President Donald Ramotar today declared that the “stalled” opposition-controlled Parliament is like a wound on the body politic that has to be resisted.
Speaking at the PPP’s 30th congress at Port Mourant, Ramotar implored the party faithful to fight any opposition attempts to retard progress and he said members must “rise, reorganize and rebuild”.
The text of his presentation follows:
Address by His Excellency Donald Ramotar at the 30th Congress
of the People’s Progressive Party
Delegates and observers
Delegates from fraternal parties
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Comrades and Friends all
Today, I stand before you as a proud member of the PPP, who, like many of you, worked tirelessly to build and strengthen this Party so that we can create a better future for our children, grand children and the future generations.
And while I – like you – live in hope and dream of peace, we must never forget where we have come from and the dark spectre of the past where all of us – Amerindians, Africans, Indians, Portuguese, Chinese and everything else in between – were shackled in under development and abuse.
We are meeting in this year full of many significant anniversaries of our people’s struggles and sacrifices: the 250th Anniversary of the Berbice Slave Uprising; the 190th Anniversary of the Demerara Uprising; the 175th Anniversary of the arrival of Indentured labourers from India, the 175th Anniversary of the final abolition of slavery; the 100th Anniversary of the Rose Hall Rebellion and the 65th Anniversary of the Enmore Martyrs and the 40th anniversary of our Ballot box heroes.
These struggles are our history. They have marked our character and distinguished us as a people and nation.
Speaking of sacrifice, let us not forget Comrade Balram Kanhai who was murdered here eleven years ago at our 27th Congress.
As a father, I cannot even begin to contemplate the terrible pain of his family that the years since will have done nothing to ease.
While time will help to dull the pain, no amount of speeches and no amount of condolences will ever fill the space in his family. But let us please honour that loss and grieve with his family.
Even though his sacrifice was extreme it was not solitary. Nor was it in vain.
In the eleven years since he left us much has been achieved. We have worked tirelessly to build our democracy, grow our economy and give the people of Guyana the opportunities they deserve.
The effects of our programmes can be felt across the whole of our country.
We have achieved economic growth and wealth creation that is the envy of many countries and we will continue to exert ourselves to improve on those performances.
We have invested in our hospitals, in our roads, in our schools and in our people and we will continue to leave no stone unturned to provide more of these vital physical and social infrastructure so indispensable to advance Guyana and to lift the quality of life of our people.
This investment has made a huge positive difference to the lives of all our people – directly and indirectly. Comrades, there have been visible improvements in our country’s landscape and you can attest to these changes.
The Takutu Bridge to Brazil, the Berbice Bridge have both been completed and are now operational.
New and resurfaced highways and roadways have been completed or are under construction from New Amsterdam to Moleson Creek, in Black Bush Polder, in East and West Canje, on the East Coast of Demerara from Better Hope to Belfield and on the East Bank of Demerara from Providence to Diamond.
Major road upgrades will commence shortly on the West Coast of Demerara from Vreed-en-Hoop to Hydronie, and on the East Bank of Berbice from Stanleytown to Everton.
Community roads have been rehabilitated in almost every village throughout our coast. In fact, we too few contactors and need more to execute all our road works that we have.
Our stellings have been upgraded at Parika and Supenaam and new ferries introduced on the Parika to Supenaam route reducing travel time vastly while enhancing the comfort of our commuters, and we are working to have a new ferry to ply the Georgetown/Mabaruma route.
A new airport with an extended runway is under development at Timehri and a second international airport has been brought into operation at Ogle. Indeed, the Ogle International Airport runway has been extended and improved and the first international commercial flight landed just last month – a promising preview of many more such arrivals that will bring our country tourism, investment and, I very much hope, new friends.
In addition, preparatory work is being done in the development of a new bridge across the Demerara River and on a second entrance into Georgetown from Diamond to ease the evident congestion that has arisen from the rapid development of the East Bank of Demerara corridor. Only two nights ago a large amount of Guyanese could not make it in time to the stadium to see a beautiful opening of that match when I drove the ball through the covers.
