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From Mandela to Haags Bosch

Executive members of the GT Recyclers, with Minister of Local Government and Regional Development; Mr. Norman Whittaker; Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan Edghill; Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative, Ms. Sophie Mackonnen, and Pan-American Health Organisation Country Representative, Mr. William Adu Krow

WITH responsibility for developmental projects, Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan Edgill, in a ceremony yesterday, honoured the newly accredited Guyana Total Recyclers Co-operative Society Ltd., as he recalled the journey “from Mandela to Haags Bosch.”

Speaking at the Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill Site (HBSLS), Eccles, East Bank Demerara, the Minister offered congratulations to the recyclers for “overcoming all of the obstacles and challenges.”

Addressing the gathering was Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Norman Whittaker

According to Edghill, “We are sitting before a group of people who in Mandela… [were] referred to as ‘junkies.’” He added that a sense of dignity in the work, as well as recognition from the Guyanese public, has seen the GT Recyclers becoming productive members of the labour force operating under “a particular framework.”
In 2007, the Government of Guyana received a US$18.02M loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. This was utilised for the implementation of the Solid Waste Management Programme, which provided sustainable solutions to solid waste management.
According to Project Coordinator Mr. Gordon Gilkes, the Environmental Impact Assessment reflected that the solid waste plan, which would create the HBSLS, saw the “destruction of the activities of a group of persons identified as ‘Waste Pickers’”- acting individually or in small groups.
Recognising the possible implications of the closing of the Mandela dumpsite and having to move to the Haags Bosch site, the ‘waste-pickers’ were reorganised into a unified group with the intention of providing training, equipment and recognition.
The inaugural ‘show all’ event for the soon-to-be-unified GT Recyclers was their participation in the 2014 Mashramani Competition, earning them second place with a float made of recycled materials. More importantly walking away with a grand prize of public awareness.
The group subsequently applied for recognition as a cooperative society through the Ministry of Labour, and on June 30, 2014, were granted their much deserved prize as the Guyana Total Recyclers Co-operative Society Ltd.
“The organised groups were provided with hard-hats, gloves, boots, training in health and safety, medical visits for vaccination and checkups, first aid kits… supply of water for washing and assistance to obtain official documents such as ID cards, passports and birth certificates”, according to Gilkes.
Minister Edghill, stressing the importance of the Recyclers to the creating of a new culture of proper waste management and garbage disposal, urged the group to “become leaders.”
The Minister bemoaned that there is much work to be done in behavioural change, citing clean-up exercises which were conducted by Ministries and other Government Agencies that within a matter of hours, “you could find people dumping indiscriminately.”
“The fact that we are able to overcome the culture… of pulling down each other… [Instead] working with dignity to provide for themselves and their families, and organising themselves into a co-op unit, speaks volumes to what could happen to Guyana as a whole, if our people come together.”
Also speaking at the event was Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Norman Whittaker, who stated that the role of the recyclers is often clouded by “negative aspects of the implementation of this project.”
The Minister was commenting on the unwarranted stigmatisation of the recyclers as ‘junkies’. “Despite the social stigma attached to what you do, you make an honest living.”
He charged the group stating that he is better able to appreciate their contribution after he considered the “depth from which you evolved”, he added with much conviction, “Today, your jobs take on a new importance.”
Confirming the recognition of the group was Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, who expressed the full commitment of his Ministry to ensuring that the GT Recyclers are a success story. He however cautioned that there have been many groups which have registered but have been decommissioned because they had either become defunct or dysfunctional.
He stressed to the group that there is power in numbers, stating, “your efforts collectively will be supported by my Ministry.”
Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative, Ms. Sophie Mackonnen, in her remarks, lauded the work of the GT recyclers as a “significant achievement under the Georgetown Solid Waste Management Programme supported by IDB funding.”
She noted that the group had come a far way since they began as a small action to ensure compliance with IDB social policy. “Measures were taken to ensure that the group would be able to earn at least as much money as they used to, but in an approved safe environment.”
“Public perception of the work that these men and women are doing is important… [And] we have begun to see that they are not only picking waste, they are contributing to society and their own livelihood in a meaningful way,” the IDB representative added.
From the Pan- American Health Organisation, Country Representative Mr. William Adu Krow recognised the GT recyclers as “frontier soldiers.” He noted the possible results that their actions would have on sustainability and good environmental practices.
With oversight in the health sector, the PAHO representative pointed out that “from the health perspective, we are looking at the unsanitary nature of how they went about their business and how things are now.”
With much content in the paradigm shift of the situation, Krow, summing up the shared sentiments by those in the group, noted, “I applaud the IDB for their foresight and all persons and agencies that have played a role.”

(By Derwayne Wills)

PPP’s concerns aired to ensure no voter is disenfranchised

—says GECOM statement is ‘disturbing’

THE ruling party in a statement yesterday acknowledged the position of the Guyana Elections Commission, which was made public on Monday, addressing its “perceived readiness” for the hosting of local government elections.And made clear that the Commission’s “rubbishing” of the concerns expressed by its Commissioners is cause for “grave” concern.
“Our Commissioners and the PPP have a right to express concerns over the integrity of the registration process and respect for the democratic rights of the Guyanese people,” the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said.

The PPP will not be intimidated and or silence its voice with regard to the sanctity of the electoral process— from registration to the final announcement —-we have fought too hard and long to restore the right to vote at free and fair elections to stop now.

The party stressed that its bone of contention, as reflected in its expressed concerns, are centered on ensuring that no Guyanese in disenfranchised in the voting process.

