PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, March 4, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:

PNCR expresses condolences to the family and relatives of Professor Dennis Craig.
• The PNCR remains steadfast in its determination to salvage Guyana from this state of lunacy.
• The results of the census or any analysis thereof are, in our view, of national importance and should be in the public domain as soon as they are available.
• The PNCR is reliably informed that Bharrat Jagdeo personally intervened to craft a strategy of diversion and obfuscation to shift focus away from these internal crises, and to try to improve his own and his government’s international standing.
• The PNCR wishes to place on record its commendation for recent acts of bravery of members of the Police Force.

CONDOLENCES ON THE DEATH OF PROFESSOR DENNIS CRAIG

News of the death of Professor Dennis Craig was received with shock and sorrow by the entire leadership of our Party. Professor Craig was indeed a fine Guyanese gentleman, a committed regionalist and intellectual giant. His multi-faceted contributions as a Caribbean scholar and educator will remain his enduring legacy. His service to Guyana in the field of education and more particularly in Policy Development is legendary climaxing as it did with his services as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana. We wish to convey to his sorrowing wife, children and other relatives our sincere sympathy and pray that they will be comforted in the knowledge that his life was an example worthy of emulation.

THE GAJRAJ AFFAIR: PNCR’S POSITIONS RECONFIRMED

Recent disclosures and newspaper reports confirm the PNCR’s position that (i) the Guyana Police Force cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of conducting an impartial investigation into state-sponsored terrorism, (ii) if citizens are to come forward with information on the activities of death squads, they need to be guaranteed protection, and (iii) members of the death squad are part and parcel of the very nefarious activities of those who were said to be their main targets.

1.1. Guyana Police Force (GPF) cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of conducting a thorough investigation into state-sponsored terrorism

When it was substantiated that the government was a sponsor of the death squads, it was not on rash impulse that the PNCR called specifically for an impartial and independent inquiry. It was not an oversight that we did not suggest the police to be responsible for such an investigation. For the PNCR was aware of several facts. Firstly, some members of the Guyana Police Force work in association with members of the death squad in such activities as contract killing and narco-trafficking. Indeed, it was not based on guesswork that the US State Department concluded in its 2003 report on Guyana that there exists widespread corruption of law enforcement officers. Moreover, Guyanese can judge for themselves what prompted the US government to revoke recently the visas of five senior police officers.

The second fact informing the PNCR’s position is that the police have failed to act in the past on the information provided them by relatives and eye witnesses. These citizens have provided the police with specific information as regards identities of persons and vehicles, times and locations of incidents, and recounts of conversations. For instance, an article in last Sunday’s Stabroek News on the September 2003 killing of the “Pattensen duo”, Clive Mclean and Clive Savory, highlighted the fact that the police did receive several eyewitness accounts of incidents prior to, during and after the kidnapping and murder of the two men, but did nothing.

As reported in SN of March 1st, the new Police Commissioner, to his credit, has also recognized that the police force should have no role in an inquiry into the death squad, given the public perception of police involvement.

It is the view of the PNCR that the new commissioner should mount an internal audit of the police force’s responses (or lack thereof) to the numerous eyewitness accounts and other evidence on execution-style killings over the last several years.

1.2. Protection of citizens who may wish to volunteer information on the activities of death squads.

Most Guyanese were outraged but were not surprised over the fact that Ms Pam Fletcher, the mother of Victor Bourne, a victim of the death squad, received telephone threats after her interview appeared in the Sunday Stabroek News of 22nd February. Ms Fletcher, in seeking justice for the killing of her son, had decided to tell the media what she knew of her son’s activities just before he was murdered. The PNCR has been able to confirm that Ms Fletcher received several telephone calls from persons promising to seriously harm her should she continue to speak out. The PNCR applauds the courage and determination of Ms Fletcher, but we call on the police to diligently pursue this matter with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice. Our party is monitoring the situation closely.

This incident only supports the PNCR position that if the government was serious about encouraging citizens to come forward with information, it should provide protection for them. The truth of the matter is, of course, that the PPP/C does not want anyone to step forward with such information, since it fears the total exposure of its criminal network -- a network that is involved in kidnappings, murder, extortion, and drug-trafficking.

It is none the less evident that enough information already exists for an investigation to be launched. That the government is still pussyfooting on the issue only hardens the public resolve to ensure that the PPP/C does not escape with impunity.

