PNCR’s Response to the Guyana Flood Situation

From:         The General Secretary, People’s National Congress Reform

To:              All Party Overseas Groups

Matter:       The PNCR’s Response to the Guyana Flood Situation  

Date:         February 22, 2005

Re:            Flood Update


PNCR Leader Mr. Robert Corbin addressing  the National Assembly on February 16,2005 Members of the National Assembly on February 16,2005

During the past week, the relationship between the Government and the Region 4 Administration assumed some prominence. Also, the durable problem of the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) and the question of the PNCR motion calling on the Government to compensate those who have suffered losses as a result of the floods are also matters which engaged the attention of the Party.


  1. The Central Government and the Region 4 Administration 
  1. It is a truism that relationship between the Central Government and, those Regions controlled by the PNCR has been unsatisfactory as a result of the formers clear purpose of bypassing the latter. There are many examples of this attitude. It is a well known fact that Mr. Jagdeo frequently goes to Region 10 and in the manner of the Emperors of Old completely ignores the local administration. But it was during the flood that one saw the ugly side of the PPP/C policy of miniaturizing and marginalizing a PNCR controlled Region.
  1. The relevant section of the Local Government Act states that all works undertaken by the Central Government or any of its other entities must be supervised by the relevant Regional Administration. As is its wont, the PPP/C Administration has shown scant regard for this provision. The Party has consulted several members of the Region 4 Administration (East Coast and East Bank Demerara) and was able to obtain the following facts. Even though the Regional Administration has a right to supervise works undertaken in the Region, the PPP/C regularly ignores or bypasses it. They have pointed out for example the representatives of the Central Administration for award contracts and not inform the Region. When a contractor who is close to the PPP/C was awarded a contract in 2001 to do rehabilitation work to the EDWC, the Region was not consulted. The work done by that contractor was poor and the consequences have come back to haunt the PPP/C, and, unfortunately, the people of Guyana. It is now well known, as the report of the Engineers of 2001 revealed that that contractor is responsible for the weakening of the integrity of the dam. 
  1. The response of the Central Government to the flooding and its aftermath was characterized by a study disregard for the Region 4 administration. The Administration was not consulted or was involved in the Central Government relief efforts. This is not the best means by which to govern a society or take effective action in the face of a major crisis. This is not effective because the Central Government has decided to ignore those who require both knowledge and experience in relation to the problems of the Coast and the capital city. That the Region 4 officials’ possessed unrivaled knowledge of these areas cannot be disputed. Additionally, individual members of the administration are highly qualified individuals such as the Regional Chairman himself, who is a respected Engineer.


  1. The East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC)

The problems of the EDWC will be with us for quite a while. The reports of the Dutch Engineers as well as that of the local Engineers in 2001 have highlighted what needs to be done to improve the integrity of the EDWC. But as yet there is no indication that the Government recognizes the urgency of the situation or the need to implement the recommendations of the report in question. While conceding that the EDWC overtopped in limited areas, the Government has refused to acknowledge that the crisis situation still exists. Instead, an attitude of self-congratulation and insouciance has supervened. There is for example no specific provision for the repairs to the EDWC in the Budget announced by the Minister of Finance on Monday last. This is causing much alarm in the wider society as there is little time to do the rehabilitation work to the dam before the rainy season in May and June.


  1. Compensation for Those Affected
  1. As we submit this report there is every sign that the PPP/C Government is about to embark on an aggressive campaign to paint the PNCR as responsible for inciting and inflaming the Guyanese population simply because it has called for compensation for those who have suffered losses as a result of the flood. The tempo has been building. First off Jennifer Westford thundered in Parliament last week that while the PPP/C would consider assistance to people in the affected areas, compensation was out of the question. Then the omnipresent Mr. Jagdeo spoke. When he heard that the Leader of the PNCR was going abroad last week to update the Guyanese Diaspora, he went into his usual funk. He accused Mr. Corbin of seeking to incite and inflame the Guyanese population. And now Mr. David De Groot, a former Aide to Prime Minister LFS Burnham, now Editor of the Mirror, in a “viewpoint” on the Government controlled NCN Radio on February 22 , 2005, has accused Mr. Corbin of the same thing.
  1. But the PPP/C fury and propaganda cannot disguise or suppressed the facts. The flood and its aftermath have hit the Guyanese people hard, especially in the rural areas. They have deepened their poverty and discommoded their lives. Many of them literally have no money to clean their homes or to purchase basic items of food. Many farmers had lost everything, crops, livestock and all. 
  1. In the recently convened sitting of Parliament, the PNCR argued strongly in a motion it submitted to the National Assembly argued that there must be compensation:

“…[that] the Government lay before the National Assembly by the 31st day of March, 2005 a detailed time bound plan as to their short, medium and long term plans to compensate and rehabilitate all persons affected by the floods.”


Surprisingly, a motion of this nature, and able to adversely contribute to our recovery was thrown out of the Parliament by the PPP/C.

  1. On the issue of compensation, a PR team headed by Ms. Supriya Singh, Director of the Public Communications Unit of the Party visited Belmont, Helena No. 1 and Supply in the Mahaica area to hear directly from the farmers affected whether they considered that compensation was necessary. Overwhelmingly, the farmers expressed the view that they wanted monetary assistance and not small handouts of seeds and fertilizers. They wanted a fair and well organised system to be put in place to compensate them for their losses.
  1. The tour to the Mahaica area by the PR team was aired on the Party’s weekly TV programme, “Nation Watch” on Monday, February 21, 2005. On that programme Ms. Singh interviewed Mr. Basil Williams, Vice-Chairman of the Party, and Mr. Hamley Case, Cordinator of Finance and Economic activities. Mr. Williams spoke about the compensation issue in Parliament. During the programme one was able to see footage from the visit which showed Guyanese of all ethnic groups calling for compensation. Some of them broke down in tears as they talked about the hardships they had to face having lost everything as a result of the flood.


  1. PNCR Leader Returns To Guyana
  1. The Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Mr. Robert Corbin MP returned to Guyana on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 after a successful visit to the United States of America. During his visit, Mr. Corbin was interviewed by NBC on Friday, February 18, 2005 and participated in a two hour call-in programme on WLIB on Saturday, February 19, 2005 in New York. On Sunday, February 20, 2005 he was interviewed by Derris Dean of VOA in Washington. 
  1. The Party Leader also held discussions with a religious group on Friday, February 18, 2005, which plans to feed twenty thousand people (20,000) in Guyana in April and attended several Guyanese social functions on Saturday evening in New York.
  1. Mr. Corbin also attended a Public Forum on the Flood Disaster on Saturday, February 19, 2005 in Brooklyn during which a PNCR video entitled “Journal of the Flood” was showed to the audience on a large screen. The response was keen and enthusiastic and the Guyanese Diaspora was able to ascertain the inept nature of the Government response to the crisis. This led to the view that there was need for a new Government in Guyana led by the PNCR. A similar Public Forum was held in Washington DC and the response was just as good. In fact the Party has learnt that moral very high among Guyanese in the USA who are angry at the Government response, an anger which was based on independent reports they had received from relatives at home and those who had journeyed to Guyana and had seen the misery of their compatriots.


People’s National Congress Reform
Flood Crisis Center
February 22, 2005