PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, March 25, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

• The government has again embarked upon a campaign to politicize the serious crime situation to divert attention from the national call for an independent inquiry unto state-sponsored death squads.
• The first Rule of Law March and Rally on Saturday, March 20, 2004, achieved the objectives set out by the organizers.
• Women continue to be maimed and killed at the hands of their partners and others. Children find themselves being preyed upon and abused in a manner never before experienced here.
• The Guyana Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress Report 2004 has turned out to be an embarrassment and a disgrace to Guyana and is a disservice for the International Financial Institutions (IFI’s) that have expended fine resources for the alleviation of Guyana’s deep-seated poverty.

RESURGENCE IN CRIME: CORE CAUSES MUST BE TACKLED AND AGREED RECOMMENDATIONS URGENTLY IMPLEMENTED

The PNCR continues to be alarmed over the spate of criminal activity mostly centered in communities in the lower East Coast Demerara. The images of brutality and assault witnessed recently in Beterverwagting, Triumph, Lusignan, Sophia and the East Bank must be of grave concern to all Guyanese.

While comprehensive and long-term measures are necessary to deal with the crime threat at a fundamental level, the PNCR nevertheless urges the Commissioner of Police to expeditiously establish a plan of action that can be implemented without delay. Such a plan should focus on working closely with residents of communities, taking suspects alive so that they could be interrogated, respecting the fundamental rights of citizens, and beefing up the rapid-response capability of the police force.

The PNCR has repeatedly made public its condemnation of all forms of criminality in our society. We have condemned all forms of violence, whether racially, politically or criminally motivated. We have also previously stated that unless the core causes of crime in our society are addressed the crime situation will remain unresolved.

Regrettably, the Government has again embarked upon a campaign to politicize the serious crime situation for its own narrow objectives. Faced with mounting dissent over their failure to set up an inquiry into the Gajraj affair, they now seek to use the crime situation to generate racial tension and to find a political scapegoat. Anyone who objectively analyses the recent victims of the crime wave cannot interpret them to have racial and political motivations, albeit these incidents pose threats to ethnic security and could lead to conflict. In such situations any Government is expected to act responsibly. This is perhaps beyond the capacity of the present regime. The latest outburst came from the Head of the Presidential Secretariat misusing his office and the Cabinet reporting session.

We will not, however, waste time answering the usual mutterings from the government spin-doctor, Roger Luncheon, blaming the PNCR for the new crime wave. Citizens know better. Such deceit and self-delusion only expose the bankruptcy of ideas and the failure of policies of the government – a failure that has now placed the country at the mercy of criminal gangs, drug lords, gun smugglers and rogue ministers. Politicising crime is not the answer! Pointing fingers will not provide comfort and security to scores of victims who are brutalized and affected. Inventing excuses will only worsen the already critical situation. The PNCR prefers to be more constructive.

In that vein, the PNCR calls on the government to implement the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission. The Government should let the public know whether it intends to bring the report up in the National Assembly for debate and implementation. Procrastination is our biggest enemy at this time. The recent statement by the PPP/C that it would not be bound by the recommendations of the Defence Forces Commission (DFC) is typical of the PPP/C Government over the past years.

They resisted any attempts to have an inquiry into the Police Force but, after being pressured into agreement, only gave superficial support. Now that the Financial Institutions have approved resources they have, as expected, begun to dishonour all their commitments. The DFC is only one such example. The PNCR considers it useful to repeat some of the recommendations made in its submission to the DFC, which were eventually adopted in the report:

• The government should publish its policy for the grant of firearm licenses.
• There should be the immediate cessation of new firearm licence.
• The applicable laws pertaining to firearms possession should be amended to make the penalties for the possession and use of illegal firearms harsher.
• There should be an amnesty declared to call in all illegal weapons before the new laws are implemented.
• Better intelligence, forensic science, and communication capabilities should be developed for the Police Force.
• Police - Community relations should be improved.


The PNCR has also submitted, on Friday, March 19, 2004, to the Clerk of the National Assembly, a Motion calling for the Interim Report of the Commission that was presented, since December 2003, to the Speaker of the House, to be debated and sent to the relevant Sector Committee to oversee the implementation of its recommendations. Indeed, the Commission itself had expressed concern about the requisite political will to implement its proposals when it stated in the interim report, “Many of the changes we propose are long overdue, and some were indeed proposed years ago: their implementation must not be any further delayed.” We must act immediately if we are serious about tackling crime and making the citizens of Guyana feel secure. But again we repeat that good police work can only deal with the outward manifestations of crime. The core economic and social causes of crime are matters within the purview of government policy-making. The PNCR can only hope that good sense will prevail on the part of the PPP/C and the President.

