Fellow citizens, good evening.
Yesterday, President Jagdeo announced the 28th day of August, 2006 as the date for holding Presidential, general and regional elections.
This has been done with the full knowledge that the final votersí list contains genuine shortcomings and that GECOM is not prepared for these Elections.
The Joint Opposition Parliamentary Parties and subsequently the One Guyana platform, comprising opposition parties, civil society elements and representatives of the trade union movement, as far back as 2004 engaged both GECOM and the Government in an effort to have a clean votersí list.
The law provides for verification GECOM itself proposed verification; the Parliament approved funds for verification and GECOM received these funds. Additionally, we have heard reasoned arguments for verification from the PNCR and from various other stakeholders. Yet, today, we have a final votersí list that remains unverified.
As though this were not bad enough the various serious objections submitted by the PNCR to GECOM have been ignored.
More recently the results and recommendations of the costly project with the Elections Office of Jamaica (EOJ) have also been ignored.
The cumulative effect of all this is that the final votersí list for the 2006 Elections contains thousands of names of dead people, persons not resident in Guyana and/or imposters.
You should also be aware that GECOM proposes to reduce the number of polling places for these elections compared with 2001.
It has been suggested to the One Guyana platform and to the PNCR that, notwithstanding all these shortcomings there will be enough safeguards on elections day to ensure a free and fair poll. While there have been many promoters of this approach, including the President Jagdeo, himself, the PNCR has been unable to find anyone or any institution, able to properly define those polling day safeguards.
Over the last two months two letters were written to the Chairman of GECOM, seeking meetings to discuss the electoral concerns of the One Guyana platform. Both letters were contemptuously dismissed.
On the question of polling day safeguards the simple fact is that having regard to their track record up to this time we have no confidence in GECOMís ability to enforce those safeguards.
Now that the President has announced the date for Elections the PNCR must decide, in the face of a padded list, inadequate systems and procedures and unrevealed polling day and polling place safeguards whether it should participate in the Elections.
The strict logic of a just cause and reasonable demands suggests that the PNCR should not participate in these elections. There are however, broader, more critical considerations that must be brought to bear on the current situation.
As the major political opposition party in Guyana, and in our countryís current parlous condition, I believe that we are the only credible alternative Government to the PPP/C.
Since August 2004, I had outlined my views on the necessity for all patriotic forces to form alliances to move our great but unfulfilled country forward. We believe that such alliances would be the basis for the implementation of a system of shared governance that would ensure peace, national cohesion and reconstruction. Since then our Party has vigorously pushed this objective. In pursuit of this objective a One Guyana Platform embracing Political Parties, trade unions, religious and civic groups has evolved. We are confident that with this approach we have the capacity to remove the present administration out and install a government underpinned by unity, with the PNCR as an important partner.
The PNCR believes that the Guyanese people overwhelmingly endorse the approach of an amalgamation of forces, under a model of shared governance, to take Guyana forward on a platform of unity, with its political leaders working together to create a society, in which each and every Guyanese will have a fair to opportunity to achieve prosperity.
Given this objective the question that arises is whether the PNCR will be serving the national interest by boycotting the Elections and thereby guaranteeing the PPP/C overwhelming occupation of the national political and parliamentary space for the next five years.
Would it be fair to the Guyanese people if we abandon them to a continued regime of corruption, of association in high places with drug barons, of marginalisation and discrimination, of ethnic division, of hopelessness of downright executive lawlessness and of continued economic decline?
Or must we step up to the plate, even against unfair odds, to rescue Guyana, to take our country back and to salvage our Nation from decay and possible collapse?
The PNCR has carefully considered this matter. We have taken account of the strongly held views of our supporters; we have consulted with many of our friends and have listened to the views of other patriotic Guyanese. In the end, we have concluded that the national interest must prevail.
However, on a playing field that is uneven, Guyana needs every patriotic citizen to be a watchdog for integrity and fair play on Election Day. We must all be alert to the potential for wrongdoing and skullduggery and make full use of the presence of observers, scrutineers and officialdom to expose any and all attempts to rig or commit fraud. The PNCR will not flinch from this responsibility.
In some strange way I believe that despite all the tribulations that we have endured under the PPP/C Administration, God is on our side.
It is against this background that I announce today that the PNCR, with the One Guyana Platform will take part in the forthcoming elections set for the 28th day of August, 2006.
May God bless our Nation!