Monthly Archives: June 2014

Guyana’s ‘blacklist’ fate still hangs in the balance

Presidential Adviser on Governance and Chief Whip for the Government, Ms. Gail Teixeira

–FATF ‘likely to make a decision’ today or tomorrow

PRESIDENTIAL Adviser on Governance, Gail Teixeira, yesterday told the Guyana Chronicle that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) has completed a preliminary review of Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.

She said the international watchdog is expected to make a pronouncement either today or tomorrow. “Right now we are learning as we go… FATF is likely to make a decision, based on ICRG’s first review,” she told the Chronicle by phone from Paris.
Teixeira is currently in the French capital representing Guyana, following the nation’s referral to FATF by the FATF-Style Regional Body (FSRB), the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) on May 29.
Guyana was also regionally blacklisted in November by CFATF, and after its May 29 recommendation, the body called on its member countries to implement counter-measures to be taken against Guyana. The range of onerous measures include: Enhancing due diligence measures in their dealings with Guyana; introducing enhanced reporting mechanisms, or systematic reporting of financial transactions; refusing to establish subsidiaries or branches or representative offices in Guyana; and taking into account the fact that financial institutions from Guyana do not have adequate AML/CFT systems, and thus limit the business relationships or financial transactions with this country.
The enactment of the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill before CFATF’s meet in May, by all accounts, could have averted Guyana’s referral to CFATF, particularly since the body had noted that 90 per cent of the deficiencies identified are legislative in nature.
The Bill, to meet CFATF’s requirements, was tabled in the National Assembly in April 2013, but referred to a Parliamentary Special Select Committee and eventually voted down by the combined Opposition in November 2013. The Bill was re-tabled in December 2013, and again referred to the Parliamentary Special Select Committee, chaired by Ms. Teixiera, where it has been since.
Government has repeated it willingness to have the Bill passed, and has demonstrated its commitment to same, but has been locked in political gridlock with the combined Parliamentary Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC).
Both Parties have linked conditionalities to their support for passage of the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill.
APNU proposed three amendments, which were included in the Party’s draft amendments to the Principal AML/CFT Act, which President Donald Ramotar said would be supported by his Government if the Party would agree to pass the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill. This was rejected.
APNU’s position is an ‘all-or-nothing’ one, as the Party maintains its demands not only for their Bill, but also restated its call on the President to give his assent to several Bills passed in the National Assembly, including the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2013, which states that elections must be held on or before August 1, 2014. The Head of State has already forwarded his explanation for his-non assent to the National Assembly.
On the other hand, the AFC, which is fully behind APNU’s position, is demanding the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), which the government has agreed to, providing that Cabinet retains its no-objection role in the process; but the latter position has been rejected by the AFC. However, on May 29, after the announcement by CFATF, the AFC, in a statement, noted that it is now willing to budge on its position, and support Cabinet’s retention of its no-objection role.
Additionally, FATF’s new Methodology for assessing technical compliance with the FATF Recommendations and the Effectiveness of AML/CFT systems sets out how the FATF will determine whether a country is sufficiently compliant with the 2012 FATF Standards, and whether its AML/CFT system is working effectively.
FATF is the global standard-setter in the fight against money laundering, and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and over the past 20 years, the organisation has developed, used, and refined rigorous compliance mechanisms to help ensure global compliance with its Standards. FATF sets standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
The international body is expected to publish a summary of the outcomes at the end of it ongoing plenary meeting, which started on Monday.

(By Vanessa Narine)

 

WPA denies plot to violently overthrow Burnham

… admits acquiring arms but inconsequential

By Tajeram Mohabir

Threatened by President Forbes Burnham’s pronouncements that members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) should “write their wills” and his “steel is sharper now”, coupled with mounting hostility against his comrades, WPA Executive member Tacuma Ogunseye said the party’s leadership responded by embarking on a path of “regime change” through a Civil Rebellion.