In social infrastructure, new schools and dormitories have been built at Mabaruma, Aurora, Parika, Diamond, No. 8 Village West Coast Berbice, No. 79 Village, Paramakatoi, and Surama.
New hospitals and health facilities have been commissioned at Georgetown, Linden, Mabaruma and Lethem.
There is the new National Ophthalmology Hospital at Port Mourant and new diagnostic and treatment centres at Suddie, Leonora, Diamond and Mahaicony.
Water treatment plants have been constructed at Lima, Vergenoegen, Cotton Tree, Sophia, No. 56 Village and Queenstown, Berbice. Water wells have been sunk at Hague, Somerset, Parfait Harmonie, Tuschen, Diamond, Manchester, No. 47 Village, and Rose Hall.
And let us not forget the tens of thousands of new house lots that have been, and are being developed across the country in places such as Diamond and Grove, affordable home ownership, including extension of tax breaks to people paying interest on low and middle income housing loans.
Since 2008, an additional 28,474 house lots have been distributed, 236 core houses and 80 Turnkey houses have been constructed.
Indeed since we first came to power, over a hundred thousand house lots have been distributed to the Guyanese people – bringing home ownership within the reach of almost every single Guyanese family.
In the electricity sector, two new power plants have been commissioned at Kingston, along with substations at Vreed-en-Hoop, Edinburg and Kingston, an upgraded transmission and distribution system was commissioned from Kingston to Sophia. Sub-marine cables have been laid from Kingston to Vreed-en-Hoop and from Vreed-en-Hoop to Edinburg and Canefield to No. 53 Village and are also under construction from Georgetown to Onverwagt.
In addition, under an ambitious hinterland electrification system, 12,351 solar panels have been distributed to households in the interior bringing electricity to those homes for the very first time.
Now amongst all of those numbers and names, it is easy to get ‘lost in the progress’.
And whilst we are proud of the projects we have completed so far, we must never forget what all the hard work is for. And I say to you comrades, as a member of the PPP, as a proud Guyanese man and a family man – all of our hard work is for you – the people, the families and the children and future children of Guyana. Every project I talk of today is for directly for that. All of the sweat, the frustrations, the efforts that have gone into making these things happen are for the sole purpose of making life better for the people of Guyana, and to make sure there is a brighter future for our country.
Brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, we must never forget what our work is for, and it is for you and your families.
As a family man, I am very lucky to have a wonderful partner of 39 years. I think she needs congratulations. I am also lucky to have three wonderful children fully committed to securing a better life for all future generations of Guyanese. I am committed to securing better healthcare, better schools, better jobs, better transportation and security to all families.
This is my dream and we as the PPP will do everything in our power to make this dream a reality.
But let me get you to pause for a moment to briefly recall what things were like.
Not so long ago, in the pre-1992 days our teachers hardly had chalk to use in the schools, our medical services were abysmal, shortages of drugs, of housing that led to overcrowding was the order of the day particularly in urban areas. Shortage of electricity led to black outs, we are still having some blackouts, but nothing like what we had when people used to scream after being in darkness for two weeks, when they got light.
Recall too the long lines for very basic food items and the galloping inflation that eroded workers’ wages.
These great changes are often overlooked as we mature into a more developed nation. But every now and then we should reflect on how far we have come as a blossoming country on the cusp of much greater things.
Our achievement at home is also reflected in our international achievements – many of them brought about thanks to the assistance and cooperation of many international partners, some of their representatives sitting right here today.
First of all, we have made great strides in improving the relations with our neighbours in Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela.
As many of you would know it was under the PPP administration that the Guyana/Brazil Bridge was negotiated and brought to fruition and we are now seeking to do the same with Suriname.
Our relations with Brazil continue to strengthen through the current negotiations over development of the Deep Water Harbour, a Guyana Brazil road and the development of cheap energy, and we must also remember that our relationship with Venezuela has come a far way, and for that we must thank late President Chavez for his efforts in improving our relations. And that has been deepened by our work in Petrocaribe and our trading arrangements with Venezuela.
