Monthly Archives: June 2014

The following is a guest column addressing LGBT rights in light of recent public statements:

The following is a guest column addressing LGBT rights in light of recent public statements:

Two weeks ago, the Vice-Chairman of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), Pastor Ronald McGarrell, went on the radio and shared his view that homosexuals should live on island by themselves in order to spare heterosexuals God’s wrath. His comments have spurred a “debate,” albeit an informal one, which has brought back some old and overused arguments to the fore, including the disingenuous hijacking of the language of universal human rights to deliver some run-of-the-mill bigotry.

As a result, much has been said about freedom of speech or the right of influential persons to air their preference for segregating persons based on their sexual orientation on public radio at a time when there is supposed to be a critical national conversation being held on whether these persons deserve to be treated as fellow human beings, as equal citizens before the law. However, little has been said of freedom of belief–but then, some persons are used to cherry picking the mores they like to follow and disregarding ones they don’t, even when they come as a package deal.

According to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’ Under what contortion of logic do we, from this statement, draw the conclusion that any person has the authority to tell us what or how to believe? If you believe that persons of a certain sexual orientation are “sinning” and that, somehow, sinfulness spreads like the flu – by mere proximity to those sinning, regardless of one’s character or values, then I pity you but under no circumstances do you have the authority to coerce me or anyone else into believing the same, much less coercing the state to act on such beliefs.

I happen to believe that no one has the authority to police anyone else’s sexual preferences. Why then are my beliefs more likely than the Pastor’s to be (loudly) ridiculed by all and sundry? Where is my freedom of speech, my freedom of belief? Do I have the freedom to practice respect for the dignity of persons from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community by speaking up when persons seek to undermine and dehumanise this community?

We all know the answer to this. It seems the right to call out bigotry and prejudice when it proudly and unapologetically asserts itself does not exist when the flavour of prejudice stems from a particular religious perspective.

Indeed, it seems to be taken for granted by a good number of people that some perspectives deserve more respect than others and that, consequently, some persons’ rights trump others. In this particular case, it seems the right of one party to express himself is infinitely more important than the right of the other party to be himself. This cannot be understood except under the lens of inequality and deeply rooted prejudice.

I cannot even imagine what day-to-day life is like for LGBT persons in Guyana who suffer far worse than having their ideas ridiculed or silenced. What must it be like to have your basic right to be denied? To be degraded repeatedly with the language of ‘sin’, ‘evil’ or ‘Devil’? To suffer the presumptuousness of persons who think they have the right to tell you whom you may or may not be interested in, who you may or may not love, what you may or may not do with your own body? To be patronised by persons telling you that they “hate the sin but love the sinner”?

How many rights are LGBT persons denied in Guyana? Yet, if you speak out against homophobia, persons will cry foul quicker than a footballer during the World Cup – and demand respect to boot. So, what exactly is going on here?

The truth is some people are trying to limit the rights of others while fully exercising their own rights – and playing the victim along the way. In big picture terms, these people are trying to curtail the right to be treated equally before the law. In smaller, petty terms, these people are trying to silence the opposition to their bigotry by using the language of “rights.” In doing so, they deflect attention away from the persons who suffer the most debilitating rights violations by turning the question of tolerance on its head: How dare we not tolerate their intolerance?

I must admit that it is true. I do not tolerate their intolerance. But not tolerating bigotry does not trample on anyone’s rights. To imply this is disingenuous and dishonest. First of all, disapproval of your opinions is not a denial of your rights. Secondly, as the saying goes, “your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.” In other words, you may do as you please – up until your actions begin to harm others. Not tolerating bigotry is actually an exercise in affirming human rights – not the other way around.

Freedom of speech does not infer insurance against consequences. If you want to say racist, classist, sexist or homophobic things, by all means, go ahead. You cannot, however, expect to say such things and not suffer the ire of persons within hearing. At least, this is how a society works if it places a premium on the inherent dignity and rights of all its members. Freedom of speech works all around–you and I both have this right. And the cornerstone appeal of rights is that they have to be enjoyed equally to work. In other words, your rights do not take precedence over mine.

Public figures of considerable influence who are beneficiaries of the status quo need to recognise and accept that their actions play an integral role in facilitating the capacity of minority, underprivileged and vulnerable populations to exercise their basic human rights. The LGBT community is already a minority, legally disenfranchised population so when one makes comments of separation and alienation, it enables the further violation of their rights.

And no, Pastor McGarrell, being a member of a particular religion or creed does not exempt you from having to observe and respect universal human rights – unless, of course, you live on a deserted island. a

A world of displaced people

A week ago, on World Refugee Day, the UN placed the number of refugees and internally displaced people worldwide at more than 50 million, an increase of more than six million over the previous year. On average some 30,000 people are forced to flee their homes each day. In 2013 nearly 17 million refugees crossed international borders – many fleeing from conflicts like those in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria – and twice that number remained trapped inside their countries of origin. Taken together, the global refugee population is larger than the entire population of Caricom and more than five times the size of the English-speaking Caribbean.

One striking statistic in the UN report is that the majority of refugees are housed by developing countries – 86 per cent, up from 70 per cent a decade ago. Another surprise, especially given the ferocity of debates over illegal immigration in the EU, and elsewhere, is that the five main host countries are Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. (In fairness, it should be added that Germany accepts more asylum seekers than any other, even though its success at assimilation is uneven, to say the least.)

A glance at the FIFA World Cup rosters for most European nations offers plenty of evidence for the complexity of recent mass migrations. Germany’s star midfielder Mesut Özil, is a third generation German of Turkish descent – other “foreign players” include Sami Khedira (Tunisian father), Jerome Boateng (Ghana), Shkodran Mustafi (born in Macedonia to Albanian parents), and Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski (Poland). Karim Benzema, who could have played for Algeria, is one of 12 players in the French squad eligible for other national teams. (Italy would lose Rossi and Balotelli; Spain, David Silva; the Dutch would lose three Surinamese players and Portugal could not field Nani and Pepe.) If players with one foreign-born parent were ineligible, Switzerland would lose two-thirds of its squad.

While a World Cup squad of “refugees” could easily win the tournament, the players themselves often play a significant role in reducing xenophobia domestically. Deustche Welle World recently asked the director of the Centre for Turkish Studies at a local university, what he made of Turks’ enthusiastic support for the national team. He noted that even local teams like Borussia Dortmund have several hundred Turkish supporters at their matches, and added that “if Germany becomes the world champion, as many Turks expect it will …Turks will then fully identify (with the victory) and feel that they’ve contributed to it with their enthusiasm.”