According to the party, the current trajectory is not a road the PPP, nor any Guyanese voter, would like to go down again.
To this end the PPP calls on GECOM to:
* Provide the Guyanese people now with a detailed summary outlining the important aspects of their Readiness for Local Government Elections. Armed with this detailed information, deficiencies can be identified and the concerted efforts of all stakeholders can be properly focused;
* Provide information on the status of the demarcation of constituency boundaries and inclusion of registrants in each of these constituencies for each NDC and Municipality immediately; and
* Provide their explicit Time bound Plan for holding Local Government Elections.
“The GECOM must declare to the public and the political parties whether its intention to enter a Claims and Objection Period is aimed at preparing a list for Local Government or General and Regional elections,” the party said.

The ruling party made it clear that the “agitated public pronouncement” made by the Chairman of the GECOM in response to the PPP and the Commissioners concerns expressed time and again over the demarcation of boundaries and the compilation of constituency lists is disturbing.
It said, “The GECOM knows that it has not completed constituency lists in 21 of the 65 NDCs; and consequently it would not be able to produce an accurate and complete PVL for the next Local Government Elections if the date were announced by the subject Minister today.
“To state that GECOM has six months to do this is absurd, as within that period, a Preliminary Voters List (PVL) has to be published and time lines given for claims and objections and submissions of candidate lists, etc.
“We wish to call on the GECOM to publicly state whether the Commission has completed placing all registrants thus far in each of the 580 plus Constituencies in the 65 NDCs and 106 Constituencies for the 6 Municipalities. This is the point that the Commissioners stated was not the case to the media on July 12th, 2014.
“Further, the Commission Members, nominated by the PPP on GECOM, are fully aware that the major starting block in preparation for Local Government Elections is the Claims and Objection Process; and to “kick start such a process,” GECOM must have a Preliminary Voters’ List for each Constituency; sad to say the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) is available for some constituencies and not for others, and there is no indication that the outstanding lists will be available anytime soon. Hence, the concern about the disenfranchisement of voters.”

To this end, the party stated its call for more ground work to address the placement of persons on their respective constituency lists.
The party said, “The PPP demands that more ground work and physical placement of persons onto their respective constituency lists be done now, with the involvement of all major political stakeholders in order to expedite and to ensure that when a PVL is made public, it will include all registered voters in their correct constituency.”
The PPP noted its satisfaction with GECOM’s acknowledgement of receiving “adequate budgetary allocations” every year.
It said, “The PPP is certain that allocations have been provided for Public Relations (PR) and voters’ education. However, the PPP and we are certain we are not the only ones who have noticed how insignificant has been the PR and voters education so far on what would be a completely new hybrid local government electoral system.”
GECOM, in accordance with the constitutional provisions and statutes, has the responsibility to administer elections and educate the public on the new Local Government Electoral System – a fact underscored by the party.
The PPP said, “Even the political parties and their membership will need to be educated on the new system and how to put up candidates on either proportional representational list and or first past the post or constituency lists. This is a completely different system than those for general and regional election.
“The Chairman is fully aware that there are critical vacancies existing at the GECOM that should be filled immediately by qualified and experienced persons through a transparent recruitment process.”
The party stated too that the assurance of the GECOM that its Information Technology (IT) department is functioning well and new entries were recently entered into its national database is surprising.
“The PPP wishes to let all Guyanese know that this department is without a head, hence, we question the integrity of this process.”

The party said also that it has not deviated from its historical position on the right of every Guyanese aged 18 years and over to vote.
The PPP said, “The party’s track record is indisputable in the fight for free and fair elections from the 1960s to the present; we do not wish to see a re-occurrence of incomplete or flawed lists which would lead to the disenfranchisement of voters.
“The PPP wishes to remind the Chairman of GECOM and the public that it was the PPP who fought for the extension of the claims and objections period in 2011, where 7000 voters were able to make claims and be added to the voters’ lists.
“The Opposition was not supportive of this move. However, if the extension had not been called for and implemented, 7000 voters, mostly in the interior, who were awaiting their birth certificates, would have been disenfranchised.”
The party noted too that it was the PPP that approached GECOM during the sixth cycle of continuous registration to send mobile units into severely affected areas on convenient days and at convenient times to residents to assist with transfers.
“This was partially supported by GECOM. However, as the June 21st deadline was approaching, much was and still is left to be done,” the PPP said.
According to the ruling party, the positions advocated by the party to ensure no Guyanese in disenfranchised is clearly recorded.
The PPP said, “We wish to remind the public that this is the first in six cycles of registration since the 2011 elections that allowed persons to make transfers (change of address).
“The registration of persons is critical to any election, but more so, in preparations for local government elections, as the persons do not only need to be on the voters list, but they need to be in the correct Municipality and or NDC list, and further they must be in the correct constituency list in order to be eligible to vote and to be able to stand as candidates in the elections.
“We clearly reiterate our position that over 8,000 persons are yet to be transferred. This will lead to disenfranchisement of these persons under the new electoral system which will be introduced and used when next Local Government Elections are held.
“The conventional approach adopted by GECOM during the 6th Cycle of Continuous Registration, as pointed out by the Chairman, may have been adequate 10 years ago; but with the several new housing schemes and changing economic and social life style of our people under the PPP/C administration, we beg to differ.”

The PPP pointed out that the issue of readiness is further complicated as there are 30,000 persons who have registered and are on the National Registration Register, but have not been placed in a constituency in the relevant Municipality or NDC where they reside.
The party said, “The PPP, as a result, wrote the Chairman of the GECOM requesting an extension to the sixth cycle of registration period to allow for those who have not transferred as yet to do so. However, GECOM denied the request.
“The PPP finds it curious that there was utter silence from the Opposition political parties and other stakeholders when the request was made, publicised and denied. Our curiosity is further heightened when the only response from the Opposition came from the APNU Chief Whip when the Commissioners dared to expose some of their concerns.
“The PPP is forced to wonder why the Opposition is not concerned by the public statement of the Commissioners as it may affect some of their supporters. If not, then the PPP’s concerns appear to be well founded.”
The party expressed regret over the fact that the Chair of GECOM appears to not be interested in addressing the concerns raised and ensuring that there are no impediments to free and fair elections.
It said, “His own retort to the Commissioners and the PPP excluded any reference to registrants not being placed on constituency lists. This may not be necessary in general and regional elections, but for local government elections it is absolutely crucial, otherwise political parties’ candidates and constituency candidates will find that they are not eligible to be made candidates under the Local Government Elections (Amendment Act 2009) and thousands of voters may also be disenfranchised.”
The PPP was emphatic in stressing that it will not be intimidated with regard to the sanctity of the electoral process— from registration to the final announcement —-as it has fought too hard and long to restore the right to vote at free and fair elections to stop now.

