PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, March 11, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:

• The breakdown in the rule of law has reached crisis proportions. Guyanese must stand up and take back their country. We must let the Jagdeo Regime know we will take so much and no more. The rule of law must prevail.
• The PNCR remains committed to urgently building a new social and political order for the benefit of all Guyanese. We will let nothing stand in our way of achieving these objectives.
• The PNCR will co-sponsor with other organizations a number of activities including a Rule of Law March on Saturday 20th March, 2004.
• The future of Constructive Engagement is in the hands of Jagdeo and the PPP/C. Nothing short of performance will salvage it.

TIME FOR ACTION BY GUYANESE AGAINST GOVERNMENT’S INTRANSIGENCE and ABUSE OF POWER

The breakdown in the rule of law in Guyana has surpassed crisis proportions! Every aspect of our lives has been thrown into uncertainty, anxiety and fear. All Guyanese, regardless of race or political allegiance, feel the effects. All Guyanese are crying out for a New Order now.

The intransigence of the Jagdeo Regime in taking positive action on allegations of state sponsored death squads and the involvement of its Minister of Home Affairs in directing these gangs is only the latest example of the failure of this Administration to observe the rule of law. The first major example was the total disregard for a Court Order by Janet Jagan shortly before she was secretly and swiftly sworn in as President when she threw the Court Order over her shoulder in full view of the Nation through national television and the Court Marshal was ejected from State House. Given this display at the highest level of the nation, it is not surprising that the PPP/C Regime continued to preside over the continuous breach/violation of Court Orders; the abuse of the rules and regulations governing the State for discriminatory and other purposes; the escalation of corruption and other illegalities in every aspect of national life; the denial of just and legitimate rights of many citizens; the violation of human rights by institutions and agents of the State; and, the breach of agreements and commitments made by the Government to political parties, trade unions, the private sector, international organizations and Governments.

This situation can no longer be allowed to continue if Guyana is to survive as a Nation. It is time for all Guyanese, who are concerned about the future of our nation and the legacy that we will bequeath to our youth, to let the Regime know in no uncertain terms that we will no longer condone this behaviour. Unless we take a stand now, especially on the human rights abuses, the situation is sure to escalate and Guyana may well become, apart from one of the poorest, one of the most repressive states in the world. Guyanese must take back their country now!
THERE IS A COMMON THREAD IN ALL MANIFESTATIONS OF GOVERNMENT’S FAILURE TO UPHOLD THE RULE OF LAW
While the violent crime, the illegal narcotic trade, drug abuse, domestic violence and corruption assumed center stage over the past three years, manifestations of the break-down of law and order were evident in every aspect of life in Guyana. Notorious examples include,

- The refusal of the Jagdeo regime to obey a High Court Order issued more than a year ago to pay Supreme Court workers;

- The breach of Other High Court Orders by the Government to resume the deduction of Union dues from public servants on behalf of the Guyana Public Service Union;

- The regular practice of State agencies violating Court Orders to return to citizens property that had been illegally seized or detained;

- The abuse of regulations to harass the private media and for discrimination, the most recent example of this being the refusal of the regime to permit the existing licensed T/V Stations, Channel 28 and Channel 9, to improve and extend their signals while at the same time strengthening the signals of the National T/V Station, now called NCN;

- The Government’s misuse of the State Media for PPP/C and Government propaganda, including misinformation on the constructive engagement process, while refusing to honour their commitment made in the Communiqué of May 6th 2003 for “equitable access to the State Media owned by all parliamentary parties”;

- The failure over many years to take any action to arrest the abuse of authority by the notorious “black clothes squad” despite hundreds of extra-judicial killings, known involvement by them in the narcotics trade and other illegal activities including the infamous “ Thomas Carroll US Visa Racket” and their confessed involvement; [The statement by Gajraj then of, “there is insufficient evidence”, notwithstanding the availability of the US Court record with the confessions, seems to have now been adopted by his boss, Jagdeo]

- The continuous unfolding corruption scandals such as the Charity Wharf that drifted into the Pomeroon river, the gold scam scandal, the stone scam which showed involvement of high political functionaries, the Mon Repos sea defence scandal, the Cane Grove flooding due to irregularities in the contract and its supervision, the law contracts scandal at the Attorney general chambers, the recent re-migrant duty-free cars scandal involving high officials in the Office of the President and the Treasury Department, the scandal at the IAST in the University of Guyana compound and the alleged involvement of a former Government Minister and now high official in the President’s Office in authorizing the corrupt transactions, and, the reported use of the Ministries of Foreign Trade and Culture and Youth for procurement of US visas through fraud;

- The killing of a ROAR activist in Essequibo and the frequent politically inspired beatings of T/V owner and Leader of the Justice For All Party, CN Sharma;

- The imprisonment of Mark Benschop for more than a year on trumped up treason charges and the deliberate attempts by the State to prevent the holding of a speedy and fair trial;

- The breach by the Government of several agreements with trade unions the private sector and other agencies and the dilatory manner in which the implementation of other commitments are honoured. The Investment Act and the Procurement Commission are useful examples;

- The breach by the PPP/C Regime of agreements made in the Hoyte /Jagdeo dialogue process leading to a political impasse for more than one year; and;

- The dilatory approach and undue delay in the implementation of the agreements made in the Jagdeo/Corbin constructive engagement process and the deliberate refusal to implement others. This is compounded by the use of the State Media for the deliberate deception of the Guyanese people.

