PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, February 12, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
• PNCR Leader returns from visit to USA meets Officials in the US Capital and holds briefing sessions in the Diaspora.
• PPP/C team fails miserably in their damage control mission To North America.
• The PNCR notes the growing local and international anxiety and outrage concerning the indecencies existing in Guyana and the growing evidence of gross human rights abuses.
• We call on the Minster to make public all that he knows about the delay in the issuance of a US visa to him.
• PNCR Member of Parliament Mr. James K. Mc Allister will depart Guyana tomorrow to attend the 5th Annual Conference Of The Parliamentary Network On The World Bank.
• The PNCR registers its contention that all of the parliamentary parties should have been invited to the meeting on local government and the importance of the establishment of a timetable for the implementation of all of the elements of the local government reform.
PNCR LEADER RETURNS FROM VISIT TO USA
The Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin, returned to Guyana on Tuesday last after a weeklong visit to Washington DC, New Jersey and New York in the United States of America. Mr. Corbin, as was stated in a recent Press release by the Party, was invited by the US Congress to participate in the fifty-second Annual National Prayer Breakfast with the United States President, Vice president, Congress, Senate and Judiciary on Thursday 5th February at the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton. The main event was heralded by a three-day programme, which commenced on the 3rd February during which several private and group discussion sessions were organised to facilitate the exchange of ideas between participants that included invitees from every walk of life from several Nations in every continent. The invitations were however personal and non-transferable. Consequently, no country as such was invited, albeit several Heads of State, Parliamentarians and religious leaders were present. Mr. Corbin participated in several of these discussions during which he was able to explain the situation in Guyana and invite the world community to pray for our country in the midst of its present difficulties. Indeed the entire event was organized, with the spirit of Jesus at the center, to acknowledge the place of God in all nations, to promote fellowship and understanding among peoples of the world, to encourage participants to develop a concern for the poor and the oppressed people of their community and beyond and to hopefully inspire them to become part of a small group of friends in their community working for solutions.
The main event opened with an impressive and inspirational performance by the Watoto Children’s Choir from Kampala, Uganda that was flown into the US capital specially for the event. Co-Chairmen of the event, Senators James M. Inhoffe and Bill Nelson then co-coordinated a well timed two- hour programme which
included prayers, scripture reading, an address by the President of the United States, two inspirational messages from Congressman for Georgia, the Hon. John Lewis and former Congressman, J.C. Watts Jr., remarks by senators and Congressmen and several renditions by renowned Soloist Twila Parris who brought the audience to their feet in tumultuous applause.
The Leader of the PNCR was indeed honored to have been invited to fellowship with such a distinguished group of concerned leaders from around the world and has indicated that the event was both inspiring and motivational to him.
PNCR LEADER MEETS OFFICIALS IN THE US CAPITAL
While in the United States capital Mr. Corbin met with several Government Official and International Agencies. On Thursday, February 5, he met with senior officials of the World Bank and on Friday February with Senior Officials of the IDB. Mr. Stanley Ming, M.P. member of the Central Executive of the PNCR, accompanied him to these meetings. Discussions at both meetings focused on the programme being funded by these agencies in Guyana and the Guyana representatives sought to clarify a number of matters relating to these agencies involvement in Guyana. The team also met with Senior Officials of the US State Department during which meetings many matters concerning Guyana were discussed, including, the precarious security situation, the allegations of State involvement in Death squads, the abuse of human rights and the failure of the Guyana Government to act responsibly in the face of these serious allegations. The meetings were all useful and productive.
PNCR LEADER HOLDS BRIEFING SESSIONS IN THE DIASPORA
During the visit to the US, the PNCR Leader also took the opportunity to address several meetings organized to brief Guyanese and interested persons on current events in Guyana. In Washington DC a well-attended public forum was held at the Emory Center on Friday 6th February. The audience was addressed by Mr. Stanley Ming MP, who spoke on the Economic situation in Guyana and Mr. Corbin, who spoke on the Political situation including the recent allegations of State sponsored murders by a Death Squad or squads. Several questions were asked and answers were provided by a panel which included, Mrs. Debbie Backer, MP who is at present on a three week programme in Washington DC.
On Saturday 7th the PNCR Leader delivered the Charge to the newly elected Executive Committee of the New Jersey PNCR group during which he elaborated on the troubling events of death squads in Guyana. Re-elected Chairman of the group Mr. Mohamed Tu Fiel undertook to ensure that Guyanese in the US were kept informed of these sordid events and pledged the continued support of the group to aid the PNCR programmes in Guyana.
On Sunday February 8th hundreds of Guyanese and others were present at the Woodbine Ballroom in Brooklyn to hear the address by the PNCR Leader on the Political situation in Guyana. At what many claimed was the largest Political gathering ever witnessed at that venue, Mr. Corbin spent more than an hour explaining the political situation in Guyana, after which several questions and contributions were made.