On strong Guyanese women and Priya’s denouement of Brent Hardt

SOCIETAL psyche has been conditioned to celebrate male machismo that is mainly physical-based, with scant consideration, and even scantier applause, for the merits of all the ways women supersede male strengths and achievements; and even today, when an era is emerging where women are striding heights unimaginable in yesteryears, that challenge men in practically every arena where it has been pre-dispositioned to male dominance to emerge with even superior achievements, because women are pushing the boundaries and establishing capabilities and capacities where the male animal has not even aspired to.In Guyana, this synergy was precipitated by a forward-thinking man whose recognition that one human being has the same pre-condition to excellence in achievement as another – notwithstanding class, religion, gender; or any other societal barrier preceded his struggles for human rights, social equity, and the upholding of all that enhances human dignity; and he even took that struggle to the international community of nations.
Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Liberator of Guyana, Father of the Nation, and the Mahatma of the Western Hemisphere, was a man out of his times and thinking; and he refused to bow to the prevailing concepts of his era that women are lesser creatures – such a consideration was not even on his radar; hence he always strode into every fray with his wife Janet firmly by his side, even recognising the advantages of her advancing before him in some instances – such as with the establishment of the women’s arm of his political movement and socio-political struggles – first the WPEO, then the WPO, a cadre that was the wind beneath the wings of many victories against oppressive forces in this land all Guyanese call home.
Within the political landscape, because women often took centre-stage in many areas of struggle in the first-established PPP through the dynamics inculcated through Dr. Jagan’s recognition that women were a strength rather than a weakness in any socio-political demographic, when LFS Burnham forced a split in the PPP he took with him women who had been forged into tensile steel through the fires of political struggle; and thus first the Burnham faction of the PPP, which later morphed into the PNC, emerged with a women’s arm almost as strong as the WPO – the WRSM: Women who were no less dynamic and goals-oriented – albeit the goals were in different directions, than WPO members, such as Viola Burnham, and of recent times the late Deborah Backer, Faith Handing, Clarissa Rhiel, and Vanessa Kissoon, among others.
But while the leadership of the PPP continues to celebrate, motivate and equate strong women, the Opposition collective continually denigrates and degrades women standing firm in their resolve and refusing to compromise on their convictions, their integrity and their principles – especially in the execution of their respective mandates; regardless of societal misconceptions of rights and wrongs, of diplomacy that borders on hypocrisy, of acceptance of foreign invasion and violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Guyana, of transgressions – repeated endlessly despite advocacies and advisories that diplomatic envoys were transgressing against the hospitality of this host country and violating diplomatic norms and conventions, even to the point of breaking international laws and requisite behavioural patterns, of rejecting sycophancy to an offending and offensive envoy of a very powerful nation; and also of confronting pertinent issues that relegate female members of a particular Opposition party to mere ‘squaws’ instead of giving them their rightful positions of respect and equity as merits their contributions and commitment to their Party’s cause, such as the treatment meted out to PNC stalwarts like Faith Harding and Vanessa Kissoon, and former AFC member Gowmattie Singh.
It is to be hoped that Vanessa Kissoon can rally her leadership skills and engage her community into productive endeavours, like Faith Harding has done to demonstrate what the male supremacists in their party never learnt – that leadership is about caring and developing ways to enhance lives rather than self-aggrandizement and the mere pursuit of power for power’s sake.
The joint Opposition, with leverage provided by opposition media, especially the Kaieteur News, has intermittently vengefully pursued several women with their normal vitriolic invectives and pejoratives – in both the PPP and PNC ranks, who have refused to bend their knees to the male machismo of Opposition leaders and supporters, with most recent victims being Acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba – endlessly vilified in the most despicable ways by Hamilton Green and his cohorts; PNC Parliamentarian Vanessa Kissoon, assaulted and degraded by her party’s leadership; and Education Minister Priya Manickchand.
The latter, in the spirit of militancy in defence of the sovereignty of Guyana, bearded the foreign snake in his cave and, with a precise, clearly defined but uncompromising address, presented with great style and elan, wrote finis to an episode of great disgrace to the representative of a guest nation hosted on Guyana’s soil, who has violated the hospitality of this country at so many levels and in such diverse ways that he has forever blackened himself and reputation in the annals of Guyana’s history of hosting foreign envoys since Guyana won independence from the British colonisers.
His violation of Guyana’s territorial integrity continued on the eve of his departure from this land when he again crossed all diplomatic boundaries, taking advantage of his captive audience at a function organised by his embassy in celebration of a USA landmark in its history, to again interfere in this country’s internal affairs by casting aspersions on this country’s Government and people in extremely undiplomatic and derogatory language, reflecting his lack of diplomacy and his disrespect for a sovereign state to which he is a guest.
This was merely one of his multiplicity of transgressions against this sovereign state, listed among them being disrespectful to our Head-of-State; insulting Ministers of Government, and even encouraging anarchy and civil war in a country where he was welcomed three years ago. Of course this merited a fitting response from this sovereign state of the Republic of Guyana, which the Government of Guyana, through the medium of Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Priya Manickchand, delivered in fine style in denouement of the Machiavellian anti-Government/pro-opposition plots, programmes and strategies devised, supported, implemented and encouraged by U.S. Ambassador Brent Hardt.
The entire Guyana should have been proud of Minister Priya Manickchand for her grace and courage under fire as she delivered the coup de grace on Brent Hardt.
However, instead of well-deserved plaudits for forthrightly condemning someone who used his diplomatic immunity to repeatedly violate the hospitality of Guyana, those who had enjoyed the largesse of the unrepentant Hardt exhibited the proverbial ‘fish market’ syndrome by attempting to drown the voice of Minister Priya Manickchand, with Nigel Hughes even refusing to allow her the use of a microphone.
But ‘leader’ of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan, conscious of Opposition’s need for US funding, with his remarks denouncing Manickchand’s action – especially with his reference to ‘Sitira gyal’, with all the implications and inference of prostitute-like behaviour inherent in his language and rhetoric, has encapsulated all the Opposition’s concept of the place a woman should hold in the socio-economic framework of a country, despite its public shows to encourage female voters by giving token positions to a few females within their ranks.
However, they should emulate the example of the PPP which, guided by the principles of its founding father, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, empowers women to challenge and breach hitherto socio-political parameters, very much in the spirit of Cheddi and Janet Jagan’s freedom struggles.
Ironically, in emulating Janet Jagan by using strong language in defence of this nation, Priya Manickchand is a product of the USA concept of democracy; so Hardt’s undemocratic ‘democracy’ projects and rantings had formidable opposition – emerging out of USA spirit of struggles against oppressive forces, to which Hardt himself alluded.
The only problem is our freedom has already been won – by the PPP and Dr. Cheddi in October of 1992; so his ‘democracy’ project and his advocacy for civil war is unnecessary; because our democracy was won through democratic processes by a leader who always refused to succumb to adjurations to take this country and people via a route of violence to the ultimate goal of peace, progress and prosperity in a united nation – a concept to which Opposition elements remain strangers.
Because there has never been and will never be any need for physical confrontations when the PPP boasts such weapons as brilliant minds, patriotic dispositions and razor-sharp intelligence and tongues of a Priya Manickchand.

