…as APNU=AFC closes elections campaign with record crowd
By Svetlana Marshall
DURING what was described as the largest political rally in Guyana’s history, President David Granger said come Monday, Guyanese must choose between a Decade of Development and a Decade of Death and Decadence, as he laid out the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) transformational plans that would lead to enhanced education and infrastructural development and the simultaneous reduction in crime and violence.
At the time, President Granger was addressing a massive sea of green and yellow supporters at D’Urban Park on Saturday during the APNU+AFC’s Final Rally before the Monday, March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, for which it will come up against a total of 10 political parties – among them, its main opponent – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
Amid loud cheers from the thousands of supporters present, President Granger, who is seeking re-election for a second term in office, said he has a vision for Guyana as he touted his proposed ‘Decade of Development.’ During this period that spans from 2020-2029, it is the President’s intention to transform the country into a Digital State, a Petroleum State, a Green State and an Education Nation while addressing, among other things, the country’s housing demands, and simultaneously reducing crime and violence.
Having restored Local Democracy, Law and Order, the APNU+AFC is now offering Guyana a ‘Decade of Development,’ President Granger said while pointing out that the PPP/C had offered a ‘Decade of Death.’ He explained that it was under President Bharrat Jagdeo – the now Opposition Leader – that Guyana experienced the ‘Decade of Death’ that spanned from 2000 to 2010. During that period, 1,431 murders were recorded.
President Granger noted that prior to Jagdeo’s accession in 1999, Guyana, under the PPP/C Administration, experienced the largest environmental disaster in August 1995 with the Omai Spill. Records show that on August 19, 1995, an earthen tailings pond, constructed to contain cyanide, accidentally breached, and resulted in more than 400 million gallons of cyanide-laced material spilled into the Omai River and subsequently the Essequibo River. The damages were catastrophic with environmental, social, economic and political consequences. He said when Jagdeo took office, the situation further deteriorated. Faced with a high crime rate, President Granger said Guyana experienced another disaster that could have been prevented – the great floods of 2005. The flood resulted in the death of 34 persons while affecting more than 70,000 households in Georgetown, Region 4.
Champion of disaster
“How could this man face the Guyanese people when he flooded out 70,000 households? How could he face the wives of the 34 people who died during that great flood? The thing is, he knew what had to be done with the East Demerara Conservancy but he wanted to spend the money on other things,” the APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate reasoned. Citing a report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), President Granger alluded to the fact that the flood caused Guyana 60 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He reminded too that it was under the PPP/C that the East Demerara Sugar Estate was closed resulting in over 5,000 sugar workers being placed on the bread line. Added to that, he said Guyana’s economy was on the decline under Jagdeo despite him being an economist. “In 2000, for the first time in seven years, Guyana registered negative growth of -1.4 per cent under that Champion of the Economy. Negative growth – that is how he started his Decade of Decadence with -1.4 per cent decline in the GDP; and in 2003 again -6 per cent growth; in 2005, 1.9 per cent growth,” President Granger pointed out while noting that Jagdeo is not a ‘Champion of the Economy,’ but rather a ‘Champion of Bluff.’
Guyana under the APNU+AFC, he boasted, experienced positive economic growth. “Under the APNU+AFC, there has never been a single year in which the economy did not progress. Every year there has been positive growth – 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. We will continue to grow this economy from 2020 onwards,” he said to loud cheers from the massive crowd of supporters.
Though Jagdeo is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in office, he is the main force behind the PPP/C though Irfaan Ali has been identified as the Presidential Candidate and Mark Phillips, the Prime Ministerial Candidate. According to President Granger, Ali is a “Proxy” Presidential Candidate, who lacks the leadership skills to prudently manage the affairs of the country. “My brothers and sisters, let not your hearts be troubled,” President Granger told the massive sea of supporters while assuring them that with their overwhelming support, the APNU+AFC will be re-elected to Government – a move that would pave the way for the implementation of the Decade of Development.
Much to their satisfaction, President Granger told the supporters that the profits from the Petroleum Industry will provide them with ‘the good life,’ but was keen on noting that the bulk of the money will go into the Natural Resources Fund, commonly called the Sovereign Wealth Fund, for the benefit of future generation. “My sisters and brothers, I am the man with the plan,” President Granger said as the crowd cheered in affirmation.
