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Happy New Year! We extend best wishes to you and your families for your happiness, health and safety during the New Year, 2021 and for the rest of the decade.
We applaud the efforts of the nation’s doctors, nurses and all other healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of the public health workforce in our national effort to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. They continue to serve diligently, dutifully and with dedication, even in the face of personal privation and peril.
We deplore the callous and cold-blooded treatment of innocent members of Guyana’s Public Service who have had their employment arbitrarily and summarily terminated without explanation or compensation within days of the installation of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in office on 2nd August 2020. Hostile administrative actions were unleashed against officials and persons perceived to belong to other political parties. An atmosphere of fear and loathing quickly enveloped the Public Service.
The Guyanese people survived twenty-three years of misrule and mismanagement under the PPP/C Administration between 1992 and 2015. The Coalition, comprising A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) was welcomed into office. The nation enjoyed five years of peace, purposeful planning and prudent performance through the Government’s people-centered policies. The Coalition administration is proud of its achievements during its tenure of office from 2015 to 2020.
The Coalition’s social policy ensured that the foundation of public administration was fortified and the welfare of future generations was assured. Emphasis was placed on measures to enhance education, employment, empowerment and equality of opportunity, particularly through providing young people with the access to training. The Guyana Youth Corps (GYC) was established to equip young people with the attitudes, knowledge and skills to become productive citizens. The Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) programme empowered thousands of hinterland youth to build capacity in the fields of agriculture, business, entrepreneurship and technology.
The establishment of the Department of Social Cohesion helped to foster an environment in which diversity could be embraced. Arrival Days – of the Chinese, Indians and Portuguese – were declared; African emancipation was celebrated; respect was shown for everyone’s racial origins, religious beliefs, regions of residence and civil rights.
School attendance and students’ performance improved as a result of the introduction of the Public Education Transport Service (PETS) which aimed at combatting high truancy and drop-out rates by providing boats, buses and bicycles. The Public Education Nutrition Service (PENS) provided breakfast to children.
The Digital Equity, Access and Learning (IDEAL) Programme connected teachers at the primary and secondary levels with the Ministry of Education and regional education offices. Students gained access to research and to Tertiary, Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) and Skills Training Institutions. The Coalition will continue its commitment in the New Year towards establishing the ‘digital state’ in which every community, municipality, neighbourhood, region, village and government agency will be connected in order to generate ICT services and make public services more accessible.
Maternal deaths were reduced; new maternity units were established and health centres were rehabilitated; a new district hospital was commissioned at Port Kaituma and water ambulances were launched in the main rivers (in Regions Nos. 1, 6, 7 and 10).
The Coalition is committed to creating a more integrated state. It embarked on an extensive programme for the regionalization of administration and decentralization of services and public utilities. The four new capital towns – at Bartica, Lethem, Mabaruma and Mahdia – have become nodes from which development in the regions radiate. Regionalization is the catalyst of national development, providing the foundation to maximize the use of resources for the benefit of citizens. Regional capital towns are becoming powerhouses to generate employment opportunities, sustainably extracting their resources and managing their human capital.
The Coalition’s governance programme focussed, first, on recognising the roles and responsibilities of municipalities, neighbourhoods and regions. We re-introduced Local Government Elections which were conducted twice in two years after a 20-year hiatus, thereby returning power to the people. We created four Regional capital towns; prepared Plans of Action for Regional Development (PARD); established the Regional Public Broadcasting Service (RPBS) and introduced Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibitions (RACE) to stimulate investment and development in the hinterland and countryside.
The Coalition’s infrastructure programme ensured that every Region benefited from improvements of their aerodromes, bridges, roads and stellings. Access to potable water was improved with the installation of eight wells through Guyana-Brazil collaboration in South Rupununi and the provision of water supply for the first time at Aranaputa and Parabara (in Region No. 9); street lights have been erected along the East Bank Berbice roadway (in Region No.6); electricity and water supply services were extended to previously unserved neighbourhoods.
The Coalition has a proud record of continuous economic growth every year since it entered office in 2015, with the highest growth being recorded at 4.1 percent in 2018. Growth at the half year 2019 was 4.0 percent and for the entire 2019, it was expected to be 4.5 percent.
