Monthly Archives: July 2014

Police silent on Ashni Singh spending complaint -Ramjattan expects response this week

There has been no word from the police on the complaint filed by Khemraj Ramjattan regarding the alleged illegal spending by Finance Minister Ashni Singh and the AFC leader said that he expects a public response from the Guyana Police Force this week.

When contacted, Crime Chief Leslie James was unable to provide information on the issue. He told Stabroek News that to give an update he would have to make contact with his superiors. He said too that he has not spoken to Ramjattan about the matter.

In an invited comment, Ramjattan said that he expects the police to publically respond to his complaint this week, failing which he will take the appropriate action. He disclosed that he has since learnt from police sources that it has been realized that the Minister has done a “big wrong.” The AFC leader said that given the nature of the matter – that it was a “big wrong” and that the minister holds a senior position – the sources have related that the matter has to be analyzed thoroughly as it is “no ordinary matter.” He stressed that he has been told that the matter will take some time to be analyzed.

Ramjattan added that he was reliably informed that the issue has left the minister “very scared” and he is now laying the blame at the feet of Attorney General Anil Nandlall.

The move to file the complaint came after it was found that government had spent more than $4.5 billion of the $37.4 billion cut from this year’s $220 billion national budget. Singh, on June 19, tabled Financial Paper 1 of 2014 seeking the approval of the House for the extra-budgetary spending. However, this quickly attracted the ire of the main opposition APNU as well as the AFC who have labelled it illegal.

In a nine-page Complaint and brief to the police, Ramjattan wrote that he was making a formal complaint and report that Singh and other officials in his Ministry have committed a violation of the provisions of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003. The minister, he said, has spent monies without having obtained legislative authorization and he and other officials in the relevant ministries have expended $4.533 billion up to June 16th, 2014. This, according to Ramjattan, constitutes a misusing, a misapplication, or an improper disposal of public monies.

Quoting Section 85 which says: “An official who knowingly permits any other person to contravene any provision of this Act is guilty of an indictable offence and liable on conviction to a fine of $2,000,000 and imprisonment for 3 years,” the AFC leader said that criminal liability can therefore befall the minister and those under him if it is determined that they went against the above-mentioned legislation.

Ramjattan, in the document, also told the police that Singh breached Article 217 which outlines all the conditions under which funds are to be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund. He also quoted other sections of the Constitution in an attempt to validate his position.

School of Agriculture yields 120 graduates

One hundred and twenty persons including 55 females on Friday graduated from the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) with diplomas and certificates.

The students, from the GSA’s Mon Repos and Essequibo campuses completed courses in agriculture, animal health, and forestry and for the first time, agro-processing. During the graduation exercise, GSA’s relevance in the changing agricultural and development setting was highlighted, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

This is the institution’s 50th anniversary and graduation exercise and it has been playing a leading role in agriculture education in Guyana and in the Caribbean in building capacity, GINA said while noting that one of the graduates is a scholarship student from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

A graduate collects his prize and trophy from Mrs Alli Baksh, wife of the Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Alli Baksh. (GINA photo)

In delivering the keynote address, Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said that the 50th class was testament to the strength of the institution. “For those of you graduating today, you should feel a sense of pride that you are graduating from a school that has a long and good history, and you will add to its reputation,” he was quoted as saying. “I look forward to seeing many of you contributing to the success of agriculture in our country,” he added.

GINA reported that government is investing $1.2 million per student per year at the GSA. The report said that at the GSA and at the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s Training Centre at Port Mourant, government is investing approximately $600 million in the training of young people to participate in the development of agriculture.

“We see agriculture as a vehicle to accelerate our development. Agriculture has been responsible for bringing Guyana as a least developing country to low middle income country. It is now time that we move towards a high middle income country and I am confident that agriculture is the vehicle that will take us there,” Ramsammy said. Government recognises that unless it develops its human resources, “the potential of agriculture to rapidly bring our country to another level of development (high middle income country) will not happen,” he added, according to GINA.

GINA reported that the school has introduced a number of new courses. “To satisfy the skill of the agro-processing sector, and as well to provide students with skills to establish their own enterprises, a new one-year certificate in agro-processing was introduced for the academic year 2013-2014,” the report said.

Meantime, a new course in theoretical and practical aspects of the operation of tractors was also introduced. In addition, two short courses -the operation, repairs and maintenance of small equipment which targets field workers, technicians and farmers; and urban agriculture techniques in grow box/hydroponics targeting women involved in urban farming, field technicians and teachers have been added to the curriculum.