A sobering contrast to this spirited assimilation is the United States’ response to the “epic” influx of foreign children currently under way. An estimated 47, 000 children have entered the US during the last eight months, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Many have been brought into the US by human trafficking “coyotes” who abandon them at the border. Although the Obama administration has spoken of an “urgent humanitarian situation” and tried to reunite children with family members in the US, wherever possible, there is a great uncertainty about the fate of the remaining children. Honduras has asked the US not to return the children and other governments likely feel the same way. Meanwhile, after arriving in the US, the children have been kept, quite literally, in warehouses – under conditions better suited to the detention of terror suspects rather than young, totally defenceless asylum seekers.

Pressed on the issue at a televised town hall meeting, Hillary Clinton said: “Just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean the child gets to stay” – a response she may well rue when it is time to court the Latino vote in the 2016 election. Nevertheless, her impatience is indicative of the frustration, and confusion that surrounds the politics of immigration in the EU and North America. Until there is bipartisan immigration reform in the US, few improvements are likely.

Emigration from Guyana – legal and otherwise – has taken a huge toll on our society during the last generation. Many of those who left this country have endured fates similar to those of the millions of refugees currently seeking better lives elsewhere. One lesson that might be drawn from the vast collection of harrowing narratives which these experiences have generated is that it is always better to achieve political compromises – however painful, however incomplete – in countries with seemingly irreconcilable racial, religious and political tensions, than to allow temporary triumphs, whether political or military, to strip a country of its human capital. It is a lesson we would all do well to consider.

Goolsarran dismisses gov’t rationale for $4.55B spending

Government is seeking shelter for $4.55B of extra-budgetary expenditure under an article of the constitution that is not applicable, former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran says and he roasted Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh actions as disrespectful and contemptuous of the National Assembly.

The government on June 19, 2014 tabled Financial Paper 1 of 2014 as a statement of excess seeking to clear money which had not been approved by the opposition as part of its $36.7B paring of the 2014 budget. Among the agencies affected were GINA and NCN which the opposition have had longstanding concerns over and had therefore sought to deny provisions to for the last three years. Despite this, these two agencies were funded for the first half of this year and Singh’s statement of excess was meant to cover this.

The opposition has since signalled that they will not vote for what they term the unlawful expenditure by Singh and the financial paper has brought the country closer to a possible no-confidence motion which can bring down the government and trigger new elections. In recent days, President Donald Ramotar and senior government officials have scrambled to address the assertions by the opposition that the expenditure is illegal.

Yesterday, Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall issued a statement defending the Minister of Finance over the expenditure.

Nandlall cited article 218 (3) of the constitution as follows:

218 (3 )  “If in respect of any financial year it is found –

(a)  that the amount appropriated by the ( A ) Appropriation Act for any purpose is insufficient or that a need has arisen for expenditure for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by that Act ; or

( b) that any monies have been expended for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated for that purpose by the Appropriation Act or for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by that Act, a supplementary estimate or, as the case may be, a statement of excess showing the sums required or spent shall be laid before the National Assembly by the Minister responsible for finance (or any other Minister designated by the President)”.

Nandlall said that in spending the monies as he did, and laying in the National Assembly a Statement of Excess of the sums spent , the Minister of Finance has acted in accordance with “the letter and spirit of Article 218  (3).   

However, Goolsarran writing in his column of today’s edition of Stabroek News said the reference to Article 218 (3) is not applicable.

He argued that one section of Article 218 (3) caters for expenditure above what had been appropriated. The excess would usually be a small figure relative to the amount that had been voted. However, this would not be applicable to the present situation as the opposition had not voted any money for these programmes. Article 218(3) (b) which is what the government is relying on is not applicable to this scenario, Goolsarran said, as it may have been intended for extreme circumstances such as a national emergency.

“While Article 218 (3) envisages a second situation regarding excess expenditure where there has been no appropriation, in my years of experience as Auditor General, I cannot recall any instance of moneys being withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund for this purpose. The reason is simple: (a) there is recourse to the use of the Contingencies Fund, assuming all the criteria have been met regarding the urgency of the expenditure; or (b) there is provision for a supplementary estimate to be tabled in the Assembly seeking prior authorization of the expenditure. Besides, there was deep respect for the general principle that it is Parliament that controls the public purse and that no expenditure can be incurred without Parliamentary approval. The supremacy of Parliament in this regard was unquestioned.

“The second part of Article 218 (3) may have been inserted to cater for some extreme circumstance, for example, a national disaster of great magnitude, where it is not possible to secure the ex ante approval of the Assembly, or recourse to the Contingencies Fund is not possible because it may have been exhausted”, Goolsarran asserted.

He said that one would have thought that Singh would have employed the provision in the first part of Article 218 (3) for prior authorization by way of supplementary estimate. He said that if the Assembly denied the request then the expenditure would not be incurred.

“Why run the risk of authorising withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund when there is so much uncertainty as to whether the Assembly will approve of the related expenditure? Should the Assembly reject Financial Paper 1/2014 partially or in its entirety, will the Minister not be held liable for causing unauthorised expenditure to take place?” Goolsarran asked.

In his column today, he said he had suggested that in order to restore the budget for the essential services affected by the Assembly’s decision, the Finance Minister could make withdrawals from the Contingencies Fund until such time that the Assembly met to consider a supplementary estimate covering the rest of the year. He said that the combined Opposition had indicated that it would have no problem with such an estimate.

Goolsarran said that the Minister followed neither of the two courses but has authorized withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund to cover expenditure where there was a specific non-approval for such by the opposition majority in the Assembly.

“The Minister’s action can be interpreted as one of disrespect and contempt for the Assembly, comprising members duly elected to represent the citizens of this country and of which he himself is an elected member. He appears to have elevated himself above the highest decision-making body in the land in the belief that it is his budget. Article 218 (1), however, specifically refers to `estimates of revenues and expenditure of Guyana’. The budget is therefore that of the country, with the Minister acting as merely a conduit for its presentation that could have been done by `any other Minister designated by the President’”, Goolsarran argued.

An evocation of context is important to an understanding of events surrounding Walter Rodney’s death

Dear Editor,

It is interesting to read Tacuma Ogunseye’s testimony before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Walter Rodney’s death. The report highlights that Mr Ogunseye says the party of Walter Rodney was planning a civil rebellion to overthrow the PNC.

