PRESS STATEMENT By The Leader, People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Friday December 5, 2003 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
• A PNCR Delegation led by the Leader of the Party, Mr. R H O Corbin, recently concluded a successful visit to Canada where they held discussions with several International Organisations, and held several meetings during which Guyanese and others were brought up to date on developments in Guyana.
• President Jagdeo, as Head of State, is setting a bad example by misinforming the Nation on the Constructive Engagement process. How can Guyanese rely on anything said by anyone else in his administration?
• There will be no compromise by the PNCR on the matter of the integrity of the Voters List.
• The delay in Local Government Elections has nothing to do with the PNCR, but the failure of the PPP/C to come clean on the question of the electoral system for local government elections.
• PNCR thanks Ms. Maggie Bierne for her service to Guyana through her membership of the Disciplined Forces Commission.
VISIT TO CANADA BY PNCR DELEGATION:
It is now well known that a PNCR delegation led by its Leader made an extensive visit to Canada from November 19 to December 1, 2003 during which it participated in a well organized programme of activities in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. The visit to Canada followed other successful visits earlier this year to Florida, New York, Washington DC, New Jersey and Atlanta in the US where the PNCR Leadership shared with overseas based Guyanese the Party’s vision for the future of Guyana and encouraged them to play their part in transforming Guyana into a modern developed State.
With the exception of Vancouver, the delegation accompanying the Leader comprised Mr. Jerome Khan, MP, Businessman and Shadow Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment, Mrs. Volda Lawrence, MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services and Social Security, and Mr. Muntaz Ali, businessman. Only the Leader of the PNCR participated in the extended programme to Vancouver.
The visit was sponsored by the National Democratic Council (Guyana) in Toronto and was supported by several other Guyanese Organisations in Canada, including the United Guyanese Organisation of Canada (UGO), the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal, the National Council of Guyanese in Ottawa, The Linden Fund Association, Toronto Chapter and the Guyana Canadian Association of British Columbia.
The programme included press conferences and briefings; public forums with question and answer sessions; a fund-raising Dinner and Dance in Toronto; a business Luncheon in Toronto; courtesy calls and meetings with officials of Government and International Agencies, Members of both the Ontario Provincial and the Federal Parliaments, and with several other influential persons and organizations in Canada; and, visits to places of interest.
All the public forums, held in Montreal on Thursday November 20, in Ottawa on Friday November 21, in Toronto on Sunday November 23 and in Vancouver on Sunday November 30, were well attended and supported by Guyanese and friends of Guyana and the PNCR. On all these occasions Guyanese demonstrated a keen interest in and concern for the dilemma facing Guyana. Many were well informed on current events through the internet and raised with the PNCR Leader and other members of his delegation several important issues of concern. These matters included the precarious state of the Constructive Engagement between the President and Leader of the Opposition; violence, crime and the narcotics trade in Guyana; the Education System and the continuous exodus of trained teachers from Guyana; the economic state of the country and the constant reports of corruption and lack of accountability; the PNCR plans for revitalising the economy and promoting the economic development of Guyana when elected to Office; the facts surrounding the continued imprisonment of political prisoner, Mark Benschop; the non appointment of a Commissioner of Police; the future prospects for Guyana and many other current issues. It was evident to the visiting team that Guyanese abroad were very concerned about the parlous state of the land of their birth and the incompetence and impotence of the present administration to adequately promote a secure future for the young people of the Nation.
The PNCR delegation, while discussing the issues raised, objectively pointed out that all was not lost, albeit the situation was bleak and the economy on the brink of collapse. Those present were, however, told that what was urgently required was fundamental change in the institutions of governance to reduce alienation of citizens from the mainstream of economic and social life. The PNCR plans and other proposals for shared Governance in Guyana were also fully explained.
At the Business Luncheon the PNCR team stressed that Guyana continues to be a good place for investment. Since the gestation periods for some projects were extensive, we emphasized that the PNCR could not wait until it formed the Government to encourage investment, but felt that we had to do so now. Our message was therefore a positive one. It was, therefore, surprising to read the remarks of the PPP/C General Secretary about the PNCR undermining development in Guyana.