The event sponsored by the PNCR New York No 1 Group was co-sponsored by several other civic and human rights groups in the New York area. Several representatives of these organizations, including the Chairman of the Guyana Institute for Democracy, (GID), in New York, expressed their outrage at the deplorable situation in Guyana. Resolutions passed unanimously at the meeting called on the Guyana Government to initiate an impartial and independent inquiry, with participation from reputable international organizations, into the allegations of State sponsored murder and the role of the Minister of Home affairs Ronald Gajraj. They also pledged to resolutely pursue this matter internationally, including communication with Governments, Amnesty International, the International Court of Justice and Human Rights organizations.
During his visit abroad the PNCR Leader gave several press briefings and appeared on several radio and television programmes during which the scandal of the involvement of the State in Death Squads, the role of the Minister of Home Affairs and the failure of the President to act were fully exposed.
PPP/C TEAM FAILS MISERABLY IN THEIR DAMAGE CONTROL MISSION
The PNCR views with amusement the mad scrambling together of a team from the PPP/C, using state resources, to visit North America to seek to ameliorate the rising anger of the Guyanese community overseas over recent events in Guyana. The team failed miserably both in Canada and in the US to convince even their own supporters about the legitimacy of their present course of action. In Canada, at a meeting of only 49 persons, which included some sixteen PNCR members, the visiting team of Luncheon, Bisnauth and Texiera sought to avoid the Gajraj issue entirely by claiming that they had gone to Canada to brief Guyanese on development in Guyana and on Mashramani. Their audience, however, rudely brought them back to reality and they were truly blasted by many present about the dismal performance of the PPP/C Government. As usual the Government mouthpiece, the Chronicle, presented a distorted report of that meeting.
After this demoralizing experience the PPP/C team sought refuge in small meetings at the Guyana High Commission in Ottawa and the Embassy in Washington DC. They could not hide however as the Guyanese there were not deterred by the venue in expressing their views on the immoral conduct of the Government.
On Saturday February 6th, at the Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York, the PPP/C team was welcomed by a band of picketers denouncing State Terrorism in Guyana and calling for the resignation of Gajraj. The audience at that meeting was so hostile that Texiera could not even finish her presentation. The audience was however more raucous when Luncheon declared that the President had no intention of doing anything about the Gajraj affair. The reception of the PPP/C team at a similar meeting in their own old favorite hang out in Queens, New York on Sunday was similar.
The most serious rebuff was at a church in Brooklyn on Sunday morning where Luncheon was given an opportunity to speak. The Minister was soon forced to rescue the situation after the members of the congregation began to voice loudly their concerns about lies being peddled in the house of the Lord. The Minister advised Luncheon to conclude speedily to avoid any further problems. We have no doubt that the PPP/C, who are strangers to the truth, has been recently confirmed by their own exposé will seek to put a propaganda spin on these events.
It is hope that the PPP/C has learnt that they cannot fool the people in the Diaspora in this technologically advanced world where many overseas, read our daily newspapers before daybreak.
Instead of the Government using taxpayer’s money for political missions abroad the funds should be better used to improve the wages and salaries of Guyanese policemen, teachers and nurses.
The PNCR notes the growing local and international anxiety and outrage concerning the indecencies existing in Guyana and the growing evidence of gross human rights abuses. It is distressing to read articles and features in the world press describing Guyana as a haven for drug running and where a minister accused of grotesque and horrible state murder is protected by the head of his government. Indeed, many international commentators have made the connection with Guyana's decision to signal its intention to withdraw from the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The broad based nature of the outrage at the Gajraj affair and the demand for a full and impartial inquiry includes such organisations as
The UK based Campaign for Justice in Guyana
Human Rights Watch
The Guyana Council of Churches
The Guyana Trades Union Congress
The Guyana Teachers Union
The Guyana Human Rights Association
The Guyana Press Association
The Guyana Public Service Union
The Working Peoples Alliance
Guyana Institute for Democracy (GID) New York
The Peoples Movement for Justice
It is heartening to note that the venerable and indefatigable fighter on issues of conscience and human rights Mr Eusi Kwayana has added his prestigious voice to the chorus demanding a proper resolution of this scandal. We agree fully with the view of the GHRA,
"The pretence of insufficient evidence to warrant serious independent investigation as a first step can no longer be sustained."
The Guyana Press Association was quite accurate when they descried the position taken by the President on the coverage of the affair by the media as puerile.
The PNCR notes the deepening of the scandal in the death of Mark Thomas while in custody. This development adds more confusion and disgrace to the government. It is quite clear that the confusion which has been generated by the government and certain sections of the police force in preventing the samples from the Post Mortem to be sent aboard for forensic analysis springs from guiltiness on the consciences of some person or persons. As Bob Marley sang ‘Guiltiness rests on their conscience’. It is clear that these persons and authorities do not yet recognise that their evil games will eventually come to light and they will face the wrath of the people of Guyana and the rest of the world. They are only postponing the evil day. Neither Pinochet of Chile, Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti or Hitler in Nazi Germany lasted forever.