The GSA 50th graduation procession

Ramsammy challenged the GSA’s management to commit to further developing the curriculum and to introduce new courses and further distance learning for the school. He posited that the various farms operated by the Guyana Livestock Development Authority and the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute can serve as attachment centres for the students, who could be facilitated in short specialist courses such as the management of black sigatoka disease and red palm mites, GINA said.

Meanwhile, the graduates were charged to set ablaze the modernisation of agriculture by Country Representative of the Inter-American Institution for Cooperation on Agricu-lture Wilmot Garnett. “Those of you from the rural communities, remember you are privileged to be selected to lead and empower especially our small farmers. You have been educated to modernise agriculture,” Garnett was quoted as saying.

He noted that the GSA has done its part in ensuring that students are well-rounded and ready to meet the challenges of agriculture. He encouraged the students to be steadfast in their approach and proactive in confronting these challenges, GINA reported. Garnett also urged the maintaining of zeal and professionalism and encouraged continued learning and networking to keep up to date on new technologies and practices.

This year’s Chief Executive Officer’s prize went to Hussain Ali. This award is given to the best graduating student in any of the two-year programmes offered by the institution at its Mon Repos campus. The Chairman’s Prize (the best graduating student in any of the two programmes offered by the institution at its Essequibo campus) went to Benny Augustus, GINA reported.

Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and ICCA’s Country Representative Wilmot Garnett with the GSA Board of Director, staff and part of the 2014 graduating class in the Diploma in Agriculture (GINA photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GDF soldiers to testify in Rodney COI

Several witnesses from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) will appear at the session of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) which begins tomorrow.

The session was originally scheduled to continue today but the Secretariat of the Commission yesterday issued a press release stating that hearings will instead commence tomorrow and continue on the 30th and 31st July and on the 4th to 7th August, 2014, inclusive.

The Commission apologised for any inconvenience caused.

The names of the persons to testify were not immediately available. Stabroek News has been informed that tomorrow Tacuma Ogunseye will return to the stand and it is hoped that he will be able to complete giving his evidence. Human rights activist Karen de Souza will be the next to take the stand. She has already given her evidence-in-chief and will now have to be cross-examined.

According to a public notice, this session of hearings will end on August 7. In February this year, a three-man commission was sworn in by President Donald Ramotar to probe the death of WPA co-leader Dr. Walter Rodney.

On June 13, 1980, Rodney who was also a renowned academic and political activist, died in a car near John and Bent streets, after a walkie-talkie given to him by now deceased GDF member Gregory Smith, exploded. His brother Donald Rodney who was with him at the time, escaped serious injury. The PNC administration then headed by the late president Forbes Burnham, whose reign had been opposed by Rodney, has long been blamed for the murder. The party, however, has continuously denied any responsibility. The current leadership of the PNCR has publicly said that they will not be cooperating with the COI.

According to the February 8, 2014 Official Gazette, the Commissioners are to examine the facts and circumstances immediately prior, at the time of and subsequent to the death of Dr. Rodney, in order to determine as far as possible who or what was responsible for the explosion resulting in his death.

The Commissioners are to enquire into the cause of the explosion in which Dr. Rodney died, including whether it was an act of terrorism and if so, who were the perpetrators.

Further, the Gazette said that the Commissioners are to “specifically examine” the role, if any, which Smith played in Rodney’s death and if so, to inquire into who may have “counseled, procured, aided and or abetted” him to do so, including facilitating his departure from Guyana after Rodney’s death.

It also stated that the Commissioners are to examine and report on the actions and activities of the State, including state agencies, such as the Guyana Police Force, the GDF, the Guyana National Service, the Guyana People’s Militia and those who were in command and superintendence of them, to determine whether they were tasked with surveillance of and the carrying out of actions and whether they did execute those tasks and carried out those actions against the political opposition for the period January 1, 1978 to December 31, 1980.

Additionally the Commissioners are to examine, review and report on earlier investigations and inquiries done on and into the death of Rodney.

Among the other persons who have already given testimony are former army chief, Major General Norman Mc Lean, Captain Gerry Gouveia, Robert Allan Gates and political activist Eusi Kwayana.

Shaik Baksh to be GuySuCo Board chairman -sources

Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Incor-porated and former Education and Housing Minister Shaik Baksh will be the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), sources say.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that President Donald Ramotar will be making the announcement after meeting with his cabinet tomorrow. Ramotar said on Saturday that the new GuySuCo board will be announced this week.

When Stabroek News contacted Baksh on Thursday, he said that “certain things are under negotiations” and added that he could not confirm anything as yet.