1.3. Members of the death squad are part and parcel of the very nefarious activities of those who were said to be their main targets

The reported association between known criminal suspect, Mark “Big Batty” Phillips, and members of the death squad confirms that both groups at times worked in consort and supported each other. It also raises the question: how involved were the members of the death squad in the crime wave before they were recruited by Gajraj? The PNCR is not surprised by the reports of this unholy alliance between criminals and hired killers. They were cut from the same cloth. The demise of the prison escapees and others has only served to give the members of the death squad more turf to carry out their own criminal agenda. Already, there is an emerging resurgence in violent robberies, kidnappings and drive-by shootings. The disturbing new feature, however, is that several of the perpetrators have state protection.

But there is a further dangerous factor we must emphasise. Our Police Force, already plagued with a milliard of shortcomings, is now placed in a state of further disorder that should it receive a report of an on-going crime, it may not respond on the assumption that the crime in progress may involve Gajraj’s boys. In such circumstances who among us can claim to be safe?

The PNCR remains steadfast in its determination to salvage Guyana from this state of lunacy. We intend to up the ante of our protests in the coming weeks. Failure to remove Gajraj so as to facilitate an independent inquiry and to uproot the scourge of death squads from our midst is not an option. We must succeed. And we will.

THE NATIONAL CENSUS RESULTS

The PNCR notes that the preliminary results of the 2003 Census have not been made public. Indeed, it is our understanding that this information has not even been tabled or discussed at the board of the Guyana Bureau of Statistics. We do not accept the assumption that the results of the census and the analysis of the results are a political matter or one in the preserve of the government’s discretion. The results of the census or any analysis thereof are, in our view, of national importance and should be in the public domain as soon as they are available. The manoeuvrings of the government have given rise to public speculation and suspicion that it is up to mischief. We will keep this matter under scrutiny.

JAGDEO’S BRINKMANSHIP ON THE SURINAME BORDER ISSUE

Within the last few weeks the nation has seen a flurry of diplomatic and related activity emanating from the Office of the President. First there was the sudden visit by President Chavez of Venezuela, then the revelation of the existence of a secret maritime treaty entered into with Barbados in December, 2003, and finally the latest frenzy generated by the government’s decision to take the matter of Suriname’s objection to the exploitation of resources to the United Nations Commission for the Law of the Sea for settlement. The PNCR has said before and will say again that these latest manoeuvers by the Jagdeo government are a desperate and futile attempt at diverting the citizens’ attention from the internal crises posed by the revelations of the existence of state-sponsored death squads and by the collapsing economy. The party is reliably informed that Bharrat Jagdeo personally intervened to craft a strategy of diversion and obfuscation in order to shift focus away from these internal crises, and to try to improve his own and his government’s international standing.

The most recent decision regarding Suriname’s objections to our exploration for marine resources is nothing new and was decided upon early in 2003. Moreover, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, was briefed by the government on this matter since then. Yet the regime last week sought to present a picture of an emerging crisis on our Eastern border and even went as far as seeking to inveigle the military to stage exercises in the Corentyne area. These actions could only have had the effect of provoking unpredictable military responses from Suriname. The PNCR is of the considered opinion that the decision to take the territorial dispute with Suriname to arbitration was inevitable having regard to the prolonged stalemate in the talks that ensued following the June 2000 ejection of the CGX rig. However, the Party is also of the opinion that the matter could have been managed without cavalier ship and more in the sprit of good neighbourliness. We may have lost a golden opportunity, notwithstanding the decision to go to arbitration, to convince the Suriname government that such an action would be in our joint interest. The PNCR calls on the government to resist any further acts of brinkmanship.

We support the decision to move to international arbitration. But we call on the Guyanese people not to be fooled by any suggestion that there exists a new border crisis with Suriname. We warn that Bharrat Jagdeo’s dangerous games of brinkmanship with the Guyana/Suriname border issue can boomerang and cause untold harm to Guyana in the future.

GUYANA POLICE FORCE: BRAVERY IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY

Even as the Commissioner of Police and his ranks are coming to grips with the causes and effects of the madness which saw several dedicated officers and ranks losing their lives and being injured in the line of duty; the March 1 tragedy has come as a grim reminder of the ever present danger to which members of the force are exposed. The PNCR wishes to use this opportunity to once again extend our heart felt sympathy to the Griffith and Latchana families in their time of bereavement.

At the same time the PNCR wishes to place on record its commendation for the recent act of bravery by members of the force. We were particularly impressed that quick thinking and immediate action undertaken by members of the police force on Thursday, February 26 last foiled the kidnapping of Narissa Persaud, a student of a city school. The party hopes that this show of bravery and professionalism will inspire the entire force to new levels of commitment to its credo of service and protection of the people of Guyana.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, March 4, 2004