Press Statement By The Leader of the Opposition
Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, MP
To The Press Conference, Monday, January 31, 2005
Flood Crisis Center, Campala Hotel,
10 Camp Street, Georgetown

Today is Day 16 of the flood emergency which has afflicted our coastlands. The people of the East and West Coast of Demerara still live in deep water, now filthy water. Many are housed in temporary shelters in primitive and often humiliating conditions. To date, there has been no proper, formal or systematic explanation of the nature and origins of the problems, the steps which are being taken to deal with these problems, and the analysis of the accountability for the crisis and the relief which has emerged. The Government continues to believe that the most appropriate way to deal with this problem is for,

  • for the President to run an operation from his home;

  • for his Ministers to abandon their posts to use the disaster as an opportunity for politicking and profiling for photo opportunities;

  • for the Government to try to suppress the full story by harassing television stations and journalists willing to tell the truth and use the national television station to feed the world a diet of half truths and platitudes.

This nonsense must come to an end. The PNCR wishes to make it clear that it will not retreat from or compromise on its approach to the handling of this situation. Our demands on the government are reasonable and would have been standard operational procedure in any other country facing a similar catastrophe.
Consequently, I can no longer remain silent in the midst of human suffering while the President and the Government ignore every reasonable suggestion from me and many other concerned Guyanese. These suggestions have been made with the sole objective of achieving a co-coordinated approach to the present flood crisis that Guyana is presently experiencing. It is not, “petty politics”, as suggested to the media by one PPP/C functionary, but a matter which affects the survival of thousands of Guyanese who are now experiencing unprecedented hardship and severe dislocation in their lives.
I therefore wrote President Jagdeo today informing him that, as the Constitutional Leader of the Opposition and the Party that is the Elected Regional Government of Region Four, Demerara/Mahaica, I am entitled to and demand a full involvement in the decision making process that affects relief operations rather than occasional briefs from him at my request to be informed by him of unilateral decisions already taken. I also advised him that I intended to make public my many suggestions to him and demand that a new and enlightened approach be adopted to save lives and facilitate the reasonable rehabilitation of the victims of the flood. I called on him to recognise his enormous responsibility as President of this Nation and disabuse himself of the belief that he could resolve the grave problems which exist at the moment by literally sitting on the steps of State House determining who is or is not qualified to receive food aid in this crisis.
I have also by letter dated Friday, January 29, 2005 to the Speaker of the National Assembly and copied to the President requested an urgent sitting of the National Assembly of the Parliament of Guyana to discuss this matter.
  1. We demand that the government provide to the nation a proper and accurate technical report which gives detailed information on what is known at present on the cause or causes of the disaster
  2. We demand that the government provide a proper report on the prospects for further danger and the evaluation of the probabilities of more flooding.
  3. We demand that the government provide a coherent outline of the measures taken to counter and remedy the dangers posed by the drainage and irrigation system
  4. We demand that the government provide a detailed listing of the assistance offered by the donors and friendly countries including specifics concerning what has been provided and to what purpose the material has been put.
  5. We demand that the government provide a report on the so-called Task Forces set up by the President. The nation must be informed if they are working and if not, why not?
  6. We demand that the government involve the Opposition Parties in the arrangements being made with donors, with the United Nations and the International Financial Institutions in relation to the aftermath of the flood disaster.
  7. We demand that the government desist from harassing the private media and staff within the sate media in an attempt to muzzle news about the reality on the ground and the sufferings in the lives of our suffering countrymen.
  8. We demand that the government immediately set up an assessment team to evaluate the extent of losses to individual families and to inform the nation of a plan being put in place towards the rehabilitation of those who have been dislocated and have suffered tremendous losses.

The PNCR views the continued misuse of state officials, the police, and the GPL to try to prevent the broadcasts of Mr. CN Sharma through his Channel 6 TV station as a dangerous and provocative development which has the capacity to generate unsavoury and unnecessary consequences. There is no clearer indication of the bankruptcy and callousness of the government’s response to the debacle around them than the fact that the Prime Minister and others can find time to orchestrate the harassment of Mr. Sharma. We are left to wonder if Mr. Hinds has lost all sense of decency and any sense of the folly of his actions. It must now be perfectly clear to the world and to those who have come to Guyana to assist us, what the priorities of the PPP/C regime really is and what is their definition of democracy and good governance.

The PNCR will not sit idly by and allow this travesty to continue. We will place the might of our political muscle to ensure that the government does not use the excuse of this crisis to rape our democracy and our constitution. 

In the meantime, our contribution to the relief effort continues to run in high gear. The suffering of our people has been heart rending but the greater tragedy is that after 16 days, the government has still not been able to put in place a mechanism for dealing professionally with our people’s suffering. It is ironic that there are professionals in our own system who have been sent out to deal with similar tragedies in other countries and have earned the country great kudos. These persons sit at home watching President Jagdeo making a mess of the relief effort from his drawing room.

We continue to discover unregistered and unserved relief centres. We continue to observe the absence of coordination between the work of the government agencies and the NGOS and between the government agencies themselves. We continue to observe that the relief effort, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, is the personal political fiefdom of Mr. Jagdeo. History will never absolve him. 

I have in my letter and I repeat publicly that the PNCR remains committed to working with the Government to deal with this matter but we can only assist to the extent we are allowed in the National Response. No effective use has been made of the persons and the machinery that we made available to the Government. We are also convinced that many other competent Guyanese are ready and willing to assist if called upon.

The PNCR will continue its efforts to bring some relief to the affected Communities but we had hoped that by this time all efforts would have been absorbed in a joint National Response. We hope in the next few days to transfer our Flood Relief Efforts to an already established NGO, Help Guyana, which would be better equipped to carry on the Relief efforts that we have been engaged in over the past eighteen days.

People’s National Congress Reform
Georgetown, Guyana.
Monday, January 31, 2005