PNC/R open to `constructive' talks
-- Corbin

Guyana Chronicle
February 3, 2003

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`The lines of communication have been open...' - Mr. Robert Corbin

NEW Leader of the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Mr. Robert Corbin has announced that his party is open to constructive engagements with the Government aimed at ending the parliamentary impasse.
But this is under the condition that the Government acts in good faith, providing evidence of action and not only giving promises, he told a rally at the 1763 Monument Square in Georgetown Saturday night shortly after he was elected PNC/R Leader at a special delegates Congress of the party.

Corbin, however, did not give a definitive position on whether the party would return to Parliament, and if so, when.

"The lines of communication have been open and the PNC/R Chief Whip and (Parliamentary Affairs) Minister Reepu Daman Persaud have been in constant contact," he told the rally.

The PNC/R has stayed out of Parliament since early last year over several differences with the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).

Corbin reiterated his party's position that Ministers of Government should not chair the Parliamentary Committees agreed to overlook several sectors.

He conceded that there are precedents for this but countered that the political culture in those countries are different from what exists here.

He declined to say whether the dialogue process President Bharrat Jagdeo initiated in April 2001 with the late PNC/R Leader Mr. Desmond Hoyte would be resumed, declaring: "It was a dialogue between Jagdeo and Hoyte. That's all I am saying."

He repeated the party's stand that the dialogue was put on pause last year because of the failure of the Government to expeditiously implement the projects agreed to in four identified depressed communities to bring relief to their residents.

The Government has denied the claims, saying that several measures agreed to in the structured talks had been implemented.

Diplomats and civic leaders have repeatedly called for a resumption of the dialogue process between the two parties.

Shortly after his widely expected election as the new PNC/R leader, President Jagdeo expressed "sincerest congratulations" to Corbin and invited him to meet.

The President, in a letter Saturday afternoon following the election, restated his openness "to engagements which can bring about improved relations between the Government and the main opposition party in the interest of our nation", the Office of the President said in a release.

It said Mr. Jagdeo has invited the new PNC/R Leader to a meeting at the Office of the President "at a mutually convenient date and time".

The Guyanese Head of State also conveyed best wishes to Mr. Corbin for a successful tenure.

Corbin, 55, was given a rousing welcome by thousands of party members, supporters and well-wishers at the rally which followed a march from PNC/R headquarters in Sophia in eastern Georgetown.

In his keynote address, he pledged to constructively work towards the advancement of the struggle for a society with justice and one free from the social ills currently being experienced.

He accused the Government of being responsible for bringing the country to economic ruin and not acting decisively to end poverty and bring relief to depressed communities.

"Without justice there can be no peace," he contended and charged the Government with incompetence and corruption, which he said are the cause of the woes facing the nation.

He said there was need for confidence to be restored in the justice system.

He cautioned PNC/R supporters that the struggle was not against any particular ethnic group, saying it was one to end injustice, incompetence and develop Guyana into a prosperous nation and to foster inclusiveness.

Corbin reminded the gathering of the "dark days of the 1960s", pointing out that nothing should be done to return the country to such a situation, and urged supporters to be disciplined in their struggle. (Many people died in ethnic strife in the early 1960s).

He accused the Government of harbouring divisiveness and racial strife, arguing that the current electoral system was a contributory factor and advocating the concept of shared governance.

Dealing with the crime situation, the PNC/R Leader said that in finding a solution it was necessary to get down to the root of the problem and he accused the Government of allegedly promoting extra-judicial killings.

Touching specifically on the violence-prone Buxton village on the East Coast, which law enforcement officials have said is a safe haven for criminals, Corbin announced that several businessmen have pledged assistance in the form of an endowment fund towards a project to bring economic relief and create employment there.

This initiative should begin by the end of this month, he assured.

Criticising the Government for not appointing Deputy Commissioner Winston Felix as Commissioner of Police, he charged that it was not necessary for the PNC/R to return to Parliament for Mr. Felix to be appointed.

Corbin said the late PNC/R Leader had already consulted with the President and had given his support to the appointment.

He also severely criticised the proposed tariff increases by the Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL) and called upon his supporters to prepare to struggle against the hikes if these were implemented.

The Government has reiterated its rejection of the decision by GPL to implement hikes in tariff rates for the supply of electricity.

A release from the Office of the President last week said the GPL management has failed and should be removed and that the tariff increases are not justified as consumers are being punished for management's incompetence.

Corbin called for a disciplined struggle by party members and supporters to ensure victory at the next general elections, due in 2006, expressing confidence that the PNC/R will be victorious.

The PNC, in power for some 28 years, lost the first free and fair elections held here in October 1992. It was also defeated by the PPP/C at the 1997 and 2001 elections.

"Your presence here gives me strength," Corbin told the crowd Saturday night.

Leader of the Reform component of the PNC/R, Mr. Stanley Ming, who also addressed the rally, reiterated the group's continued alliance with the party.

He said it remains committed to a new political culture and the equitable benefit from the resources of the society regardless of race or creed.

He rejected racism and corruption, advocated a culture of inclusion and called for the establishment of a judiciary free from political interference.

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