Testifying before the Walter Rodney Commission (CoI) on Wednesday, robed in traditional African garb, an animate Ogunseye told the Commission the wrath of the ruling PNC Government was fuelled by the 1979 burning down of the party’s secretariat on Regent Street and the Ministry of Mobilisation and National Development.

The WPA was accused by the Burnham Administration of carrying out the arson, but Ogunseye, who said before giving his testimony that he has a moral commitment to the Commission, categorically denied his party’s involvement, contending that the WPA was never involved in violence, never killed anyone or physically confronted the Police. In fact, the WPA activist told the Commission based on reports in the state media, the Ministry was torched by armed men dressed in military uniform, but no one knew who they were.

He said at the time, two other theories were advanced for the burning down of the building: (1) It was the brainchild of then Deputy Prime Minister Hamilton Green to instigate a head-on confrontation between Burnham and Rodney and (2); it was an act by person(s) who detested the PNC Government.

Whatever was the real reason, the 62-year-old Kitty Market vendor said President Burnham, who he described as a nationalist, skilled orator and a politician who craved and jealously guarded his hold on power, concluded that the arson was the work of the WPA, and set about exacting vengeance on its members.

Beaten up

He related that WPA members were beaten up, their meeting broken up by House of Israel members and certain elements in the Guyana Police Force for various actions that were deemed unlawful. These, he said included distributing the party’s newspaper Day Clean (this was deemed subversive literature), participating in marches, and the posting of WPA promotional materials in public places.

The WPA leader said arrest was a tool used by the Government of the day to discourage public opposition and to block WPA members from being in constant contact and meeting frequently.

Ogunseye said during the period 1979-1980, he was arrested about 20 times, with without reason and was never charged, except for one occasion where he was convicted. Most of the occasions, he said, he was released with the 72-hour period. He also said that during his years of activism, he was thrown in practically every lock-up in Georgetown and on East Coast Demerara, and like his party comrades, was forced to sleep at different locations to avoid being a vulnerable target of agents of the state.

This vindictiveness of the then ruling Administration, he said, along with the declaration by Burnham that WPA members should “write their wills” and his “steel is shaper now”, caused the WPA to initiate the Civil Rebellion for regime change in the late 1979.

He told the Commission the efforts at regime change included the strengthening of the party structure, building capacity for the execution of covert and overt operations, utilising a system centred around clandestine activities and deniability, the development of cells to map out the strengths and weaknesses of the PNCR Government, infiltration of the security forces, mainly the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the establishment of diplomatic relationships. Dr Rodney, he said, viewed the GDF as an important ally to help him gain power, not by overthrowing the Government, but by desisting from carrying out its instructions.

Disinformation

This is contrary to the testimony given by former Police Constable Robert Gates on Tuesday, who told the Commission that WPA Co-Founder, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had confided in him that he (Dr Roopnaraine) and Dr Rodney were spearheading an operation to overthrow the PNC Government.

Gates had said that Dr Roopnaraine had discussed the logistics for the overthrow, in which he explained that it would require seizing Base Camp Ayanganna, taking control of the country’s ports of entry and exist, raiding the Office of the President, arresting President Burnham and taking control of the Government radio station. Ogunseye said if this information was indeed disclosed by Dr Roopnaraine, it would have been a deliberate misinformation, and the WPA knew that it was infiltrated by Government agents.

Cells

Back on the activities to facilitate regime change, Ogunseye related that there were 25 cells in Georgetown, all supervised by him with little involvement of Dr Rodney. He said 12 cell leaders were armed with automatic pistols. He was unaware of how they were acquired, noting that his role was only to arrange the delivery. Each cell had three to five members, inclusive of persons who were not WPA members. The role of the cells, the WPA activist said, was to spy on the operations of the PNC Government to protect its members, map PNC hotspots in the city and identify safe havens for WPA gatherings.

The three-month rebellion, he said, included regular public meetings, picketing and marches, some without permission, but all attracting supporters in the thousands.