Education Minister visits Berbice as consultations on $10,000 grant continues

Minister Priya Manickchand addresses students and parents in Region 6

EDUCATION Minister Priya Manickchand, accompanied by Georgetown and regional education officers, visited East Berbice (Region Six) on Friday, July 11, to continue consultations with parents and guardians on Government’s new initiative to give each school-age child a grant of $10,000.

The Minister and her entourage were warmly received by Region Six residents, who braved the rains to fill every meeting place in large numbers; and she held engagements with parents in 122 schools in several meetings on

Education Minister Priya Manickchand is mobbed by parents in Berbice

how the Education Ministry can best provide the grant to the children.
Minister Manickchand asked parents to indicate by the show of hands whether they preferred encashing a voucher or purchasing goods from accredited stores with the vouchers; and the almost unanimous choice was being able to encash the vouchers.

The parents/guardians were also asked to indicate the financial service of choice they would prefer to use in encashing the vouchers; and responses ranged from the Guyana Post Office Corporation to Western Union, to various commercial banks, to Mobile Money Ltd.

The Minister encouraged parents/guardians to alert her on issues that were of concern to them, whether or not those issues were education-related; and parents/guardians expressed concerns about businesses that were taking advantage of them by increasing prices on school items when they use the uniform vouchers to purchase items for their children.

Parents and students listen to Minister Manickchand

The parents were very angry that when the voucher programme is not on, prices for school items would cost much less, but as soon as the ministry announces start of the voucher programme, stores raise their prices. Parents expressed that they would normally be able to get many more items if they paid cash than when they purchase with the vouchers. They said they felt robbed. One woman at Tagore Memorial Secondary School said, “These stores unreasonable. The government trying to help the people and the store gouging out them eye”.
Minister Manickchand said that if this report is true, she is very disappointed with the stores. She assured the parents/guardians that if the ministry finds any store that has raised its prices for parents shopping with the government-issued vouchers, the Ministry would deal condignly with that individual business.

The Minister said that, on the other hand, she knew of some stores that would actually give special tokens to parents shopping with the vouchers. She publicly called on storeowners to have a conscience, and explained to the parents that they have the power to make the stores offer competitive prices.

Parents also expressed their views on automatic promotion, and made recommendation on how children should be promoted.

Minister Manickchand addressed a range of other issues raised by parents/guardians in the county, and committed to bringing to the attention of the various Ministers the matters that were raised.