In all of the above manifestations there has been one common thread, that is, the failure of the administration to act responsibly and with integrity, despite public exposure of the facts. The response of the regime to the recent allegations and revelations of the existence of death squads and the involvement of Gajraj, must therefore be viewed in the wider context of the refusal of Jagdeo to uphold the rule of law in Guyana. Jagdeo believes that, like the above examples this recent scandal will blow over with time. He is sadly mistaken. No amount of diversionary tactics such as, the expulsion of Ramjattan, the IAST investigation, State Visits or the recent attempt to invoke territorial issues and controversies will divert our attention from the serious threat which the existence of death squads will pose for the future of human rights in Guyana. The PNCR has repeatedly stated over the last few weeks that this issue will not be allowed to die and it appears that the Government, as is their wont, will not take this matter seriously until there is a national confrontation.

The PNCR remains committed to urgently building a new social and political order for the benefit of all Guyanese. We will let nothing stand in our way of achieving these objectives.

PNCR CO-SPONSORS RULE OF LAW MARCH ON SATURDAY MARCH 20

The PNCR has decided to co-sponsor with other political parties, trade unions and other organisations a march for Law and Order in Guyana on Saturday March 20th 2004. The march is one of several activities that will be undertaken over the next days and weeks, if necessary, to bring the Government to the realization that Guyanese will no longer accept the disrespect with which they have been treated and demand that action be taken to deal with the several matters that are of concern to them. Naturally, the major issue of concern is the Gajraj affair and the allegations of death squads in Guyana, but it is not the only issue. Many other issues are of concern to the co-sponsors of the march including, the failure of Government to honour Court Orders that affect workers, the rise in the cost of living and the unbearable electricity rates being demanded by GPL.

Among the Co sponsors of the march are several trade unions including, the GLU, GPSU, UAAWU, PTWU, GWU, GBGSU; opposition political parties including, GAP/WPA, ROAR, Justice For All and other organisations such as The Peoples Movement For Justice (PMJ), the recently formed umbrella organization to deal with the Gajraj affair and Death Squads. Many other organizations including religious organisations are also being encouraged to participate.

The details of these activities were discussed last Tuesday at a meeting held at the City Hall and the Co-sponsors will hold a follow-up meeting tomorrow, Friday 12th March, at the City Hall from 5:00PM. A full statement will be released to the Press by the co –sponsors after that meeting tomorrow.

The Rule of Law march is expected to start from three venues in the city, Public Buildings on Brickdam, Ruimveldt Shopping Plaza in South Ruimveldt Gardens and Sophia from PNCR Headquarters. The march will take several routes through the city and culminate with a rally at the Square of the Revolution, which will be addressed by representatives of the co-sponsors. Police permission for this activity was applied for several days ago and we see no reason why approval would not be granted. Each participating organization has undertaken to provide marshals to ensure that the march is peaceful and orderly and to prevent any troublemaker from infiltrating it to create confusion. We will deal firmly with anyone who attempts to use our march to create mayhem and to sow seeds of disunity. The PNCR has from the initial stages of the sordid Gajraj affair, made it clear that this issue was not a partisan political one between the Government and the PNCR. We emphasized that it is a national issue which affects all Guyanese irrespective of race, religion or political affiliation. That is why the PNCR restrained its individual response since January 15 when we officially notified the President of our concerns. We used the period since that time to hold public and community meetings around Guyana to sensitize Guyanese about the dangers of these developments. During this period the Government had ample time to act responsibly. They did nothing positive. Instead they made deliberate attempts to divert the Nation’s attention. They interpreted the PNCR’s responsible approach to this matter as weakness and have shown further contempt for the Nation. The PNCR is therefore, now compelled to increase its mobilization to let the Government understand the seriousness of its resolve. We hope that the government will finally see the wisdom of ensuring the restoration of the Rule of Law.

We urge all Guyanese and civil society organisations to join in this activity. We call on all religious organizations, the Guyana Human Rights Association, the Bar Association, private sector and other civil society organizations to let your actions speak louder than your voices. Failure to do so may give the Government the erroneous impression that you condone their present nefarious activities.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

There will also be a number of other activities, which will be implemented, over the next few days, including the intensification of picketing exercises from tomorrow Friday March 12, 2004 and Monday March 15, 2004. The Public will be informed of other activities in due course. Those interested in the picketing exercises can assemble at 8: 30 AM tomorrow and at 12 Noon on Monday at the Square of the Revolution. Details will be provided then.

THE FUTURE OF THE CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT LIES IN THE HANDS OF THE GOVERNMENT.

Over the past few weeks there have been several queries about the future of the constructive engagement process because there has been no meeting between the Leader of the Opposition and the President since September 15, last year. The PNCR Leader made a report to the Nation on the Status of the May 6th Communiqué on December 10, 2003. Since that report not much has happened to convince the PNCR that the Government and Jagdeo are serious about advancing the state of Guyana. The response of the Government has been to launch several propaganda campaigns through the monopolization of the State media and the misuse of the executive license of the Head of the Presidential Secretariat at his weekly Cabinet briefings. The PNCR will not, and cannot be shifted from its principled position by propaganda. If the Government is serious they will take the necessary actions. The PNCR will therefore not waste its time in answering the PPP/C propaganda, but wishes to make it clear that nothing short of full implementation of decisions made will suffice. The May 6th Communiqué and the follow up agreement are public documents available to all Guyanese and any one interested in researching the facts can make an assessment of progress made to date.

In a few days, the Leader of the PNCR will give an updated report on this matter to the Nation.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, March 11, 2004