The WPA Executive said the party’s members and supporters withstood the fury of House of Israel members and elements of the Police Force, without returning violence. He said during the rebellion, the PNC Government tried to engage the WPA members and supporters in street confrontation, but they backed down as they were no match for the PNC supporters plus the Government had the security forces on its side.

He told the Commission too that the ploy by the PNC Government, which had a few leaders accused of sexually exploiting female job seekers, would have been deliberate, to paint the WPA as a violent confrontational group, thereby shifting the focus of the rebellion.   But, he pointed out that the rebellion put a severe dent on the resources of the party.

Reevaluate

This situation, Ogunseye said caused the WPA to re-evaluate the exercise, pointing out too that things were getting out of control. He said the party’s leadership on recognising what was happening, decided to end the rebellion, but did so quietly, so as to ensure that Burnham did not get the impression that the insurrection inflated in its own pressure. However, the WPA activist said that though the party had eased public demonstrations, it maintained its aggression towards the Burnham Government, to underline its intolerance to his authoritarian rule.

He also said that the rebellion was not to create a coup, but make a statement to Burnham, mobilise the masses and lay the ground work for regime change, but said Burnham “killed Rodney” before it could have happened.

WPA had plans to topple Burnham

Allegations at Rodney CoI

… Roopnaraine, Rodney were gathering arms

By Alexis Rodney

Former Police Constable Allan Robert Gates

Former Police Constable Allan Robert Gates on Tuesday told the Commission of Inquiry investigating the death of Dr Walter Rodney that the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) had crafted a plan to overthrow the 1980 People’s National Congress (PNC) Government.

He listed current leader of the WPA, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and the late Rodney as being in the forefront then to topple the Government of Forbes Burnham and were acquiring arms and ammunition to achieve their objective. Since the commencement of the Inquiry some two months ago, the Commission has been hearing about moves by the then PNC Government stifling the opposition, which Gates had opined may have been justifiable after all.

Under a tense cross- examination by PNC’s attorney Basil Williams, Gates told the Commission that the WPA through its leaders; Drs Roopnaraine and Rodney, were fervent in their efforts to rid the country of the authoritarian rule of Burnham. Gates reminded the commission that he had come to know about the plans because he was closely connected to the party. His role as bodyguard to Dr Roopnaraine had provided him the scoop.

Gates revealed that Dr Roopnaraine had confided in him relating that he (Roopnaraine) and Dr Rodney were spearheading the operation. At one time, he said Dr Roopnaraine had discussed the logistics for the overthrow, in which he explained that it would be avoidable to seize Base Camp Ayanganna and take control of the country’s ports of entry and exit. The discussion with his boss also revealed that the office of the President would be raided and President Burnham would have been arrested. Plans were also in the pipeline to seize control of the Government radio station.

In its alleged bid to overthrow the Government, the political party was also involved in acquiring arms and ammunition, Gates said, specifically citing Dr Roopnaraine and his interest in G3 Rifles. He continued, rehashing his earlier evidence, informing that he had sometimes accompanied Dr Roopnaraine to the Corentyne residence of his friend Arnold Rampersaud, which he said was close to the seaside. During the visits a G3 Rifle and a magazine containing close to 18 rounds of .62 ammunition were always brought to them by an unidentified man. He said the items would be collected and they would venture to a secure area on the beach, where he would offer lessons in the use of firearms to Dr Roopnaraine.

Gates told the commission that on at least four occasions, he had accompanied Dr Roopnaraine very late in the evening to collect 7.62 ammunition from persons from various points in the city. Dr Roopnaraine, he noted, had told him that those persons were all members of the Guyana Defence Force. Dr Roopnaraine is now Co-Chairman of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), a political coalition of which the PNCR is the largest group.

Retaliation

The former Policeman said that in furthering the plan to bring down the Government, the WPA may have brought itself into confrontation with the Government, thus causing the retaliation. Williams enquired from Gates whether he thought that the security forces had a right to defend the state in the furtherance of the WPA’s plan. He said yes and also agreed that the State in defending itself against such plans might have had to act in terms of securing the state from certain activities. He also agreed with the PNC’s lawyer that the WPA, in furthering that plan, had brought itself in confrontation with State agencies.