Security Oversight Committee will meet before August

Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman

– Speaker Trotman

THE Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the security sector, whose establishment was approved by the National Assembly since 2010, is still to meet.Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Raphael Trotman, is tasked with convening a meeting of the Oversight Committee and in an invited comment he noted that this will be done before the House goes into recess in August.
“The truth is I did convene a meeting some months ago and there was a request to adjourn it. I am going to bring it back, but because of all that is happening, I will try to do it before we go into recess,” he told the Guyana Chronicle.
The Government’s Chief Whip, Ms. Gail Teixeira, when asked to comment on the issue, explained that as far as she is aware no meeting has been held.
“As far as I know that meeting has not been convened, the Committee has not met. It may have been postponed before it was convened. It may have been that a notice to convene the meeting was sent out and it was postponed before the meeting was convened, that could be what possibly happened, but as far as I am aware there has been no meeting,” she explained.
Teixeira added that the Government did not request any adjournment of such a meeting, given its importance and the fact that a first meeting is long overdue.
“We did not request an adjournment. If it was convened and a request for a postponement was made, it was not a request that was made by us,” she said.
The Chief Whip stated too that once the Committee’s meeting is convened the first task will be the selection of the Chair, who has to be a Government Member of Parliament.
“At the Committee of Selection, the names were put forward, the Government put its names and the Opposition put its names and the Committee was appointed. The Committee has to be convened to elect a Chair and the Chair has to be a Government person,” Teixeira said.
The contention of several Government Members of Parliament (MPs) is that the Opposition is avoiding a meeting because the Chair has to be a Government MP.
Last month, the ruling party rapped the main Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), for skirting around a meeting of the Committee and raising security-related issues as motions in the National Assembly rather than have them brought before the Committee.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), in a statement, said, “The Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Security Sector would provide the best mechanism for the resolution of security-related issues. Our Party is not unmindful of the Opposition’s frequent utterances on the importance of Parliamentary Committees to deal with issues that impact our society.
“The Opposition’s reluctance for the establishment of a Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Security Sector is mind boggling. The PPP believes that partisan self-interest is the bedrock of the APNU’s unwillingness to activate the oversight committee.”
Since the commencement of the 10th Parliament, the combined Opposition has tabled numerous questions on the security sector and moved a few motions demanding the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) to investigate alleged breaches in the sector.
Additionally, former Attorney-General (AG) Doodnauth Singh in 2009 tabled the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2009 in the National Assembly.
The Bill was intended to amend the Constitution by inserting a new Article 119 D, providing for a Standing Committee called the ‘Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Security Sector’, which would have responsibility for the policies and administration of the country’s disciplined forces.
The move was in keeping with an agreement made by National Stakeholders during security consultations in March last year. The original recommendation was made by a Special Select Committee reviewing the report of the Disciplined Forces Commission. The issue had also been the subject of discussion at the level of the Parliamentary Management Committee.
There are currently four sectoral committees responsible for economic services, social services, natural resources and foreign relations.

(By Vanessa Narine )


Education Minister engages former students of President’s College on way forward for the school

Education Minister Priya Manickchand stresses a point during Saturday’s consultation on concerns regarding the state of President’s College

THE President’s College (PC) should be an institution reserved for the best performers at the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) examination, which determines the placement of students at secondary schools.

Entry to the PC should be restricted to 120 students of the top three per cent of NGSA performers, with allowance being made for one top student from Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine. And if the 120 students do not want to take up the places offered, as has been the case in many years, and only, for example, 20 students accept their placing, then the school should still be run to cater for those 20 students.

An old student raises a concern at the consultation

Those were quintessentially the contentions that attracted a robust five-hour exchange between Education Minister Priya Manickchand and a stakeholder group of approximately 20 former PC students on Saturday during a meeting hosted by the Education Minister at the National Centre for Educational Research and Development (NCERD) to hone in on schools’ admission policy.

The recommendations have since raised some level of concern with the Minister, who pointed out that the subvention to PC, where students live in, is presently $180M per year, and it may not be economically prudent to spend that amount of money on 20 students, instead of 120 students per year.

The former students were, however, adamant that the school should be reserved only for the top performers, irrespective of whether the number of children who accept the offer is small.

The Education Minister committed to addressing this recommendation, but made it clear that any change from the current admissions policy would require wide consultations with the parents, students and communities which will be adversely affected.

“If the request here now is to consider rebirthing the admission of only the top two per cent, I cannot do that without talking to the parents and students who are benefiting now. I have a constitutional responsibility to consult with the people who are going to be affected,” she said.

An interesting question that was asked during the consultation was: “Why change the current admissions policy when it benefits a wider cross section of students? This wide cross section of students, for example a student from Mabaruma, would not have had an opportunity to attend a very well-equipped school like PC, because the reality is that Government does not have all the money to equip all the schools with everything they need. Still, these students, once given a chance, do well. So why change what is working for the sake of having another elitist school?”

The premise of the question was rejected, and the old students who recommended a change were adamant that PC needs to be an institution reserved for the best performers.

The current admissions policy at PC is that all admissions would be done according to marks obtained, places available, cut off scores, and places of residence. All applicants would be ranked for selection according to score, and this year’s cut off score was 491.

According to the policy, a number of resident places would be identified for students of Regions One (Barima/Waini), Seven (Cuyuni/ Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo).

Available resident places are advertised for students of Regions Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Five (Mahaica/Berbice), Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) and 10 (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice), and the Linden/Soesdyke Highway. Non-residential students from Cummings Lodge to Mahaica would also be allocated places at President’s College.

The old students also called for a review of this policy to allow students from Cummings Lodge to Mahaica to have the option of residency.

Chief Education Officer Mr. Olato Sam, who was part of the panel fielding questions from the stakeholder group, explained that the current policy was put in place during 2009 after the number of students opting to attend PC began to drastically decline.

“We were not able to fill the school with the traditional numbers…the lowest number we had in the lead up to 2009 was 49, when the capacity is 120 in the first year admissions. What we were faced with was a decision on how to fill the school,” he said.

According to him, discussions on viable placement policy led to two scenarios: * One, extend the admissions to the best performing students in all the regions, in addition to the top two per cent; or * Two, have both residential and non-residential students attending, which would both ensure that the 120 first year admissions quota would be met and give an opportunity to students who would not have such an opportunity by setting an applicable benchmark, since the top three per cent were being awarded places at well-equipped schools like Queen’s College (QC) and the Bishops’ High School (BHS) anyway.

Sam said the latter option was decided on.

Several of the old students contended that the reasons for the reduction in the number of students willing to attend PC included infrastructure problems, shortages of teaching staff, and the reduction of the wide range of programmes that were previously offered.

The Minister accepted that the programmes offered then, such as horseback riding, are not being offered now, but she said that the investments in the school have not only continued, but have significantly increased.

She, however, conceded that there appeared to have been some internal management problems with the school.

On the question of shortages of teachers, she noted that all schools, from time to time, have to deal with this challenge; and she made it a point to say that the current ratio of trained teachers to students is one to 35, which is the ideal ratio. She was clear that there are no remarkable shortages at the school.

Relative to the programme content, the Minister acknowledged that there has been some loss, but she was confident that all is not lost; and she pointed out that the nine-month-old Board of Governors was working on restoring this.