Meanwhile, head of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Komal Chand is awaiting a formal response from the Agriculture Ministry on whether the invitation to sit on the board would be extended to another member of GAWU and not just him. Chand explained that he would not be sitting on the board but had written to Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy requesting that GAWU be allowed to select another representative. “At this point in time my union would rather be pleased to have your invitation extended for its central executive committee to select a suitable person to be its representative on the corporation’s board,” Chand wrote. He told Stabroek News that he was looking forward to the response and the union on Saturday at the general council’s meeting, would be discussing possible names to be submitted. The GAWU leader stated that they do not want to be preemptive and submit any names to the ministry but will await a response because the initial invitation was to him directly and not GAWU.

On June 16, during a rally at the Enmore Martyrs Monument at Enmore, East Coast Demerara, Ramotar publicly invited Chand to sit on the next GuySuCo board. This was after Chand criticised GuySuCo’s management during his address at the rally. Blaming the depressed state of the corporation on poor management, Chand had said “A new board of directors is long, long overdue…, especially since the last Chairman became the new Chief Executive Officer, leaving GuySuCo headless and the present board headless….”

Chand revealed that     he had since received a formal invitation from Ramsammy to sit on the board. He said that the decision is not being taken lightly and all the factors will need to be considered especially in relation to the union’s position as a critical member of the corporation and its current management.

Chand had said that the management system is flawed and the appointment of the previous board chairman Rajendra Singh to the position of CEO did little to ease worries over the management structure of the state-owned company. He had also called for full disclosure of how the over $31 billion that was handed over by the European Union(EU) as the accompanying measures to the reform of the EU sugar regime, was spent. The restructuring of GuySuCo’s board has taken over a year. Last October, it was revealed that the company was without a properly functioning board since June. Ramsammy had responded that the life of the board was extended until the end of the year. The new board was to be announced at the beginning of July.

In addition, the position of Deputy CEO has to be filled and currently no one has been identified to take over for Paul Bhim who will step down as the Director of Finance.

Criticism of the state-owned corporation has mounted and industry experts have called for the formulation of a real strategic plan that will address the crisis in the sugar industry. Ramotar’s decision to appoint Singh to the post of CEO when the company is struggling with over $58 billion in debt has also been questioned as it was pointed out that Singh is not a financial expert nor an agriculturist.

Stakeholders were hoping that the new board would comprise experts who have a deep understanding of the sugar industry and how to move it beyond its current struggles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘E’ Field Sophia to get $31M nursery school

A $30.8 million nursery school will be constructed at ‘E’ Field Sophia, Cummings Park to accommodate 130 children, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand ann-ounced yesterday.

Manickchand met and interacted with parents at the Cummings Park Community Centre to establish where the school will be built because there was an issue with regards to land space, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported. Initially, the school was slated to be built obliquely opposite the community centre but that land was deemed too small. It was agreed that the school will be built on the northern side of the community centre where there is more space, the report said.

The school, which is scheduled to be completed by December 30, will be equipped with classrooms, a kitchenette and sick bay, head teacher’s office, a storage area, two rooms for students with disabilities and five washrooms, water facility, and an access bridge and guard hut, GINA reported.

The contract for the construction of the school was awarded to R. Kissoon Contracting Services and works will be supervised by the Educa-tion Ministry’s, Engineer-ing Department.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand interacting with parents at the Cummings Park Community Centre. (GINA photo)

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand (left) handing over the documents of the project to a resident of Cummings Park. (GINA photo)

Manickchand said that 118 students have already registered and expansion of the school must be taken into consideration because it is anticipated that more children will be starting school in the coming years. She called on the parents to collaborate with the ministry to ensure that the contractor delivers not only in a timely manner but also ensures that all materials expected for the construction of the school are used, GINA reported.

“We don’t want you to take your children very far, we want them close to home…that is why we are constructing this school, and we are consulting with parents because we need your support so as to ensure quality work is executed by the contractor,” Manickchand was quoted as saying. She suggested that the parents form themselves into a committee to assist in overlooking the project.

The Minister also took the opportunity to enlighten the parents on the $10,000 cash grant which is expected to be disbursed in September. The residents said that they preferred the money to be disbursed through the bank   or Western Union. Manickchand said that while the consultation on the distribution of the grant is ongoing, the ministry still has to consult with some financial agencies in this regard, GINA reported.

The initiative was introduced this year and will see the sum of $10 000 being allocated to every child in the public system. The initiative is expected to benefit 188 406 families of the students of nursery, primary, and secondary schools, and will cost a total of $2 billion, the report noted.

