DESMOND HOYTE S.C., M.P.
- LEADER OF
THE PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM
Chairman, Your Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps, other
distinguished invitees, delegates and observers:
I first of all join our Chairman in extending a warm welcome to all
distinguished invitees, delegates and observers to this 13th
Biennial Congress of the People's National Congress Reform.
am deeply touched by the presence of such a large number of delegates
and observers not only from the remote and far-flung geographical
areas of our country, but also from overseas.
I know it has not been easy for you to attend at this time of
economic and financial stringency.
The expenses must have been heavy, travel conditions
inconvenient and sometimes uncomfortable; but these difficulties have
not deterred you from undertaking the journey. You made the effort -
and you are here!
are here because you love your Party; because you are committed to its
people-oriented philosophy of development; because you know that, at
this time of national crisis, the fate of our country is inextricably
linked with the capacity of our Party to sustain hope among the
Guyanese people, bolster their confidence and inspire them to draw
upon their reservoir of fortitude and resilience to lift our country
out of the morass in which it has been wallowing over the past years.
And you are here because you have a crucial role to play in the
revival of our nation and are determined to play that role.
those of you who are attending Congress for the first time, especially
the young people who are new to the excitement and challenges of
political life, I wish to give a special welcome. My heartfelt thanks
go out to you and to all Party colleagues and citizens of goodwill who
are prepared to commit themselves to the noble task of national
reconstruction. It is not too much to say that the future of Guyana
lies in your hands.
this time, the future of our country is in the balance.
Its problems, complex and multitudinous, have infected and
undermined every sector of national life.
It is manifest that the incumbent government has not only
brought about this sad, unhappy state of affairs by its ineptitude,
dishonesty and corruption, but has shown a startling inability to
grasp the magnitude of the dangers which now beset us. The most cogent
evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of its functionaries is their
belief that propaganda is not only a substitute for reality, but an
acceptable game-plan for explaining our predicament and solving our
the meantime, our people, normally so optimistic, are yielding to
despair; traditionally so resilient, are surrendering to apathy.
Their spirit is being crushed by the inevitable consequences of
a total failure of governance: high and rising unemployment; the
withering away of resources necessary for breadwinners to feed their
families and live decent, happy and comfortable lives; and a pervasive
sense of insecurity fostered by rampant criminality, drug trafficking,
homelessness and the breakdown of law and order in the State.
STATE OF THE COUNTRY SINCE 1992
years ago, Guyana stood on the threshold of developmental success. Our
economy had emerged from the trauma of structural adjustment, and the
bold project that was the Economy Recovery Programme had started to
yield significant fruit. The
international investment community had begun to look favourably at
Guyana’s investment climate and to regard the country as a place to
do business. The various economic sectors began to vibrate and a new
dawn was breaking for us.
dealt firmly and intelligently with crime and security.
Our national institutions functioned well in the public
interest. And within the
region and the wider world, Guyana was highly regarded and respected.
Of course, there were many more tasks ahead, many challenges to
overcome; but Guyanese from all walks of life were able to view the
future with optimism, confidence, pride, and patriotic fervour.
That was a time of hope and promise; but with the advent of a
new government in 1992, the hopes were dashed, the promise blighted;
and we have been experiencing persistent decline.
our last Congress, the country has deteriorated
rapidly. The economy is in shambles.
All major economic sectors are undergoing hard times and facing
bleak prospects. National
institutions – the Public Service, the Judiciary, the Police, Public
agencies whose mandate is to deliver services to the people - are all
in disarray, most of them in a state of collapse.
Even the Army, which was perhaps the only national institution
that managed to preserve its integrity and professionalism, seems to
now to be in danger of losing its way.
of resources and unreformed, the Police Force has become demoralised
and ineffective. Crime of all stripes, from brazen banditry to
white-collar violations, is rampant and unchecked. Investment has
dried up; jobs are dwindling; poverty, homelessness and deprivation
are evident everywhere. In
this situation, business people are daily being driven into bankruptcy
and ordinary citizens are unable to make ends meet. The result is
pervasive frustration, resentment and anger.
Only the drug barons, the thieves and the corrupt seem to be
thriving in this milieu. As
governmental authority disintegrates and fails, violent criminals have
been filling the vacuum thus created.