The programme of the PNCR delegation was well covered by the media in Canada and a perusal of several articles and press reports in various issues of “The Caribbean Camera” and “SHARE, Canada’s Largest Ethnic Newspaper” will reveal the dishonesty of the remarks made by the PPP/C General secretary.[A few copies are available for your scrutiny]. I say dishonest, because while in Ottawa, the delegation paid a courtesy call on the Guyana High Commissioner where, surprisingly, we met the Minister of Home Affairs, Gajraj. We are not certain if the Government was concerned about the Guyana High Commissioner meeting alone with a PNCR delegation, but they certainly arranged for Minister Gajraj to sit in throughout our visit with the High Commissioner, Mr. Rajnarine Singh. Further, the PPP/C’s attempts to undermine the PNCR programme in Ottawa by arranging a reception on the same day and time of the PNCR meeting failed miserably. Guyanese turned out in their numbers to the PNCR function. The Guyana High Commissioner could not claim ignorance when he organized the rival reception as he was invited to the occasion by the organizers long in advance. He, however, sent a representative who was not only present, but presented greetings to the forum. The PPP/C cannot then claim not to have known what was the thrust of the PNCR message overseas. Perhaps the reports of the tremendous response we received in Canada have made them nervous.
While in Ottawa the delegation paid courtesy calls on the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry and on the Vice President of CIDA during which the political and economic situation of Guyana were discussed. The delegation also paid a visit to the Federal Parliament where members were able to discuss many issues on the functioning of that Parliament. We were privileged to have Mr. Ovid Jackson, a Federal MP of Guyanese ancestry, accompany us on the tour of the Parliament Complex. A similar visit was paid to the Ontario Provincial Parliament in Ottawa where we were the first delegation to pay a courtesy call on the newly elected Speaker, Mr. Alvin Curling. The Liberal MP of Jamaican ancestry is the first black Canadian to be elected to the post. Discussions were cordial and the delegation was able to have a greater understanding of the functioning of that body. It is hoped that the knowledge gained will enrich the PNCR’s contributions to the ongoing Parliamentary Reform Process in Guyana. Courtesy calls were also paid on Opposition Members of Parliament who are all provided with Offices in the Parliament Complex. The delegation also paid a courtesy call on the Mayor of Montreal during our visit there and had an opportunity to tour the Council Chamber.
Our assessment is that, in all respects, the visit was highly successful. Guyanese are now better informed about events at home, businessmen are now clearer on possibilities for investment and many friends of Guyana are prepared to assist the people of Guyana in their efforts to make the country one that we can all be proud of again. The PNCR, therefore, wishes to express its sincere thanks to all the organizations which and individuals who contributed in one way or another to the success of our programme.
Before I left Guyana for Canada, I had drawn the Nation’s attention to the possibility of the loss of public confidence in the constructive engagement process, due to the protracted delay in the implementation of agreements. I emphasized that this would occur irrespective of the reasons or explanations that might be advanced by either party. Both President Jagdeo and the PPP/C missed the point completely. In their accustomed manner, the PPP/C responded by launching a propaganda campaign in the vain hope that they could hood-wink the people of Guyana. Even as the PPP/C tries to exculpate itself, there is further violation of the Communiqué by continued misuse of the state media. For example, the Prime Minister’s letter of response to mine was published by the Guyana Chronicle in its entirety without any reference to the letter that I wrote the President. I wrote the Editor on the same day pointing to a possible breach of journalistic ethics by their failure to also publish my letter. Not a line of my letter was published, yet the President has the temerity to accuse the PNCR of going on a publicity campaign.
More recently, while I was on my Canada visit, I have been informed that the President stated that there was significant progress on the implementation of the Communiqué. The citizens can judge for themselves.
I am told that the President also stated that he wants to use the procedure established to deal with problems in the communiqué. It appears that he has not read or does not understand my letter about the monitoring mechanism. How does one explain the Head of the Presidential Secretariat informing the monitoring group, who were invited to participate in the process, that some of the matters relating to the Communiqué are State secrets?
We are now told that the delay in the appointment of the Service Commissions is due to the failure of the Opposition Leader to respond to a proposal by the President on “Correcting the Constitution”. Let me make it quite clear that there is neither a mistake in the Constitution nor was there any failure to carry out the recommendations of the Constitutional Reform Commission. The present constitutional provisions were approved by two - thirds majority of the Parliament and assented to by President Jagdeo himself in 2001. This is just another ruse by the PPP/C to exercise complete control over every aspect of life in Guyana and more particularly their desire to exercise political control over the Guyana Police Force. The same mania to exercise political control from Freedom House over the Constitutional Bodies has been manifested in the PPP/C’s and President Jagdeo’s approach to the Public Procurement Commission and the Public Service Commission, resulting in the prolonged delay in their establishment.