 

 

 

 

Ramotar now says board will deal with NCN irregularities

-chairman had said he was waiting on President

Following a series of unfulfilled promises to reveal what action he would take against officials implicated in financial irregularities at the state broadcaster NCN, Presi-dent Donald Ramotar on Saturday stated that NCN’s Board would deal with the matter but since 2012 the Board had said it was awaiting his pronouncement on it.

Asked about the matter at a news conference at State House, Ramotar said that all the time he was labouring under the impression that the report was not made public but he understood that it was on the Government Informa-tion Agency (GINA) website for a long time until the website was hacked. He said that the report is back up again and added that an announcement on some of the issues will be made later.

It was pointed out to the President by Stabroek News that he was asked and he had promised to reveal what actions he had or would take against those implicated in the multi-million dollar financial scandal. The president responded that NCN has a Board and there are certain functions that a Board will have so “let’s first of all deal with it at the level of the Board before and let me look at that and see what will happen.”

When it was pointed out to him that the Board would have investigated the matter and had sent him a report, the president responded: “No, the Board had sent the report to me. All the Board (did) was sent a report to me. They didn’t make any recommendation and so forth.”

In December 2012, the then Chairman of the NCN Board of Directors Prem Misir, had told Stabroek News that the closure report on the financial irregularities at the state-owned broadcaster was with Ramotar, who was yet to offer his advice. “The President has been in and out… I think he just returned from Peru although I can’t say for sure but I sent him the report and it’s on his desk,” Misir told Stabroek News at the time. “The reason the President is involved is technically because he is the Minister of Information [and] so he got the closure report. He agreed to look at it expeditiously,” he had said. “I think [Programme Manager Martin] Goolsarran’s unpaid leave is still happening, that has not changed. The President has to make that decision,” Misir added. Goolsarran is no longer with NCN.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon in November 2012 had also announced at his post-cabinet briefing that the board had completed its probe and that the results were with Ramotar. Luncheon at that time acknowledged that he had seen the report but refused to disclose whether there were any recommendations for dismissals. “The board has concluded their investigation (and) there is a report that has been submitted to the Minister of Information, the president recognizing some interim steps and additional recommendations. The Office of the President is yet to pronounce definitively on that matter”, he said.

Responding to a question on whether there were recommendations made by the Board about dismissals, he said “There are a number of recommendations made by the Board about current employees. I am not at liberty right now to disclose what those are but I can undertake to ensure that the Office of the President and Minister of Information, (make it) public knowledge at an appropriate time.”

 

In a way

Last month, Ramotar acknowledged that he has taken a long time to reveal whether he took any action against officials implicated in the financial irregularities NCN and said that a lot of the issues “in a way” have been resolved.

He had spoken at length about his administration’s efforts to fight corruption and when it was pointed out that it has been two years since NCN officials who have close ties to the PPP were implicated in the financial scandal at the state broadcaster, the President agreed that it has been a long time. However, he said, “a lot of the issues in a way has been resolved, the CEO is not there…they have not been there but we’ll get to that I promise you.”

The President was asked about the issue at prior news conferences but despite promises, he has not revealed what action he will take against officials implicated in the financial scandal. At a news conference on June 7, he again had no answers when asked about the issue. “I have nothing new to report on that. I really was preoccupied with many other things at this point in time. I’m sorry, next time hopefully I’ll be in a better position,” the president said.

“I wasn’t prepared for that question at this point in time but I’ll probably look into it and see if I can give you an answer after…,” the President said in March. In April 2013, he had said that he would make his decision known “very soon.”

Last April, Luncheon said that government has concerns about the recommendations made by the auditor who uncovered the financial irregularities at NCN. “I think the review of what the auditor submitted as recommendations… and his specific Terms of Reference [ToR] continue to be a source of some concern by the administration… I for one feel that he overstepped his bounds, went beyond his ToR in the recommendations that had been made and more than likely that has stultified any action on those recommendations,” Luncheon had told a news briefing.

“I would want to believe that the matter would have died, but it obviously has not died and actually I suspect that there may well be some imminent interventions, revelations that would bring this matter again to the fore,” he had said.

Harry Parmesar, the auditor who uncovered the financial irregularities at NCN subsequently told Stabroek News that he was never contacted about any concerns that the government might have had about his findings.

Former NCN Programme Manager Goolsarran and NCN’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mohammed ‘Fuzzy’ Sattaur were implicated in the scandal. Critics have said the reason why there has been no action is that the two persons at the centre of the probe have close ties to the ruling party. Analysts see the case as a litmus test of whether the government is serious about accountability and financial probity in the state sector.