She rejected the assertion that infrastructure problems, shortages of teaching staff, and programme content in the school were the sole reasons why students were not taking up the offer to attend PC.

“It was never a question of there being a lack of Government commitment,” the Minister stressed.

Manickchand also pointed out that Guyana’s realities of 2014 have changed from those of 1985, and she said that some of these new realities may have affected parents’ decisions not to send their children to the school.

She said that, in the last few years, a number of top performing students were given the option to attend PC, but decided to attend schools within their own regions.

“This speaks to the investment we have been making across the board. We have developed our schools in regions, and have resourced those schools with facilities, equipment, and trained staff; and children are choosing to stay at schools in their own areas… So it is not one thing,” she said.

She gave the example of the top students for the Caribbean region in 2012 and 2013, who both stayed at schools in Essequibo (Abram Zuil and Anna Regina respectively) instead of taking up places offered to them at the Georgetown schools.

Other issues that came up for discussion were (a): The accomplishments of the Board of Governors since its appointment, which was listed and lauded
(b) Efficient internal management and (c) The opportunity for the PC old students to play a greater role in bolstering the state of the institution.

By the end of the session, and following an appeal by Minister Manickchand for “preconceived notions” to be dispelled, the stakeholder group agreed to the following:
1. That the Minister of Education would review and consult on the recommendation for a review of the admissions policy

2. The Minister of Education would review the policy that non-residential students from Cummings Lodge to Mahaica would also be offered residential places at President’s College, to allow students in this catchment the option of residency

3. That the Minister of Education would publicly announce PC as a national school, as are QC, BHS, St. Stanislaus, St Roses High and St. Joseph High

4. That the Ministry of Education would ensure clearer communication of its policies and decisions

5. That old students of PC can attend the weekly meeting of the Board of Governors with PC teachers, every Thursday at 1.15pm

6. That greater steps would be taken to make PC self-sufficient

7. That the old students would organise themselves in a more efficient manner, as the Government of Guyana would support an old students association that is looking at supporting the school; and

8. That there needs to be a clear definition of where the school should go, academically and in other regards.

Considering the fact that tangible takeaways were agreed on, the Education Minister called for the engagement in the interest of improving PC be a two-sided one.
Manickchand said, “It is easy to say you are interested, but harder to put your money and time where your mouth is. I cannot keep engaging if you are falling down on your job.

“Discussions are great, but you have to properly send criticisms my way, and you have to do more than be critical if you are interested in contributing to PC.

“From the last meeting to now, the old students have not done the things they said they were going to do, and I believe one of the important things that needs to be done is to ensure there is an organised old students association.”

The Minister pointed out that she had deliberately appointed a number of old students to the board, and was very disappointed to see that their attendance rate at board meetings was so low.

(By Vanessa Narine)


Gov’t committed to exploring avenues to protect rice industry

President Donald Ramotar addressing Region 2 rice farmers.

- President Ramotar tells Essequibo farmers

PRESIDENT Donald Ramotar, accompanied by Agriculture Ministers, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and Ally Baksh, and officials from the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) yesterday met with rice farmers at Golden Fleece and Hampton Court on the Essequibo Coast.Last week a number of rice farmers led by an Alliance For Change (AFC) Councillor took to the streets in an unlawful demonstration, burning tyres, blocking roadways and assaulting police officers over delayed payments for paddy by millers. A number of them were taken into custody and later placed on bail.

From left, RPA General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj, President Donald Ramotar, Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture Ally Baksh and Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.

The Head of State emphasised the importance of the rice industry, not only to individual farmers, but to the country’s economic development as a whole. He explained that the Government has been working over the years to diversify the economic base of the economy so as not to be solely dependent on a few traditional industries.
He noted that even though the sugar industry has been facing quite a lot of struggles, the country’s economy has remained strong, and the rice sector has made significant contributions to this.
The President spoke of the support that his Party has given to rice farmers over the years, and took the gathering back to 1964 when the PPP lost the general elections to the PNC. He reminded that some of the first people who faced victimisation were rice farmers. In 1965, the then PNC regime reduced the price to farmers and when they attempted to protest in front of the Parliament, police dogs were released on them.
“The best friend that this industry has ever had has been the People’s Progressive Party in Government…the industry was on its knees when we got in government in 1992, the production was just about 90,000 tonnes of rice,” President Ramotar reminded.