The President could not seriously be expecting a response to a non - proposal and my position on this matter should have been obvious. The President made a proposal to extend the size of the Police Service Commission by three other persons and as an inducement, suggested that he would give the Opposition a nominee on all other commissions. At the same time, he informed me that his offer would not be included in the constitutional amendment but would be left to, “convention”. The President could not really be serious. The more important point here, however, is that the proposal itself exposes the thinking of the President on the process of meaningful consultation. The offer was made in relation to the category of persons to be appointed after meaningful consultation. Is it that the President considers meaningful consultation as just another device for making a unilateral PPP/C appointment?
It should be noted that there was nothing to prevent meaningful consultation on the appointment of the Chairman of the Police Service Commission. The four nominees by the Parliament from which group the Chairman is to be drawn were named by the Parliament several months ago. The proposal by President Jagdeo would not have affected the identification of a Chairman. Further, the Minister of Local Government is to consult with the Local Government Bodies on nominees for the Teaching service Commission. When will this commence? How is the consultation by the Minister of Local Government affected by the President’s proposal?
When persons who hold public office at the level of the President of our Nation indulge in this level of deception it damages the credibility of the Office itself and one wonders if it is not sufficient grounds for a call to be made for that person to vacate the Office.
I have already made clear the position of the PNCR on the question of the Constructive Engagement process. I have no intention of dealing further with the latest frivolity introduced by the President.
THE ELECTORAL REGISTER AND GECOM DATABASE:
Over the past week the public has been treated to various interpretations of the PNCR’s call for the scrapping of the Database at the Elections Commission and the conduct of a new registration exercise. The position of the PNCR should be clearly understood by all. There will be no compromise on the matter of the integrity of the Electoral register. The PNCR has approached this matter in a responsible and systematic way. It has been several months since we have been in contact with the Elections Commission on our matters of concern. Our position is guided by the reports of our own experts and those of the Elections Commission. The tragic events of Election Day 2001 are still fresh in our memories. The right of every citizen to vote cannot be sacrificed on the altar of political and financial expediency. Those who preach to us about democracy and would be wont to trivialize this matter ought not to underestimate the resolve of the PNCR on this matter. Unless the PNCR is satisfied that the weaknesses identified by the experts have been satisfactorily addressed, no amount of bleating by the PPP/C and others will change our position. We have given adequate notice to ensure that there could be no excuse of necessary corrective action affecting the timing of any election.
POSTPONEMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS:
The recent attempt by the President to find an excuse for the delay in the holding of Local Government Elections is another example of deception in high places and questions the integrity of the President himself.
It is a matter of public record that the Government laid a Bill in the National Assembly of the Parliament for the postponement of Local Government Elections for one year before the PNCR made its demand for a new registration exercise. It is also a fact that the Chairman of the Elections Commission had publicly declared that unless he is apprised of the new Electoral System for the next Local Government Elections by December, 2003 GECOM would be unable to hold Local Government Elections in 2004. It is also public knowledge that the PPP/C, through its representative Minister, Clinton Collymore, has for six months refused to inform the Local Government Task Force of its position on the electoral system. The legislation for the new system has not yet been drafted.
How in the face of these circumstances could the President arrive at the conclusion that the call by the PNCR would affect the timing of the Local Government Elections? Is it that the President is so misinformed on such important matters or has he deliberately lied to the Nation. The people of Guyana ought to know.
MAGGIE BIERNE RESIGNATION:
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Ms. Maggie Bierne for her work on the Disciplined Forces Commission. Despite the many obstacles, she willingly carried out her assignment. Ms. Beirne had made it clear to me before her appointment that she was only available for the three months scheduled for the first phase of the work of the DFC and the presentation of the Report on the Police Force. I am grateful that, despite the delay, she was able to remain longer than scheduled until the report was completed. I wish to also thank the Committee for the Administration of Justice in Northern Ireland and the NGO’s in the UK that made the participation of Ms. Bierne possible.
BLEAK CHRISTMAS IN STORE FOR GUYANESE
As the Christmas carols chime in the festive season with words of a bright Christmas the Guyanese consumer faces the prospect of a dark and gloomy one. The rising cost of living; the scarcity of chicken; the high electricity rates and the unconscionable disconnection by Guyana Power & Light Inc.; and the shameful announcement by the government of the unilateral increase in wages and salaries of only 5%, all indicate that the situation in Guyana is totally unbearable and unacceptable.
Guyanese must seriously reflect on how long they can endure this intolerable and heartless administration.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Friday December 5, 2003
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Designed By: Denton Osborne