PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, February 5, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.

• The PNCR at its General Council Meeting last Saturday, pledged to remain resolute in its crusade to stop in its tracks the emergence of State terrorism in our society.
• The Government’s one sided and unbalanced propaganda campaign on the Constructive Engagement process.
• Government sidelines the Private Sector Commission.
• The Government’s peculiar attitude to important International Conferences/Training Programs.

The PNCR at its General Council meeting last Saturday 31st made wide ranging decisions on its strategy for the coming weeks. The party remains resolute in its crusade to stop in its tracks the emergence of State terrorism in our society. We have justifiably called for a full and independent investigation into the wide array of evidence that confirms the existence and activities of death squads. We are convinced, as most other Guyanese are that the government would be hard-pressed to prove that it was unaware or uninvolved in the killings and kidnappings of Guyanese youths over the last two years or so. The party is encouraged that many Guyanese, across the ethnic, social and political spectrum, have joined the call for an investigation and the removal of Gajraj as Minister of Home Affairs.

We take this opportunity to alert the nation of several other important matters in this sordid affair. It is clear that attempts are being made to stir up political strife in the country and to lay blame at the feet of the PNCR. These attempts will fail to distract the Guyanese public from the central issue before the nation: state sponsorship of death squads. A flyer, for example, is in circulation that accuses the PNCR of planning to unleash a wave of violence across the country on the departure to the USA of its Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin. On this matter, the party had cause to issue a Press Release on Sunday that:
“The PNCR has decided it must respond to this latest attempt at dangerous trouble-making, whatever its source, not only for the fact that the accusation has no basis in reality, but also for the fact that the flyer has the potential to mislead unaware citizens into taking actions that may provoke conflicts of one sort or another. The PNCR views this flyer very seriously since its release could be part of a larger plot by evil minds to sully the name of the party and to cause harm to the nation as a whole.”

Furthermore, a letter, purportedly written by PPP/C MP, Cyril Belgrave, was dispatched to the US State Department accusing the PNCR of planning to lobby for US support for the overthrow of the PPP/C regime. We expect the US Senate will treat this missive with the derision that it truly deserves.

Another important matter on the Gajraj affair we wish to bring to the nation’s attention and especially that of media houses is the publication of several letters that are open in their support for, and encouragement of, the murders and kidnappings committed by death squads. Our laws are unambiguous on this matter. Public statements or actions that openly condone or encourage criminals and criminal acts are unlawful and punishable. Most of these letters appearing in our newspapers emanate from Freedom House, and this fact only adds to the terrible tragedy of the situation. The PNCR calls on all media houses and others to cease forthwith this highly dangerous and unlawful activity. Such letters have no place in the public domain!
The PNCR has learnt with some amusement of the dispatch of a high level cabinet team to North America, allegedly, to make representation on the government’s behalf. It would have been more useful for the Government to deal with the issue of the establishment of the independent enquiry; only that will bring resolution to this crisis. The government seems bent on bring odium on itself, implicating some of its more respectable members and bringing embarrassment to the country.

The government has persisted in its one sided and unbalanced propaganda campaign on the Constructive Engagement process. It does not seem to have occurred to Mr. Jagdeo that such a manoeuvre undermines the very basis of the process itself. The reality is that the process has many pitfalls and problems. Our Party’s General Council unanimously passed a resolution giving directions to the leadership that participation in the process should be reviewed. Among the matters to be re-examined is the attitude of the government to the negotiation process. Even where there are clear and unambiguous guidelines, the tactics always seem to find some obscurity which has to be referred back to the President for clarification or some similar device for avoiding the resolution of the issues.

Public Procurement Legislation: The PNCR submitted very detailed proposals for amending the rushed-through-the National Assembly Act to correct the evident mischief and dangers inherent in the Act, including arrogating to the Minister of Finance functions which belong to the Constitutional Public Procurement Commission. With the HIPC funds poised for disbursement, it is clear that the intention is to use the defective Act to govern Public Procurement. Therefore, although the issues to be resolved are straightforward, the tactics being used will not result in any resolution for an extended period.