Rice farmers and millers at the meeting in Region 2

As a result of massive investments in drainage and irrigation, opening up of lands, and subsidised prices for fertilizer, farm to market roads, new rice, among other interventions, the rice industry continues to record strong production. Even under the most testing of conditions, it recorded a production of over 400,000 tonnes for the first crop in 2014.
However, new challenges have arisen in the form of locating new markets, higher prices, and finding new ways to make the industry more productive and competitive. In this regard, the Government has dispatched a team of Indian scientists to visit the various mills across the country to determine how energy can be used more efficiently and to expand the industry by using by-products of rice.
The Government is also looking at other forms of marketing that will be competitive for farmers.
With regard to Guyana’s rice deal with neighbouring Venezuela, President Ramotar said, “We do not know what is going to happen in Venezuela, the political situation there is not very good…we have to think beyond that to protect the industry.”
He added that even if Guyana continues to hold the Venezuelan market, the percentage of rice being sold there will continue to fall as production continues to increase. In light of all of this, the President assured that his Government is committed to exploring avenues to ensure that the industry is protected.
Meanwhile, Minister Ramsammy explained that Guyana is a small country; it cannot consume all the rice it produces.
“We consume totally industrially and for food approximately 120,000 tonnes…it means that we have to export close to 500,000 tonnes. In 2006, we were only exporting about 200,000 tonnes. Last year, we exported 394,000 tonnes. As we are speaking right now, we have increased the export by 25 percent…by the end of the year between 475,000 and 500,000 tonnes would have been exported,” the Minister said.
More rice has been exported to traditional markets such as Jamaica and Europe, and new markets have been added as well, such as Haiti and Panama, which have been buying increasing amounts of rice. The Government is also in the process of negotiating with markets in Central America and Africa.
Only last week, an invitation was received to send a team to Africa to negotiate terms for them to purchase rice from Guyana.
On the issue of millers’ failure to pay farmers in a timely manner, the Minister recalled that earlier this year, President Ramotar immediately ordered funds to be released to pay farmers who were owed about $300M from the previous year (almost $200M of that amount were for farmers on the Essequibo Coast).
To date, the Government has only collected a small amount of this money that was released.
“Instead of the farmers being owed, we are now owed that amount of money. That is the kind of support we gave. In the last several months, we have released further amounts…our position is that rice farmers must be paid fully and on time,” Minister Ramsammy stated.
General Secretary of the RPA, Dharamkumar Seeraj, in his remarks said that the rice industry benefitted from very good prices at the beginning of the rice deal that is a part of the Petrocaribe arrangement. As a result, farmers took it upon themselves to invest in more acreage, so much so that the acreage cultivated per season moved from 175,000 acres to 226,000 acres, some outside of drainage and irrigation areas.
This year, there was an increase in production plus carry-over stock and only a 200,000 – tonne market to Venezuela. This led to serious implications such as delayed payments, which affected farmers throughout the country.
“We wanted more from Venezuela, both in terms of quantity, as well as duration, but we are taking these issues into consideration before going ahead with plans to rent additional rice lands at high prices and expanding cultivation.
Almost $20B has already been paid to farmers across the country. Recently, some $400M was paid out to rice farmers in Region 2.




Orphanage proprietor refutes claims that young boys sodomised

FOLLOWING allegations that a former teen resident of the Berbice Anjuman Orphanage in Philadelphia Street, New Amsterdam had been sodomized, five minors have been taken into protective custody after it was alleged that they had also been sexually violated.

The boys, aged between ten and six, were allegedly forced to perform oral sex on one of their caregivers at the orphanage; and the man accused of committing the dastardly act on the minors has since been placed on $100,000 station bail, after he had been detained by police for several days.

An investigation has since been launched into the reports, and the file containing the alleged victims’ statements has been forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution for perusal.

In the meanwhile, owner of the orphanage, Mr. Abu Bakkar Mandal, has refuted ‘allegations’ peddled in some sections of the media that a child had been sodomized at the orphanage.

The Canadian citizen has also claimed to be unaware of the reasons why officials from the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) took custody of the five boys, who are all under ten years old.
Mandal invited sections of the print media at the Orphanage in order to ‘clear the air’, after the June 5 edition of the Kaieteur News had published the article under the caption, “Students flee New Amsterdam Orphanage, claim sexual assault.’

The apparently disturbed Mandal said one of his charges named Akash had raised allegations of being sexually molested, “but that is not true”, he emphasized.

“After (Akash) had left the orphanage, he subsequently returned on May 23, last with a female plainclothes police officer. He was asked to identify where the incident occurred, and he pointed to a spot beside his bed. He was asked at what time the incident occurred, and he responded 7pm. He was asked if he liked it, and he responded no. He was then asked by the officer if Mr. Deen [the Manager] was on his back, and he responded ‘no’.

According to Mandal, the teen claimed to have been asleep during the assault, and confessed to not being violated by the manager.
However, following that confrontation, which was held in the presence of other officials within the orphanage, Mandal said he decided to hold a personal investigation into the matter, and discovered that ‘Akash’ had not been at the institution on the date of the alleged assault.

“Akash was to be the Muezzin who was scheduled to do the Azan (prayer), but he did not, and instead I heard another child saying the prayers, and on inquiring I was told that Akash left the compound and headed in an eastern direction with a red bicycle.

“A few days later, his step father came and reported that someone had beaten Akash. At no time did he say the child was sexually molested.

“On May 27, his mother Surajdai Premraj came and collected a younger sister who was also staying here. When she signed for the children’s release, she did not make any allegation of sexual misconduct. I was very surprised when I saw the article in the Kaieteur News. No one came to investigate; they just took out some pictures and wrote the story.

“I am aware that (there is) a medical report which supports the allegations, but it did not happen here, it happened somewhere else….”
A report from the Vryman’s Erven Secondary School, where the teen is a student, revealed that the teen has behavioural problems. The student has very poor cognitive ability, and cannot cope with classroom teaching.

Additionally, it was noted that the student is always mentally preoccupied and confused during contact sessions, and exhibits qualities of an introvert. He can be violent when provoked.

However, it was recommended that the teen needed to be taught the basic concept using pictures and colours, and should be encouraged to socialize, the report concluded.

Responding to questions posed by this reporter, Mandal said he drove to the Special Needs School in New Amsterdam on May 28, accompanied by the secretary. He said he drove to where he had intended to uplift two students of that institution, but after some delay, he was informed by a teacher that officials from the welfare department had taken them into custody.

“No one had informed the Orphanage. We subsequently made searches, but came up empty-handed. I then left to pick up students from the St Aloysius Primary School. During this period I received a call on my mobile phone, informing me to visit the Office of the Child Care and Protection Agency in New Amsterdam. On visiting, I was told that three additional children are in protective care.

‘I was then told why the children were in protective custody. I was told that ‘Akash’ made some allegations against the manager’.

“Nevertheless, despite the allegations, I and my manager are willing to submit ourselves to an polygraph test to prove our innocence’, he concluded.

A source close to the investigation informed this reporter that the police file is currently gaining the attention of the Director of Public Prosecution .
However, the source denied that the alleged victim was questioned in the presence of the staff of the orphanage. Instead, the teen was asked to identify the area where he was sexually violated, and ‘he pointed to the second bed’ the source emphasized’.

