Dear Editor,New York-based Indo-Guyanese fondly remember Atal Behari Vajpayee, because he conferred a lot of benefits on them and he interacted with them like no other Indian PM ever did. Vajpayee’s love for the diaspora and his humility towards humanity set him apart from his predecessors. And not unexpectedly, Indo-Caribbean people paid glowing tributes to Vajpayee upon his passing last Thursday. They remember him as the leader who institutionalised the relationship of the diaspora with India. They note his outreach with the increase in foreign aid to Africa and the Caribbean.I and other Guyanese had the rare honour of meeting Vajpayee-ji several times in the US and India. Atal-ji, as he was fondly called, had a special affinity for the Indian diaspora, and he met Indo-Caribbean persons with warmth whenever he visited New York.Vajpayee’s first encounter with Indo-Caribbean persons was in September 1977, and again in September 1978, when, as Foreign Minister, he addressed the Indian diaspora on the sidelines of the UN. He addressed the UN in Hindi, the first person to so do at the UN body. He drew loud applause at the UN and at the forums with the diaspora.In September 1990, several Guyanese joined a rally in front of the UN to support India against terror fomented by its neighbour. Vajpayee came out of the UN and applauded the participants for their support to India. Later, at the Waldorf Astoria, he extolled the virtues of the diaspora, including praising Indo-Caribbean people. He was described as perhaps the best orator of India.Vajpayee also interacted with Indo-Caribbean community leaders on other occasions, telling them how impressed he was with their cultural retention and nationalism towards Mother India. In the 1990s, he held several meetings with overseas-based Indian communities.At a meeting at Salaam Bombay restaurant in 1997, Vajpayee heard suggestions from Dharamdatt Durjan Sukhai of Demerara, Ramesh Kalicharran of Essequibo and this writer from Berbice for a global forum of people of Indian descent, and honouring overseas-based Indians who made outstanding contributions to the diaspora and/or India. Dharamdatt suggested the idea of a Kowsilla Bravery Award (named after that courageous Leonara freedom fighter) for those who courageously champion the interests of the Indian diaspora. At that session, Dharamdatt honoured Vajpayee with a Chowkee reminding him he was a bachelor – Vajpayee and the attendees burst into laughter. Vajpayee publicly promised that should the BJP ever form the government at the centre, and if he were to become its PM, he would take measures to implement the suggestion of a global forum of the Indian diaspora.The BJP would eventually come to power (1998) with Vajpayee as PM, and in 2000, Vajpayee appointed a “High Level Committee” to meet with community leaders and media personnel of the diaspora to: assess the status of PIOs like Indo-Caribbean persons and Indo-Fijians, etc. and non-resident Indians (NRIs born in India but residing abroad) and to develop a policy framework to forge a mutually beneficial relationship between the diaspora and India.The Committee, chaired by Dr. L.M. Singhvi, a Member of Parliament, travelled and met the diaspora, including Indo-Caribbean persons in NYC. Indo-Caribbean persons proposed a bi-annual forum of global diaspora in a different country, and honours for Indians who made significant contributions to India or to the diaspora.Vajpayee accepted the recommendations, and he concretised relations with the diaspora through the PBD. The first PBD was held in 2003, with Sir Shridath Ramphal and V.S Naipaul as keynote speakers and honorees. Cricket icon Rohan Kanhai was also on the list of honorees, but he did not attend the PBD. Several Indo-Caribbean journalists were invited to the PBD on all- expense-paid trip to Delhi. President Bharrat Jagdeo was the keynote speaker and honoree at the second PBD. Other Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean persons were honoured at subsequent PBDs. I attended a dozen of the PBDs as a journalist or speaker.The NY Indo-Caribbean community is most grateful to Atal-ji for all the benefits he conferred on the Caribbean and the Indian diaspora, never mind that there has not been much gratitude. They mourn his passing by speaking glowingly of the late PM.Yours truly,Vishnu Bisram (PhD)
