GTUC expresses concern over crime situation
…backs apprehension of criminals; opposes extra-judicial killings By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
June 12, 2002

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THE Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has expressed concern about the level of criminality in the society and deterioration into lawlessness.

Hosting a press conference at Critchlow Labour College in Georgetown yesterday, both the General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis, and Vice-President, Grantley Culbard stressed that the GTUC is fully supportive of apprehending criminals.

But they said they vehemently oppose extra-judicial killings and summary executions by the Guyana Police Force.

“Anyone who condones breaking of the law to uphold the law is contributing to lawlessness,” Culbard stated.

Lewis said that every time the Police go out to apprehend criminals they bring back dead bodies, contending the accused should be brought out alive to allow the judge and jury to dispense justice.

Norris Witter, also a Vice-President of the GTUC, accused the Government of not abiding with an agreement signed with the body in March 2000 to hold regular discussions to address the various problems confronting the society.

Whitter said if the Government had honoured the agreement, many of the problems being faced now could have been averted.

Lewis expressed the view that in order to resolve the present problems, there is need for a dialogue among all stakeholders so that a mechanism can be put in place to deal with the situation. He described the crime fighting measures announced by President Bharrat Jagdeo as only the “tip of the iceberg.”

Witter said that the criminal situation here is similar to what transpired in Colombia and other countries, whereby it began with criminal activities which eventually led to slaying of trade union leaders. This can also happen here, he pointed out.

The GTUC leaders said that the present difficulties cannot be overcome by a “blame game” between the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R).

Lewis, in a letter dated June 4, 2002 to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, stated that the GTUC “has no intention of being drawn into the perennial quarrels between your party and the PNC/R. Your party was elected to govern and solve the problems of Guyana”.

Lewis was at the time replying to a letter from Luncheon dated May 13, 2002 in which he stated, “the Office of the President regards your failure as a representative of organised labour to address such an aspect as the crime situation as unhelpful…and (notes your) manifestly distorted version of the Buxton events of April15, 2002.”

Culbard disclosed that the Organisation of Regional Inter-American Trade Unions, at its executive committee meeting in May this year in Caracas, Venezuela, examined the developments that are taking place in Guyana. Consequently, it has written to both President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte expressing its concerns.

Culbard said in the letter to President Jagdeo, dissatisfaction on several issues were expressed. These included:

*Excessive tax burdens that workers are asked to undertake while companies are being given sizeable tax concessions.

*The termination of the Employees Pension Plan at the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NGPC)

*The problems that confront bauxite workers and residents of bauxite communities.

*The refusal by the Government to agree to the establishment of an arbitration tribunal to resolve the wage and salary impasse with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU)

*The Government’s posture on extra-judicial killings by the Guyana Police Force.

*The threat to Freedom of Association and the right to Free Collective Bargaining.

Culbard also disclosed that veteran Guyanese trade unionist, George De Peana, who is currently the General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, has indicated his willingness to mediate the impasse between the GTUC and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union and the National Association of Clerical and Industrial Employees.

De Peana has written both unions requesting a list of the points which they would like to have discussed.