position to make sensible statements about the scheduling of local government elections. If President Jagdeo seriously wants the holding of local government elections, then the PPP/C should stop pussy footing about the electoral system which is the only know impediment to the commencement of the preparation for local government elections.




THE LINDEN INTERIM MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE:

Good sense has prevailed and an interim committee representing the participant parties in the 1994 municipal elections in Linden has been identified. The principle of proportionality has informed it composition. The PNCR extends its best wishes to the new body and urges them to put their shoulders to the wheel in the interest of good governance and development in Linden. We hope that the matured approach of the PNCR to the realities of Linden will usher in an era matured and people centered politics, which is so badly needed in today’s Guyana.

POSTPONEMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS:

The Government has once again found it necessary to propose to the National Assembly the postponement of local government elections. This comes in the wake of the PNCR Leader’s pronouncements on the Constructive Engagements of the dismal record of implementation of the decisions taken at the level of the Engagement. It took the PPP/C almost 14 months to respond to the PNCR`s proposals on these elections. At the PNCR`s insistence the Local Government Reform Committee was reconvened, however the foot dragging has continued and the conclusion to its work is not in sight thus necessitating once again the postponement of the elections. However Jagdeo in usual PPP propagandistic style goes on the attack seeking to hoodwink the Guyanese people into believing that the PNCR`s call for a new voters list is the reason for the delay. The PNCR calls on the PPP/C to come clean on the question of the electoral system for local government elections. Is does not make sense to tell the Nation that Guyana has the most advanced Constitution in CARICOM if that Constitution remains on paper and is in effectual. That is presently the case with the local government aspects of the Constitution pertaining to local government.

THE REPUTATION OF GUYANA IS BEING DEFILED EVEN FURTHER:

With the news of the recent JFK drug bust hitting the headlines of the world media, the name of our country has once again been defiled, as Guyana is being cast as a major transshipment and production center in the international narcotics trade. The matter has long reached crisis proportions. Who can doubt that on a regular basis, planes and ships that leave these shores carry more than their authorized list of cargo. Moreover, Guyana has become the target of intensed scrutiny by the drug enforcement agencies in Europe and North America. The government seems to be treating the matter very casually – as if they are unaware that the narcotics trade could not ruin the country’s social fabric and damage our international relations. The PNCR has also taken note of reports that suggest that “high officials” are facilitating this state of affairs. We call on the government to demonstrate its clean hands and its seriousness by addressing the matter urgently and fiercely. Any action less than this will only serve to strengthen the impression that elements in the government have formed unholy alliances with the drug lords.

THE EVER SPIRALLING CRIME WAVE AND THE YOHANCE DOUGLAS MURDER ACCUSED SCANDAL:

Between Monday, November 17, 2003 and Tuesday, November 25, 2003 at least 8 Guyanese men have been murdered. While the skeletal remains of a young man believed to be 24 year old Andre Ettienna of Sophia, who was abducted in October, 2002 was discovered on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 on the empty plot of land opposite the Botanical Gardens.

The 8 murdered men are:-

1. Michael Dublin – 56 years of Buxton, East Coast Demerara.
2. Mark Cato – 40 years of Buxton
3. Trevor Jarvis – 40 years of Buxton
4. Dexter Henry – 22 years of Sophia
5. Ryan Lyken-Kingston – 27 years of North Ruimveldt
6. Michael Prass – 29 years of West Ruimveldt
7. Kwesi Williams – 21 years of Buxton, East Coast Demerara.
8. Trevor Mansonhing – 38 years of North Road.

Of these eight, 6 appear to have met deaths assassination style while Michael Prass was murdered when a gang of well armed pirates believed to be Venezuelans attacked a Guyanese trawler in the Waini River on Thursday, November 20, 2003.

The eighth person murdered was 27 year old RYAN LYKEN-KINGSTON, whose death, based on the accounts of eye witnesses, is yet another extra-judicial killing of a young Guyanese by a member of the Guyana Police Force. As is now customary, the Guyana Police Force has announced that an investigation into this shooting has been launched. The PNCR, because of previous bitter experience, believes little or nothing will come of it. We are however prepared to wait and see. Let it be known that our Party is determined to ensure that the perpetrator of this horrendous crime is brought to justice.

The case of 20 year old Clairmont Joseph of 24 Company Road, Buxton, who was arrested on Saturday, November 15, by the police for gambling at the Enmore market place and placed in the lock–up at Vigilance Police Station where he was held until being released into the custody of Sergeant Eon Smith, also called Gangster, last Tuesday, November 25 by Station Sergeant Parks and CID Corporal Kingston of the Vigilance police station.

He was then taken blindfolded to an unknown house, his blindfold removed and where he was brutally assaulted by three known Buxtonian men in the presence of Sergeant Eon Smith also called Gangster. Is this the GPF Phantom connection? The PNCR will be pursuing this matter relentlessly.

I turn now to the Yohance Douglas murder accused boutique-browsing scandal. The horror of the savage gunning down of 18 year old University of Guyana student, Yohance Douglas by members of the Guyana Police Force on Saturday, March 1, 2003 is still fresh in the minds of all Guyanese. All Guyanese will also remember that it was only after an unprecedented wave of public outcry by the University of Guyana Student Society, the PNCR, the Guyana Human Rights Association, the African Cultural Development Association and several other organizations, both local and international together with massive demonstrations, that Constable Mahendra Baijnauth and Gerald Alonzo were charged with this heinous murder 28 days after it happened. As is the case with persons charged with the capitol offence, bail for the two accused were refused.

For several months there have been rumors that both Baijnauth and Alonzo are given special treatment in the Georgetown Prison and more alarmingly have been allowed to leave the Georgetown Prison on countless occasions to visit families and friends.

Within the last 36 hours, a shocked and enraged Guyanese public has been presented with indisputable evidence that Constables Baijnauth and Alonzo were boutique-browsing and shopping on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 after their most recent court appearance. The PNCR condemns in the strongest possible way this unprecedented display of lawlessness and utter contempt shown by members of the Guyana Police Force.

We expect that the probe launched by the acting Commissioner of Police will not only lead to the dismissal of the Policemen who escorted Baijnauth and Alonzo on their shopping escapade, but more importantly will lead to dismissals and/or resignations by the more senior officers who must have given their active or tacit support to this reprehensible incident.

The PNCR also calls on the Acting Director of Prisons, Mr. Tahal to immediately launch an investigation into allegations that both Baijnauth and Alonzo have on numerous occasions been allowed to leave the Georgetown Prisons at nights escorted by members of the Guyana Police Force and/or members of the Guyana Prison Service. Mr. Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr. Acting Director of Prisons, all Guyana awaits your findings and subsequent action.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, November 27, 2003