PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, January 29, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia

 Jagdeo is determined to go down in history as the President who oversaw, condoned and then covered up the emergence and growth of a state sponsored death squad.
 The President has no intention of launching any independent investigation and is merely trying to stall and cover up the dirty deeds for which he will be held responsible.
 The PNCR has launched a series of public meetings to sensitise the people of the country to the dangers posed by this death squad.
 The PNCR is very concerned about the possible misuse of resources made available under the PSRP and HIPC arrangements and have already written the World Bank bringing our concerns to their attention.
 We have grave concerns over the continued abuse of the media. This and other problems with the communiqué process will be fully discussed at the General Council on Saturday after which Mr Corbin will report to the nation.
 Neither the Discipline Forces Commission nor the Parliamentary Sector Committee can replace an independent enquiry.

The PNCR had given President Jagdeo an opportunity to extricate himself from the mess which has enmeshed him. We had hoped that there was no desire on the part of the President to have his name go down in history as one who oversaw, condoned and then covered up the emergence and growth of a state sponsored death squad. We assumed that he knows that if he took that course, his name will be forever sullied in the history of Guyana and that, when he leaves office, he will forever be marked as the protector and sponsor of the death squad. Mr. Jagdeo has made his choice and spurned the opportunity to redeem his presidency from failure and disgrace. His response to the crisis that will engulf him and his government has been to stick his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and hide behind an absurd and obviously unconvincing propaganda campaign. Indeed, he has himself uttered the most farcical and absurd defence possible by announcing that he does not have enough reason or information upon which to act. More startling is his announcement that there is not a shred of evidence. He may well find that the international community, like the rest of Guyana, will hold him responsible for genocide in this country.

The nation should not have been surprised by the actions of the President. We remember well that when the Thomas Carroll affair first broke in the media, the government, including Mr. Jagdeo and Mr. Gajraj, claimed that they did not have information upon which to act. They claimed this even though many Guyanese including public officials went to Chicago to testify, even though the FBI investigation took place in Guyana over many months, even though Carroll was convicted, even though the prosecution case and the judgement in the case was made public and even though Mr Carroll has lost his appeal. The President has moved from ridiculous to rude when he instructed the Commissioner of Police to write the Leader of the Opposition to forward information. As far as the PNCR is concerned, even if the existence of so many unexplained murders and the public allegations of one participant were not enough, the letter from the Leader of the Opposition was specific enough to have warranted action by the government. The issues that the PNCR brought to the attention of the President bear repeating:
 Irregularities in the issuance of firearms by the Minister of Home Affairs; including bribery and the granting of firearm licences to known felons;
 The formation of several questionable groups, under the guise of Community Policing groups, that have been issued with firearms;
 The existence of death squads alleged to be under the control of senior government functionaries;
 The association of some senior functionaries and these squads in criminal activity, including the narcotic trade;
 The claim that one recent victim of the death squad, Axel Williams, had revealed that a senior government functionary had ordered a “hit” on a businessman; and more recently;
 The revelations of George Bacchus, the confessed informant of the Minister of Home Affairs.

The obvious truth is that the President has no intention of launching any independent investigation and is merely trying to stall and cover up the dirty deeds for which he, as head of government, is ultimately morally responsible.

Mr. Gajraj’s own public statements, admitting interference in the granting of firearm licenses, is clear evidence of the validity of our concerns. Since the Police have made arrests and bought charges based on the information already available, the President’s pathetic request for more information is but a red herring. The obvious truth is that the government first experimented with indiscriminate murder using the black clothes squad and when there was an outcry against that gang, they turned to a death squad that our intelligence confirms had a clear and eventual political agenda.

The PNCR has not, or will it ever call for the unfair conviction of any public official. We do, however, insist that there can be no proper and impartial inquiry whilst Mr. Gajraj remains political head of the Ministry of Home Affairs and he must leave office immediately. We will work together with any other political or civil organisation that espouses the need for a fair and impartial inquiry and the resignation of Mr. Gajraj to facilitate such an inquiry. We welcome the establishment of the Peoples Justice Movement and urge all citizens and organisations to do so as well.