They are fast becoming the real government of the country.
ROLE OF THE PNCR IN
this situation and faced with the ineffectualness of a hapless and
confused government, major sections of the society are turning to our
Party as the only means of national salvation. Almost everyday we
receive urgent representations from many sections of civil society who
voice their deep concern about the future of our country. They
acknowledge that when we were in government, we ensured good order and
stability in the State and they urge us to use our experience and
political authority to reverse the country’s rapid decline.
fully understand their concerns and appreciate their confidence in us.
The truth of the matter, however, is that there is no simple
formula to bring about the changes and reforms which these concerned
citizens would like to see. For
one thing they would all require intense public support and public
pressure. Clearly, many of them could most readily be effectuated if
we were in control of the levers of governmental power.
But, even so, it would be a mistake for us to believe that
society always necessarily needs the approval and sanction of the
government to bring about needed changes and reforms.
In the final analysis it is good to recall the constitutional
prescription that sovereignty resides in the people, not in a
government. If people are
sufficiently insistent, if they are prepared to stand up and be
counted, great and far-reaching changes can be brought about within a
a political Party we obviously have an abiding interest in acceding to
governmental power. It would be foolish and hypocritical to deny this. Of necessity, this must be a permanent interest and focus. We
cannot and will not allow ourselves to be distracted, derailed or
diverted from that objective. The evidence is clear that the incumbent
regime is incapable of managing the affairs of this country honestly,
justly and competently. It
is a foolish notion that it has permanent tenure in government.
If it continues its silly ways, sooner or later it will
collapse. It is an equally foolish notion that our great Party is fated
perpetually to be out of government.
Party must therefore always be organised, ready and prepared with
appropriate policies and programmes to form a successful alternative
overriding objective must be to halt our country’s precipitate
descent into anarchy and put it squarely on the road towards becoming
a modern, viable, prosperous State. In this patriotic task we invite
all Guyanese to join us. Citizens
who wish to achieve this desirable objective can no longer afford to
sit on the fence. They
have to summon up their courage, make a stand and assume an active
role in the work to be done. I
have no hesitation in saying that the People's National Congress
Reform is the only Party that gives them the opportunity to play such
a role and bring about the desired result.
are an open Party. Our
Constitution prescribes that, “Membership of the Party is open
to all Guyanese regardless of ethnic origin, cultural background,
geographic location or religious persuasion”; and it further
emphasises “that the Party opposes all forms of racism,
discrimination, intolerance and oppression”. We are wedded
to no outmoded ideology, nor are we bogged down by any intellectual or
operational baggage of the past.
We reach out to all Guyanese whose dominant objective is the
good of Guyana and all its citizens.
And so, all Guyanese who have ideas or insights for creating a
better Guyana that is free from ethnic insecurities, social injustice,
poverty, crime and sectarianism can feel comfortable and be at home
within the ranks of People's National Congress Reform.
We reach out to such citizens; we welcome them. We believe
that, given our policies, programmes and general political philosophy,
we offer the best – indeed the only – hope at this time for
rescuing our nation, providing opportunities for all our people, and
advancing their best interests.
recent weeks, we have received formal and informal notification from
civil society organisations and groupings of their intention to
exercise their constitutional right to play an active role in the
political life of the country. To
this end, they have proposed some initial ideas for addressing our
major national problems and challenges, including possible reforms to
our system of governance. We have publicly declared that Our Party
welcomes these initiatives and fully understands the patriotic
motivations which inspire them. Indeed, we have considered their paper
entitled “Shared Governance” and believe it to be a
valuable document and a useful basis for discussions. We stand ready
to respond constructively to further proposals when they are
solidified and to participate in any forum organised to study these
issues. Our minds are not
closed and have never been closed to new ideas.
have noted that, despite our clear explanations and clarifications,
some people still persist in claiming not to know what is our
Party’s position on the dialogue process which we had initiated with
the government in the aftermath of the 2001 general elections. I will
explain for the last time. We have suspended the dialogue because
government has not implemented or fully implemented those decisions on
important matters agreed to in good faith. Dialogue can be resumed
only when the government honours and implements the agreements fully.
This is a position, we believe, that is sensible, logical, principled
and ought to be easily understood.