Perhaps ten years ago I wrote a comment in this newspaper stating that it was known and said by some at the time that the WPA was planning revolt, with arms and trained men. Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was asked to comment on my letter. He acknowledged that resistance in all its forms was expected. I word this carefully. Dr Roopnaraine is still to testify.

Mr Kwayana has also, in interviews, mentioned the ferment of the epoch, with a series of mini-rebellions in the Caribbean that would characterise the seventies. It is an era brought to a close by the Grenada invasion and the capitulation of the Caribbean left that followed.

The testimony by Mr Ogunseye places the evidence received so far in a different light. Up to now, through media reports, one would conclude that the COI may be used to establish that the WPA and the Guyanese community had been simply victims of PNC/government aggression. What Ogunseye says adds a complexity to the case. It becomes clear that the adversaries had entered a spiral of mutual hostility, violence, counter-violence and defence. For the historian the question raised is whether either party, if the fact is proven, would have been justified in its recourse to arms.

I quote from a column written by Ralph Ramkarran and carried in the Mirror of January 10, 2010. The column deals with an important ideological and strategic difference between the WPA and the PPP at the time, and mentions the WPA objectives.

Mr Ramkarran writes of relations between the WPA and the PPP then that a major point of difference was precisely the nature resistance should have taken. He states, “By 1979 collaboration in political strategy slowed. By the beginning of 1979 when what the WPA called the ‘civil rebellion’ started… the PPP’s assessment at the time was that opposition forces did not together have the capacity to mount a mass insurrection. The WPA did not share its strategy with the PPP but obviously did not support the PPP’s view.”

In fact, were we to accept the implications of Mr Ramkarran’s recording of the history, the WPA made a strategic decision that would have grave consequences for many. And that includes the PNC.

But, with the remove that time allows, we permit ourselves to recall that the stress of the hour was great on all the groups and personalities involved. It was the first decade after independence and the PNC had governed an economy that it had caused to grow and started to diversify. But because of the oïl shocks and fall in commodity prices the PNC was caught in a moment of socio-political transition that was made more difficult by the economic conditions of the moment. Victims of the changes, then, included the PNC itself, distressed by a deterioration in the world economy that would lead to a lack of foreign currency, that had, in other countries resulted in street demonstrations and the removal of governments. It was a victim of the relentless propaganda of the PPP, of the disaffection of many in the country alienated from the socialistic rhetoric and nascent personality cult that formed part of the imitation of currents in the third world, victim of the recalcitrant racism of segments of the population.

Victims also included the PPP, effectively shut out of government by alignments in the Cold War order that some would interpret in reductionist racial terms. The PPP was necessarily ‘miniaturised’ institutionally, and buffeted by defections and a crumbling of its institutional pillars in the ethnic community it represented. By which is meant the existence of organisations that were Hindu or Muslim in denomination but affiliated to the PNC.

Victims would include the business class, faced with the foreign exchange problem and the withdrawal of that automatic government support to which it had historically been accustomed. It faced open doors elsewhere and would lose much of its social and material capital through migration.

But, generally, the victims were also the growing Guyanese middle class, of whatever ethnic origin and location. It was a group that had benefited greatly from the struggles of the PPP/PNC and the politics of guyanisation that allowed it social and individual career advancement and the creation of an identity that was the natural development of centuries of struggle for dignity and bread. To say that it had developed a class consciousness would not be to exaggerate, and that it held dear certain values is indisputable. It was this group, mostly well represented in the WPA and the PNC itself, that would lead the struggle against the negative political changes and that articulated the problems.

The beating up of poet Martin Carter or the death of Rodney were events that deepened the distance from the PNC and the anguish of a middle stratum of society, which in its variety, was disappointed for three reasons.

-the first, for the conservative elements, being that it considered the PNC in its departure from Caribbean orthodoxy (and yes a conservative Caribbean politics existed) to have betrayed the historical mission of the people’s parties;

-second, for the more ‘progressive,’ it considered that the PNC, led by a generation of politicians bred in the forties and fifties had failed to handle the passing of the baton to a younger generation of that intelligentsia that the masses as well as the middle class had helped create;

– at another level, the masses feared the degeneration of the country into the proto-dictatorships that had developed in Grenada, Antigua and later Suriname, as it was living a period of unprecedented social change in this decade after independence.

It needs to be noted that the WPA, whose main activists would have been born at least a generation after the original charismatic leaders we produced in Jagan and Burnham, was a reconversion, or continuation of a different type of charismatic politics that would later be labelled ‘Rodneyite’ and that operated a people-oriented social philosophy with roots in the ferment of the seventies and the awakening of a ‘black/nativist/creole’ awareness that went beyond negritude or ethnicism to encompass all racial groups.

The group essentially had no major ideological differences with either of the major parties. It was, like its predecessors, basically ‘Marxist.’ But the WPA and its leadership included activists such as Kwayana from ASCRIA and Moses Bhagwan from IPRA. Difficult to comprehend then the party’s under-estimation of the role of ethnic identification in determining election results.

What the WPA opposed, obviously, was what it saw as a deviance from the new Caribbean political current that would lead actors such as George Odlum and Tim Hector and Ralph Gonsalves and Maurice Bishop as well as Rodney to prominence. They were all anti-imperialistic, populists from a cohort better educated than the labour leaders who preceded them. They were, in fact, beneficiaries of the results of previous struggles, and in terms of our political psychology, should have waited their turn or accepted co-option by the ruling order.

The WPA of the seventies was a harbinger and

facilitator of generational change outside the ambit of the old parties and their succession tradition of nomination/designation within the political leadership. Operating outside this tradition and challenging it, was therefore more indicative of what was happening all over the region, than it was of the insistence on ‘one man one vote.’ For, like the older parties, the WPA of the seventies would support revolutionary dictatorship elsewhere once it was convinced that it existed in the interest of ‘the people.’

Essentially then, the WPA, like the PPP, objected first to the personalities at the head table than to the programme or philosophy expounded – and only as a subsidiary concern to the inadequacies of the programme of the PNC and the pace and direction of change.

What the Rodney COI reveals, is that an evocation of context is important to an understanding of the events, and we are grateful to the commissioners and all involved for the importance with which it is treated. Whether the PPP will gain by the recital of the evils and the skewed accounts expected is doubtful. What we hope for is an account of the time and context that goes beyond the existing and self-serving narratives revising our history and distorting it.

Here in Paris a year ago I reconnected with a friend from those days. He had been close to the Burnham family and recalls the Comrade Leader’s reactions when he learned that Rodney had been killed. He says Burnham was shocked and angry. He is convinced that, even if elements linked to the PNC or acting in its name were implicated in the death, Forbes Burnham would have neither ordered nor rejoiced at the killing.