Indeed just this past month, we joined MERCOSUR as an associate member, paving the way for greater partnership with our South American neighbours and linking us to some of the biggest and fastest growing economies in the world.
Further afield, it was just a few weeks ago that our achievements were recognised by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation which awarded us – and I mean us, all of us, every single individual in this country for achieving the first Millennium Development Goal three years ahead of schedule. The fact that we are also one of the seventeen countries in the world that has not only reduced poverty but increased nutrition for our people was also recognised by the United Nations.
Over this period the democracy we sacrificed so much for has been reinforced. It stood at the heart of our many achievements internally and externally. It is now not just about elections, but of people’s involvement, accountability and transparency.
From standing committees that invite government ministers and senior public servants to present and explain their work, to more robust initiatives to encourage debate, we have built a thriving democracy.
Yes, we have achieved much in recent times. But also much has changed. On my way here today I was reflecting on the changes since our last meeting five years ago in Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara.
At that time we had secured the second largest victory in our history and as a party were faced with a political landscape more stable, constructive and united than it is today.
Five years ago Guyana’s external debt had declined by 46%, we had just received EU support to reform the sugar industry, we were reporting our highest rice exports in 10 years, we had signed a security agreement with Brazil to develop that sector and had successfully sold off some non-performing government assets.
Five years ago, we were forging ahead with plans and ideas to move Guyana forward as a developing nation.
These plans remain in place and as always, spring from the moral foundations established by our own party from its inception with comrade Cheddi Jagan the head, whose legacy is very much evident today and in this hall.
His principles of social justice, of hard work and labour, of unity in the face of division and of investment in the people of Guyana are, and have been and will always be what this party is all about.
As the People’s Progressive Party we have a duty to fight for these principles and never to relent – even in the face of an uncompromising and uncomprehending opposition. I make this personal commitment that I, as President and Head of State, will not relent. And as General Secretary of your party, I commit you, members of the People’s Progressive Party, to never ever relent either.
We cannot afford to do so because we strive for the people, and it is their dreams that we were elected to protect, foster and realise. We will press forward.
But we do face challenges. And in the face of those challenges we must be resolute. We must not allow those who seek to reduce our parliament to a farce and impede our efforts to invest in our future to win, for what they fail to see is that every time they pat themselves on the back for supposedly embarrassing the government, it is in fact a defeat for the brighter future they claim to want for our people.
For the progress that we have made, it is not invincible, it is not irreversible, it has to be defended every day, it must be reinforced and pushed yet further. It relies on investing in our people, and it is this investment that has come under threat by the opposition’s nonsensical stance that growth can be achieved by cutting investment.
In fact their plans have nothing to do with growth and everything to do with cutting the PPP’s nose to spite the face of all of Guyana.
Since 2011, the opposition has sought to continually block our proposals; they tried to denigrate our ideals and attempt to use Parliament to block social and economic progress. They voted to cut from the 2012 budget most areas that affect people’s lives. They voted down contract workers. They voted down the solar panel project or people in the interior stopping Amerindian communities from enjoying basic services to which all people are entitled. They voted down the Amerindian Land Titling stopping people in those communities from developing their own projects and creating their own wealth.
In fact, they have voted down pretty much everything they can find that is ambitious, planned and good for the people of Guyana.
Indeed the opposition have made it abundantly clear that they do not care about the people of Guyana as a whole or even the people who supported them.
This was most deplorably demonstrated last year in Linden where they conspired to foster disruptions and unrest that impacted in a hugely negative way on the life and businesses of their supposed constituents.
The deaths that occurred there were a tragedy for all of us and my heart goes out to their families – and like the Kanhai family they deserve our thoughts and our sympathy.
This year they have continued to demonstrate that they are unfit to lead our nation. With Minister Singh having developed a budget that could have boosted the economy, creating thousands of new jobs and put in place the building blocks for the future of Guyana, the opposition again stalled parliament and put the brakes on development, but cutting $31bln out of the Budget.
I understand and sympathise with many Guyanese I meet who daily who come up to tell me, “Mr. President – parliament not working, boy,” and “Parliament messing up things,” and that is relating to some of the less colourful statements I have heard.