The PPP/C has, in its propaganda and in the public statements of the President, clearly attempted to cast the matter of the death squad as a partisan and ethnic issue, trying to convince some sections of the Guyanese citizenry that they have some benefit to glean from the growth of a death squad which extorts, terrorises and murders innocent citizens and demoralises the forces of law and order. The people of Guyana will not be fooled. They know that mercenaries have no loyalty and will kill anyone for a fee. Their bullets have no race, religious, or political loyalties.

Thus far, the response of the PNCR has been carefully and diligently modulated to give the government every opportunity to cleanse itself of this disgrace. Based on the recent responses of the government and the employment of a media mercenary to mount a propaganda defence, we will have to intensify our action. We have launched a series of public meetings to sensitise the people of the country to the dangers posed by this death squad. Citizens are invited to attend these meetings in their area. The forthcoming Party’s General Council, the highest decision making body of our party between congresses, will review the current situation in Guyana and in particular determine our future relations with the government at all levels. The Party Leader will inform the nation of the party’s position at a public meeting scheduled for the Well Site on Mandela Avenue on Saturday, January 31st, at 6:oo PM.

There are other matters of concern that should be brought to the nation’s attention. During a recent visit by the Managing Director of the World Bank, Mr. Zhang, the PNCR indicated its intention to cooperate with the government and the bank to ensure that the resources made available to Guyana under the PRSP and the HIPC arrangements are utilised in a fair and transparent manner. However, we have already seen that the government has no intention of collaborating or consulting with the PNCR and has gone ahead with its own programme of consultation which has not included the PNCR and, as far as we know, any other political party. It is clear that the government has every intention of using these resources for continuing its programme of economic discrimination. We are very concerned about this issue and have already written the World Bank bringing their attention to our disquiet on the inauspicious start to the implementation stage of these programmes. The PNCR Leader has also written the President requesting all available documentation and other information on the PRSP programme.

The PPP/C propaganda which has been orchestrated by the state machinery has continued to distort the status of their performance under the constructive engagement process. Common courtesy would have dictated to a more civilised government that two parties to an agreement or consultative process should both have a say in bringing the matter to the public. While the government is spreading its version of the Communiqué process, the fact remains that the President still has not instructed his representatives on the depressed communities committee of the decisions of the two leaders on the projects agreed under the Communiqué process. The government continues to violate all measures of fair play in the use of the state media and has spurned all efforts to settle the mechanism of equitable access.
The PNCR notes with concern a report in the print media to the effect that the President intents to grant a TV broadcasting license to certain religious groups. While the PNCR has no qualms about encouraging diverse ownership of our broadcasting entities, we wish, however, to remind the President that the Communiqué signed between the two parties expressly forbids the granting of any such licenses until the broadcasting bill is endorsed by all stakeholders and passed through the parliamentary process. This process has been unduly stymied by bad faith on the part of the government. The PNCR re-affirms its call for the matter to be resolved in full accordance with the recommendations of the broadcast committee report, so that present and future owners of broadcasting licenses can conduct their business free from heavy interference and control of the government. We know the religious organisations concerned would support such a principled position. This and other problems with the Communiqué process will be fully discussed at the General Council and the party’s position decided at that time.

The PNCR notes the recent calls for a Disciplined Forces Commission to act on the recent allegations of state sponsored death squads. The party also notes the suggestion that a Parliamentary Sector Committee should summon Gajraj. While we understand the good intentions of those who are now making these calls, we believe that neither proposal can replace the need for an independent and impartial inquiry. The PPP/C has already declared that it would not be bound by the DFC. Any attempt by the DFC to deal with recent allegations will therefore be futile. The Parliamentary Sector Committees are all dominated by PPP/C representatives; consequently the PPP/C MPs can always out vote any decision on this matter.
The reliance on the Parliamentary Sector Committees will therefore be playing into the hands of the PPP/C or, in colloquial terms, “trying the devil’s case in hell”.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, January 29, 2004