PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, January 8, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
• The PNCR will be vigilant in ensuring that the budget estimates of 2004 do not contain discriminatory allocations and the perpetuation of social and communal injustice.
• It is significant that the year 2004 has commenced with a breach of the commitment made by President Jagdeo to have the Constitutional Service Commissions in place by December 31, 2003.
• The people of Guyana deserve a healthy and safe environment to live in. Peace and stability cannot come unless we accept that the rule of law must be restored in Guyana.
• The PNCR has noted that the flooding situation along the East Coast and calls for a declararation of a National Disaster and for payment of compensation to victims.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media. On behalf of the PNC Reform, I would like to welcome you to this the first of our weekly Press Conferences for 2004. I would also like to wish you and your loved ones all best wishes for 2004. We in the People’s National Congress Reform appreciate the professionalism which you have shown in ensuring that the views of the People’s National Congress Reform are given adequate coverage and that the political debate in Guyana is based on access to alternative views. The existence of democracy can only be certified in an environment where the voice of my Party and others are heard. You can and are contributing to moving Guyana nearer to such a stage.
As I said in my New Year’s message, 2003 has been a difficult year for Guyana and one which has seen many hardships and increased pressure on the poor, the marginalized and the down trodden. The security situation can best be described as a nightmare and the economy shows no signs of generating the jobs and the growth which could give some hope to the long suffering working classes. Of particular importance too is the deteriorating situation in terms of the area of the good governance or more precisely the lack of good governance in Guyana. Our Party takes the view that development and national security are predicated by an atmosphere of good governance. Good governance includes the re-establishment of respect for the rule of law, the restoration of efficiency in the security services and the return to respect for human life and a sense of justice and fair play. I also referred in my New Year message to such evidence of poor governance as inequitable and discriminatory allocation of national resources and house lots, the blatant interference in the judicial system and the flouting of decisions of the Court, and the organized attempt to destroy collective bargaining and undermine legitimate Trade Unions in Guyana. I announced then that we in the PNCR are resolved to lead the national fight to ensure equity in the allocation of state resources to all sections of Guyana, the implementation of all the decisions made under the constructive engagement process, particularly the Depressed Communities Needs Committee, the proper functioning of parliament and the many new committees established under the constitution, to ensure justice for all including the payment of the Supreme Court Workers, the liberty of political prisoner, Mark Benschop and the speedy trial of remand prisoners in the Georgetown and other prisons, and to fight for good governance including work with the social partners for genuine power sharing/inclusive governance in Guyana.
In 2004, we will be vigilant, resolute and militant in taking appropriate political action to ensure that the gross irregularities in the systems and procedures are corrected. Genuine democracy in Guyana depends ultimately on a free fair and competent electoral system, shorn of incompetence irregularity and suspicion. Let me repeat our party’s publicly stated position. Given the highly porous nature of the electronic and physical security measures in place to protect the integrity of the voter registration database, the PNC Reform party has no confidence in the integrity of the current database and demands that GECOM scraps it entirely.
We will also be vigilant to ensure that the funds made available to the government under the HIPC arrangements for social and anti poverty programs are well used in a fair and efficient manner and does not end up in the bank accounts of corrupt and greedy supporters of the regime. We will be vigilant in ensuring that the budget estimates of 2004 do not contain discriminatory allocations and the perpetuation of social and communal injustice.
THE SERVICE COMMISSIONS:
It is significant that the year 2004 has commenced with a breach of the commitment made by President Jagdeo to have the Constitutional Service Commissions in place by December 31, 2003.
Despite our grave concerns about the nominees of the President for the Public Service Commission, the meaningful consultations process, as it relates to the role of the Leader of the Opposition, concluded before the 21st December, 2003. The President failed to take advice offered and must bear the full responsibility over public concerns being raised. There is no excuse, however, for the failure to keep the deadline. What is more alarming is that the Minister of Local Government has not yet observed the Constitution as it relates to the Teaching Service Commission. This matter has been brought to the attention of the President. The PNCR will be closely monitoring this situation to see whether the government will again flout the provisions of the Constitution. The Commissions now being established are some three years behind schedule and workers have suffered immensely. Efforts must be made to correct this situation.
We believe that all appointments of officers to any of these services should be made retroactive to the time when the relevant officers should have been promoted. We believe that this is the only just way to deal with the long hiatus which has so badly affected our public officers. We have heard disturbing allegations that the government proposes to use their influence on the commission to supersede experienced officers in various positions by others many years their junior. We are monitoring this matter very closely and put the government on notice that any such action will have serious political repercussions. Unions in these sectors should also be vigilant.