Dear Editor,In relation to matters of expenditure of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) — and in particular the queries regarding voters’ education activities, which are woefully inadequate — a proposal should have been submitted to GECOM for approval.Further, the CEO, Mr. Lowenfield, MUST be able to provide timely information in respect to the execution of tenders and who were the evaluators. He should also provide copies of the evaluation report, substantiate the position of the National Procurement & Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) or Cabinet, and state whether mobilisation was paid in advance and a performance bond was established.The Auditor General’s report made reference, and there were serious questions in respect to the millions of dollars that were spent on voters’ education. Some of the questions were related to where, when and how the public relations company receive the contract. It is more serious that when the issue was raised about voters’ education, Lowenfield first claimed ignorance and pretended that he was unaware of what is happening. However, he admitted that he “instructed that this be done, especially in the hinterland and far-flung areas, but that he had no knowledge if had been done”. This is indeed a very serious matter!The fact is that the Commissioners are part of the overall management of GECOM, and the law and procedures of the organisation allow for establishment of a Finance Sub-Committee, approved by the Chairman, which must report at the meetings of the Commission. Relative, therefore, are the following queries: Who are the Commissioners that currently constitute this Sub-Committee? And why is what are required and necessary so difficult to be obtained by Commissioners?Unequivocally, if the management is not submitting financial information, the Commissioners should not sign off on any request for approval. It is recalled that, only recently, ‘selected’ members of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Development Board were charged and placed before the courts for issues related to the activities of the organisation. It cannot be that the system is designed to work in one way for a particular set of people, and blatantly discriminate against another.The fact is that there are serious questions for many Returning Officers and GECOM Commissioners to answer regarding what took place on Nomination Day. It is therefore very worrying that Lowenfield refuses to share the list of duties and responsibilities of the ROs and Presiding Officers. It is imperative that the GECOM Commissioners demand the list of duties of all the GECOM staff members, and a proper account from the public relations firm that is hired to do what is supposed to be done.While there are serious concerns about how staff members are being employed at GECOM, concerned citizens are more interested in the lavish spending and high life of some GECOM staff members. It is time the Auditor General tell the public what is happening at GECOM in respect to the questionable hundreds of millions of dollars of excessive spending.Further, what is the DPP doing about the matter? Were the documents forwarded to the DPP’s Chambers?In view of the attitude and behaviour of the Chief Elections Officer and his accommodation by the ‘big four’ in the Secretariat, there absolutely is neither trust nor confidence in what GECOM is doing. The time is most opportune for the nation to rise up against this blatant disregard by GECOM, and its lack of accountability and transparency in implementing policies.While this is a constitutional agency, there must be public accountability for taxpayers’ money, and to the people. Every action must be taken to ensure that the rights of citizens are not trampled upon via Lowenfield’s Town Clerk’s approach, and apparent eroding grey matter of the Chairman.Sincerely,Neil Kumar
Dear Editor,Please allow me space to respond to former PNCR Executive member B Beniprashad Rayman who made an effort to pose questions in true ‘straw man’ fashion. It is always difficult to reply to fiction with fact as readers are often left at a loss of whom to believe. These are the tactics of the desperate but they must never be allowed to flourish.Rayman begins by positing that the Diamond and LBI estates were closed by President Bharrat Jagdeo. The Diamond factory was closed in 1985 and a large area of the estate’s cultivation was retired. Bharrat Jagdeo was a student at the time. In 2011, a decision was made to close the LBI factory. The decision was taken against the backdrop of the improvement of the Enmore factory and the construction of the packaging plant which yielded a higher price for the sugar produced. Few of the workers were affected by the closure; some were retained at LBI to work in the enlarged workshop that was created, while the others were transferred to work in the Enmore factory and a small number opted for early retirement. In contrast, the actions of the Granger administration are unmatched for