PNCR AND CHANGE: THE PARTY
is an important, emotional occasion for us, delegates and observers,
to recommit and rededicate ourselves to the service of our Party, to
its policies and programmes, and to the grander objective of promoting
the development of our country in conditions of peace, security and
prosperity. It provides a
forum for us to engage in frank and open discussion, to debate and
analyse issues rigorously, and to make clear-cut decisions. We
therefore must approach its agenda in a mood of creativity and
innovation and a spirit of inquiry that allows us to question our
methods, strategies, policies and programmes, with the full
understanding that, in our Party, there are no sacred cows or
immutable traditions. In other words, we must approach Congress in a
revolutionary vein. And if revolutionary thinking produces ideas and
projects hitherto unfamiliar to us, let us nonetheless examine them
keenly and, if necessary, embrace them bravely in a spirit of change.
Change is as necessary a part of politics as it is of life. Those who
do not change become dinosaurs, irrelevant and eventually extinct. If
we do not adapt to new circumstances, new challenges and new
responsibilities we cannot survive, much less overcome.
this background, I would wish to adumbrate three proposals for your
fuller consideration during the Congress discussions and debates.
I would like to remind you that our Party had, from the outset, been
conceptualised and structured not merely as an instrument for
periodical elections, but also as an organisation to be mobilised on a
permanent basis for community and national development.
Over the years, the latter aspect of Party organisation and
work has undoubtedly experienced some drift. We need to correct this.
The challenges of the period ahead seem to demand that the Party
recapture this aspect of its purpose and adapt its structure to
sustain educational and development work in our communities. To this
end, I would respectfully suggest that the Party consider the
establishment of a supportive or parallel organisation which would
have as its primary task the mobilising of resources for training,
education and fostering entrepreneurship, especially among young
people, and for benevolent work in local communities. We should always
have the capability, whether in or out of office, to promote
development of people in their several communities and provide
requisite support to help them to become productive and enjoy enhanced
conditions of life.
an adjusted system of governance for our country – whether we call
it “power-sharing”, “shared governance”, “inclusive
governance” or any other name – appears to be an idea whose
time has come. It could hardly be claimed that our present
arrangements are working in the best interests of the country and its
imperfections obtrude everywhere and are a serious obstacle to
national cohesion and development. In the circumstances, the
imperative of constitutional adjustment appears to be unavoidable.
We cannot stand on the seashore and bid the waves recede. I
suggest, therefore, that we as a Party give careful and anxious
consideration to the insistent voices that are calling for
political reform. We
should not shy away from examining possible modalities for a
transformed system of governance that meets the needs of our peculiar
situation; nor should we be diffident, as a Party, about putting
forward proposals as part of any national debate on this subject.
our Party cannot stand still; it must grow or decline.
For us, growth is the only option.
We ought, therefore, to reflect profoundly on feasible options
for attracting new members and expanding the base of our Party. To
this end, it might be useful for us to revisit and appropriately
strengthen our “grass roots” structures; update and
intensify our training and public relations techniques; modernise our
financial and management operations; and develop fresh approaches for
reaching out to a wider cross-section of society.
Your ideas and recommendations on these matters will go a far
way towards fortifying and equipping our Party to successfully carry
out the tasks which Congress will mandate.
PNCR AND CHANGE: THE COUNTRY
need to have a deep appreciation of the fact that Guyana must change
to survive; and we must be in the forefront of the battle to bring
about such change. By the same token our Party will have to transform
itself accordingly to facilitate and to cope with the inevitable
change. It must therefore
be our duty to explain and advocate clearly, consistently and
vigorously the necessity for change. It is not reasonable to believe
that our country or our Party can continue along the same old paths
and use the same old methods which we have tried thus far, even if
they had validity in the past.
the country and the Party have evolved through phases.
In the past, there were strategies necessary for achieving and
consolidating independence, for finding our unique place in an
interlinked world, and for asserting our right to choose our own road
to development. The rhetoric and the policies of the past no longer
have resonance. Changed times require changed responses. At both the national and the Party level we will have to
craft new policies, design new structures, experiment with new ideas
to survive comfortably in the new local and world dispensations.
our present circumstances, we cannot continue to think of government
and politics as a zero sum game in which the results of an election
confer on some citizens (the government) the right to behave in
an unregulated and lawless way, while denying the rest (the
opposition) any opportunity to contribute to the national
decision-making and management processes. Given the realities of Guyana, the traditional forms of
political management cannot continue unreformed. In many countries of
the world, best practice in many key sectors has changed; and, in our
own country, the problems and challenges that now confront us are
exerting powerful pressures for change. Unless our country adapts to
change, it will continue its slide into backwardness, ignored in the
world, and wracked by underdevelopment, poverty and schisms.