He further agreed that the burning down of the PNC Headquarters and Ministry of National Development in July 1979 was in furtherance of such a plan.

Gates, who is currently serving jail time for obtaining money by false pretence, told the commission that the Burnham Administration had felt threatened by the presence of the WPA, noting that it was public knowledge that the party had infiltrated the Guyana Police Force and Guyana Defence Force. He recalled an incident whereby information had reached the Force that Dr Rodney was receiving information from a senior member of the Force. Deputy Commissioner and head of the Special Branch at that time James Mentore, it was reported, had been meeting secretly with Dr Rodney and would share intelligence with him.

Gates told the Commission too that he had a mandate to file his reports of the WPA’s daily operations and send it to the Police hierarchy. The testimony given by Gates about the WPA’s infiltration of the security forces and plans to work against the Government was earlier disclosed by the leader of the People’s National Congress David Granger, who had stated that the security forces had a responsibility to protect the State.

He had informed that the WPA, considered a thorn in the flesh of the PNC, was retaliating by way of public agitation. Granger, who was Commander of the Guyana Defence Force during the time of Dr Rodney’s death, had said that the security forces had a responsibility to do all it could to protect the State from anything deemed a threat to national security.

City money-changer fined for counterfeit $$$

…exonerated on two other charges

A 65-year-old America Street money changer who was last year arrested by the police during a sting operation was yesterday fined by a city Magistrate for being in possession of counterfeit money.

Dennis Yarris

Dennis Yarris of Cooper and Sussex Streets, Albouystown, Georgetown, appeared before Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court on three charges.
The first charge against him detailed that on April 11, 2013 at Kitty, Georgetown, he had forged currency purporting to be US$100 and two EUR$50 notes in his car despite knowing them to be forged.
The police had claimed too that he had in his possession forged currency, a US$50 and two $1000 notes; despite knowing them to be forged. He was accused too of uttering to a Detective Corporal US$3,800 and US$50 counterfeit currencies.
Last year, police acting on “sensitive information received”, conducted a sting operation.
It was previously reported that between March 28 and April 11, 2013, Corporal Roopnarine engaged Dennis Yarris and two others, in discussions. During those discussions, the defendants sought the assistance of Corporal Roopnarine, who would operate as a boat captain, so that they could transport a quantity of “weed” from Guyana to Barbados.
On April 11, the defendants along with Corporal Roopnarine were in motorcar, PPP 8866, when they were intercepted at Coldingen Public Road.
A search was conducted and the illicit substance was discovered. The suspects were arrested and taken to the police station where they were then charged for the said offence.
Further probes had led to Harris being charged for uttering forged currencies and being in possession of forged currency. He had purportedly offered the Corporal an envelope with forged money as payment in the operation.
When he and his car were searched, more forged currencies were found and he was subsequently charged.
The trial for the drug trafficking charge is ongoing at the Vigilance Magistrate’s Court.
Yarris was last year formally charged and a trial was conducted before Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
At yesterday’s hearing, the Prosecution spearheaded by Corporal Deniro Jones closed its case, stating that it had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Yarris had committed the offences for which he was charged.
Jones urged the Magistrate to convict Yarris, citing that the Prosecution had proven every element of the offence.
The Prosecutor called upon the caution statement and the unsworn testimony of the accused as well as the testimonies offered by witnesses before the court. Jones asked the court to accept his confession statement as freely and voluntarily given to the police.
Corporal Jones beseeched the court to find the defendant guilty as charged.
Responding, Magistrate McLennan stated that she had considered the Prosecution’s evidence on account of the three charges, the no case submission made by his defence attorney Peter Hugh, as well as the Prosecution’s response.
On account of the first charge, she indicated that the court was satisfied that the money was forged but it was yet to be proven that it was Yarris’s. Doubt had risen, she said, because there was evidence showing that there were other persons in the vehicle.
The court ruled that the Prosecution had failed to prove that case and it was dismissed.
In response to the second charge, she said that the court believes that the currency was forged and that she accepted his confession statement. The court had found that he had knowledge and possession of the money which was found in his wallet.
Yarris, she said, was in custody and control of the money, so he was guilty as charged.
For uttering a forged document, she said that the envelope which contained the currency was indeed in his custody but the court was not convinced that the essential for such an offence was proven, since there was nothing that indicated that he had seen what was concealed therein.
She said that the Prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt and it was dismissed.
Harris had entered a mitigation plea through his lawyer asking for the court to consider a non-custodial sentence, since this was his first time before the courts.
Hugh said that his client does have a matter at the Vigilance Magistrate’s Court which arose from the same circumstance, but that is of a different nature.
“Given his age and that he has had no antecedent, I am humbly asking the court to exercise discretion and impose a non-custodial sentence.”
Magistrate McLennan fined him $60,000 which, failing to pay by July 1, will result in nine months’ imprisonment.