The duo had allegedly pressured employees to backdate invoices, Goolsarran had deposited millions of dollars in his personal bank account and among other things, the report said, a number of functions of other staff/departments were usurped by Sattaur and Goolsarran. Both Sattaur and Goolsarran had declined to speak when contacted by Stabroek News.

Unchecked power

Governments the world over that aspire to be responsive and accountable to the people function in a system of checks and balances and respect this. The separation of powers provides the most potent way of limiting excesses. The legislatures of Westminster-style Parliaments make the laws and through their committee systems can wield enormous influence on government policy and illuminate complex issues by the convening of hearings. The judiciary has its inscribed role of weighing matters brought before it on the overreach of the executive. Since 2012, the government, as is its democratic right has tested the boundaries of the separations of the various branches and is clearly intent on continuing to do so.

Aside from the other branches of government there is an array of watchdog bodies that address abuses of the state and its officers. In our context these would include the Office of the Ombudsman and the Integrity Commission and the Police Complaints Authority. None of these three are as equipped as they should be to discharge their important functions. Indeed, the Ombudsman office is just getting back into its stride after being defunct since 2005 and the Integrity body is really a skeleton without a functioning board and clearly incapable of holding any senior official or Member of Parliament accountable. The stagnation in these bodies is a clear sign of the PPP/C government’s disrespect for them and its unwillingness to have its power balanced and moderated in keeping with normative standards.

Then there are the constitutional bodies and commissions which have essential functions and have been brought within the ambit of the constitution and also attain a large degree of financial autonomy. Here again, the government has not been averse to pushing the envelope although when it attempts to defy and ridicule constitutional bodies it is heading down a dangerous path that will ultimately weaken its own hold on authority.

That was exactly the case last week when the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Luncheon had the temerity to call upon the Guyana Elections Commission to prove that it was ready to hold elections. GECOM’s orbiting in the constitution’s sphere of influence protects it from the meanderings of meddlesome government officials intent on creating diversions. Dr Luncheon’s prating was in response to an exchange of statements between the PPP/C-appointed commissioners, Messrs Mangal, Shaw and Mangar and the Head of GECOM, Dr Surujbally. The PPP/C commissioners were concerned that GECOM was not as prepared for elections as it should be and Dr Surujbally answered their concerns point by point and quite convincingly.

It is GECOM’s enshrined constitutional role to declare its readiness and not in the bailiwick of Dr Luncheon to impute otherwise or seek substantiating evidence. The whole purpose of the reform of the Bollers Commission was to enable transparency and confidence in the electoral system. The reforms were accompanied by a whole raft of other steps including counting of ballots at the place of poll and the developing of a new National Register of Registrants and a voters list. Since 1990, the PPP/C has had full access to the deliberations of GECOM and has happily accepted its diagnoses and prescriptions with nary a protest. Once the Commission has had full internal discussions on electoral preparations and ruled that it is ready, that should be the end of the matter unless there was some patent miscalculation. It should also be noted that this same Commission has presided over two general elections and is therefore clearly in an excellent position to pronounce on readiness to discharge its responsibilities.

Unsurprisingly, the PPP/C’s major noises about GECOM have coincided with the advent of its weakened electoral standing. Even though it won the Presidency at the 2011 elections and accepted it, Parliament was lost to the opposition. President Ramotar then had the gumption to assert that there had been rigging of the elections which prevented his party from gaining an outright majority. In that one statement there was an instant role reversal. It has been the PNC in its varied forms since 1992 which has claimed that there have been electoral shenanigans while the PPP/C, which has won all elections since then, expended much energy in defending the integrity of those results. The turnaround was a further demonstration of the naked and vulgar quest for power at any cost.

Now, the President and his leading officials and those of the ruling party are casting doubts on GECOM’s ability to hold local government elections this year. This is all because of the PPP/Cs patent unwillingness to risk a heavy defeat in Georgetown and other key centres in local government polls. In its spurious grounds for denying these polls, the PPP has become one with the tenebrous reasons that the Hoyte administration advanced for not initially wanting electoral reforms in 1990 and then delaying elections by two years. The turnaround is a cynic’s dream.

Dr Luncheon’s intervention on the matter, as nonsensical as it was, didn’t provide the basis for offence. It was the awful and unfounded excursion into the functioning of a constitutional commission and for the sole purpose of continuing this disgraceful denial of local government elections. It exposed the government’s lack of respect for the role of this constitutional body.