It is an aspect of the drama yet to be evoked in the COI.

Yours faithfully,

Abu Bakr

Opposition to vote against unapproved $4.6B gov’t spending

The parliamentary opposition yesterday signaled that it will not approve government’s $4.6 billion excess expenditure from the Consolidated Fund when it comes up for a vote at the next parliamentary sitting.

APNU executive Joseph Harmon and AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan both said their respective groups, which command a combined one-seat majority in the National Assembly, would not supply the needed votes to approve the $4,553,991 in supplemental spending.

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh last week tabled government’s Financial Paper for the expenditure, which covers allocations cut from the proposed 2014 national budget. Of the total amount, $66.4 million went to the Government Information Agency (GINA), $32.6 to the National Communication Network (NCN) and $306 million to the controversial Amerindian Development Fund (ADF). Additionally, $225 million went towards the Student Loan Fund, while over $1 billion went towards the continuation of work on the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Modernisation Project.

Joseph Harmon

Singh said the decision to spend the amounts was based on a ruling by Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang to the effect that the National Assembly has no authority to cut the budget. He also said government’s decision is informed by provisions in the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act.

Both opposition groups have condemned government spending in defiance of expressed disapproval by the National Assembly and they have promised to retaliate in one form or another.

However it was only yesterday that definitive positions were stated. Harmon told reporters during a media briefing yesterday that main opposition APNU will definitely not support the approval of the expenditure.

Reiterating the sentiments of several other coalition members, Harmon deemed Finance Minister Singh’s actions unconstitutional and suggested that actions will be taken again him soon. He also said it is likely the coalition will seek to have Singh referred to the Committee of Privileges, again.

Ashni Singh

Singh was first referred to the committee in February for matters surrounding his failure to comply with a parliamentary resolution that required him to provide reports on extra-budgetary agencies, and to pay all monies being held by such agencies into the Consolidated Fund.

Harmon has acknowledged, however, that the Privileges Committee has met just once on the matter since February, owing to several complications. He says APNU will seek to expedite the committee’s work where Singh is concerned.

Meanwhile, Ramjattan has also stated, definitively, that the AFC will not support the expenditure when the matter arises during the next sitting. “Absolutely not, it is criminal and illegal,” Ramjattan told Stabroek News during an interview last evening. He says what Singh has done on three occasions – proceed to spend amounts cut in 2012, 2013, and 2014 – amounts “daylight robbery of the Treasury” and that he needs to be held accountable.

The Finance Minister has argued that Section 41 of the FMA Act, which gives him the authority to use the Contingencies Fund with initiative, justifies his expenditure. The opposition parties though, as well as other observers, including analyst Christopher Ram, believes the minister is trying to twist the legislative provision to cover what they see as illegal spending.

Questions linger though, on what will become of the spent amounts if it is not approved. If the National Assembly does not approve the amount it cannot be restored to the Contingences Fund. This is similar to

Khemraj Ramjattan

what occurred the last time the minister took such action.

Since the start of the 10th Parliament the minister has laid six Financial Papers detailing his use of the Fund. The papers hold a collective value of about $9.358 billion. The combined opposition in the National Assembly has approved 92.6 percent ($8.7 billion) of this amount, and Singh has argued that this is testimony of their approval of his use of the Fund, for the most part.

Still, the expenditure of $658 million was not approved, yet nothing has been done about this amount.

AFC says getting positive feedback on move for no-confidence motion

A no-confidence motion against the Government of Guyana now seems imminent as the Alliance for Change (AFC) says it has been receiving a huge amount of positive feedback from stakeholders on such a move.

Last evening, party leader Khemraj Ramjattan said that they party has been mulling the idea while having engagements with various section of society to ascertain support for it. These engagements, he says, have been largely positive.

Ramjattan stated that while the next sitting of the National Assembly, slated for July 10th, is too soon it is quite possible that the motion will be moved at the next sitting, or the one following.

In the meantime, Ramjattan explained, the AFC will continue to meet with stakeholders and look into other important matters such as readying itself for a national elections. He said that the AFC will, at the soonest convenience, meet with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to discuss whether it would lend its support to the undertaking.

Yesterday, APNU Chief Whip Amna Ally told reporters that the coalition must first discuss the matter at its Shadow Cabinet meeting before a position is taken. APNU will have the next such meeting next Tuesday, after which the AFC will be able to ascertain the main opposition’s standing.

Talk of the possibility of a vote of no-confidence being moved against the Ramotar administration flared up after AFC Vice-Chairman Moses Nagamootoo posted the idea on his Facebook page as a rhetorical question following last Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly. On Monday, he confirmed to Stabroek News that the party is seriously contemplating a no-confidence motion against government.

Meanwhile, President Donald Ramotar has dared the opposition parties to move a no-confidence motion against his government. “We do not take threats. If the opposition wants to pass a no-confidence bill, let them pass it and we will be ready to deal with the consequences of that,” Ramotar said while delivering remarks at the Private Sector Commission’s Annual General Meeting at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown on Wednesday.

Gov’t task force accuses US of ‘unfair’ human trafficking review

Refuting the United States’ finding that government is not doing enough to combat human trafficking, the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) yesterday once more said that the scope of the problem is being misrepresented.

At a press conference yesterday, Minister of Human Services Jennifer Webster spoke on behalf of the taskforce and expressed “deep concern” that, once again, the annual US State Department TIP report “has not reviewed Guyana fairly.”

“It is noted that the report contains a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations with regards to the scope of trafficking in persons in Guyana,” she read.

Minister Jennifer Webster

Guyana was again placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, which is for countries where governments do not fully comply with the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Though Webster deemed it “complimentary” that the US report acknowledged Guyana’s efforts made in regards to TIP, she pointed out that the Guyana government does not treat TIP “in insolation from other related crimes.”

“What is clear is that, once again, the architects of this Report have not made significant progress in improving the veracity, coherence and validity of their annual assessments,” she said, before proceeding to respond to a number of “misrepresentations” raised in the US report.

A major issue raised in the report was the poor level of prosecution for those involved in the TIP trade.

Though the report said that Guyana possessed an adequate trafficking law and, during the reporting period, managed to convict three offenders, all three of the convicted traffickers had been released on bail pending appeal.