Currently the alleged perpetrator is on $100,000 station bail, after being detained for seventy-two hours

In addition, this newspaper was reliably informed that the five boys who were taken from two schools within the New Amsterdam environs were confirmed to have been sexually violated.

The under-aged boys reported that the named manager forced them to have oral sex with him. The alleged victims have since been taken into protective custody and are currently out of the jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, a senior official from one of the schools observed that her charges were “once happy and extraverted children, but since the alleged incident, one has become withdrawn’

(By Jeune Bailey-Vankeric)

‘Put some wheels on your heels’

Senior Superintendent Stephen Mansell flanked by Superintendent Seseupaul Jhagroo and Assistant Superintendent Guy Nurse at the community meeting at Plegt Anker, some eighteen miles from New Amsterdam

–Deputy Police Commander tells Berbice women in abusive relationships

IN an effort to foster good relations with residents of rural and depressed communities, the ‘B’ Division police continue to reach out to the village folks by meeting and listening to their concerns and implementing programmes that will benefit them.
On Tuesday, Deputy Commander and Senior Superintendent Stephen Mansell led a team of officers, including the officer-in-charge of the No. One sub-division, Assistant Superintendent Guy Nurse, and Superintendent of Court Seseupaul Jhagroo, to the village of Plegt Anker which is located some eighteen miles from New Amsterdam, to hold discussions with residents of that community.In delivering opening remarks at the Plegt Anker

At the community meeting at the Plegt Anker School

school, Mr. Mansell stated that the ‘B’ Division Police administration is exploring means that will better the lives of those who are ‘beyond reach’ and address their concerns to create room for trust and intelligence gathering.
He urged them to be vociferous against crimes such as the narcotic trade, the establishment of illegal liquor shops and spousal abuse, which is an issue of grave national concern.
The Deputy Commander urged the womenfolk and the neighbourhood in general not to condone any act of domestic violence. He reminded them that it is their duty to be ‘watch dogs’ of their community and report all forms of spousal transgressions so that the police can take action.

While recounting a number of cases where domestic violence led to the death of women, Mansell said that perpetrators need help so as to curtail their violent tendencies and their actions must be reported, so that the relevant steps can be taken to assist them or deter such practices.
“Domestic violence is as big as a gun crime because one slap or punch can initiate murder. I say to those women who live in denial and often defend their abusive spouses…. you or your family will be sorry in the future,” he cautioned.
The Deputy Commander then explained that once incidents of domestic violence are not reported to the police, there is a likelihood of a recurrence. He added: “There is a cycle which domestic violence takes, the first stage of that cycle is the ‘honeymoon’ stage where the perpetrator ‘sweet talks’ the woman to calm her down after abusing her; then sometime after there is tension again where the violent behaviour is manifested; and finally there will be the grand explosion,” he informed.

The Senior Superintendent pointed out that many women remain in abusive relationships because they have children to maintain and a need for financial resources and probably low self-esteem.
“Women, do not stay in abusive relationships! Put wheels on your heels and run! Lift your self-esteem, and engage yourself meaningfully and become independent!” he implored.
Assistant Superintendent Nurse also echoed the remarks made by his superior and reminded the gathering about the effects of domestic violence.
“It is a very serious issue that leads to a breakdown in communities and it has rippling effects where children often take an example from the perpetrators, which may not only be physical but also verbal,” he stated.
In the absence of the national police and a Community Policing Group (CPG) in the upper East Bank of Berbice district, the ‘B’ Division senior officers proposed the establishment of a group that will create a network with the Sisters Village Police Station (also on the East Bank) where ranks there will relate to the Divisional Headquarters in New Amsterdam, since domestic violence is becoming prevalent in that part of the country.

Last Thursday, 15-year-old student Tamesha La Toya Adams was knifed to death in Sisters Village by her spurned lover who later committed suicide. The ‘B’ Division police want to put and end to this ill practice through community support.

(By Michael Khan)


Health Minister welcomes 11th Chinese Medical Brigade

The outgoing 10th Brigade

honours departing Tenth Brigade

THE 16-member 11th Chinese Medical Brigade, consisting of Orthopaedic specialists, Plastic and Burn Surgeons, General Surgeons, Nephrologists, Ophthalmologists, Gynaecologists and Paediatricians, among other vital medical skills, was warmly welcomed to Guyana by Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran at a reception held at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (Red House) in Kingston, Georgetown on Tuesday evening.

This brigade will perform duties at the Georgetown Public Hospital and at the Linden Hospital Complex, and would be engaged in medical outreaches for two years. Members of the outgoing Tenth Chinese Medical Brigade

Minister Ramsaran presents one of the Chinese doctors with an award

were present at this function, and Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran gave each an award along with a token and a book detailing the history of Guyana.

It was obviously a bitter-sweet moment for this departing brigade. Dr. Ramsaran hailed their hard working nature, and thanked each member for the sterling service they had given to the Government and People of Guyana. He said it regrettably was time to say goodbye, even as he informed them of the gratitude and appreciation of the Ministry of Health and the Government of Guyana for the work they each had done.

Minister Ramsaran making brief remarks at the function

“I urge this new team to not only work hard in the hospital, but also practise outside of the hospital. This is a hallmark of the Chinese medical team, and every time they keep getting better. Guyana is the only country in the Latin America with a Chinese Medical Team, and I hope the eleventh team continues to make the Chinese flag fly high,” Minister Dr Ramsaran said.

“You represent a strong foundation of what South/South cooperation represents. You have brought the new perspective on China. China is making its mark in the Caribbean, your presence here is significant,” Dr. Ramsaran said.

He told the incoming medical team that the Government had constructed living quarters to better accommodate them, even as Guyana

The newly-arrived 11th Chinese Medical Brigade

hopes to see an increase in their numbers.

Also at the event was Director of Medical and Professional Services, Sheik Amir; Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy, Yuying Liu; and GPHC CEO, Michael Khan.

(By Asif Hakim)