their callous nature.In April 2016, the Granger administration closed the LBI Estate which ceased to exist and many workers were shown the door. A few weeks later, Granger announced its closure of the East Demerara Estate and put thousands out of work. Granger has closed four sugar estates and put seven thousand persons out of work. The rationale offered by Granger’s Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan that, “Probably, it was destined that way. Probably God wanted it that way that we have to make the decision now,” who also said that payment of workers’ severances was a “drag” on the economy. David Granger is not done with the sugar industry by any means, GuySuCo remains the country’s single largest employer, going by Ramjattan’s pronouncements, probably nothing but total closure of the sugar industry will satisfy ‘God’.The absolute fiction of the PPP Government closing down the bauxite industry is in direct contrast to the facts; production of bauxite declined rapidly after Burnham nationalised the industry in the 1970s. In the mid-1980s, bauxite production was 1.5 million tonnes per year or half the annual level of the 1960s and 1970s. The state-owned Guyana Mining Enterprise Limited (Guymine) suffered repeated losses as a result of inefficient management, declining world prices for bauxite, and prolonged strikes by workers. The losses drained the company’s capital reserves and led to the deterioration of plants and equipment. Guyana’s single alumina plant, located in Linden, used to separate 300,000 tonnes per year of aluminium oxide from raw bauxite ore until the facility closed in 1982. Interestingly, it was the USD 400 million levies paid by the sugar industry that propped up bauxite and Burnham’s burgeoning Public Service. How soon we forget.In 1992, PPP/C met an arrangement by the Multilateral Financial Institutions (MFIS), which funded and placed MINPROC as manager of the Linden Bauxite Company (LINMINE). MINPROC’s purpose was to determine and demonstrate whether LINMINE could be profitable. MINPROC reported that the there was no pathway to profitable operation; however, the PPP/C did not shut down the industry. They subsidised the industry until OMAI came on board as a managing partner/investor. The PPP brought in both current employers in the bauxite industry, Bosai, and Rusal. The PPP has also enabled large-scale gold mining and timber operations whose employees are primarily from Region 10.Having dispensed with the distracting fictions, I can discuss a matching of performance by Irfaan Ali during his tenure as a Minister and David Granger as President. Irfaan Ali held the important Housing and Water portfolios, he delivered 28,456 new housing units, more than anyone in the history of Guyana, provided transformational leadership in the industry, with his ‘one-stops’ delivering expedited house-lot ownership throughout the country. Irfaan Ali delivered twenty-five new wells and seven treatment plants, moving access to potable water from twenty-five per cent of the population to over fifty per cent. Granger has held one portfolio during his tenure as President: oil and gas, this he assumes reluctantly after widespread criticism and dissatisfaction surfaced about Raphael Trotman’s disastrous engagements with ExxonMobil, namely, the hidden $18 million bonus and the two per cent renegotiation. Granger has not accomplished anything in the O&G sector, and in fact, passed the work of securing the interests of Guyanese through local content legislation to Dr Mark Bynoe, a crony who wrote for Granger’s National Review publication. Bynoe also passed the buck; this work has been delegated to foreigners to the detriment of the local populace. Granger as President cannot match the achievements of Ali as Minister. I will concede that David Granger is unmatched in his incompetence, mismanagement, untrustworthiness, undermining of democracy, lack of vision, lack of leadership and his penchant for pursuit of the trivial.Over the coming months, Irfaan Ali will deliver speeches outlining his vision for Guyana’s future; they will be as detailed as articulate. In the same period, Granger will subject us to the vague ‘good life’ promise he has been making since Noah was a boy. Granger has promised much and delivered very little. Granger deliberately cloaks his incompetence in vagueness. Irfaan Ali’s promises will be made on deliverables, based on sound economic principles and an unmatched performance record.Respectfully,Robin Singh