In response, Webster said that the judiciary was an independent entity and was therefore not under governmental control. “The Government of Guyana wishes to categorically state that the matter pertaining to the three persons who were convicted and have appealed their sentences is under judicial consideration and the court’s role should not be usurped by others making public statements about how these issues should be dealt with,” Webster asserted. She continued, “The judiciary in Guyana is an independent arm of the state.”

The US report had gone on to mention the dismissal of cases for want of prosecution, including the cases against Ann Marie Carter in the Bartica Magistrate’s Court. While the police had indicated that the witnesses failed to attend court, some of the victims later said that they were not informed of the court dates.

In this regard, Webster reiterated the court’s responsibility for prosecution. “Once again it is important to note that judicial independence does not allow for government control over nor “concubinage” with the Judiciary and the Magistracy,” she said. “The decision to convict or not is one exclusively for the court. Reiterating for emphasis, the Government of Guyana does not hold persons accountable with jail time, the court does.”

 Changed position

Last year, the government had also rejected the US State Department TIP report, saying that it was “riddled with fabrication.” The government subsequently indicated that it was not going to comply with Washington’s request for information in this year’s report.

When asked whether they had indeed kept their word to remain separate from this year’s report, Webster said that some information had been provided to the US State Department. “It was the position that on one occasion that we were not going to submit a formal report but subsequently that position was changed,” she said. “So, some information was provided to the relevant channels.”

However, this year’s report showed a lack of data in several areas. In one instance, the report said that law enforcement officials in Guyana did not provide data on the number of trafficking investigations undertaken during the reporting period. Last year, a report had been submitted outlining two labour trafficking investigations and sixteen sex trafficking investigations. The late submission of information was also highlighted.

Webster was unable to answer any questions on these claims. “Any information that has to be submitted to any foreign government, we have protocols. The relevant agencies would submit their responses and then it has to go to the relevant ministry that is mandated to submit the report on behalf of the government of Guyana,” the minister said. She added, “That, I would be unable to clarify, whether the report was submitted on time or not. I am unable to answer that part of your question.”

Though, during the address, a number of steps undertaken by the taskforce to combat TIP were outlined, Webster refused to comment when asked if all of the data presented at yesterday’s meeting, in its entirety, had been presented to the US State Department. “I thought I answered this question already,” she said. “I don’t want to comment again on this,” she maintained.

Over the years, the TIP reports had claimed that the government of Guyana had not demonstrated evidence of overall increasing efforts to address TIP. This year’s report stated that Guyana’s inability to hold traffickers accountable creates an environment for human trafficking which further endangered victims.

Gouveia believes he flew suspected Rodney assassin

Retired army officer Captain Gerry Gouveia yesterday testified that he suspected he transported Gregory Smith to Kwakwani, a day after the latter allegedly engineered a bomb blast that killed Dr. Walter Rodney but he said he never saw the need to investigate.

Gouveia has long been said to be the pilot who transported Smith to the Berbice River location from where he was transported to French Guiana.

Smith, a former soldier who is now deceased, is the main suspect in Rodney’s death after it was reported that he had given him a walkie-talkie that later exploded on June 13, 1980.

Gerry Gouveia testifying yesterday

Gouveia, now an aviation and hospitality businessman, was subpoenaed to appear before the commission of inquiry into Rodney’s death and give evidence. The commission granted his attorney Devindra Kissoon permission to lead him in his evidence-in-chief, when he took the stand yesterday at a public hearing at the Supreme Court Law Library.

He detailed his education up to the point of him becoming a pilot in 1977. He joined the Guyana National Service at the age of 20 before pursuing flight training on a government scholarship. On completion of the course, he joined the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as a cadet officer as part of the arrangement and after serving for 12 years he resigned voluntarily in 1988.

He told the commission that at that time he was a pilot and as is the standard protocol he would log each flight.

Asked about the events of June 14, 1980, Gouveia said that when he got to work, he was given a flight programme by the operations staff. At the time he was a pilot based at Camp Stephenson, Timehri and he held the rank of Second Lieutenant after three years in the GDF.

He said that he remembered there was a man, a woman and some children standing in the hangar. “I was instructed that these people were to be flown to Kwakwani,” he said. He said that while it was the operations staff who would have given those instructions, he cannot remember the identities of those people.

Home > News > Local News > [Videos] Gouveia believes he flew suspected Rodney assassin

[Videos] Gouveia believes he flew suspected Rodney assassin

June 27, 2014 · By · 21 Comments   

Retired army officer Captain Gerry Gouveia yesterday testified that he suspected he transported Gregory Smith to Kwakwani, a day after the latter allegedly engineered a bomb blast that killed Dr. Walter Rodney but he said he never saw the need to investigate.

Gouveia has long been said to be the pilot who transported Smith to the Berbice River location from where he was transported to French Guiana.

Smith, a former soldier who is now deceased, is the main suspect in Rodney’s death after it was reported that he had given him a walkie-talkie that later exploded on June 13, 1980.

Gerry Gouveia testifying yesterday

Gerry Gouveia testifying yesterday

Gouveia, now an aviation and hospitality businessman, was subpoenaed to appear before the commission of inquiry into Rodney’s death and give evidence. The commission granted his attorney Devindra Kissoon permission to lead him in his evidence-in-chief, when he took the stand yesterday at a public hearing at the Supreme Court Law Library.

He detailed his education up to the point of him becoming a pilot in 1977. He joined the Guyana National Service at the age of 20 before pursuing flight training on a government scholarship. On completion of the course, he joined the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as a cadet officer as part of the arrangement and after serving for 12 years he resigned voluntarily in 1988.

He told the commission that at that time he was a pilot and as is the standard protocol he would log each flight.

Asked about the events of June 14, 1980, Gouveia said that when he got to work, he was given a flight programme by the operations staff. At the time he was a pilot based at Camp Stephenson, Timehri and he held the rank of Second Lieutenant after three years in the GDF.

He said that he remembered there was a man, a woman and some children standing in the hangar. “I was instructed that these people were to be flown to Kwakwani,” he said. He said that while it was the operations staff who would have given those instructions, he cannot remember the identities of those people.

Video – Part 1

He told the commission that the passengers disembarked and he started the aircraft again at 10 am, which would have meant that the aircraft was at Kwakwani for three minutes before taking off again. He said that there was a fence around the runway and that he could not recall if anyone was waiting on the passengers.

According to Gouveia, from the time he left Timehri to the time that the passengers disembarked his plane, he had no conversations with them and if he were to see them today, “I cannot say I will recognise them.” He said that based on the protocol, it was not unusual for pilots not to have conversations with passengers.