Rodney COI…No incentives were offered to me – Gates

By Latoya Giles
Witness Robert Gates, who goes by several other aliases, yesterday denied that he was a witness of convenience and that he was given incentives to come to the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry to lie. According to Gates, he is currently a guest of the State serving a 48-month sentence for the offence of obtaining money by false pretence.

Robert Gates

Under cross examination yesterday by attorney at law Basil Williams, Gates claimed that he had come forward off his own free will to give evidence. Williams then proceeded to question the witness about any prior brushes he had with the law.
Gates was asked about several companies which were all linked to obtaining money by false pretence. One such company was Confidential Investigation Bureau. Williams questioned Gates about whether he had invited the public to donate.  According to Gates, he did, but no one invested.  Gates was asked whether he had collected some $50M from unsuspecting persons who wanted to invest, which prompted the Guyana Security Council to put out several ads alerting persons.
Gates denied any knowledge about this. He was further questioned about who one Simone King was to him. Gates said she is a relative, neglecting to mention that it was a daughter who was charged with him for obtaining money by false pretence.
Moving forward to his present sentence, Williams asked Gates whether he was convicted on 12 counts of obtaining money by false pretence. Gates admitted that the sentence was in connection with 12 counts. He said that he was sentenced in August 2013, but he was never notified of this. According to Gates, he started serving his prison term in January 2014. Gates further disclosed that soon after he started serving his sentence, a relative submitted a statement to the commission. According to Gates, he was later contacted by Commission lawyer Glenn Hanoman.
Williams asked Gates whether he was promised anything for his testimony, to which he said that he was not.
Gates further told the Commission that based on his knowledge and interaction with Former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) member, Gregory Smith, he was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Smith deceived both Dr. Rodney and his brother Donald into believing that he had given them a “walkie talkie” when he knew it was an explosive device.
Gates claimed that Smith had told him that the Army, specifically Former Army Chief, Norman Mc Lean was going to give him an explosive to give to Rodney which would have exploded, killing him. Gates claimed that Smith had told him that the device would have taken three months to assemble. Gates also said that he had spoken to Smith sometime in March of 1980.
However under cross examination, Williams suggested to Gates that he never had that conversation with Smith. Further Williams suggested that adding to the “non-existent” conversation, Smith could not have been given any directives by Former Army Chief Norman McLean, since he was not in the GDF at that time.
Further, Gates admitted under cross examination that he could not confirm anything that Smith had told him. Gates however maintained that Smith did tell him these things and he had even told Former Police Commissioner Winston Felix.
Williams however reminded Gates, that Felix’s rank was not even higher than a sergeant, making his (Gates’) claim farfetched. According to Gates, Felix was aware of his “special assignment to infiltrate the WPA…”
Williams suggested to Gates that he was lying and is trying to finger the “leadership of APNU” in his testimony.
The witness was also questioned about whether they would have records to show that he was indeed a member of the Police Force.
“Ask Former Commissioner Brumell…or Assistant Commissioner Balram Persaud …they know me and they would have all my records” Gates said.
However when contacted yesterday Assistant Commissioner Balram Persaud said that he couldn’t  verify anything that happened in the Police Force in 1978 since he was in High School. Persaud said also that his office might be responsible for records, but he could not divulge that. He said that a request would have to be made for the records.
Attorney at law Joseph Harmon in his cross examination, sought to ascertain what type of training Gates received which deemed him an “intelligence officer”.  Gates told the Commission that he was trained for six months in the basic recruit course, and then he was sent to the “special squad”.
Harmon asked whether he, Gates, would have any evidence of his training and existence in the Force. Again Gates said that all his information would be with Assistant Commissioner Balram Persaud.
Gates also told the Commission that he was sent abroad to the “Rouse School of Special Detective Training” at which he spent nine months.