National Broadcasting Bill: The Report of the joint Radio Monopoly and Non Partisan Boards Committee provides detailed and consensual recommendations for incorporation in the Bill. In addition, the Communiqué and Follow Up Agreement are explicit about what has to be done. Nevertheless, the High Representatives for the President seem bent on reopening the already settled agreements forged in the Joint Committee. As a consequence, the detailed documentation by the PNCR has not prevented the extended and inconclusive discussions. Evidently, the tactic is to seek to circumvent the recommendations of the Committee.

Equitable Access to the State-Owned Media: The issues to be resolved have been clear since 2003 September and agreed in principle with the High Representatives of the President. The tactic here seems to be obfuscation and diversion rather than have the matters resolved.

Appointment of Boards for State Media on the Formula Agreed by the Joint Committee and endorsed in the Follow Up Agreement: Why is this not yet settled?
Strengthening the Capacity of the National Assembly Secretariat to support the Work of the Assembly: The PNCR was assured in 2003 October, that an IT Specialist was appointed, under the UNDP funded project, to undertake an IT Needs Assessment for the National Assembly Secretariat and for the work of MPs. There is still no evidence that this has, as yet, been done. Therefore, apart from a number of other activities which appear to be - being implemented at snails pace, - the assessment of the IT needs, have not been dealt with as a matter of urgency.

Depressed Community Needs Committee: The President and the Leader of the Opposition had agreed on the list of communities which should be dealt with in the current tranche of projects under the dialogue agreement. It is indeed remarkable that after 8 months, the PPP/C representatives on the Depressed Communities Joint Committee are still claiming that they had no confirmation from the President on which communities are supposed to be tackled in the current tranche. In the case of Fyrish village, that delay has resulted in the recurrence of disastrous floods which have occurred in that village during heavy rains.

The PNCR has noted with great disquiet recent reports that the government has resorted to peculiar behaviour in its dealings with the Private Sector Commission not to include the PSC in a forthcoming economic summit and meetings to discuss business matters. There is also disturbing evidence that the government has attempted to sideline or to ignore those businesses and business persons whom it regards as having independent or outspoken views with which the President is uncomfortable. This is disturbing for two reasons. The future development and economic breakthrough for the Guyana economy depends on the commitment and dedication of our private sector leaders whatever might be their political or other views. Secondly, it appears that the government has now brought its discriminatory and sectarian behaviour to this sector. The PNCR believes that this does not augur well for the development of the country and demonstrates the government’s lack of understanding of how to create consensus and build a nation.

Yesterday, the University of Guyana and Clarke Atlanta University initiated another seminar under their Conflict Resolution project. At its opening, statements were made by the respective funding agencies: UNDP and CDB, the respective Universities, and the Government of Guyana. To the dismay of most, the Government used the forum to explain its apprehension about the Conference and its last moment decision not to boycott it. It seems that the Government is suffering from political claustrophobia. It suffers from bouts of tantrums whenever it has to share information, knowledge sharing, public relations and other similar space. It torpedoed the Wilton Park conference when it saw the list of invitees though it had initiated that conference. It boycotted the Commonwealth Local Government conference when it could not dictate the entire list of attendees, although it would have cost them nothing. It called off the all expenses paid study tour for Parliamentarians, against the wishes of the Speaker. No reason was preferred. It failed to identify nominees for an all expenses paid seminar in Georgia on Fiscal Decentralization. The list could be added to ad infinitum. However, in the same breath, it laments the shortage of skilled human resources in Guyana. There are two common trends in each of its acts of non-participation. It either wants to decide, to the exclusion of others, who should be the beneficiaries or to determine the information/knowledge that should be imparted. These are undoubtedly the characteristics of a backward and paranoid Government. Such is the fate of Guyana today. The country badly needs a breath of new politics. We need to put Guyana first.

The Leader of the PNCR Mr. Robert Corbin is at this moment in Washington where he was invited to attend the 52nd annual prayer breakfast attended by the President, Vice-President and other national leaders of both houses of Congress contrary to the malicious propaganda being circulated by the PPP/Civic. While in Washington Mr. Corbin will take the opportunity to meet with managers of the IDB, the IMF, The World Bank and other international institutions. He will also address the Caribbean People International Collective in Washington and will address meetings of Guyanese in Washington tomorrow, February 6th and in New York on Sunday, February 8, 2004.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, February 5, 2004