He said there was no unusual behaviour displayed by the passengers. “I cannot recall having any kind of concerns or noticing any anomalies that would cause me concern,” he said.

Home > News > Local News > [Videos] Gouveia believes he flew suspected Rodney assassin

[Videos] Gouveia believes he flew suspected Rodney assassin

June 27, 2014 · By · 21 Comments   

Retired army officer Captain Gerry Gouveia yesterday testified that he suspected he transported Gregory Smith to Kwakwani, a day after the latter allegedly engineered a bomb blast that killed Dr. Walter Rodney but he said he never saw the need to investigate.

Gouveia has long been said to be the pilot who transported Smith to the Berbice River location from where he was transported to French Guiana.

Smith, a former soldier who is now deceased, is the main suspect in Rodney’s death after it was reported that he had given him a walkie-talkie that later exploded on June 13, 1980.

Gerry Gouveia testifying yesterday

Gerry Gouveia testifying yesterday

Gouveia, now an aviation and hospitality businessman, was subpoenaed to appear before the commission of inquiry into Rodney’s death and give evidence. The commission granted his attorney Devindra Kissoon permission to lead him in his evidence-in-chief, when he took the stand yesterday at a public hearing at the Supreme Court Law Library.

He detailed his education up to the point of him becoming a pilot in 1977. He joined the Guyana National Service at the age of 20 before pursuing flight training on a government scholarship. On completion of the course, he joined the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as a cadet officer as part of the arrangement and after serving for 12 years he resigned voluntarily in 1988.

He told the commission that at that time he was a pilot and as is the standard protocol he would log each flight.

Asked about the events of June 14, 1980, Gouveia said that when he got to work, he was given a flight programme by the operations staff. At the time he was a pilot based at Camp Stephenson, Timehri and he held the rank of Second Lieutenant after three years in the GDF.

He said that he remembered there was a man, a woman and some children standing in the hangar. “I was instructed that these people were to be flown to Kwakwani,” he said. He said that while it was the operations staff who would have given those instructions, he cannot remember the identities of those people.

Video – Part 1

He told the commission that the passengers disembarked and he started the aircraft again at 10 am, which would have meant that the aircraft was at Kwakwani for three minutes before taking off again. He said that there was a fence around the runway and that he could not recall if anyone was waiting on the passengers.

According to Gouveia, from the time he left Timehri to the time that the passengers disembarked his plane, he had no conversations with them and if he were to see them today, “I cannot say I will recognise them.” He said that based on the protocol, it was not unusual for pilots not to have conversations with passengers.

He said there was no unusual behaviour displayed by the passengers. “I cannot recall having any kind of concerns or noticing any anomalies that would cause me concern,” he said.

Video – Part 2

He recalled that a couple of days after the trip he saw a picture in the newspaper of a person described as Gregory Smith. “When I saw that pic I felt that the person in the newspaper looked like the man that was on my plane. I cannot recall which newspaper I saw the picture in,” he said, adding that he knew for sure that was indeed the man.

Gouveia stated that because of his junior rank at the time, he never saw the need to probe his suspicion. He was later shown a picture in a book but said that while it looked like the man on the plane that was not the picture he saw. He said that the photograph was taken from a more frontal view.

He said that he had no interest in checking back the passenger list.

Gouveia added that he could not recall reading the article that accompanied the photo but knew that he had read the story regarding Rodney’s brother, Donald, who had been with him when the walkie-talkie exploded. According to him, when he read that article, it left a lot of open questions about what had really transpired. “His (Donald) account was extremely unimpressive from where I sat,” Gouveia said.

He later explained that after reading the interview, he was struck by why Dr. Rodney, an intellect and the leader of a political movement, would take his brother with him in the middle of the night into a back road. He said that based on what he had read about the events of June 13, 1980, he wasn’t impressed that a man of Dr. Rodney’s intelligence did not know how to test a walkie-talkie. He said that one tests a walkie-talkie with words and not with a red light.

Air corps involvement

During questioning by the attorney for Donald Rodney, Keith Scotland, Gouveia said that the flight on June 14, 1980 was a priority flight and that it is no longer an assumption that Smith was on that plane.

Gouveia acknowledged that there was no investigation by the army in relation to the transport of Smith and the police never contacted him to give a statement on the issue.

Home > News > Local News > [Videos] Gouveia believes he flew suspected Rodney assassin

[Videos] Gouveia believes he flew suspected Rodney assassin

June 27, 2014 · By · 21 Comments   

Retired army officer Captain Gerry Gouveia yesterday testified that he suspected he transported Gregory Smith to Kwakwani, a day after the latter allegedly engineered a bomb blast that killed Dr. Walter Rodney but he said he never saw the need to investigate.

Gouveia has long been said to be the pilot who transported Smith to the Berbice River location from where he was transported to French Guiana.

Smith, a former soldier who is now deceased, is the main suspect in Rodney’s death after it was reported that he had given him a walkie-talkie that later exploded on June 13, 1980.

Gerry Gouveia testifying yesterday

Gerry Gouveia testifying yesterday

Gouveia, now an aviation and hospitality businessman, was subpoenaed to appear before the commission of inquiry into Rodney’s death and give evidence. The commission granted his attorney Devindra Kissoon permission to lead him in his evidence-in-chief, when he took the stand yesterday at a public hearing at the Supreme Court Law Library.

He detailed his education up to the point of him becoming a pilot in 1977. He joined the Guyana National Service at the age of 20 before pursuing flight training on a government scholarship. On completion of the course, he joined the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as a cadet officer as part of the arrangement and after serving for 12 years he resigned voluntarily in 1988.

He told the commission that at that time he was a pilot and as is the standard protocol he would log each flight.

Asked about the events of June 14, 1980, Gouveia said that when he got to work, he was given a flight programme by the operations staff. At the time he was a pilot based at Camp Stephenson, Timehri and he held the rank of Second Lieutenant after three years in the GDF.

He said that he remembered there was a man, a woman and some children standing in the hangar. “I was instructed that these people were to be flown to Kwakwani,” he said. He said that while it was the operations staff who would have given those instructions, he cannot remember the identities of those people.

Video – Part 1

He told the commission that the passengers disembarked and he started the aircraft again at 10 am, which would have meant that the aircraft was at Kwakwani for three minutes before taking off again. He said that there was a fence around the runway and that he could not recall if anyone was waiting on the passengers.

According to Gouveia, from the time he left Timehri to the time that the passengers disembarked his plane, he had no conversations with them and if he were to see them today, “I cannot say I will recognise them.” He said that based on the protocol, it was not unusual for pilots not to have conversations with passengers.