Sawmill supervisor’s murder…Prosecution closes case in PI

State witnesses have finished giving evidence at the Preliminary Inquiry (PI) of the man accused of killing a 22-year-old sawmill supervisor, whose body was found at Land of Canaan, East Bank Demerara, over a year ago.

Murder Accused: Raymond Tyson

Raymond Shawn Tyson, 28, is accused of murdering Kemraj Singh at Land of Canaan, East Bank Demerara between May 27 and May 28, last year.
Singh’s body was reportedly found lying on a bed in a shack at his employer’s sawmill. His throat had a gaping wound and he had been struck repeatedly to the head.
The Prosecution had related at the first arraignment that Singh’s death had stemmed from previous grudges, and that Singh’s employer had discovered that the victim’s BlackBerry cellular phone had been stolen.
The phone’s internet service was activated and contact was made with a male. However, it was later discovered that the accused was in possession of the said cellular phone, as his ex-reputed wife saw him with the said phone on May 28, 2013.
Tyson had allegedly pawned the BlackBerry to the woman’s sister, who reportedly gave the instrument to her husband. The cellular phone was subsequently retrieved and the accused was arrested, but when questioned, Tyson refused to divulge how he came to be in possession of the phone.
When confronted by investigators he had denied killing Singh.
It was after the file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice that the murder charge was instituted against Tyson.
The last witness to appear in court yesterday as the Preliminary Inquiry (PI) continued was Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Communications Officer Liz Rahaman, who stated that she had sent out radio messages at the Police Prosecutor Inspector Michael Grant’s behest for absent witnesses.
A total of 22 witnesses were slated to give evidence during the (PI) before Magistrate Judy Latchman at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
Photos and other pieces of evidence have already been tendered as evidence.
Following Rahaman’s testimony yesterday, the Prosecution moved to close its case, having made several attempts to contact witnesses prior to the hearing yesterday.
Attorney-at-Law Kendaise Rodney, who represented the accused, is set to make submissions on July 4.

PCA investigating 30 new complaints against cops in Berbice

The Police Complaints Authority has launched investigations into 30 new matters involving alleged police misconduct in the Berbice District.
The investigations stem from complaints made by residents when the Chairman of the body Cecil Kennard paid a visit to the Ancient County over the past weekend.

PCA Chairman Cecil Kennard

Kennard, a Former Chancellor of the Judiciary, reported a large turnout of residents on Saturday at the Berbice High School where he entertained complaints ranging from Neglect of Duty, which takes into account the police’s failure to record citizens’ complaints and failure to attend court.
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, Kennard said that there were also several accusations by Berbicians of the police “illegally” searching their homes.
“There are cases where people feel that their homes are violated by the police…while in some cases the police have the right to search, the people have no objections, but it’s the way it’s done…lack of courtesy and the use of expletives when carrying out these searches,” Kennard explained.
He said that during his visit to Berbice he also held discussions with a large number of ranks at the police training college, where he spoke about the role and functions of his office.
During these discussions, he highlighted areas of grave concerns, including the police’s use of excessive force and the wanton use of firearms.
The Former Chancellor also pointed to the vexing issue of the police’s detention of vehicles when there is no certifying officer to examine them, as well as the detention of persons beyond the statutory 72 hours, without permission from the competent authority.
Kennard announced that from the look of things, Berbice is second only to Region Four as the area that accounts for the most complaints against police ranks.
His next visit will be to Moruca.