The Coalition was friendly to business. Its tenure was marked by tax waivers for ‘green’ energy investments and a reduction of the corporate tax for non-commercial companies from 30 to 25 percent, among many other reforms. Business activity grew. At end of July 2019, borrowing by the private sector had increased 7.1 percent, year-on-year; business enterprise credit increased 6.8 percent; other farming, 5.8 percent; forestry, 3.6 percent; mining and quarrying, 9.1 percent; other construction and engineering, 10.3 percent; services, 13.5 percent; household credit, 8.4 percent, for housing, 5.2 percent; motor cars, 20.6 percent and education, 30.7 percent.
Financial sector supervision was strengthened with the advent of the Credit Reporting (Amendment) Act; Insurance Act 2016; Financial Institutions (Amendment) Act 2018; Deposit Insurance Act 2018; Bank of Guyana (Amendment) Act 2018 and the National Payments System Act 2018. The Coalition succeeded in having Guyana removed from the European Commission’s Money-laundering blacklist.
The passage of the Natural Resource Fund Act 2019 which provides for transparent, accountable and effective management of the country’s petroleum revenues has been commended internationally as examples of its commitment to good governance. The Coalition will continue its commitment in the New Year to supporting business.
General and Regional Elections on 2nd March 2020 eventuated in an unfavourable outcome for the people’s aspirations for self-development. The delay in holding elections after the passage of a ‘no-confidence motion’ on 21st December 2018 against the Coalition in the National Assembly was due to the Elections Commission’s unpreparedness. The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana gives responsibility for the conduct of the elections exclusively to the Commission.
The Chairman of the Commission, despite the Coalition’s insistence that credible elections be conducted at the earliest possible time, indicated only on 19th September 2019 that elections could not be held before the end of February 2020.
The Supreme Court of Judicature, on an application by an elector on 5th March prevented the acceptance of the Report by the Chief Elections Officer which would have enabled a ‘Declaration’ of results leading to the installation of a President. The Chief Justice granted the request for an injunction to prevent the presentation of the Chief Elections Officer’s Report. This was followed by a series of legal actions in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice during the months of April to July.
The Court of Appeal of Guyana, pursuant to an action brought by another elector on 22nd June 2020, held that the words “more votes” in the Constitution means “more valid votes”. The Coalition’s insistence that only valid and credible votes should determine the outcome of the Elections was thereby vindicated. The Court of Appeal determined that a final credible count did not mean a mere numerical tabulation of votes but an assessment of the credibility of votes.
The Representation of the People Act requires the Chief Election Officer (CEO) to ascertain the valid votes cast in an election. The CEO, in keeping with the guidance set out by the Court of Appeal, prepared and submitted his Election Report on 23rd June showing that the APNU+AFC had received the majority of the valid votes cast.
The recount process was intended to determine both the quantitative and qualitative nature of the votes cast at the Elections and to determine a final ‘credible’ count. The recount revealed a plethora of irregularities and, at the end, it became evident that the results did not satisfy the standard for ‘credible’ elections. The Elections Commission was made aware of the anomalies, discrepancies and irregularities, the scale, size and scope of which were exposed only through tabulation and observation during the recount.
The Chairman of the Elections Commission, nevertheless, issued a ‘Declaration’ on 2nd August to the effect that the list submitted by the PPP/C had received the greatest number of votes. The acknowledgement of the ‘Declaration’ in accordance with the law resulted in the APNU+AFC Coalition’s loss of office and the installation of the PPP regime.
The Coalition has always been committed to lawful and peaceful elections. It presented a petition to the Supreme Court to demand the accurate tabulation of the valid votes cast in the elections of 2020.
The processes between 2nd March and 2nd August may seem to have been protracted but they were necessary to ensure the functioning of the Constitution, “…the preservation of justice and the peace and prosperity of Guyana.” We believe that the measures we took fortified democracy. The Coalition acted correctly and lawfully throughout the year 2019 to ensure that credible elections could be held in the year 2020 and it will continue its vigorous defence of its election petition in the New Year, 2021.
Everyday life in Guyana has been challenged by its gravest health challenge for more than one hundred years. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – an event which no country anticipated and for which few were prepared – brought the death and disease to hundreds of thousands. The installation of the PPP/C regime in Guyana in August curtailed some of the measures embodied in the National Action Plan for Public Health (NAPPH) of May 2020 which the APNU+AFC Coalition had already begun implementing to control the spread of the pandemic. The immediate result of the PPP’s dismissal of the NAPPH was a surge in infection rates and deaths caused by Covid-19 from 21, on 2nd August to 164, on 30th December.
