PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, April 8, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• Mr. Corbin’s speech incisively addressed the fundamental causes of our national predicament and boldly proposed a vision for our national salvation.
• The latest manifestation being the vicious and criminal attack on the Chabrol family at Success on the East Coast of Demerara.
• The PNCR leaves it to the Guyanese public to draw their own conclusions. We only state that it is time PPP/C supporters and, particularly people of East Indian descent, understand that the politicization of crime by the PPP/C has not benefited Guyana.
• The PNCR calls on the Commissioner of Police to produce Jocelyn Jones. We hold him accountable by the same standards we held his predecessor.
• The People’s National Congress Reform extends Easter Greetings to all Guyanese and more especially to the Christian Community.

PPP/C’S RESPONSE TO THE OPPOSITION LEADER’S ADDRESS

The PNCR is not surprised at the response of President Jadgeo and the PPP/C to the Opposition Leader’s Address to the Nation on March 31, 2004. Mr. Corbin’s speech incisively addressed the fundamental causes of our national predicament and boldly proposed a vision for our national salvation. In contrast, President Jagdeo and his Party opted to respond with the same tired and tattered statements. While Mr. Corbin spoke about re-ordering the system of governance in Guyana to provide the conditions for all Guyanese to get a good quality of life, the PPP/C trotted out the old line about “power through the back door”. While Mr. Corbin spoke emphatically about broadening and deepening the national consultation process, the PPP/C elected instead to dodge the issue.

The President’s outrageous claim, however, that the PNCR Leader failed to raise the Gajraj issue with him (save for “a chance” encounter) is amazing. It confirms Mr. Desmond Hoyte’s description of Mr. Jagdeo as a person of less than honest character. The record of the attempts by the PNCR to engage the government on the Gajraj issue is public knowledge. The PNCR Leader, on three occasions, as early as the first week in January 2004, spoke to the government about the necessity for an impartial investigation into the Gajraj Affair. On two of those three occasions, Mr. Corbin communicated directly with President Jagdeo.

Mr. Corbin first raised this matter formally with the government on Friday, January 9, 2004 just prior to the swearing-in ceremony of the Police Service Commission. He spoke to PM Sam Hinds, who at the time was acting as President while Mr. Jagdeo was overseas, and to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon. Both men pleaded that only President Jagdeo could deal with the matter and that the issue would have to await his return. On the said day Mr. Corbin refused to remain for the swearing-in ceremony of the Police Service Commission because of the presence of Gajraj and the PNCR’s position was made public.

Later that month, the two leaders met at a ceremony held on a visiting US Coast Guard vessel and Mr. Corbin raised this matter with the President. They spoke one-to-one exclusively on the Gajraj issue for 45 minutes. Whether or not this meeting was a chance encounter is most irrelevant. The fact is that Mr. Jagdeo had ample opportunity to indicate his intention to seek some resolution of the matter. In fact, he did. He confessed his inability to dismiss Gajraj and gave a clear signal that he was afraid to touch the issue. This discussion took place in full view of members of the Diplomatic Community who were present. Not surprisingly, Jagdeo had his PR Czar publish, on the front page of the Guyana Chronicle of January, 2004, the photograph of the two speaking on the Coast Guard vessel under a caption that the two persons were socializing over a trivial event, instead of seizing the moment to inform the nation of the serious issue under discussion.

Then on January 15, 2004, Mr. Corbin wrote to President Jagdeo calling for an independent and impartial inquiry into several matters, including the allegations of a state-sponsored death squad(s) and the involvement of Minister Gajraj in directing its operations. The letter listed the following areas for investigation.
 Irregularities in the issuance of firearms by the Minister of Home Affairs; including bribery and the granting of firearm licences to known felons;
 The formation of several questionable groups, under the guise of Community Policing groups, that have been issued with firearms;
 The existence of death squads alleged to be under the control of senior government functionaries;
 The association of some senior functionaries and these squads in criminal activity, including the narcotic trade;
 The claim that one recent victim of the death squad, Axel Williams, had revealed that a senior government functionary had ordered a “hit” on a businessman; and more recently;
 The revelations of George Bacchus, the confessed informant of the Minister of Home Affairs.