A government such as this one, intent on trespassing on the delineated functions of other branches of government and cavalier in its disposition towards important checks and balances bodies such as the Public Service Appellate Tribunal and the Public Procurement Commission, quickly begins to lose any sense of rectitude. It is then far more vulnerable to the runaway excesses that are evident in governments with unchecked power.

Granger back as PNCR Leader

Granger back as PNCR Leader

-shot fired in voting hall during chaotic scenes

David Granger was returned unopposed as PNCR Leader after his main challenger Aubrey Norton withdrew in an accreditation row amid chaotic scenes in the voting hall at Congress Place during which a gunshot was fired.

The lustre would have been knocked off of Granger’s return as leader after days of tension with the party wing in its key stronghold in Linden, Region 10. That tension erupted yesterday over the accreditation of delegates and led to Region 10 members headed by Norton and regional chairman Sharma Solomon decamping party headquarters.

Despite the debacle, Granger, later declared at a press conference that the 18th Biennial Congress was successful despite “administrative difficulties,” and the party in a statement cited attempted sabotage for the events that occurred yesterday.

With the party’s image likely to be severely bruised by yesterday’s events, Granger also faces having to make probably the most important decision of his political life since 2011 – whether to support a motion of no-confidence against the government.

Aubrey Norton

After announcing his decision not to participate in the elections yesterday, Norton gave an inkling that the events which have occurred over the last week have, for the first time since his joining the party in the 1970’s, forced him to consider whether there is a future for him in it. He said that he must contemplate the way forward, but clarified that whatever decision he makes it will not involve joining the PPP/C.

“I cannot participate in a process that is obviously flawed. For days we have been trying to solve the problem of having Region 10 delegates accredited,” a clearly frustrated Norton told reporters after he, Solomon and MP Vanessa Kissoon led a large portion of the party’s Linden faction from Congress Place.

The trio, followed by scores of supporters, exited the compound just minutes before Congress Place issued a statement to the effect that Granger was returned as leader unchallenged. Also returning are Basil Williams as party Chair, Volda Lawrence and George Norton as Vice chairs, and Ronald Bulkan as Treasurer.

With the exception of Bulkan none of the aforementioned were challenged. Stabroek News understands that Bulkan, who was challenged by Region Four Chairman Clement Corlette received almost three hundred votes, while Corlette received forty five.

Norton aggrieved

David Granger

“I took a decision that I could not participate in the process,” Norton told reporters, while adding that many Lindeners “did not opt to cast any vote because the process was flawed…” Norton says the “poverty of management of the process resulted in a situation where there was no delegates list going into Congress. This is the first time, he continued, this has ever happened.

He said that accreditation closed off since July 14th and that the necessary documentation should have been disseminated a week before Congress was scheduled to be held. Instead, he charged, the list was still being finalised up to Saturday night.

Norton and Solomon said that Region 10 ought to have had over one hundred delegates accredited, but that PNCR General Secretary Oscar Clarke, who was in charge of the accreditation process said this was not so.

On Friday, Clarke told reporters that Solomon had submitted a list which contained flaws. He said Solomon was informed of the flaws and asked to re-submit a list with the necessary corrections. Another list was submitted late Friday afternoon and Clarke said he was still running through it, and had already identified several illegitimate names.

Solomon and Norton say they were given assurances as recent as Saturday night that the matter would be resolved. However, the two said that when they arrived at Congress Place yesterday some of their supporters could not get into the compound because they did not have delegate cards. “We have been discussing it every day. Up to last night we were promised it was solved but this morning most of the Linden people were outside,” he shared.

Solomon told the press that even he had difficulty entering the compound because he, despite being an executive member of the party as well as a member of the accreditation committee, was not given a delegate card. He says that he was able to gain access into the compound only after he was identified by an accredited member who was already inside. “I was told by the General Secretary that somehow my card mysteriously disappeared…the internal process is one where there is not confidence,” Solomon concluded.

Accreditation committee met once

Solomon believes much of the problem is a result of fact that the accreditation committee, which had oversight of the accreditation process met on Saturday for the first time. He pointed out that whereas the accreditation committee for the last Congress met thrice a week the committee for the current Congress held its first and only meeting after the event was already underway.

During the post-congress press briefing yesterday, Lawrence told reporters that the committee had trouble meeting because of the busy schedule of its members. Instead of meeting therefore, she says that most of the committee’s work was done via telephone and email.

Congress Place is saying that serious efforts were made to address the concerns raised by Solomon and Norton. Its statement read: “…Solomon was issued with a copy of the final lists of approved delegates and Mr. Aubrey Norton one of the other leadership candidates was also issued with the official list of delegates so as to allow them to observe and scrutinise the list.”