Presenting them with a number of plans, the APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate detailed his plan for youth empowerment. He said in preparing the nation’s young people to lead the country, his government initiated the Sustainable Livelihood Entrepreneurship Development (SLED) Programme for which 2,488 young men and women have been financially empowered to establish their own businesses. This programme, he posited, will continue under the APNU+AFC Administration.
SLED is being complemented by the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) Programme and the Guyana Youth Corps, all of which are equipping young people with the skills, knowledge and finance to not only become employable but also to become entrepreneurs.
It was recalled that in 1968, the Guyana Youth Corps was launched to tackle unemployment. The Guyana Youth Corps was subsequently replaced by the Guyana National Service, and though it was strategic in making Guyanese fit and proper for the workforce, Jagdeo, while as President in 2000, dismantled it. However, President Granger, upon taking office, re-established the Guyana Youth Corps. According him, during the Decade of Development, the Guyana Youth Corps will graduate 1,000 young men and women.
His second plan – the Human Development Operational Plan – will ensure every child receives universal primary and secondary education, and once qualified, access to tertiary education. The APNU+AFC, throughout its campaign, promised free tertiary education in keeping with the Constitution of Guyana.
Under this Human Development Operation Programme, the APNU+AFC intends to address the housing needs of the country, and in doing so, will eradicate squatting in the country. “We are going to ensure that there is a roof over the heads of every Guyanese mother and child. We are on a programme to abolish slums, shanti towns and squatter settlements. Our children must grow up in dignity. No more Plastic City…No more Cardboard City,” he told his supporters.
Once re-elected to office, President Granger has pledged to establish a National Squatter Resettlement Commission on March 15 to provide adequate land and housing for those currently living in ‘slums’. Currently, there are 178 squatting settlements in the country.
President Granger also made reference to the establishment of a State Land Resettlement Commission which is addressing the needs of former sugar workers, who were displaced as a result of government’s decision to “right size” the sugar industry in its quest to make it viable. At Wales, ex-sugar workers are reaping the benefit. This positive development will continue after March 2, President Granger promised.
The Head of State detailed, too, his plan for regional development. Upon entering office in 2015, President Granger announced the Plan of Action for Regional Development; this plan, he said, will continue. In keeping with his promise to restore Local Democracy, President Granger and his Administration facilitated Local Government Elections, twice in four years; established four capital towns and economically empowered the regional administrations to execute their developmental plans. Added to that, the Guyana Police Force Divisions have been aligned with the 10 Regional Administrations.
The Regional Action Plan for Public Security was another plan submitted to the people by President Granger. He said this plan will allow for safer communities at a time when Venezuelan gang – the Syndicatos – remains a cause for serious concern. Plan, he said, is already in place and is working and will continue to work after March 2. “We want to make sure that Guyana is safe for every person, every region” he said as he called on Guyanese to reject Jagdeo’s Decade of Death.
President Granger said his Administration will continue to meet the needs of Indigenous People by bridging the gap between the Coastal and the Hinterland. He said APNU+AFC will continue to roll out the Plan of Action for Hinterland Development.
With no manifesto in place, the Head of State said the PPP/C will continue to lose ground, and come Monday, APNU+AFC will return victorious. He noted that since 1997, the PPP/C has been losing support. Noting that the PPP/C has been in a downward spiral, President Granger pointed out that in 1997, the PPP/C secured 220,000 votes; in 2001, 210,000 votes; in 2006, 182, 000 votes and in 2011, approximately 164,000 votes.
Describing the PPP/C as visionless, President Granger said the PPP/C has brought nothing new to the people of Guyana. He said Ali has been caught red-handed copying the plans of the APNU+AFC.
“Have not fear, the rate the PPP has been going, they will not win on Monday, but we have to turn out in our numbers. The PPP Leadership has failed this nation. They have sought to divide our communities rather than unite our communities,” he told his supporters.
The speakers before President Granger, who included Prime Ministerial Candidate, Khemraj Ramjattan, predicted a landslide victory for the APNU+AFC come Monday.