‘Wild, unsubstantiated and duplicitous’
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–PPP/C labels claims made by Coalition at its press briefing on Tuesday

“WILD, unsubstantiated and duplicitous” is how the governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has described claims reportedly made by the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) at its press conference on Tuesday.

The meeting at reference was held following last Friday’s meeting between President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton at the Office of the President to discuss a number of pressing matters of national importance.

Likening the position the ‘Coalition’ has taken since joining forces with the government to issue a statement following the meeting between the President and the Opposition Leader, to “an obvious about-face”, the PPP/C said in a statement on Wednesday, “In true PNC/APNU/AFC style, contradictory positions remain characteristic of the embattled group.

“Within an hour of the same activity, the PNC/R moved from claiming that the May 13, 2022 engagement was not in accordance with the requirements of ‘meaningful consultation’, because necessary material was not handed over, to admitting that the additional information and documents requested were received.

“Mr. Norton was woefully unprepared for the meeting, despite being informed of [the] agenda, and despite the fact that his own Coalition was involved in the parliamentary process to arrive at the recommendations for the persons to be appointed to the commissions, for example, the Police Service Commission (PSC).”

And now that additional information has been made available to Norton, the PPP/C is hoping for a speedy conclusion to the process that would allow for the appointment of the important constitutional bodies.

ELECTORAL REFORM
As the PPP/C has observed in its statement, “The PNC/R-led APNU+AFC Coalition has failed, over the past six months, to participate in the national process to amend Guyana’s electoral laws, to strengthen the electoral system, and reduce the scope for the mischief that played out at the March 2020 General and Regional Elections (GRE).”

This mischief, it said further, was orchestrated by the PNCR-led Coalition and its elements within the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM); mischief that reportedly included the signature of Volda Lawrence on the March 5 manipulated declaration by sacked Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo.

“Firstly,” the PPP/C noted, “the call from the ‘Coalition’ camp for a comprehensive review of what took place in March 2020 before electoral reforms are addressed is nothing but a delay tactic. Recall that every report from the international Election Observer Missions, including the CARICOM team, detailed what took place at the March 2020 Elections – every Guyanese is aware of what took place during the March 2020 electoral process, civil society is aware, the international community is aware.

“It would seem that the only ignorant party, by their own claim, is the PNCR/APNU/AFC. Secondly, Mr. Norton’s call for national consultations, involving the public, civil society and the parliamentary political parties, is disingenuous, since such consultations on proposed amendments to the Representation of the People’s Act (ROPA) started in November 2021 and are continuing.

“The PNCR-led APNU+AFC Coalition is the only party with an interest in keeping our electoral laws vague and ambiguous, hence the delay tactics. Also, in a duplicitous move, the Coalition claims that ‘Time is of the essence,’ and electoral reforms must be addressed to prevent a postponement of Local Government Elections. However, the only group contributing to a delay is the Coalition.”

Were the increasingly embattled Parliamentary Opposition truly interested in a free, fair and transparent process, the PPP/C said, it would not continue to undermine the national consultations on proposed amendments that would see electoral reform enacted.

Norton’s duplicity, the governing political party said, was exposed when he said: “We have listened to civil society, we have had, internally, the preparation of a document… We believe that at the right time, we will engage and ensure we achieve the objectives we set out.”

CONTINUOUS REGISTRATION
The PPP/C said PNC/R General-Secretary Geeta Chandan-Edmond, following Norton’s lead, proffered allegations about irregularities in GECOM’s Continuous Registration cycle.

Chandan-Edmond reportedly claimed that persons not eligible to register as voters are being registered. However, the PNC/R did not provide evidence, the PPP/C said. The party further quoted Chandan-Edmond as saying: “I’m not sure if leadership at this time would want to highlight the specifics of these discrepancies, but we are in possession of a very detailed report.”

When repeatedly asked for evidence to substantiate his claims, Mr. Norton said: “I would not say we have actual numbers, because, in these things, you never know. And even if we had actual numbers, I don’t know what advantage it is to me for us to disclose it at this stage.” Importantly, the PPP/C said, the PNC/R had no problem with the Voters’ List, which was used for the 2015 Elections that resulted in the ‘Coalition’ taking office, but now that it is out of office, the Voters’ List is bloated.

Norton has nothing of substance to address, said the PPP/C, while noting that, instead, he remains predictably committed to one misguided line of messaging, which is that the voters’ list is bloated; discrimination is taking place; and there is a lack of transparency.

The PPP/C, by contrast, said it stands ready and willing to defend its positions and will remain accountable to the Guyanese people.

The PPP/C noted that it will unapologetically continue to implement its manifesto and deliver on the promises made to the Guyanese people.

WILL CONTINUE SUPPORT
“Unlike the officials of the former APNU+AFC Coalition officials who were content on enriching themselves, while in government for five years, the PPP makes no apologies for enriching Guyanese across the length and breadth of this country.

“If supporting school children across our country with the return of the cash grant is enriching our people, then the PPP will continue to do so. If supporting our people, in every community, during the pandemic with financial assistance, then the PPP will continue to do so.

“If helping hinterland communities and thousands of Amerindians, who are among the most affected, offset cost of living increases is enriching people, then the PPP will continue to do so. If helping our farmers, during difficult times, is enriching our people, then the PPP will continue to do so.

“Further, as has been done with other such relief programmes, the Office of the Auditor General is involved to ensure full accountability and transparency. Mr. Norton would do well to substantiate his interest in transparency [and] accountability before giving voice to wild aspersions,” the PPP/C said.

The PPP/C also condemned the continued playing of the race card by the Coalition in the strongest terms.

“The race card has been, and continues to be, the only card that the Parliamentary Opposition has to play, given that it has no track record of progress, and no track record of delivering for Guyanese, on which to stand. Guyanese are urged to be wary of this tactic,” the PPP/C urged.

‘If supporting schoolchildren across our country with the return of the cash grant is enriching our people, then the PPP will continue to do so. If supporting our people, in every community, during the pandemic with financial assistance, then the PPP will continue to do so.

‘If helping hinterland communities and thousands of Amerindians, who are among the most affected, offset cost of living increases is enriching people, then the PPP will continue to do so. If helping our farmers, during difficult times, is enriching our people, then the PPP will continue to do so’ –PPP/C

The PPP/C has asked Norton to respond to the following questions:
* Why the former Coalition government excluded persons in the Hinterland from its COVID-19 Pandemic Assistance Voucher programme? The report from the Auditor General made clear that not only did the programme see the exclusion of persons in the hinterland regions, but, over 9,000 out of 11,000 qualified applicants did not receive vouchers; of the 11,000 listed as qualified applicants, less than 2,000 applications were listed for verification; and vouchers totalling $56M were not checked before paying supplier.

* Why a performance audit into the procurement, storage and distribution of COVID-19 supplies by the former Coalition government, during the period March 2020 to August 2020, found that there was a lack of accountability for the more than 6,000 hampers?

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