Luncheon dismisses reports of PM's resignation By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
February 14, 2002

`It was a rumour, the Prime Minister never resigned' - Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon

HEAD of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon yesterday dismissed as "rumours" recent reports peddled in the city and elsewhere that Prime Minister Sam Hinds had tendered his resignation from the number two position in the Bharrat Jagdeo administration.

"Prime Minister Samuel Archibald Hinds never resigned," Luncheon told his regular post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the President.

"I would like to assure the media here that notwithstanding the rumours and what transpired over the last two/three days, and as the Prime Minister has indicated, he is safely in his office in Kingston and is performing his duties as usual."

"It was a rumour, the Prime Minister never resigned," Luncheon stressed as he responded to a series of questions by reporters on whether there was any truth that the PM, who has responsibility for the electricity sector, had tendered his resignation, signalled his intention of resigning or was even contemplating resigning.

Prime Minister Hinds told the Government Information Agency (GINA) on Tuesday he had "taken no notice of the rumour".

Luncheon did not deny there was a difference of opinion between the Prime Minister and President Jagdeo on the recent proposed tariff increases by the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL), and said this could have fuelled the "rumours".

He, however, said these differences in opinions and public positions on the way the GPL announcement of increased tariffs should be dealt with have been resolved.

At a news conference last week, President Jagdeo announced that unless the issue of the review of GPL's management contract is complete, the Government will not support any increases in electricity rates. The President added that this statement would subsume any prior position taken.

Luncheon yesterday said there was a meeting between himself, President Jagdeo and Mr. Hinds and "the issue with the Prime Minister and the Office of the President's differential public announcements and public positions on the GPL tariff increases...has been resolved."

"We have met, the issue has been discussed and whilst we recognise what the administration wants, we accept that there are differences on the way in which our objectives have been pursued. In this particular instance, the Cabinet's position on the matter has been upheld...," he said.

Luncheon pointed out that this has emphasised the primacy of the Cabinet and its positions. "At the end of the day, the entire Cabinet is resolute in its pursuit of improved services to the Guyanese people at a cost that is subscribed to by the contract and terms and conditions entered into between the Government of Guyana and GPL," he said.

"...and the administration continues to exert maximum efforts to ensure that those contractual terms are upheld and any consequences of the terms not being met being foisted on the Guyanese public," he added.

Luncheon also reiterated that the PPP/Civic administration is "totally opposed" to the GPL rates increases being instituted. "...and on the basis of Cabinet's and the administration's rejection of those increases, I would assume that the authorities would (take note of) our position and act accordingly."

" the end of the last week, the administration through Cabinet, reasserted its position on the rejection of the increases being proposed or being introduced by GPL."

"We had differences over the way the GPL announcement should be dealt with and I am just happy to announce today that these differences have been resolved and indeed, the Cabinet's position in rejecting the increases...," Luncheon said.

He noted that the administration will make this formal position directly known to the management of GPL and the other shareholders so that there is clarity on that situation.

Luncheon said too that he is not certain if within the agreement with the power company, there are any provisions for the Government to stop the implementation of rate increases. GPL has indicated that it will go ahead with implementing the proposed 15.8 per cent increases in light bills - eight per cent from this month, and the remainder to be phased in from next month.

Mr. Hinds and the company last week announced they had reached agreement on the phased tariff increases.

Luncheon said the consequences of such a move will have to be examined, since the Government is convinced that only a review of the contractual agreement and the management contract of GPL would determine if the rate of increase is justifiable by the power company.