Jagdeo’s reply on January 20, 2004 was dismissive when he asked Mr. Corbin to send any information to the Commissioner of Police, (Ag).

Jagdeo’s recent confused utterances, on TV that had he had an opportunity to meet Corbin a possible solution could have been worked out, is dishonest and is typical of his behaviour during the constructive engagement process. Our Nation is in deep crisis when its President can indulge in such acts of public deception.

The PNCR apart, a host of local and international organizations and governments have made a similar call for an independent and impartial investigation into the death squads. Sadly, one would have thought that by now President Jagdeo would have invented a better excuse for his non-action and arrogance. His attempt to excuse his attitude in the whole sordid affair by claiming that the PNCR leader did not properly raise the matter with him, indeed shows - to quote Mr. Hoyte, “a lack of character.”

The crucial point, nonetheless, is that a principled President does not have to await voices of protests to know when and how to act appropriately in the best interests of the country. Instead of steadfastly refusing to take action Mr. Jagdeo ought to have acted on the mounting evidence in the Gajraj Affair based on his own sense of morality.

On his return from India in January, he traipsed off to Annandale to lambaste all and sundry who had called for an investigation and staunchly defended his Minister. As recent as last month, he made it clear to the nation that he considered the matter a “tiny issue”.

As Mr. Corbin said in his address on March 31, Jagdeo and the PPP/C have been given ample time and leeway to act in the proper manner on the Gajraj Affair. The PNCR will not let this matter be swept under the carpet. There can be no right to choose or right of association in a country where the political party in Government seemingly has the power to kill at will. The Death Squad issue goes to the core of our country’s unity, stability and survivability and must be addressed in that context.

The PNCR hopes that President Jagdeo’s promised detailed response, to the fundamental proposals contained in Mr. Corbin’s Address to the Nation, would be characterized by deep and honest thoughts.

PNCR COMMITTED TO FIGHT AGAINST CRIME AND LAWLESSNESS

The Speaker of the National Assembly, as is now customary, declined to allow a debate on the motion submitted by the PNCR to the Clerk of the National Assembly, which sought to have the Assembly consider the Interim Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission. Citing procedural issues the Speaker chose to recommend several ways in which the motion could be re- presented to the Parliament. It is a contradiction to be granting extensions to the Commission to present its final report when there is an obvious refusal to grapple with the serious recommendations set out in the Interim Report of December 2003. Regrettably, while the PPP/C regime attempts to shut out other opinions and worthwhile recommendations contained in the DFC report and elsewhere, the nation continues to plunge further into crisis. The latest manifestation being the vicious and criminal attack on the Chabrol family at Success on the East Coast of Demerara.

SERIOUS POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE SUCCESS CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE

The well-known Chabrol family of Success is the most recent victims of the crime wave. The PNCR has already conveyed its sympathy to this family through a delegation that visited them after their ordeal. Effective and quick police responses are important elements in any strategy to successfully address our serious crime situation. We, therefore, wish to commend the Police for their quick response to this criminal act and hope that it will be the norm in the future. We have warned against the politicising of crime by the PPP/C Government. However, Luncheon and the PPP/C have continuously sought to place political blame on the PNCR and suggest that crimes were racially motivated. The recent Success Criminal Enterprise is, therefore, of great significance as it represents one of the first occasions where the perpetrators have been caught on the scene of the crime and their true identities uncovered.

The facts as known to the Party thus far indicate as follows:

o The perpetrators of the crime against the Success businessman and woman were residents of Lusignan, the village of the last notorious criminal ordeal, and of Hogg Island, Essequibo.
o Gopaul Chowtie, aka Gewan Chowtie, the criminal killed at the scene of the crime, was charged with treason, along with others, following a joint operation between the Guyana and Suriname police which discovered weapons, camps, manuals and plans for the violent overthrow of the then Hoyte government.
o The trial of Gopaul Chowtie was never held; instead he was rewarded by the PPP/C and released from prison following their electoral victory in 1992.
o Gopaul Chowtie is a well-known PPP/C activist in Essequibo who received overseas training on a PPPC scholarship.
o Gopaul Chowtie was on the payroll of the PPP/C and was the regular companion of Haripersaud Nokta during his election campaign activities in the North-West District in the 1990s.
o Gopaul Chowtie is also well known to the Guyana Police Force for his treasonous activities and subsequent acts of high-seas piracy.
o Gopaul Chowtie, despite his known shady activities, received a licence for a firearm upon the direction of a high political functionary within the Ministry of Home Affairs.
o Gopaul Chowtie felt confident enough to take his personal firearm and his licence with him to the scene of the crime.
o Gopaul Chowtie attempted to murder a policeman (Gavin Ricknauth) on Sunday, April 4, 2004. Thankfully, the brave policeman survived the attempt.
o The men carrying out the robbery were armed with at least 1 AK 47 assault rifle and other weapons and displayed a high degree of training as seen in their modus operandi and crime paraphernalia.
o Gopaul Chowtie cried out for “the Minister” to come to his aid just before succumbing on the morning of Monday, April 5, 2004.

The PNCR leaves it to the Guyanese public to draw their own conclusions. We only state that it is time PPP/C supporters and, particularly people of East Indian descent, understand that the politicization of crime by the PPP/C has not benefited Guyana. It has, in fact, hampered a united national approach as recommended by the PNCR.

The PNCR and thousands of others have called for a review of the policy for the distribution of firearms to known criminals in Guyana. Whether the government is prepared to accept it or not, the need for an investigation into the Minister and Ministry of Home Affairs is an imperative that cannot be avoided. We call on the Police to remain vigilant and to guard against planned attempts to sow the seeds of division and dissension within their ranks. The brave police officers who responded quickly and fearlessly on the night of Sunday, April 4, 2004 are deserving of the nation’s commendations and encouragement to quickly root out the remaining criminals bent on executing a centrally directed campaign of terror in Guyana for partisan political ends. The PNCR will not be sidetracked from achieving its objective of bringing change and betterment to the people of Guyana.

DISAPPEARANCE OF JOSLYN JONES

The recent disappearance of Joslyn Jones after his arrest on the 27th March 2004 by identified members of the Guyana Police Force is another matter of grave concern to Guyanese. Most Guyanese were of the opinion that, with the spectre of Death Squads under public scrutiny, the phenomena of young men being arrested then disappearing, or, their bodies being found in some desolate spot, would have come to an end. Regrettably, the Joslyn Jones disappearance is a shocking reminder that the Nation is still to address this serious issue. The PNCR calls on the Commissioner of Police to produce Joslyn Jones. We hold him accountable by the same standards we held his predecessor. Unless this matter is successfully concluded confidence in the GPF would continue to be eroded. There have been sufficient well-publicised and credible reports to establish that Jones was arrested by the Police. The PNCR will not allow this matter to go unresolved and we put the Commissioner on notice.

SUPREME COURT WORKERS FIND JUSTICE

After a long and arduous struggle for their rights to be recognized, the High Court workers, who were summarily and improperly dismissed, had their position vindicated by the Court of Appeal
on Monday, April 5, 2004. The PNCR has closely followed the development of this and similar matters over the past years and wishes to say that the decision of the Court of Appeal has rekindled the once bright light of justice and respect for the Rule of Law. This ruling will have implications for all public servants and we call on all workers, unions, and defenders of human rights in Guyana, to take action to ensure that the Government honours the judgment of the court. We cannot forget past instances when the Rule of Law was brazenly disregarded and Court Orders routinely ignored or destroyed. The people of Guyana are called upon to stay vigilant and mobilized in the fight to rescue the Rule of Law and good governance in Guyana.

EASTER GREETINGS - HAPPY EASTER

The People’s National Congress Reform extends Easter Greetings to all Guyanese and more especially to the Christian Community.

It is our hope, as already expressed in our Easter Message, that the supreme sacrifice which Christ, the Son of God, made for all mankind, will stir our hearts and forever remind us of our duty to be our brother/sisters keepers.

Let us all celebrate the risen Christ who is alive and continues to intercede for all those who seek his help and guidance. As we symbolically, fly our kites to depict the “Risen Christ”. Let us do so in wide-open spaces and away from Power Lines and be ever mindful of the dangers, which beset us at this time.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, April 8, 2004