THE RULE OF LAW MARCH AND RALLY: A DEFINING EXAMPLE OF A NATIONAL RESPONSE TO A NATIONAL PROBLEM

The first Rule of Law March and Rally, held last Saturday, March 20th, achieved the objectives set out by the organizers. Firstly, it demonstrated that diverse groups in Guyana with a common purpose can forge linkages in the national interest. Secondly, it re-affirmed the resolve and commitment of the Guyanese people to restore the rule of law to society. Thirdly, it proved that large public demonstrations can be conducted orderly and peacefully without damage to property or person. Fourthly, it defeated the PPP/C’s attempts to cast the event in a most negative light. The organizers and participants must be congratulated for these achievements. Indeed, the event, given its breadth of participation and scale of agenda, fully qualifies as a defining or watershed moment in recent Guyana history. It has awakened the consciousness of Guyanese to the realization that the power to save their country resides in their own hands.

The conduct of the Guyana Police Force must also be commended. Despite the devious propaganda to incite the police to view the event as socially disruptive and ethnically confrontational, the officers and ranks of the GPF conducted themselves professionally. In truth, the participants of the March and Rally gave them no cause to behave otherwise.

The mood and message of the Rule of Law event clearly pointed to a justifiable impatience with the intransigence of the PPP/C government over the Gajraj affair and with the general mis-governance of the country. In the mind of the PNCR, the government has been given ample time to grant the legitimate demands of the local and international community for an independent inquiry into the revelations over state-sponsored death squads. Instead, the Jagdeo government has again exposed its long-standing contempt for the Guyanese people not only by its obstinacy but also by publicly casting the issue of death squads as a “tiny” matter.

The PNCR shares the conviction of most Guyanese that State-sponsored terrorism and the general breakdown in the Rule of Law are issues so fundamental to the nation’s survival and development that, without their resolution, little else matters. We share the conviction that this severe breakdown and frequent bouts of executive lawlessness would continue to fester under the present political regime. Far from protecting citizens and society as a whole from failed policies, incompetent and corrupt ministers, blatant infringements of fundamental human rights and freedoms, arrogance and lordism in government, our present political system facilitates and even nurtures these ills. The Gajraj affair is the ultimate and most dreadful manifestation of the problem. It is time for all Guyanese to reflect on the way forward for our country. Continuing in the old way is no longer an option!

The PNCR will continue to work with other organizations that share the same anxieties to ensure the national good and interest are protected. We will continue to engage and talk with our fellow Guyanese about the way forward. We will not be diverted from our objective, an independent and impartial inquiry into state sponsored Death Squads.

On Friday 26th March, a public vigil is planned in Georgetown. And on Monday 29th , the public picket of Parliament continues. All are invited.

CURBING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

The continued domestic abuse being inflicted on women and children must be a cause for serious worry. The various pieces of existing legislation have done little to curb these atrocities. Women continue to be maimed and killed at the hands of their partners and others. Children find themselves being preyed upon and abused in a manner never before experienced here.

Not surprisingly, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has no plan of action whatsoever. The Police Force on the other hand, already grappling with drug trafficking and other serious crimes, apart from lacking the needed training for dealing with these issues, is finding it difficult to deal with the offenders and to protect the hapless victims.

It is time that the Government recognizes the value of the University of Guyana and other institutions as sources of research findings and informed recommendations. Quite apart from new studies, however, those already on the shelves of the Ministry should be immediately analyzed and, where practicable, their recommendations should be implemented.

Even with our limited resources, the PNCR continues to work among families in various communities offering solace, material support and guidance.

We urge the government to provide encouragement and create a helpful environment for the churches and other NGOs to increase their involvement in this area, so that the incidence of domestic violence and abuse can be reduced.

GUYANA POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY PROGRESS REPORT 2004

The Guyana Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress Report 2004 has turned out to be an embarrassment and a disgrace to Guyana and is a disservice to the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) that have expended time and resources for the alleviation of Guyana’s deep-seated poverty.

Interestingly, the Executive Summary acknowledges that interaction with communities have revealed deep frustrations about the poverty reduction strategy process.

The report creates false expectations for poverty alleviations by projecting a rebound in the economy when the experience with the programme has been growth rates, which have been much lower than expected in fact, (negative growth rates have been our experience recently).

Instead of a thorough examination of the failure to devise sound policies the Report is nothing but a propaganda tool by the Government. The PNCR will shortly give a full public assessment of the Progress Report.

MISUSE AND ABUSE OF STATE MEDIA

While the Government adamantly refuses to implement the agreement on legitimate equitable access by Parliamentary Parties to State Media, the President and the Government continue to abuse the State Media for partisan propaganda.

The use of GTV, now NCN Channel 11, recently by President Jagdeo under the guise of a, “special interview with the President”, for a political attack on the PNCR and its Leader is a good illustration. The fact that private television stations were directed, under threat of cancellation of their licence, to play this political diatribe by the President is, however, a most dangerous development.

The use of the State Media, NCN radio, Channel 11 and the Chronicle to discredit the recent Rule of Law March and sow seeds of ethnic conflict in the society is another disturbing development.

The PNCR condemns this misuse and abuse of State Media and invites the Monitoring Group and the public to assess the claims of, “great progress under the Communiqué” as is so frequently boasted about by the Government.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, March 25, 2004