He said there was no unusual behaviour displayed by the passengers. “I cannot recall having any kind of concerns or noticing any anomalies that would cause me concern,” he said.

Video – Part 2

He recalled that a couple of days after the trip he saw a picture in the newspaper of a person described as Gregory Smith. “When I saw that pic I felt that the person in the newspaper looked like the man that was on my plane. I cannot recall which newspaper I saw the picture in,” he said, adding that he knew for sure that was indeed the man.

Gouveia stated that because of his junior rank at the time, he never saw the need to probe his suspicion. He was later shown a picture in a book but said that while it looked like the man on the plane that was not the picture he saw. He said that the photograph was taken from a more frontal view.

He said that he had no interest in checking back the passenger list.

Gouveia added that he could not recall reading the article that accompanied the photo but knew that he had read the story regarding Rodney’s brother, Donald, who had been with him when the walkie-talkie exploded. According to him, when he read that article, it left a lot of open questions about what had really transpired. “His (Donald) account was extremely unimpressive from where I sat,” Gouveia said.

He later explained that after reading the interview, he was struck by why Dr. Rodney, an intellect and the leader of a political movement, would take his brother with him in the middle of the night into a back road. He said that based on what he had read about the events of June 13, 1980, he wasn’t impressed that a man of Dr. Rodney’s intelligence did not know how to test a walkie-talkie. He said that one tests a walkie-talkie with words and not with a red light.

Air corps involvement

During questioning by the attorney for Donald Rodney, Keith Scotland, Gouveia said that the flight on June 14, 1980 was a priority flight and that it is no longer an assumption that Smith was on that plane.

Gouveia acknowledged that there was no investigation by the army in relation to the transport of Smith and the police never contacted him to give a statement on the issue.

Video – Part 3

Gouveia told the commission that he would say that it was the army air corps that assisted Smith from Timehri to Kwakwani and added that he doesn’t know where the commanding officer would have gotten the instruction. The army air corps, he said was then and is still is part of the State.

Cross-examined by Andrew Pilgrim, lawyer for the Rodney family, Gouveia rejected the assertion that on June 17 he transported someone looking like Smith. Despite being presented with two eyewitness statements, he rejected that he returned to Kwakwani on June 14, 1980 in the GDF registered aircraft.

Based on his recollection, he said on June 14, 1980, the first flight was from Timehri to Kwakwani. He said that he started the engine at 9:08 am and landed at 9:57 am. After then, he made two other trips, he recalled. A book, which was identified as Gouveia’s personal log book, was presented to the commission. He said that it was the original copy and that the records were not changed in any way.

He explained that the log had information, such as what time the aircraft’s engine was turned off, the time it landed, type of aircraft, the pilot in command and the airplane registration information. He maintained that his logs were accurate and added that every six months the book had to be lodged with civil aviation. He said that it was also stamped every month.

He said that besides his personal log book, there was one for the aircraft and the records there should match the ones in the control tower. He was, however, unaware of where the records for the aircraft and control tower are being kept.

According to Gouveia, the aircraft book would have nothing to do with the purpose of the mission neither would his personal book. There is a passenger’s manifest that is filled out for each flight.

Gouveia said that today he has no regrets for his actions. He said that he felt a sense of duty to be before the commission to tell the truth. He later stressed that he is now standing before the commission as his obligation and that he never felt any obligation or duty to come forward with what he knew.

He returns to the stand today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=drX3SKdTM2k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mBxo_nF_Msghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wUtwafNQDT4http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_iozEjGD_mU

UG symposium zeroes in on need for local law school

The common discussion thread was the establishment of a local law school when Moot Court Guyana convened a stirring symposium venued in the Education Lecture Theatre of the University of Guyana (UG) on Tuesday, which saw the attendance and input of a wide cross-section of local legal minds and even a few from the Caribbean, among others.
An abundance of recommendations and opinions were forthcoming, all of which are expected to help guide the way forward as it relates to the attaining of legal education in Guyana which has recently been gaining some controversial attention.
Moreover, the notion of establishing a local law school was supported by Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, who at a previous forum had insisted that such an undertaking in Guyana would not be economically feasible. Nandlall, at the symposium on Tuesday, was reminded of his previous utterance in this regard by a young lawyer in training who demanded that the Attorney General outline the “true” position of Government.
According to Nandlall, Government is committed to supporting the establishment of a local law school, providing that it is done under the auspices of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) so that it will be a regional initiative ensuring that “Guyanese alone will not come here.”
“We cannot pursue an agenda that can be regarded or can be construed or in fact be insular. We will work with the process as far as possible (but) if we see that the process doesn’t serve our best interest well then we may be forced to take insular positions, and I am hoping we don’t have to resort to those mechanisms,” said Nandlall.
The CLE was created by an Agreement signed in 1971 by Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and UG. It was established to provide training in the Region (rather than in Britain) for lawyers wishing to practise in the Region.
The Council currently operates three law schools: the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad – both established in 1973 – and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas which was established in 1998.
However, regardless of the direction embraced by Guyana, Nandlall emphasised that it must be one that is in the best interest of the students and by extension the country. As such, he noted that focus must be on guaranteeing a quality of legal education that is relevant, affordable and accessible.  And quality legal education, Nandlall noted, must be one that “will make our students understand their roles and functions in society, the social institutional role of the law; the social institutional role of the lawyer to society, to democracy, (and) to the rule of law; the importance of the interconnectivity of all these concepts to the economic and social advancement of our people and our country….The solution that we will pursue here in Guyana must be one that will capture all of those.”
Moreover, he amplified that, like the UG law programme which is recognised across the world, the Legal Education Programme which emanates from the CLE is recognised by the best universities in the world, by every bar in the United States and elsewhere. As such he stressed the need for quality control, pointing out that “education without integrity or a certificate without integrity is not worth the paper it is written on.”
According to the Attorney General, who attended the forum in the capacity of a panellist, “a legal education in my opinion is valuable as a stepping stone to so many other disciplines that one may wish to pursue.”
Review of legal education

A section of the gathering at the forum on Tuesday.