– commences hearingsThe much anticipated Family Court has finally commenced operations and is currently hearing cases.The Family Court is located in the compound of the High CourtActing Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, announced on Tuesday in statement that the Family Division of the High Court has been established and began hearing cases since May 6, 2016.It has been almost five years since the Family Court building was completed and handed over to Government. Works were ongoing for over seven years to have the Family Court established and in operation, but this was been constantly delayed over the past years.For almost a year, the delays were blamed on the acquisition of furniture and the hosting of Commissions of Inquiries (CoIs) at the building, located in the compound of the Georgetown Supreme Court, overlooking King Street.Then more recently, revision of the Rules of Law had caused the opening to push back. However, in February, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams had laid over the completed Rules of Law, which will govern the practices and procedures of the Family Court. The rules were completed a while ago but some “necessary amendments” had to be made.The Chancellor acknowledged the numerous hurdles that had beset the functioning of the facility, noting that the Supreme Court will treat those as lessons learnt.The Family Court will hear and determine all proceedings which touch and concern family matters. The procedure of the Family Court will be governed by the Family (Proceedings and Procedure) Rules 2016 (FPPR).The main applications that could be made to the Court are for divorce, custody and access, division of property, maintenance, guardianship, parentage orders including paternity orders, protection of children, wardship, variation of an existing order and breach of orders. The Court is meant to encourage dispute resolution, including alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and therefore will facilitate a participatory approach to problem solving so that family disputes can be dealt with justly and expeditiously while ensuring the welfare of family members, especially children.The Family Court will be presided over by two judges. However, the FPPR will be applied by Judges who are assigned to the Berbice and Essequibo jurisdictions of the High Court where the Court shall receive and hear applications at the New Amsterdam and Suddie High Courts respectively.The Court has its own registry for receiving applications in family matters and includes a child friendly space in the form of a Children’s Waiting Room for parties who are required to attend the Court. The well trained staff of this new registry are geared to provide a customer friendly process for persons who attend at the registry and the Court.The Court will work in close liaison with the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) in matters affecting the welfare of children. In addition, it is expected that parties to family court matters will utilise the Mediation Centre of the High Court.Justice Singh expressed appreciation to the Government of Guyana; the United Nations Children’s Fund; the Government and people of Canada, as well as its diplomatic representatives in Georgetown, for the support readily given to the training of Judges and support staff in the anticipated work of the Family Court.
Three Japanese nationals and the driver of the taxi they were travelling in were on Tuesday held at gunpoint by three armed men who relieved them of a quantity of equipment and cash at Ogle Seawall, East Coast Demerara (ECD).Based on initial reports, the three had contracted Abdool Rahim, 38, a taxi Driver of Canal No 2 Polder, West Bank Demerara, to take them sightseeing around the City.While they were in the vicinity of the Ogle Seawall, the perpetrators pounced on them and relieved them of 2 video cameras, 1 laptop computer, 4 mobile handsets, 23 video tapes and 0,000 in cash.The men then escaped in a car without registration plates. However, based on information, the police arrested a female with one of the stolen items.She is in police custody assisting with investigations.
A farmer of Maria’s Pleasure of Wakenaam Island, Essequibo River, was jailed for three years and fined ,000 after he appeared before Magistrate Sunil Scarce at the Anna Regina Magistrate’s Court.Vinod Sancharia, 32, admitted in court on Wednesday that on August 15, he had in his possession 222.4 grams of cannabis sativa.Vinod SanchariaThe prosecution’s case stated that ranks from the San Souci Police Station received information that the farmer was travelling from Parika with narcotics. As such, ranks went to the Wakenaam Ferry Stelling and subsequently apprehended him. A search was conducted and in his bag he had seeds, stem and leaves which was later proven to be cannabis.He was arrested and charged.