It must therefore be our inescapable duty to espouse and work
for necessary change in our country at the same time as we change and
refashion our Party.
we face the future, we cannot and must not dissipate our time and
energies in sterile political polemics, in fruitless disputations and
controversies. We have
had enough of words, of useless verbiage.
We must now let our actions speak for us in eloquent and
passionate terms.. For us it will be more beneficial to concentrate on the
policies to be crafted, the programmes to be designed, and the work to
be done to strengthen our Party and stimulate development in the
interest of all the Guyanese people.
AGENDA: A COMPREHENSIVE
this Congress and beyond in the period ahead, it must be our constant
study to derive action plans, buttressed by underlying philosophical
principles, for tackling our country’s endemic problems, while
identifying key tasks for their implementation..
Our Party does not
believe that Guyana’s deep-seated problems can be ameliorated or
resolved by piecemeal tinkering.
Such an approach will not succeed; it will only make matters
worse. These problems do not stand in isolation; they are interlinked;
and we have to approach their solution in a holistic manner,
recognising that reforms in one area cannot be undertaken
independently of reforms in other areas.
We have to recognise the linkages, and act appropriately as we
proceed on a broad front.
this connection we have to recognise, for example, the link between
education reforms and economic competitiveness; the link between
judicial and public service reforms and investment; the link between
crime and other anti-social behaviour, on the one hand, and poverty,
unemployment and lack of investment on the other; the link between
malfunctioning national institutions and economic decline. We should
note, too, the link between regional and local government reform and
the success of programmes designed to deal with backwardness and
dealing with health are as much a part of the thrust to stimulate
economic productivity as is the programme of investment incentives.
The role of women and the support for family and children
programmes are as much a part of the development of society as is the
need for fiscal reform. Congress
must note all this interconnectedness as we derive our plans for
capturing those systemic efficiencies necessary for national
our present situation of near anarchy, the restoration and maintenance
of good order in the State and the security of citizens are matters of
absolute priority. Critical
to this issue is the functioning of the Guyana Police Force and the
Security Services. There can be no question about it: we have to reform these
Services urgently. Unless
we do so, failure will attend all other efforts at national
reconstruction and development. We
have to work vigorously to ensure the setting up of a Commission of
Inquiry to review the operations of the Force.
This will give all citizens, including members of the Force
themselves, the opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses and
proffer recommendations for its rapid transformation into a highly
effective and respected service.
Such a Commission will deal with recruitment, training,
remuneration, conditions of service, public relations, and the
establishment and maintenance of public confidence and support.
The Commission would also identify and make recommendations for
eliminating unacceptable patterns of behaviour by the few undesirable
types, such as brutality and extra-judicial killings, which tarnish
the image of the Force and militate against the effective discharge of
its policing responsibilities.
the radical improvement in the efficiency of the Police Force, though
necessary will not by itself quell the crime wave which is besetting
our country. Simultaneously,
we will have to deal with
a wide range of interlinked root causes such as poverty, unemployment;
homelessness, the bad example of corruption in high places, bad social
conditions and lack of opportunity.
have noted the link between malfunctioning national institutions and
the problems of governance and the economy.
It therefore becomes a critical task to improve the quality of,
and restore standards in our national
institutions and public agencies to enable them to be seen as,
and more important to be models of efficiency and integrity.
High on the list must be
those reforms necessary to upgrade and modernise the Judicial and
Legal System and the Public Service to enable them to discharge their
functions with the highest degree of skill and professionalism.
In all of these areas, the aim must be to provide decent levels
of remuneration and good conditions of service, establish and maintain
high standards of integrity and efficiency, and consolidate a culture
of professionalism. Equally,
we must aim to restore and maintain confidence of citizens in these
institutions as a prerequisite for shoring up citizens’ faith in the
governmental system and stimulating their interest in for the work of
all, a successful outcome of our efforts at national reconstruction
will require us to create or revive key national partnerships in the
economic and political spheres. We will have to establish modalities
and mechanisms for identifying the major areas for national
consensus-building and for deriving agreed broad-based
policy positions. Such an arrangement will allow opportunity
for full participation of the various political and social forces,
remove major policy considerations from the exclusive arena of
partisan politics, and move it into the sphere of national consensus.