We continue to call on the Guyana Police Force to act professionally and begin the process of restoring the tarnished reputation of the force. Meanwhile the continuing public revelations of the complicity of some senior ranks of the police force and its acting commissioner in the arming of Axel Williams and the duplicity of agents of the PPP/C in protecting him from the consequences of the alleged barbaric murder of a poor food vendor has added to the stench. This case alone is cause for an investigation never mind the 200 odd bodies and disappearances. The force should also give thought to putting in place a witness protection programme to begin the process of getting to the bottom of the state sponsored murder spree and other human rights atrocities.
URGENT NEED FOR HOLISTIC POLICIES ON CRIME
The persistent criminal attacks on passengers in minibuses and other citizens in the Buxton railway embankment area continue to concern the PNCR. The Buxton situation only confirms the party's oft-stated position that the crime situation in Guyana can only be solved by a comprehensive policy that seeks to overcome joblessness, hopelessness, organised crime and other core causes.
The party's late leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, had proposed a Buxton Resuscitation Scheme to improve the social and economic environment in the community and to thereby reduce the incentives for criminal activity. This idea was roundly ignored by the government. Today, despite the heralded execution of criminal suspects
over the last year, crime still pervades the country. On top of this, the Buxton neighborhood presents special challenges that demand creative and purposeful approaches. No amount of police raids and killings can solve the crime situation in Guyana. The PNCR reiterates its call for a comprehensive economic development plan for the Buxton area. We repeat that such a plan can be used as a model for other communities.
MINISTER ROHEE’S RETREAT
At a meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly, held on Friday, January 6, 2004 Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Clement Rohee appeared as scheduled to give a presentation on the work
being undertaken by his Ministry. This presentation was imperative to allow the Committee to commence its review of the Ministry, and make recommendations to the Assembly accordingly. Regrettably, Minister Rohee refused to make his presentation, using a flimsy excuse that he could not participate if Committee member, and PNCR Parliamentarian, Jerome Khan was present. Minister Rohee was apparently offended by the use of the word “back-track” by Mr. Khan on the previous Thursday at a question and answer session during a PNCR press conference, to refer to the fact that he Rohee was forced to travel to Mexico through a circuitous route rather than the more economical and direct way of going via the United States.
The PNCR does not accept the position taken by Minister Rohee that he will not appear before the Parliamentary Sectoral committee as long as PNCR MP Mr. Jerome Khan sits as a member as a valid reason. The Sectoral Committees of Parliament are appointed under Article 119b of the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana, and no member of the executive branch of Government can refuse to appear before that Committee or seek to determine the composition of that Committee. The Minister's action smacks of a deliberate attempt by the PPP/C administration to frustrate the work of constitutionally appointed committees or perhaps a futile attempt to distract from the embattled Minister of Home Affairs. This is yet another attempt by the PPP/C to renege on commitments made in the constructive engagement process now that they have succeeded in obtaining debt relief under the Enhanced HIPIC Initiative, a situation which the PNCR had long predicted. We expect that the Minister will understand his responsibility and obligations under the revised Constitutional arrangements for Parliamentary reform and transparency and attend the oversight hearings, which are a necessary and vital part of the Parliamentary process.
Meanwhile, we call on the Minster to make public all that he knows about the delay in the issuance of a US visa to him so that both he and the nation could be further spared the ignominy that this situation has invited. The PNCR is confident that were the Minister to bear his soul, there would be fewer misinterpretations and misconceptions in the future.
WORLD BANK NETWORK
PNCR Member of Parliament Mr. James K. Mc Allister will depart Guyana tomorrow to attend the 5th Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB) which will take place in Paris, France from February 15 – 16, 2004. PNoWB is a global non-governmental organization that advocates transparency and accountability through policy dialogue on key developmental issues with the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral donor organization. Mr. Mc Allister’s participation in the conference is being facilitated by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.
One of the main purposes of Mr. Mc Allister’s participation in the conference is to develop ideas and proposals for how Guyanese parliamentarians can engage with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress report that the Government of Guyana will produce this year. Mr. Mc Allister is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Sector Committee for Economic Services.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
In our last press conference, the PNCR reaffirmed its commitment to early local government elections. It however reiterated that the obvious prerequisites should be in place. Earlier this week, President Jagdeo at the behest of the donor community chaired a meeting of the donor community along with the PPP/C, the PNCR and the Elections Commission. The intended focus of that meeting was the timetable for the holding of local government elections. The PNCR registered its concern then and reiterates it now that all of the parliamentary parties should have been invited. We therefore expect that the other parliamentary parties would be invited to any such future meeting.
In agreeing that a timetable should be proposed for the holding of elections, the PNCR underlined the equal importance of the establishment of a timetable for the implementation of all of the elements of the local government reform. That was agreed to and the PNCR anxiously looks forward to its realization.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, February 12, 2004
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