Pharmagate…as Cabinet now gives seal of approval to corruption,cronyism – PPP/C Chief WhipThe Sussex Street ‘house bond’ deal, which sees Larry Singh’s Linden Holding Inc being paid $12.5 million monthly for the storage of drugs and medical supplies, “stinks to high heavens” and demonstrates that the current Administration is incapable of doing the right thing and immediately terminate the contract. This, despite the “platitudes” being offered by Head of State, President David Granger, on the virtues of transparency and accountability by his Administration.Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira addressing members of the media at Freedom House on FridayOpposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira made that damning pronouncement on Friday when she met with members of the local media corps, and said that the official pronouncements made by the Director of Public Information, Imran Khan, only serve to reinforce the view that Cabinet was essentially now involved in the endorsement of, and cover-up of a corrupt transaction.The Opposition Chief Whip was at the time speaking to topical issues and reminded that People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) would be exploring all of the parliamentary options available to it.Further embarrassmentTeixeira said from all appearances, Government now appeared incapable of doing what was the right and honourable thing, and suggested that Singh of Linden Holding Inc should, in fact, step up and rescind the contract entered into with Government to save the Administration from further embarrassment.She said the masterminds behind the affair had in fact prepared a watertight contract that would have to be resolved, “either by a gentleman’s agreement and if the gentleman who has been the beneficiary of such largesse of the Government is willing to not further embarrass the Government he has supported, he should withdraw and let the contract be terminated…if they don’t wish to do that, then they are obviously trying to broker something”.Teixeira told media operatives that based on the official pronouncement coming out of Cabinet, the entire sordid affair was clearly a repayment ploy for Singh.She said too that even more worrying signs have been signalled by Cabinet following its review of the Cabinet Sub-Committee recommendations, and pointed to the fact that Cabinet has decided to expedite the process of securing a new bond.This, she said, will no doubt lead to another rush to sole source another facility and “will be a repeat of the original contract”.UnacceptableCabinet, through the Government’s Director of Public Information, on Thursday announced that the council of ministers chaired by President Granger, had completed its review of the entire affair and has agreed to go ahead and look for another facility.Cabinet had found the deal to be “undesirable”, but nonetheless did not terminate the contract.Teixeira suggested that throughout her political career, including serving in various ministerial and other capacities, she has never seen such an ironclad arrangement, which has essentially bound Government into a 12-year arrangement at an annual cost of in excess of $150 million.Government not only fronted a security deposit of $25 million for the facility, but agreed to pay a monthly rental of $12.5 million in addition to all utility, security and other charges.“This is unacceptable,” Teixeira said, and reminded that “justice isn’t always there when you want it, but it comes out and the more this Government refuse to do what is correct and that is to terminate the contract.”The Opposition Chief Whip said Governments were expected to do what was honourable.She noted that Singh would always have the option to move to the courts, “but the issue is that this matter stinks to high heavens and, therefore, there is only one recourse”.Teixeira was adamant that President Granger has a responsibility to terminate the contract with Linden Holding Inc.Parliamentary optionsMeanwhile, asked about the approach of the political Opposition in face of the Cabinet decision on the drug bond brouhaha, Teixeira said her Party was currently still aiming to have Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton placed before the Committee of Privileges.She pointed, too, to the fact that her Party could very well be open to bringing a motion to debate the entire sordid affair in the full Assembly, in addition to resorting to the use of the various sectoral committees.Asked about extra-parliamentary options, the Opposition Chief Whip was reluctant to divulge how the Party would approach this, saying “we will see”.Teixeira used the opportunity to also remind the media operatives present that the Party was still to see an official apology that had been promised by Minister Norton, to be submitted to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland.She said this was the position of her Party despite the recent appearance by Dr Norton to publicly offer an apology, an activity Teixeira dismissed as “quite hilarious”.
The Johns/Port Mourant Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) in Region 6 (East Berbice-Corentyne) has been slow to investigate the construction of a benab on its reserve.Councillor Orin McDougallThis sloth has caused a lone councillor to mount a picketing demonstration in protest of the construction.Orin McDougall the protestor says NDC Chairman Imran Ali has instructed that they seek the intervention of the Ministry of Communities seeking advice. The benab which he says is illegally constructed is situated in front of the Area ‘H’ Ground.As a Councillor representing Constituency One, McDougall says he is obligated to ensure the council’s by-laws are not breached in his constituency.“This particular area that I am standing on is the Port Mourant reserve and we have noticed construction going on. It is an illegal operation because it is the council’s reserve and according to Chapter 28:02 Section 53:1-4 inclusive AB and C, it states that it is illegal to encumber the council’s reserve or parapet; this is the parapet of the Johns/Port Mourant NDC. I am protesting the building of anything on this parapet,” McDougall told Guyana Time< while in the area of construction.The Councillor explained, “We had statutory meetings and special meetings where the issue was discussed. The Overseer is supposed to send letters to Mr Hilbert Foster and the Rose Hall Town Council.”According to McDougall he is being proactive because he is one of the councillors elected to represent residents in that community.
