NEW YEAR MESSAGE TO THE NATION BY MR. ROBERT H. O. CORBIN, M.P. LEADER OF THE PEOPLE'S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM LEADER OF THE PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION SATURDAY, JANUARY 1, 2005
Fellow Guyanese: HAPPY NEW YEAR WE HAVE THE RESILLIENCE TO SUCCEED
The New Year, 2005, is here. I wish to extend warm and sincere greetings to you for the Year 2005 in the hope that the New Year brings with it divine blessings to you all. As we welcome the New Year, there is much for which we, as a people and as a Nation, ought to give God thanks.
We have been spared of the devastating effects of the hurricanes of 2004; we have been spared the shocks of earthquakes; and, as the year came to a close we have observed with bewilderment the devastating Tsunamis in Asia and Africa that tragically ended the lives of more than 120,000 citizens of this planet. God has spared us from these natural disasters and while Guyana has not prospered and progressed as we had hoped, we have lived to see a new year. The PNCR and I extend our sympathy to all those citizens of the affected countries who lost loved ones in this disaster. As we embark upon this New Year it is my sincere wish that we approach it with resoluteness and determination to overcome all obstacles, that we will achieve many successes and that we will strive to make Guyana the El Dorado we have all dreamed about. This is no easy task, but I am confident that we have the ability, nay the resilience to succeed.
LAST YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
A year ago, as we welcomed the Year 2004, I had expressed the view that we should adopt a number of resolutions. Among them were that we should resolve to fight:
* “for a decent living wage and a better industrial relations climate;
* against the scourge of poverty and the HIV/Aids virus;
* for equity in the allocation of state resources to all sections of Guyana;
* for the implementation of all the decisions made under the constructive engagement process, particularly the Depressed Communities Needs Committee;
* for the proper functioning of parliament and the many new committees established under the constitution;
* to ensure justice for all including the payment of the Supreme Court Workers, the liberty of political prisoner, Mark Benschop and the speedy trial of remand prisoners in the Georgetown and other prisons; and,
* to advance the cause of good governance including work with the social partners for a new and acceptable model of governance in Guyana. ”
THERE HAS BEEN A FEW ACHIEVEMENTS
Despite our best intentions, we failed as a people to achieve many of those noble resolutions. There have, however, been a few achievements, which we have sometimes failed to recognize because of the numerous problems we had to endure.
* The Court workers were eventually paid even though they have not been allowed to resume their duties.
* Mark Benschop eventually had his day in Court, but thanks to interference in the Judicial System he remains languishing in the Camp Street prison.
* Workers did receive a miserly 5% increase in wages and salaries at the end of the year, but alas, this will be completely absorbed by the continuing spiraling cost of living.
* We succeeded in having a Disciplined Forces Commission, which submitted its final report and recommendations to the Parliament in May 2004. Regrettably, those recommendations have remained just that, with no signs that our Government is interested in their implementation to improve our security environment. Thanks, however, to the commitment of dedicated members of the Guyana Police Force the serious crime situation has abated slightly.
* We succeeded in having a Commission of Inquiry into the phenomena of State involvement in Death Squads in Guyana, albeit, with serious reservations about the scope of the Commission’s mandate. The revelations made so far before that Commission have vindicated the statements made by me in my letter to President Jagdeo on January 15, 2004. It took the PNCR to be bold and forthright in calling for that public Inquiry and there can now be no doubt in the minds of all unbelieving Thomas’es that there were organized killings involving the State. It is indeed very troubling that, in our much touted democracy, it took a Parliamentary boycott by the PNCR, limited protest action by the wider society and international pressure to force the Government to act in accordance with the Constitution to protect the life of every citizen. It is to be hoped that those who administer the affairs of our Nation will never ever contemplate such practices again. I am sure that all Guyanese would expect that the recommendations of this Inquiry will not suffer the same fate as those of the Disciplined Forces Commission, the Mon Repos Sea Defence Stone Scam Report, the Law Books Scam Report, the Cane Grove Flooding Report and the Auditor General’s Report on the illegal Export of Dolphins from Guyana.
* We have been successful in getting the Government to acknowledge that there are depressed and marginalized areas in our country though the President’s belated recognition of these areas leaves us to wonder about the role of his representatives on the Depressed Community Needs Committee set up as a result of the Dialogue process and reinforced in the May 6th Communiqué signed between President Jagdeo and myself.
NON-IMPLEMENTATION OF COMMUNIQUE A MAJOR FAILURE
It is also very disappointing that many important decisions of that Communiqué remain un-implemented. Among them are:
1. Radio Monopoly and Non Partisan Boards
2. Equitable access to the State Media
3. Broadcasting Legislation
4. The licensing of private radio stations
5. Establishing of the Constitutional Office of the Leader of the Opposition.
6. Local Government Constitution Reform
7. Region 10 Development Agenda
8. Appointment of the Human Rights and other Rights Commissions.
9. Enactment of “Crossing the Floor” and Election Commission” Legislation
10. Amendments to the Procurement Act, and
11. Appointment of Ethnic Relations Commission Tribunal, to name a few.
MUCH MORE COULD HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED WORKING TOGETHER
Just think how much further we could have progressed if together, as a Government and Opposition, we had tackled the many problems confronting our many communities through the Constructive Engagement process? How much more harmonious our society would have been if instead of unilateral action there was consultation and involvement?