The Coalition, within hours of the death of ‘Patient Zero’ on 11th March, established the National Coronavirus Task Force (NCTF). It subsequently published an extraordinary issue of the Official Gazette on 16th March and promulgated a menu of measures based ion the Public Health Ordinance for the enforcement of public protective regulations. These were supplemented by the promulgation of ‘Emergency Measures’ which included the imposition of a curfew, the closure of our airspace and borders and other restrictions, on 3rd April. The Coalition’s establishment of the infectious diseases hospital represents an essential and inevitable investment in safeguarding public health, not only against the current pandemic but, also, against future epidemics.
The Coalition cabinet responded collectively to the pandemic through carefully coordinated ministerial action plans – Rural Entrepreneurial Action Plan (REAP); Coordinating Agency for Small Enterprise (CASE); Mobile Emergency Enforcement Teams (MEET); National Implementation Scheme for Interconnectivity (NISI); Public Education Remote Learning-Teaching Scheme (PERLS); Social Cohesion Arts Renewal Scheme (SCARS); Social Protection Implementation Measures (SPIM) and other schemes. The Coalition will continue to support the enforcement of measures which it had drafted earlier in 2020.
The climate crisis will continue to affect everyone. Our adoption of practical measures to ensure climate adaptation must remain a critical component of the nation’s future endeavours to ensure that our children inherit a resilient nation in the face of threats of global warming and rising sea levels which threaten our livelihood and wellbeing.
The Coalition, this new year, will continue to support policies for this country to become a ‘green state’. The Coalition’s Green State Development Strategy emphasised the preservation and protection of our environment, the preservation of our biodiversity and the promotion of renewable energy technologies.
The Coalition remains committed to ensuring human safety and improving public security. On entering office in 2015, it met a country that was reeling from the consequences of over two decades of deliberate disregard for the essential needs of public security. There was a high rate of serious crime – armed robbery, arson, banditry, murder and piracy. This situation, in part, was the result of the PPP’s rejection of the Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP); the neglect of the National Drug Strategy Master Plan and the shelving of the Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission and a dozen other reports. Bitter memories of massacres, drug-gang warfare, extra-judicial killings and ‘phantom’ death squads hung like a grim pall over the countryside.
The Coalition swiftly implemented long-outstanding plans to reform the security sector and to make the country safe again. We established the National Security Committee (NSC); the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA) to address trafficking in narcotics and the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) to ensure better surveillance of our borders and coasts. Aerial surveillance over the maritime zone led to a reduction in the incidence of piracy and the protection of our fisher folk.
The Coalition regionalized the Police Force by aligning archaic police divisions with the State’s ten administrative Regions. The Mounted Branch was expanded to enable it to conduct patrols in hinterland savannahs and coastland back-dams, which are not easily accessible by vehicular patrols.
The Coalition has been in the forefront of efforts to protect our national patrimony, to secure our vital interests and to promote international economic cooperation. In response to persistent engagements by Guyana’s President, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on 30th January 2018 informed the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that, since significant progress had not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy between the two states, he had “…chosen the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the means that is now to be used for its solution.” This decision was in accordance with the view by Guyana that a judicial settlement would be the best means of achieving a final and definitive settlement of the controversy.
The Coalition, in accordance with that decision, filed its ‘Application’ with the International Court of Justice on 29th March 2018, requesting the Court to adjudge and declare on several issues the foremost being that the 1899 Arbitral Award is valid and binding upon Guyana and Venezuela. The Court ruled, on 18th December, that it had jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s claims concerning the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and related questions of the definitive settlement of the land boundary dispute.
The Coalition is proud of its record of achievements in improving citizens’ quality of life. The nation will recall that, on 1st January 2020, I had declared the start of a ‘Decade of Development, 2020-2019’. The Coalition administration had aimed at achieving improvements in several fields in its ten-point programme.
Guyana, today, enters the second year of its ‘Decade of Development’. Progress towards achieving its objectives, however, could be thwarted by the PPP regime’s deliberate derailment of the policies for growth and the dislodgement of the pillars of social progress.
The administration has changed but the people’s expectations are the same. The APNU+AFC Coalition will continue the work that it started in 2015 to ensure a good life for all Guyanese.
May God bless the people of Guyana.