This is a serious issue. In fact it is a wound on the body politic of our nation. It is a wound and one that is festering and reopening every time a sensible, moral and costed development project is stalled because the Opposition wants to hold back progress, or the cheap publicity or promoting agendas inimical to our people.
We have to resist these acts vigorously.
We must therefore rise, reorganise and rebuild – as someone once said – share ideas, define the points of disagreement and overcome these whilst continuing to deliver development for all.
To take but one recent example, it is beyond comprehension that the opposition cannot agree to pass a project like Amaila that is so universally beneficial for Guyana, so sound in its financial viability and so badly needed for the future of our country. A project that the opposition themselves were in favour of a year ago – a year ago they voted for it and all the talk now, that they are making about transparency – they didn’t say that a year ago. They did not make those points. We gave them three opportunities to brief them on all the technical details, we gave them every opportunity to ask us very question and in parliament there was not a single question that they asked that remain unanswered, none was avoided, all were confronted and they were all given. What we are hearing today is sheer excuses.
And it is so disingenuous to bandy about figures – the vast majority of them completely false – that are not comparable to what is, and what we are trying to achieve. I remember comrade Cheddi Jagan used to say that there are lies and statistics that is what the opposition is trying to throw at us.
This project has been in the work for decades, inspected and approved by professional economists from national agencies, private companies and our international development partners.
This project has been costed and designed by the best project planners the nation and region have to offer, and reviewed and approved by the most credible agencies and financing institutions in the world. The Blackstone Group is no ordinary group; it is a company with more than $200Billion at their disposal. This project has been called for by countless energy sector experts, all of whom agree that Amaila will bring opportunities and prosperity to our country and our people.
No villages will be displaced by our plans, no longer will we have to rely on fossil fuel for energy and after two decades, it is us, the people of Guyana that will own this project.
During that time, before the 20 years, the people of Guyana will save enormously in importation bill for fuel and will have more disposable income in their pockets, because electricity rates will be cut by up to 40 %. See this as an achievement in our future, an investment in the future of our people, but if the opposition will not put the people first, then it is we – the People’s Progressive Party that must do so and compensate for their opposition –we have to therefore work harder.
There is only one hope for Guyana – and that lies right here in this hall with us.
We must continue to battle against this force that could not even pass something as universally popular and needed as the firearm bill earlier this year that was designed to take off a lot of guns from off our streets.
We must not only battle, but we must win, and we can win and we will win.
And we will do so because it is putting the people – and not ourselves – first, that is the very principle on which our party is based.
So the opposition will not pass a bill that seeks to control gun violence – we will continue to push them to do so while employing other means to fight crime.
Through our communities and through increased efforts to bolster, improve and assist the brave men and women in our force who put their lives on the line to protect our families and our children, we will find all the ways to support them to fight the criminals.
The government can do some, but it is the party that must do more.
I stress here that the People’s Progressive Party must be the party of understanding, the party of empathy, the party that shares the pain and the ambitions of families across Guyana – and indeed of Guyanese across the world, irrespective of race, creed and irrespective of their politics.
We must stand up – you must stand up – and be the light that the people of Guyana must turn to.
Believe me; we will press on with our plans. We will reinforce our principles. And we will renew the people’s confidence in us.
Comrades, some of you know me very well, and I, like all of you are family people, am a husband, a brother, am a father and am a friend and so whilst we are right to be proud of our projects and achievements to date, we must never forget that we have to work together.
You know, if I could have one wish in my life it would be to know that my time spent serving this beautiful country and our party would result in me helping to leave in place a better future for my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, and I suspect the same is true for all of you here in this hall today.
So join me in making that wish come true – let us live the dream that unites us across the ages with Cheddi Jagan like the golden thread: We must fight and achieve better healthcare for our people, better schools for our children, better security for the nation, better electricity, better infrastructure, better jobs, and a better Guyana.
This process starts now, it starts today, it starts right here and thank you for being a part of it.
August 2, 2013