The time has come for us in Guyana to concede that we can only
move forward on the basis of an agreed framework of national strategy
in which all the stakeholders have ownership.
grand objective, to which we must bend our efforts will be to
reorganise our country in ways that make it more creative, more
efficient, more competitive: in other words, to locate it in the
modern world. To this end we have to remove the deadening hand of
government as the principal force in allocating resources and
introduce arrangements in which key programmes and sectors are
mutually reinforcing and generate their own synergies.
Required, too, is the introduction of a national system which
automatically supports in all feasible ways, initiatives, creativity
and innovation at every level of society, whether it be individuals,
companies, the university or other institutions of learning.
In particular, the University must emerge as an institution
which serves as a main focus for technological and economic change. We
will have to encourage our business managers, both public and private
sector, to leapfrog to the best and most competitive technologies
possible as a means of stimulating change and innovation.
In this highly competitive world we have to match world
standards if we are to survive and prosper.
To achieve this objective, we have to pursue a good strategy
that utilises all tools at our disposal to train and equip our human
resources and get them enthusiastic about the objective.
we give consideration to what is required to stimulate, develop and
modernise our country, we need to clear frontally with a prime cause
of the social tensions and disintegration in our country especially
the lack of fairness in growth and development. There is little doubt
that a major source of our difficulties is the absence of
opportunities for large sections of our citizens, especially our young
people, and the despair which this engenders. We have to address this
problem energetically by putting in place a raft of programmes to
provide jobs and restore hope by creating manifold opportunities for
them through jobs, investment, skills training and business
one sense all institutional and systemic reforms we target have as
their ultimate objective the providing of ever-widening opportunities
to the Guyanese people for their personal development and growth for
them to have equitable access to public goods and facilities, and to
be able to exercise more fully their constitutional right and duty to
participate as citizens in the various sectors of national life.
To this end, we have to pursue radical reform of education to
make it more relevant to our national resource endowment and our
development needs; to ensure that the children of the poor are not
denied equal opportunities and to provide training in a wide range of
skills required for the efficient functioning of a modern society,
including training in business techniques and entrepreneurship.
many young people are leaving school without being able to gain
employment and without skills. The
reintroduction of the National Service, with the element of compulsion
removed, would seem to be a desirable initiative for imparting
appropriate skills and attitudes and inculcating a spirit of
confidence and adventure in our young people.
There are two huge reservoirs of human resources that we have
constantly, over the years, failed to utilise fully. These are
children and young persons and women.
A heavy investment in them is always justified.
It would yield significant returns.
In this connection, I would invoke the opinion of Erasmus, the
Dutch reconnaissance scholar. (He was speaking about young people,
but his remarks are equally applicable to women).
It was sensible to invest resources in young people because, he
contended, “from no quarter was a richer return to be expected
seeing that they were the harvest field and raw material of the nation”.
We need not fear making a large investment for the harvest will
be truly bounteous.
is a truism to say that the end of all developmental efforts is the
welfare and well-being of people.
People are the conceptualisers, agents and beneficiaries of
development. Very often their contributions to the development process
are not acknowledged, noted or captured by statisticians.
But an important element of overall economic well-being
comprises the culture, traditions and practices of ordinary folk,
particularly in our villages. The
grassroots institutions they devise to solve their problems, shore-up
and improve their way of life, are in most cases models of ingenuity
must not make the mistake of ignoring or underestimating the
tremendous developmental potential of our rural communities.
Indeed, our work at development would be incomplete and
imperfect if we did not tap into, and benefit from, the rich and
valuable traditions and culture of our villages.
Villagers have long established their own traditional
mechanisms for mobilising local savings to finance self-help and
community projects, mutual assistance and benevolent schemes.
They have forged within their communities a network of
interrelationships which has promoted social harmony and mutual
support. We must
strengthen and encourage these traditions and draw upon the rich
experience as a means of promoting self-reliance and empowerment. The
restoration and strengthening of village culture and traditions
must be for us a worthy task and an important aspect of
the old saying goes, knowledge is power.