And in order to examine the future of legal education in these parts, Nandlall disclosed that a study to review legal education is underway, an undertaking that is expected to be funded by an organisation out of Barbados which is financed through a grant from the Canadian Government. “Funding is always lacking and once you already have a source of funding it will augur well for expediency of the exercise being undertaken,” the Attorney General added.
The review, according to him, is expected to follow on the heels of the Caricom Heads of Government meeting set to commence on July 1 in Antigua, a forum which will address the concerns relating to legal education in the Caribbean.
Understandably, the review will also address this issue even taking into consideration the short and long term future of the graduates of the UG law programme.
Although based on an agreement between UG, UWI and the CLE the top 25 graduates of the local law programme are automatically granted placement at the Hugh Wooding Law School, the placements of the 2013 graduates were however under threat and therefore required intervention from Government. The matter was therefore discussed at a previously convened Caricom Heads of Government meeting after which it was taken up with the CLE.  An eventual resolution was derived whereby the stipulated 25 local students of the 2013 programme were granted placements for the upcoming academic year and an additional 10 international students will also be granted placement at law schools within their respective zones.
But according to Nandlall, “I am hoping that while the review is being undertaken we will have a short term solution, I am also expecting at the same time that the review will provide Guyana with a comprehensive solution to its problem.”
He however noted that Guyana is not in the existing dilemma in isolation even as he pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago, which is much more endowed in terms of resources, is faced with a similar challenge in spite of the fact that the Hugh Wooding Law School is located there. “In fact their (Trinidad and Tobago) Government is now completing a building that is earmarked to house a law school either under the aegis of the Council of Legal Education or not, because they have already begun discussions with organisations who administer the legal education certificate in the United Kingdom and to have some arrangement arrived at that would accredit their institution.”
But it was Justice Duke Pollard of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) who queried the possible outcome of the comprehensive review touted by the Attorney General. He, in his contribution to the forum argued, “The CLE itself is the culmination of a comprehensive review of legal education. Where is the CLE now? In total disarray!”
Justice Pollard recalled too that it was a comprehensive review in 1989 that the ‘Sonny’ Ramphal Commission was birthed which, according to him, made a lot of concrete recommendations for a Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), a Caricom Competitive Commission and the CCJ. “Where are these institutions today? How successful are they? What confidence has the Region shown in having these institutions? What is the commitment and the loyalty of the state of Caricom to the CCJ and the CSME and to the Caricom Commission?” questioned Justice Pollard as he theorised that they have all had similar outcomes. And given the track record of the aforementioned institutions, he hinted to the possibility that a comprehensive review may not be the ideal way forward to address the future of legal education in Guyana.
Government’s obligation
And while Attorney-at-Law Teni Housty vocalised his conviction that local law students must be able to take responsibility for themselves first before they source relevant support systems to aid them along, yet another Attorney-at-Law, Basil Williams, insisted that care must be taken to ensure that law does not become an ‘elitist’ profession. He pointed to the need to urgently address “whether we should have a local law school, or should our students be visited every year with this uncertainty; the stress, the anxiety of not knowing whether they are on or not…What will happen is that the law programme will become ‘elitist ’ and I believe the Government, this Government of the day owes its people an obligation to ensure that this doesn’t occur,” warned a very vocal Williams. Among the panellists at Tuesday’s symposium was Senior Lecturer of UG’s Law Programme, Christopher Ram, who recommended to the organisers that the outcome be used to formulate a policy with which students can approach the administration and the Faculty of Law Department.
Also gracing the panellist table was President of the Bar Association, Ronald Burch-Smith, who in his remarks sought to inform the law students in attendance, “You are responsible for your own future not just in terms of what you do in the class room but how you organise yourselves…”
Noticeably absent from the planned panellist contingent were CLE Chairperson, Ms. Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Chief Justice (Ag), Carl Singh.
The symposium was held in collaboration with the University of Guyana Law Society and the University of Guyana Student Society with support from UG’s Department of Law. The forum was moderated by lecturer within the Faculty of Law, Ms. Christine McGowan.

The love of country

The FIFA World Cup currently being played on the soil of our mighty neighbour Brazil has, as expected, captured the hearts and souls of avid sports fans, and the interest of even the most casual viewer. It has been nigh impossible to this point for the critics to find anything seriously wrong with the organisation and spirit of this mega event.
It must be agreed that the 11 billion dollars spent on the occasion has been a major talking point, and something that has been a great source of concern to the populace, who had been given assurances that a number of urban mobility projects would have been undertaken. The fact is that these have either been delayed or have not materialized.
This was the case because all of the stadiums went considerably over budget. And so it is with ventures of this nature. The host country will exceed all limitations to present a memorable image for the world stage. Brazil has succeeded in doing so thus far. The fallout will be dealt with when the dust has cleared.
Amidst all the frenzied activity that we have been witnessing, there has been one aspect that has undoubtedly registered with those who observe keenly; the fervour associated with representing and supporting one’s country.
It would be hard to find supporters to match the intensity of those in attendance in Brazil. The singing of the national anthems of the respective teams has been something to behold. The Chileans are hard to match. Their intensity is breath-taking. Despite Brazilians obviously having the numbers, and their renditions being hair-raising, there has been something special about the Chilean supporters and players. They have outdone the competition in this regard.
This Saturday’s mouth-watering round of 16 clash between the two South American neighbours will be like no other with respect to the introductory elements. It should not be missed.
But as we watch and admire, we cannot help but spare a thought for our own homeland. Several generations may not see us represented at the World Cup, however one could say from the little exposure that we have had at international sporting events, we somehow have not seemed to express such enthusiasm when our beautiful national anthem is being played or sung.
And that even goes for national events. Flag-raising ceremonies et al. It’s not even about singing in some cases. Many of our national leaders don’t appear to have any interest in knowing the words.
One may ask the importance of this, and the responses may not be convincing enough to those who have other things on their minds, like making money to last several lifetimes, or just being plain selfish. But there is something deeper. Particularly for a people who have experienced so much strife and unease, there may lie some degree of comfort and impetus for betterment, if we embrace that uninhibited love for one’s nation could, if not should, be the catalyst for a more progressive existence.
Our country has been divided for way too long. There is too much distrust and self-interest. The politicians who feature on our television screens have their own agendas. One wonders if simple things like lusty and heartfelt singing of national anthems at the World Cup would ever attract their interest.
These observations, though relatively simplistic, are eye-openers. It’s not always about money. Because as we have witnessed with those in charge of our coffers, we are too soon parted with even the little that we have.
Patriotism, nationalism, whatever you may want to refer to it as, there is a fulfillment from pride of country which transcends all pettiness – the source of Guyana’s underdevelopment. Our hard-working teachers can probably start the ball rolling, so to speak, by even more enthusiastically promoting to the impressionable among us – our children – the virtues of not only being Guyanese, but simply loving Guyana.