SECURITY AND CRIME:
The dawn of the New Year finds the nation still grappling with the unpleasant truth that Guyana has become a lawless state in which corruption is rife and a few powerful overlords seek to dominate us all with guns and bullets. The PNCR finds the number of 205 murders in 2003 to be staggering and unacceptable. What is of greater concern is that less than 15% of these have been solved and few perpetrators prosecuted. We have witnessed gangland style murders, domestic abuse leading to killings, rapes and kidnappings of an unprecedented nature. All this in the opinion of the PNCR points to the denigration and disappearance of the sacred doctrine of the rule of law. We cannot progress as a nation if those responsible for upholding law and order are themselves the violators of the law and the purveyors of disorder. Over the last year the PNCR brought to the Nation’s attention that there was high level involvement of senior functionaries in crime, the drug trade and murder for hire. The administration continuously sought to deny these statements. The recent public disclosures have vindicated the PNCR and its statements. It is beyond all reason that the President could persevere with a Minister of Home Affairs whose activities have been a national embarrassment unless he is himself involved and/or condoned the Minister’s behaviour. Not only must the Minister resign but the entire government. The PNCR calls for a Public Enquiry and an investigation of the State’s involvement in criminal enterprises.
On a more positive note, The PNCR supports the work of the Disciplined Forces Commission and intends to ensure with diligence that all of its recommendations are implemented. The Guyana Police Force must be strengthened to become the bulwark in the fight against the disintegration which the country is presently experiencing. The investigative arm of the force must be modernized and updated with the best technological aids available. We urge the immediate constitution of the Police Service Commission and that all of the officers who have been waiting for years for promotion are dealt with immediately with all benefits intact. We demand, that police ranks are paid a living and respectable wage. We reiterate our call for police/community relations to be targeted for improvement not through strengthening renegade community policing groups but by ensuring that the police force is the primary law enforcement agency in Guyana.
The people of Guyana deserve a healthy and safe environment to live in. Peace and stability cannot come unless we accept that the rule of law must be restored in Guyana. For so long as ordinary people see their leaders making one set of laws for themselves and another for the rest of us, we will have anarchy and be adrift in the wilderness indefinitely. It is time for the people of Guyana to stand up for justice and fair play.
FLOODING ON THE EAST COAST:
It is now seven days since the residents of the East Coast of Demerara have been inundated with floodwaters due to heavy rainfall. A PNCR team toured the villages and observed the suffering of residents, many of whom have lost livestock and a wide variety of crops. In addition a number of persons suffered damage to household articles and the general health situation is frightening.
The PNCR is alarmed that it has taken over one week for the government to recognize the precarious state of affairs even after President Jagdeo’s well publicized visit before his latest overseas jaunt. The government’s most recent response is to set-up committees to look at the matter. The PNCR considers the situation on the East Coast as quite grave and would expect any responsible government to declare a national emergency and provide compensation to all those who have suffered losses. The people of Guyana expect no less.
The PNCR has noted government’s attempt to dismiss the flooding as an unexpected, “act of God.” This we cannot accept. Over the years there has been a rapid deterioration of the drainage situation on the East Coast of Demerara. With increasing occupation of low lying open lands, which previously served as temporary storage areas during heavy rainfall, existing canals proved inadequate for the storage of rainfall runoff during the high tide periods. This rendered gravity flow inadequate as the sole means of drainage and therefore required vision, foresight and planning. A systematic investment in pumps, with adjustments being made periodically to allow for the changing situation, was needed. However, an examination of the situation reveals a most haphazard approach to flood control on the East Coast of Demerara.
In 1999, during his maiden Address to the Nation, President Jagdeo stated that he had instructed that immediate steps be taken to ensure that measures were put in place to prevent flooding on the East Coast of Demerara. What were those steps? He did not say but apparently nothing was done.
What is evident from the statement of Ravi Naraine, the CEO of the National Drainage and Irrigation Board as reported in the Stabroek News, he said “…over the years the Region 4 administration has not been able to carry out all of the necessary works due to lack of finance.” He said “…apart from maintaining drainage pumps, sluices and cleaning canals there were still other works to be done, but these were sometimes shelved because funds were not there.” Naraine said the money that was usually allocated in the National Budget was inadequate to carry out all the works.
What became of President Jagdeo’s preventative measures is therefore anyone’s guess.
Every year since President Jagdeo made his pronouncements about preventative measures the people of the East Coast have suffered from floodwaters. It is clear that the suffering of the people on the East Coast is due to the fact that the administration has continuously starved Region 4 of funds requested to undertake routine maintainance.
The excuse offered by Minister Shaw that the rainfall exceeded drainage capacity is down right ridiculous and totally unacceptable. It is this same Minister who was reported in the Stabroek News on January 1, 2004 as saying that he is satisfied with the efforts to address the flooding. After then things got three times worse. It appears that it takes little to satisfy this government and while they are satisfied the people suffer.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, January 8, 2004
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