PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, March 18, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.




SUMMARY:

• The PNCR notes with deep concern as well that recent requests to adjourn the National Assembly on matters of definite, urgent and public importance have not proven successful and recalls the brave attempt made by Assembly Member Deborah Backer on December 11, 2003 to debate the crisis crime and security in Guyana.

• The rule of law is the bedrock on which a modern civilized society is built. Without obsessive adherence to it, our society, and our own personal lives, would be infested by insecurity, uncertainty, anxiety and fear. Without the rule of law, our country cannot hope to achieve social and political stability and economic prosperity.

PNCR TAKES GAJRAJ ISSUE TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

At the very first sitting of the National Assembly for the year 2004, and held on Monday March, 15, 2004, the PNCR through its Leader and Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, requested leave to adjourn the National Assembly to discuss a definite and urgent matter of public importance, to wit, “allegations of the existence of State Sponsored Death Squad(s) in Guyana and the intimate involvement of the Minister of Home Affairs…”. The request set out in a letter of the same day addressed to the Speaker of the Assembly and more ably articulated in the Assembly, was regrettably denied. The Party is adamant that the existence of a death squad, the killing of innocent people, the involvement of a Government Minister and other government and state officials in murder are too important to the people of Guyana for technicalities to be used to prevent debate. What a pity!

The resolve clauses of the Motion were as follows:

“BE IT RESOLVED that this National Assembly calls on Mr. Gajraj to do the decent thing and resign from Office within 24 hours of this motion being passed in the National Assembly to permit an independent inquiry into the serious allegations of the existence of a state sponsored Death Squad in which he is alleged to be involved;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the event of the failure of Mr. Gajraj to resign with 24 hours after the passing of this motion that the President of Guyana be requested to remove Mr. Gajraj from Office to permit the conduct of an inquiry without any possibility of his interference in such an inquiry;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this National Assembly excludes Mr. Gajraj from further participation in the business of the National Assembly until he resigns;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this National Assembly calls on President Jagdeo to establish on or before the 31st March 2004 a Commission consisting of eminent jurists and other qualified persons from both within and without of Guyana to conduct an independent and impartial public inquiry into the existence of State sponsored Death Squads and the involvement of Mr. Gajraj in its operation;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that members of the opposition parties in the National Assembly be required to name at least two members of the said Inquiry;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the event that the President fails to appoint a Commission of Inquiry into this matter that the National Assembly approaches the United Nations for assistance in appointing an international inquiry into the Government of Guyana’s involvement in State Sponsored Death Squads.”

The PNCR notes with deep concern as well that recent requests to adjourn the National Assembly on matters of definite, urgent and public importance have not proven successful and recalls the brave attempt made by Assembly Member Deborah Backer on December 11, 2003 to debate the crime and security crisis in Guyana. The PNCR proposes to engage the Speaker of the Assembly and other Parliamentary parties to work towards a definite interpretation of the rules and practices of the Assembly so that a body of convention and parliamentary jurisprudence as it were, could be developed, adopted and applied with certainty.

The PNCR respects the rulings of the Speaker of the Assembly but intends to urge him to revisit his approach to, and interpretation of, the Standing Orders of the National Assembly so as to ensure that members can give fair and proper representation to their constituents. The PNCR will, however, resubmit the motion for debate in the Parliament and will seek the necessary suspension of the standing orders to enable the urgent debate of the Motion. It is to be hoped that the National Assembly will be convinced that the suspension of the standing orders is justified on a matter as grave as state sponsored murder.

PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION FOR THE RULE OF LAW IN GUYANA

On Saturday, March 20th, the determination of Guyanese in their struggle for the restoration of the rule of law in their country will again be robustly demonstrated. The Rule of Law March will commence at 3:00 PM from three points in Georgetown: (Shopping Plaza, Ruimveldt; Parliament Building Square, Brickdam; and Congress Place. Sophia). The marches will culminate at the Square of the Revolution where all gathered will be addressed by representatives of the Organisations sponsoring the activity. Saturday’s events will amply demonstrate two important and vital points: firstly, that there will be no let-up in the public call for an investigation into state-sponsored death squads and for the parallel resignation of Ronald Gajraj in order to facilitate a truly independent and impartial public inquiry; and secondly, that the rapid collapse of the rule of law in Guyana has galvanized Guyanese across the political, social/ethnic, religious and other divide into action.

The PNCR, at its last press conference indicated that it would be one of the sponsors of the march and we have accordingly encouraged our members to participate. We would also like to invite all Guyanese to participate as well so that a strong message can be sent to the Government.

The rule of law is the bedrock on which a modern civilized society is built. Without obsessive adherence to it, our society, and our own personal lives, would be infested by insecurity, uncertainty, anxiety and fear. Without the rule of law, our country cannot hope to achieve social and political stability and economic prosperity.

The President and the PPP/C plan to divert the people’s attention and to create the impression that all is normal, have failed miserably. The President’s recent decision to order action against those involved in the remigrant vehicles scam is all part of the plan to create the impression that government is doing something about the endemic corruption. However, too many scams and skeletons have piled up in the PPP/C’s closets over the years, for the Guyanese people to be fooled by these attempts to deceive. Indictments of a few public servants cannot salvage the image of a government that is corrupt to the core. By the same token, the launching of an advertising blitz on the State-owned radio and television to whitewash the obvious crisis in governance we face in Guyana, will not pass.

President Jagdeo’s recent utterance that described the Gajraj affair as a “tiny matter” is most contemptuous of the people of Guyana. When the President of a country can have such a flippant attitude towards an issue as the fundamental right to life of its citizens it is time for the people to act to save their country.

Participants in Saturday’s Rule of Law March and Rally and tens of thousands of others at home and elsewhere will no doubt expect to get a clear sense of direction as to the way forward for Guyana. They will want to know what roles they can play in saving their country from disaster. The majority of Guyanese realize that the time for action is upon us. People are ready to move on.

THE DESMOND HOYTE MEMORIAL LECTURE SERIES

We take this opportunity to remind the public that the PNCR will be inaugurating the DESMOND HOYTE MEMORIAL LECTURE SERIES. This will be an annual event of public lectures at which distinguished academics and public figures will make presentations on significant issues on which Desmond Hoyte himself felt strongly and to which he committed his political life. Such topics as good governance have gained more potency today.

The first lecture in the series will be held on Friday, March 19th, 2004, at the City Hall, Georgetown at 6 pm. Dr Tyrone Ferguson, lecturer and researcher at the Institute of International Relations, UWI, will make a presentation on “National Leadership and the Crisis of Governance: wither Guyana?” Dr. Ferguson received his doctorate in international political economy at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, University of Geneva, Switzerland. The public is invited.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, March 18, 2004