“Earlier in the day two busloads of persons from Linden arrived at the congress venue; all claiming to be delegates. During the registration process they were advised that there were no delegate cards for them. Being very dissatisfied they proceeded to block the entrance to the auditorium where accredited delegates were assembling to votes.”

The release says that an “explosive sound was heard” during the “confusion” which ensued. It is reported that the “explosive sound” was that of a gun which was fired to restore order, although Granger and other members of the executive committee, during the same press conference last evening, said they could not confirm that it was a gun that went off.

 

Kissoon finally accredited

Meanwhile, after much strife Kisssoon was finally issued with her delegate card which she says was given to her by PNCR member Winston Felix. She admitted though, that she does not know that the issuance of her membership card means the issue between her and Clarke has been resolved. Kissoon had been suspended by the PNCR over an altercation with Clarke. She had argued that this suspension was unconstitutional.

 

A party divided?

When it was put to him that the ongoing spat between Congress Place and its Linden group signals a serious division, Granger did not deny that division exists. He said though, that the magnitude of such division was not something that is worrying.

While he noted that several persons followed Norton, Solomon and Kissoon out of Congress Place he believes “the number of persons that remained gives a more accurate picture of the reality…up to the last minute most of the delegates remained here. I don’t know how many people left, might have been 30 or 40 but even people from Region 10 remained here, so I mean it was unfortunate but we did have a successful congress.”

There have also been claims that Norton’s supporters were abused by Granger’s supporters. PNCR member Carl Greenidge says this has become a norm over the last three or so Congresses. Granger though, said he has not been officially briefed on any cases of abuse. He said that any such cases would be investigated and promised that anyone found guilty of such would be dealt with accordingly.

US$30M voted for GuySuCo bailout reflects Opposition’s incompetence

-  was forewarned by Anthony Vieira, must accept responsibility,” – Former APNU MP

After A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Shadow Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine confessed that the $6B voted for the bailout of the Guyana Sugar Corporation was a mistake, a former APNU Parliamentarian has lashed out at the politician. “This mistake reflects the incompetence of the Opposition.”

Jaipaul Sharma

Jaipaul Sharma said that the political opposition was forewarned about the economic peril that would follow from the “Skeldon catastrophe”. APNU was also told that the change of its board and mechanization of the sugar industry would not solve the problems it is constantly faced with.

Sharma commended Anthony Vieira, who he said has been an “exceptional advisor” on agricultural matters to the APNU.
He said, “The Opposition was very much aware that the continued support for this bailout would not have made any sense in the end. They went ahead and they voted for the money for GuySuCo because it was a politically sensitive matter.
Now what has become of that decision? Today, we are made aware that the sugar company owes over US$170M in debt and Roopnaraine who is supposed to be the Shadow Minister of Agriculture is saying that that was a mistake? A $6B mistake? They should be held responsible for that money that was wasted because it did not make a difference. GuySuCo now wants more money.
“Why didn’t APNU ensure that it had in hand, an effective plan from the company? I would not have given that money to GuySuCo.”
Vieira said that given all the present declarations of the corporation’s dire situation as relayed to the Economics Services Committee, by senior managers of GuySuCo, he agrees with Dr. Roopnaraine, that the party made a mistake.
Roopnaraine during the recent committee meetings in addressing the possible request of a further $6B by the company to buy harvesters in a hope to return the company to profitability by next year, said that the opposition would no longer agree “to the granting of these large sums of monies to bail out GuySuCo without a specific plan laid out to us stating exactly how it will be applied and how we can anticipate how the improvements will be made.”
However, Vieira said that he would not have released the $6 billion bailout for GuySuCo without much more information from the Board of GuySuCo as to the exact economic situation of the Corporation, its immediate plans and the effect that tranche requested in the 2014 budget would have made to GuySuCo’s ongoing economic wellbeing.
Former Parliamentarian Sharma had also stated, “(The opposition) was forewarned by one of its own and the decision as to whether it should have voted for that money should have been informed by Vieira’s advice.
“The Opposition should have been stern and hold firm to its position. It is simply unacceptable of our opposition to behave like this. In the end it all just reflects a level of incompetence from the politicians of the opposition’s side.”
Vieira said that the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the APNU must work more closely together to undo the massive damage to the country’s economy that the PPP has unleashed both in rice and in sugar.

APNU’s Agricultural Advisor, Anthony Vieira

“No one must attempt to lay blame, but the supporters of these two parties must urge their leaders to work together for the common good to undo the damage done to Guyana by the PPP.”

Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, recently said that Government believes that GuySuCo’s future lies in mechanization and diversification. He pointed to an ethanol pilot project ongoing at Albion Estate in Berbice which he said, will determine how GuySuCo proceeds in the future.
GuySuCo’s option of going the ethanol route is one that the Opposition has indicated a willingness to support as well.
But according to Vieira, GuySuCo’s excursions into the production of ethanol, since Guyana is located just north of the world’s greatest ethanol producer, Brazil, is less than compelling.
In a recent letter Vieira, a former Member of Parliament, said that since September 2013, the world market price for sugar was fluctuating between US$0.16 a pound and US$0.19 a pound.
He argued that the long term outlook for sugar, as far as price is concerned, is not good since Guyana’s cost of production as reported by GuySuCo to the Economics Services Committee was 34 cents a pound, 100 percent higher than the world market price today.
According to GuySuCo’s outgoing Finance Director, Paul Bhim, GuySuCo owes banks – both local and foreign, suppliers, the Guyana Revenue Authority, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund Committee (SILWFC) some $58B.
GuySuCo is asking for patience, saying that Guyana will have to wait until 2017, as part of its strategy to turn the fortunes of the industry around, to bring production prices to about US$0.27 per pound.
However Vieira feels that the opposition is not convinced that this is possible, given the current indebtedness of GuySuCo, the poor yields, the unattainable goals of the corporation, the difficulties of mechanization and the high cost of production per tonne currently applicable in the industry.

Homophobia and the society

The mini storm aroused by Pastor Ronald McGarrell’s public comments is not without its similarities in other parts of the world.  But what some persons seem to have lost sight of is the man’s right to his beliefs.  It seems as if those private views are expressed within the context of religious convictions.
It makes absolutely no sense to invite a man’s participation and opinion if he is not expected to be forthright in his views.  The gay and lesbian community in the ardour of its activism has not shown any predisposition to take prisoners regardless of social standing.  But there are other aspects to this whole issue of homosexual rights that have not been ventilated.
How do students treat with peers whose sexual orientation differs from what they have been socialized into believing is acceptable?  What impact do gay teachers have on their students and by extension parents?
Last December Andrew Moffat, a gay assistant head teacher at Birmingham’s Chilwell Croft Academy in the UK was forced to resign his position after Muslim and Christian parents complained that they did not want their children learning that it’s OK to be homosexual.
The other side of the affair was that Moffat’s former colleagues felt that the respected teacher was probably the victim of an extremist plot to replace non-Muslims with hardliners.  This does not need to detain us at this stage; what is important to this discussion is that it appears as if Moffat’s ability as a teacher was unaffected by his sexual orientation.
He is on record as the writer of several articles and books on homophobia in schools including “Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools” used in literacy lessons for 10 and 11-year-olds, in which he makes recommendations of how to teach children how to be tolerant.  The indefatigable Mr. Moffat also trained teachers on how to prevent homophobic bullying.
A compelling argument seems to be that parents, regardless of their religious background, should be informed of the school system’s position on the open practice of homosexuality.  This is reasonable in view of the likely concerns about gender identity issues in schools.
One aggravating factor that attends homosexual openness in a school setting is the question of role model for students who may or not be accepting of an openly gay teacher in the classroom.
Moreover, this aggravation might also be the experience of those students who are troubled by a marked lack of support from peers and adults, and their own fears and questions about their own sexuality.  Of course, being the target of demeaning homophobic language would definitely not make life any easier for gay students in an environment characterized by misunderstanding and mistrust.
It is not known at this time if a policy is in the making about LGBT teachers and students in the school system.  During 2006 a Teacher Support Network ran a survey on LGBT harassment and discrimination. It found that 60 per cent of a self-selecting group of teachers responded that they had experienced harassment or discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.  The biggest perpetrators were pupils, followed by their own colleagues with managers and parents coming later the mix.
Maybe SASOD, as an articulate defender of equal sexual rights, could agitate for an enforceable code of conduct which addresses homophobic/biphobic/transphobic behaviour in schools.
The argument can very well be made that openly homosexual teachers are best suited to provide both gay and straight young people with role models, but such an arrangement must be supported by colleagues and the system.
Among the reasons why the time may have come for this course of action may be found in the thought that people often perform better when they can be themselves.  Another may be the readjustment of perceptions of who can be a positive role model from the perspective of gender socialization determined by environmental influences.
Surely the fear of speaking out one way or another is unhelpful in resolving differences and misconceptions in diverse societies such as ours.  To be or not to be tolerant, that is the question.