The women of Lofa Bridge Community have done their country and people a great service by reporting just in time a bridge connecting Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties that is about to fall apart.Our reporter Gloria Tamba wrote last Tuesday that the women, led by Madam Massa Gorla, had been observing the bridge for some time and noticed that not only are the planks on the bridge floor falling apart, but the very pillars on which it stands are cracking!They made noises, but no one listened. So these patriotic and determined women, whose children cross that bridge daily for school, got fed up and took decisive ACTION. They mounted road blocks on either side, making it impossible for motorists to pass.This caught the immediate attention of the two key Ministries of government, Internal Affairs (MIA) and Public Works (MPW). Soon, MIA Minister Morris Dukuly and MPW Minister Antoinette Weeks were on their way to see the bridge and both ordered it immediately closed to traffic.Public Works Minister Weeks pledged that her engineers would carefully examine the bridge and determine what to do about it.The women of this communities deserve the commendation and gratitude of the entire nation for their action in averting what could have been a major disaster.It remains to be seen what Public Works will do. Are they going to simply mend the broken bridge, or are they going to study it comprehensively and recommend that it be torn down and a proper bridge be built.But a number of questions arise here. Why did it take these women to alert the government about this cracking bridge? Has Public Works no program to monitor on a regular or periodic basis all government construction–bridges, buildings, etc., to determine which one needs repair? It has long been said that the Liberian government knows how to build but not how to maintain. Look at what happened to the Executive Mansion in 2006: the place caught afire due to an electrical fault. Why? No one could remember when last the wiring of the building was checked since the Mansion was completed in 1964!Does Public Works have a detailed listing of all the government buildings and their architectural drawings? Does it have the same for all the roads and bridges it has built? Is there any place where the nation’s architectural archives are kept?What happened to the government’s Decentralization Plan that the Governance Commission designed between 2006 and 2012? The Plan called for the election of county superintendents, city mayors, district commissioners and paramount chiefs. It also called for the major government ministries to be represented in each county. This would include, for starts, the Ministries of Justice–Police, Immigration and Joint Security; Education; Internal Affairs; and Public Works. And since we are dealing in this editorial with physical infrastructure, the Plan called for a Highway Department in each county, working in close collaboration with Public Works. TheDepartment’s function was to maintain all the road networks and public buildings in the county. Had there been a Highway Department in Gbarpolu County, there would have been no need for the women to advise Internal Affairs and Public Works that their bridge was on the verge of collapse.The President has just under three more years in office. She has enough time to finish that which she has begun–the decentralization of the Liberian government, to share power with the people at the local level and hopefully, to enable the government to be a little more efficient.It remains to be seen whether she will be the first Liberian President to accomplish the devolution of power–the transfer to the people at the local level, of some of the powers of the President.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Ann Sandell International School with support from a Switzerland-based non-governmental organization (NGO), Aid For Liberia, has embarked on the distribution of assorted anti-Ebola supplies among residents of ‘poor’ communities in Montserrado and Margibi Counties.Aid for Liberia is a group founded by Liberians living in Switzerland. The organization is aimed at helping needy Liberians with non-interest loans; benefiting the likes of market women and other institutions such as schools and vulnerable communities dwellers.Some of the items the school authority is distributing include reading materials for school-going children, who now sit home in the absence of functional academic institutions. Other supplies are several bags of 25-kg rice, scratch cards to enable community dwellers make call whenever they suspect any outbreak, flyers with Ebola preventive messages, etc.Ann Sandell Proprietor, Laybeah Gbowee, who is spear-heading the distribution exercise put the cost of the items at US1, 550. She said the money was provided through the kind gesture of Aid for Liberia leadership.“We are distributing these educational materials to enable students who are sitting at home in the wake of school closure to keep them learning as they await recommencement of classes,” Madam Gbowee declared.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)