Guyana govt. joins call for release of journalists jailed in Egypt

Al Jazeera’s Australian journalist Peter Greste (L) and Egyptian journalist Baher Mohamed stand inside the defendants’ cage during their trial.

The Government of Guyana has joined in calls by the international community for the immediate release of three Al Jazeera journalists who are presently in an Egyptian prison.
The journalists – Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed – were jailed for seven years each by an Egyptian judge on Monday, in what were called “chilling, draconian sentences” that must be reversed.
Mohamed was given an extra three years for possessing a single bullet, at the hearing attended by Western diplomats, some of whose governments summoned Egypt’s ambassadors over the case.
In a statement issued through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Guyana government expressed deep concern over the sentencing by an Egyptian Court of the three journalists.
It sees the act by the Egyptian authorities as “an affront to the principles which govern press freedom the world over”.
“The Government of Guyana believes that freedom of the press is essential for the full and effective exercise of freedom of expression and an indispensable instrument for the functioning of representative democracy, through which individuals exercise their right to receive, impart and seek information,” the statement said.
The men have been held at Egypt’s notorious Tora Prison for six months, with the case becoming a rallying point for rights groups and news organisations around the world. They were detained in late December and charged with helping “a terrorist group” – a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood – by broadcasting lies that harmed national security and supplying money, equipment and information to a group of Egyptians.
The Brotherhood was banned and declared a terrorist group after the army deposed elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July last year following mass protests against his rule.
The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organisation.
The three men have all denied the charges.
According to a Reuters report, Cairo defended the journalists’ convictions – for aiding a “terrorist organisation” – and rejected the widespread condemnation as “interference in its internal affairs”.
Meanwhile late yesterday afternoon the ruling People’s Progressive Party also joined in the condemnation of the actions of the Egyptian regime.

Al Jazeera journalist Mohammed Fahmy stands behind bars at a court in Cairo.

The party said that it is convinced that the decision to jail the journalists is political in nature and not the result of any wrongdoing on the part of the journalists. Additionally, the PPP voiced its condemnation over the impending execution of the Spiritual Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and over 180 others.
The Muslim Brotherhood is led by Mohamed Mursi who is currently behind bars despite the fact that he won Egypt’s first ever democratic elections.
The PPP is of the view that the recently held election which installed Abdel Fattah Sisi as President is “nothing but a farce intended to whitewash his image and that of the military junta and deserves the full condemnation of the free and democratic world”.
“These two latest actions by the military-led government (now in civilian clothing) of military strong man Sisi is consistent with a long list of human rights abuses by the military which is using its military muscle to stifle and suppress the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people,” the PPP said.
The party joined the call by the United Nations and other concerned individuals and parties for the unconditional release of the jailed journalists and the immediate release of all political prisoners.
In this regard, the PPP said it fully endorses the position taken by the United Nations Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay that there is a risk that miscarriage of justice is becoming a norm in Egypt.

 

 