Thus, access to information which is the source of knowledge,
is absolutely necessary for empowerment in these modern times.
Today, at the very heart of the modern economic environment is
the information revolution which touches all aspects of life.
It affects financial operations, management, communications and
training, and education, among others.
It is crucial to the success of any development strategy.
We must therefore encourage our young people, in particular, to
familiarise themselves with the tools of this technology.
It is vital that the country make a giant step to participate
fully in the information age. Of
necessity, we must adopt what is called, in the jargon, the “informationalisation”
- of society. To this
end, we must do everything possible to promote the acquisition and the
utilisation of the new technology and persuade all our citizens, both
urban and rural, and all our various sectors, public and private, to
make use of the tools. This
is necessary to keep abreast of the world, to achieve and maintain a
competitive edge. We have
to aim to make our country an active player in the global economy and
not a mere looker-on floundering on the periphery.
we gear ourselves to take on this Herculean task of national
reconstruction creating thereby opportunities for all of our people,
it is good for us to recall and reaffirm some core values and
principles which inspire our Party.
is a multi-ethnic Party. Membership
is open to all Guyanese who are prepared to subscribe to its political
and social philosophy. It
rejects racism in all its forms and manifestations.
It espouses unequivocally gender equity and opposes all forms
of discrimination, whatever the basis for it.
We believe in a free and open society based upon democratic
values in which citizens can express themselves and voice their
opinions without fear of victimization or reprisal.
In this connection, we have to work for greater transparency in
public life and public transactions and, through the enacting of a
Freedom of Information Act, invest citizens with the right to know.
Secrecy in government is an anachronism that must be swept
are committed, too, to the establishment of a market-oriented economy
in which the Private Sector can operate freely, subject only to the
kind of statutory regulations designed to ensure fairplay in the
marketplace, ensure acceptable standards of quality of goods and
services, protect the health and safety of workers and consumers,
safeguard the environment, and secure similar objectives.
We recognise that we need massive investment in the country to
enable the economy to take off, to provide jobs for the unemployed,
and to enhance government revenues, among other things.
We welcome investment both local and foreign investment and
guarantee investors fairplay. But we also hold that any government has
a duty to implement social policy measures to protect the poor and
disadvantaged, not to keep them in their depressed state, but to help
them to rise above their circumstances.
Party must work to make Guyana an investor-friendly country, it must
be the Party that supports the creative person, the initiator, the
entrepreneur; the Party that creates conditions for them to function
efficiently and to succeed. For
investors we will set out the ground rules in statutory form in an
Investment Code and other appropriate legislation. This will provide a
framework of certainty, a guarantee of above-board and equitable
dealing. We reject any system that allows for capricious
decision-making which allows one businessman to obtain concessions,
while another is refused. We
reject, decisively, political interference, cronyism, and patronage in
the award of contracts and benefits.
Our task must be to facilitate the entrepreneur and business
person not to hamper and frustrate him.
the final analysis, we have to work for the establishment of a good,
honest, efficient government in our country.
We must be astute to identify and denounce fraudulent and
corrupt practices in public life, and establish the legal arrangement
to deter, restrict and, hopefully, eliminate such practices.
Corruption as an element of governance must be eradicated root
we have important work to do at this Congress.
We will be applying our minds to many knotty problems.
We will have to take hard decisions; but more important is the
work that we will have to do after we have left these halls.
The test of your commitment, your understanding, your loyalty
will be provided by the quality of the
work you do in the weeks and months ahead by propagating the
message of this Congress, implementing its decisions and pursuing the
objectives of our Party in field, in office, and in factory.
past history is anything to go by, you will carry out your tasks with
exemplary faithfulness and zeal. Thousands of citizens are awaiting anxiously the outcome of
this Congress. For them,
as for you, the stakes are high.
As we begin our deliberations tomorrow, let me recall and
invoke some words of our Founder Leader to describe the transcendental
significance of the task that lies before you: “We have a
nation to build, a destiny to mould”.
This work, so brilliantly begun by him, is still not finished.
Ours is the task, the honour, to advance it significantly
during and after this Congress. To
that noble task, then, let us all turn with our strength.