THE MAJOR FOCUS OF 2005 MUST BE ON OUR ECONOMY
In 2005 a major focus must also be on our Economy for without an enhanced economic performance we will never be able to improve the quality of life of the Guyanese people. Regrettably, our Economic performance over the past year has not been encouraging.
I am sure that we will be regaled with announcements about new roads, a new stadium a new CARICOM Headquarters and a host of other new” things” and our TV stations particularly NCN will constantly bombard us with the slogan “Guyana Going Places” It is however, regrettable that these things which are being passed off as indicators or possible indicators of economic progress are an illusion for what they really represent is the creation of a burden of debt which is likely to suffocate future generations under its weight. The PPP/C Government has incurred over US$1 billion of new debt in its 12 years in office thereby making each citizen liable for over US$1,300 or a family of four for over one million Guyana dollars.
In the meantime Guyana remains firmly in the grip of successive IMF Agreements without any clear or evident exit strategy. These Agreements are negotiated behind the scenes, are not laid in the National Assembly but predetermine the plight of thousands of workers and may be in direct violation of Article 13 of our Constitution, which require consultation, and participation of the people in the conclusion of such agreements.
The Government’s practice of democratic centralism, the written and unwritten discretions (or indiscretions) of Ministers in the concessions’ process and the emptiness in the content and fulfillment of Acts of Parliament intended to give confidence to investors are among the obvious bottlenecks inhibiting large scale investment in Guyana.
Unfortunately, judging from the latest World Bank and IMF Reports, nothing of significance is likely to change for the better in 2005. We do not wish it for our nation but unfortunately, short of a miracle, the past policies of the Government seem to assure us a recipe of further pain and suffering for the New Year.
THE NARCOTICS TRADE
In the midst of all this the narcotics trade has reached unprecedented levels and now threatens the entire economic and political stability of our country. The Cocaine in Lumber, in fish, in coconuts and in most of our export commodities is bound to impact on the smooth export of Guyana’s products by legitimate businesses and adversely affect our export trade. What is more worrying, however, are reports that the laundering process is gradually finding its way into established sectors of our vulnerable economy. This cannot be a good sign for the future of our country. Consequently, we must address the Drug issue as an important one this year.
There are also important issues concerning our National Elections to be settled in this New Year and which will be resolutely pursued by the PNCR. However I do not wish to further burden you with these matters at this time.
A SOLUTION HAS TO BE FOUND IN 2005
Today my wife who is the Treasurer of the Board of the Uncle Eddie’s Senior Citizens Home received an Electricity Bill for $72,000.00 which dramatically and without any reasonable explanation skyrocketed from the average $51,000.00 per month that institution was billed over the past year. I shudder to think what is happening to our senior citizens who exist on miserly pensions. I don’t know what has been your experience but judging from my own, Uncle Eddie’s home and from other experiences, the year 2005 is frightening if we are to think only of our electricity burdens. Surely we cannot survive at this rate … a solution has to be found.
It would be arrogant for any political Party to suggest that it alone has the solution to the country’s pressing problems. Yet solution there must be and solution is within our grasp. But it is only by releasing the vast energies of our Guyanese people - those here at home and those in the Diaspora – that we will turn the situation around and Guyana become the country our children deserve. But we must act together to combat fear, to combat distrust, to combat despair. Let us face the challenges of the New Year with hope in our hearts and, yes, with love for our fellow citizens.
THE PNCR IS WILLING TO PLAY ITS PART
In this context it may be timely to repeat the PNCR’s proposal that all the stakeholders in Guyana, including the governing PPP/C, need to sit together and fashion a consensus programme, including a governance model, to take Guyana forward in the interest of all Guyanese. My Congress Speech on Building a Platform for Peace National Cohesion and Reconstruction is still the working document of the PNCR.
In this regard the PNCR and I stand ready to play our part fully. I wish to take this opportunity to suggest that ideas for discussion in the formulation of a consensus programme should include:
* instituting and strengthening consultative and participatory mechanisms to allow citizens and civil society a meaningful voice in national affairs;
* implementing all the agreements under the constitution reform and constructive engagement processes;
* working with the Trades Union Movement to develop a comprehensive and worker-friendly wages policy; and,
* creating policies and an environment conducive to the attraction of large medium and small-scale private foreign and local investment in our economy.
May God bless our dear land and give us the courage to confront our problems and find appropriate solutions.
On behalf of my dear wife and family, the family of the Peoples National Congress Reform and on my own behalf, I wish you good health happiness and peace for the New Year. May your manifold resolutions be fulfilled.
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL.
People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
January 1, 2005.
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