State-owned GUYOIL enters aviation fuel business

- to open farm at CJIA in October

By Zena Henry
Recognizing the importance of a growing aviation sector and the prospective need for aviation fuel, the state-owned Guyana Oil Company Limited (GUYOIL) is gearing to commence construction of its first ever fuel farm at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) next month.
The local company is seeking to complete the project within three months with hopes of commencing operations in the first week of October. GUYOIL’s Managing Director Badri Persaud told Kaieteur News yesterday that the project contract has already been signed and a visit to the site was completed last week Friday.
Persaud said, that since the company is already involved in the fuel business, it was recognized that an opportunity existed for them to become involved in the provision of aviation fuel.
A Senior Airport official explained that GUYOIL had expressed interest in building a fuel facility at the country’s largest airport.  Currently, Rubis, an established international brand that distributes high quality products including petroleum and aviation fuels, LPG, and lubricants, is the sole provider of aviation fuel at CJIA.
One of the deterrents for foreign investors in the aviation sector is the cost of fuel, it was explained. This newspaper was told by the senior airport official that what seems to be the norm is that airlines would negotiate the price of fuel with the provider and pay based on what is agreed upon and the quantity.
It was explained that with Rubis holding the monopoly in this area, fuel cost is “a bit high” and it has been recognized that Guyana’s charges are, “somewhat higher than most of the countries in the region.” It is for this reason GUYOIL is getting into the business.
The official said that GUYOIL’s entry into the aviation fuel business is a welcomed one since competition will come in this area. Making reference to local aviation operator Air Services Limited’s state-of-the-art fuel farm at the Ogle Airport, it was noted that the entry of more than one fuel provider brought competition and reduced prices in fuel.
Head of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Zulphicar Mohamed said that the fuel company has already received the green light from the agency. He said that in this case, GCAA is tasked with certifying the operation and ensuring that safety standards are upheld.
The Cheddi Jagan International Airport is expected to take on several new airlines that will soon commence operations here in Guyana. Already some four airlines have come on board to service Guyana.
The airport is also undergoing major improvement works with the extension of the runway currently ongoing. Following this, upgrade work is expected to commence on the terminal itself.
CJIA’s Chief Executive Officer Ramesh Ghir has already expressed concern over the airport being able to keep up with the flow of traffic that is expected in a few weeks. He expressed support of the expansion of the international airport in order to accommodate the growth of the sector.
He had stated also that discussions were ongoing with a European airline interested in operating in Guyana; however, CJIA cannot accommodate any of the planes in the company’s fleet.

GPL completes project to connect Demerara, Berbice

A section of the newly upgraded and expanded GPL Substation at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice.

In one of its most significant developments, the state-owned power company yesterday announced that it has finally completed works to connect Berbice and Demerara.
In effect, the cable across the Berbice River, will serve to stabilize power in the Region Five and Six areas in Berbice, solving a longstanding problem.
According to the Guyana Power and Light Inc., the transmission link was completed 21:33hrs on Sunday, forming what will be known as the ‘Demerara Berbice Interconnected System’.
“This milestone has been decades in the making and has been finally achieved after many technical challenges were overcome. This development would allow GPL to transfer power from generating facilities in Demerara to consumers throughout Berbice, thereby improving the stability and reliability of power supply in Regions 5 and 6.”
With the new link in place, GPL will over the coming weeks be further fine-tuning the system to optimize performance and power quality.
“Some of these activities may result in short power interruptions. We will endeavour to inform you in advance of any such outages. Overall available generation capacity in Demerara and Berbice is now 100.6MW and the peak demand is 95MW.”
According to GPL, efforts are being made to repair some 6MW generating capacity within the next two weeks, while a 5.5MW Wartsila currently on overhaul is expected back in service by July 4th.
The works for the link would have involved the contractor, China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC), along with sub-contractors and GPL personnel from its Projects and Operations Divisions.
“Special mention should be made of the diligence and dedication of our Transmission and Distribution (T&D) and System Control and Engineering Services who braved adverse weather on Sunday to complete all the rearrangements on the transmission lines and distribution feeders.”
Government is currently working on a US$40M-plus project to run new transmission stretching along the coast to Berbice. Seven new sub-stations are also being built to help better manage the power and isolate problems. A US$26M power plant is also being built in Vreed-en-Hoop, West Bank Demerara.
The demand for power has been growing in recent years in the face of new housing schemes and more industries. Guyana is exploring the possibilities of hydro-electric power, to ease the dependability on imported oil for its engines.
A wind farm at Hope Beach, East Coast Demerara is also being developed.