Tag Archives: Kaieteur News

Govt. changed evaluating criteria for drug supplies after inviting bids

…was done without informing stakeholders – IPA  

Chief Executive Officer of International Pharmaceutical Agency Guyana Inc (IPA), Lloyd Singh, is alleging that the Ministry of Health changed the criteria for drug supplies after it had already invited companies to apply for a pre-qualification status.
This information is documented in a motion filed by Singh in the High Court, to reverse the decision of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board, which decided that based on the revised criteria, the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) will be the sole prequalified supplier until 2016.

Lloyd Singh, IPA’s CEO

Singh in his petition to the court noted that on 26th November last, the Ministry of Health advertised in the Guyana Chronicle, invitation for companies to submit tenders to be prequalified for the supply and delivery of pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies and consumables for the period 2014 to 2016.
According to Singh, the purported revised evaluation criteria appeared for the first time among the bidding documents some time after the advertisement was published.
He said that the renewed criteria introduced for the first time a new system of evaluation criteria with a point system and some mandatory provisions which, “arbitrarily and dramatically altered the previous evaluation criteria without discussions with the stakeholders and without notice to the applicant (IPA) and other suppliers.”
Under the contentious revised criteria, bidders had to demonstrate a gross annual turnover of US$5M and net assets of US$2.5M.
Another criterion was that maximum score was to be awarded to applicants who would have paid $50M in Corporate taxes, annually.
Additionally, the company that has 50 or more employees, and warehousing capacity of 30,000 square feet in the city, will also gain an edge.
Singh also lamented the fact that despite the invitation being published in November 26, it was not until 20 days later in December that the company was informed of the list of required items to be supplied.
At the time of the announcement of the revised criteria, many stakeholders had been critical of the Ministry saying that they were tailored to suit the New GPC.
New GPC is owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop who happens to be the best friend of former President, Bharrat Jagdeo.
That company has been supplying the bulk of the drugs to Government for the past 15 years, ever since it was acquired by Ramroop in 1999.
Leader of the Political Opposition, Brigadier (Rtd) David Granger, is on record castigating the decision by the Ministry, saying it created a situation where rivals of New GPC would not be able to meet the criteria.

New GPC’s Dr Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop

Granger said that what the Ministry has done is to devise tailor-made criteria which are meant to negate other competitors so that New GPC will be used as the sole supplier of drugs.
In July last, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, announced that the Tender Board found New GPC to be the only of the seven companies, which had applied, to have met all of the criteria.
Ansa Mcal was the first of the other companies to publicly lament the decision in favour of New GPC saying evaluators did not even visit its facilities.
With billions of taxpayers’ dollars at stake, independent suppliers and the Opposition have time and again been accusing Government of favouring New GPC, a company whose principal, Bobby Ramroop, shares close ties with former President Jagdeo.
The company has been benefiting from billions of taxpayers’ dollars annually, controlling supplies of up to 80 per cent of the drugs purchased by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the Ministry of Health.
New GPC has been a feature in the Auditor General’s report over the years with several instances focused on multi-million-dollar deficiencies in the procurement and supply of drugs to Government. The purchase of drugs this year is expected to surpass US$25M.
The purchases have been a major source of contention between Government and the Opposition for years now because of the seeming close relationship between its main principal and the Administration.

THE RODNEY COI RE-VISITED

If the layperson is confused by the goings on at the Rodney Commission of Inquiry it would be an understandable understatement.  Listening to the behavior of counsel representing the various interests would leave anyone in a state of bewilderment. People are puzzled about whether all parties to this public spectacle really know what respective roles they are expected to play.
On the one hand there are counsels for the Commission; one would have thought that their role would have been to seek clarity on ambiguous and other murky local issues for the benefit of the Commissioners. On another hand there are the counsels for the parties purportedly involved either directly or peripherally in Walter Rodney’s death.
Thirdly there is the perception that among the Commissioners, confusion is multiplied by an adoption of positions that are at variance with their supposedly objective status even before they are required to pronounce on the findings of the Commission of Inquiry. Those few observations are intended to highlight the confusion that beset the Guyanese viewing and listening public.
First off, the Terms Of Reference for the COI, although contentious in significant ways, bring into question the real reason for holding such an inquiry at this time. This is surely cause for speculation especially when the author(s) and cause of that great man’s demise have been arguably identified by conventional wisdom for years.
Some commentators have opined that the governing minority would like to bolster its elections fortunes by holding what is increasingly analogous to an ad hoc affair characterized by sometimes spurious allegations and unsubstantiated personal opinions rather than a serious attempt to arrive at the truth. As a matter of opinion, the Rodney COI runs the very real risk of losing whatever little credibility it has left.
What is apparent also is that counsels seem not to be prepared for the witnesses; no work seems to be done in terms of research of the political and other considerations that have be major philosophical influences on witnesses and other interested parties.
Another mockery of the process is the disorganized appearance of witnesses. It is a matter of fact that an audience will most likely remember evidence in chief as the last word if no opportunity is provided counsel for other interests to examine the testimony presented. Note that no mention is made here of “cross-examination” because the concept surely does not apply in the extant circumstances.
Instead of “cross-examination”, maybe someone could advise counsel that their role is to seek clarification of ambiguities, and to explore other conclusions for a historical act/fact rather than take an adversarial stance in representation of their clients’ interests.
Tacuma Ogunseye puts it rather aptly when he offered a few suggestions to counsel for the PNC on how a witness should be handled as against attempting browbeating tactics. That such an approach has the potential of being similar to shooting oneself in one’s foot is not lost on the more informed among us.  It runs the risk of antagonizing witnesses who for the most part are there to express their version of the truth and cannot be deemed hostile witnesses.
Interestingly, since the start of the COI, there really has been no witness testimony to refute opinions adduced thus far.  Mention was made earlier of listeners remembering evidence in chief particularly if counsel for various interests did not get the opportunity to examine witnesses to elicit another conclusion of what has been accepted as fact.
The point remains that all of us have our own interpretation of what is truth even in the face of undeniable fact. Why certain witnesses have not been recalled so far will forever remain a mystery, although conventional wisdom has it that a particular plan backfired spectacularly, placing credibility in jeopardy.
It is perhaps advisable that Commissioners are not counsel for parties and therefore should avoid any appearance of posing provocative questions, and/or taking antagonistic positions which might indicate a not so subtle alignment with preconceived notions. It might be a good thing if all parties, including the Commissioners re-examine the paraphrased adage that “justice must not only be done, but must also appear to be done” which can serve to erase the confusion that currently exists.

No-Confidence vote a mistake – Dr. Harding

…Opposition parties not ready for elections

By Leon Suseran

The Opposition parties, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) say they are going ahead full steam with a No- Confidence motion against the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government in the National Assembly. The combined opposition has stated that they have no confidence in the manner in which the government has been operating over the past years. If this motion is passed, elections could be just around the corner.

Dr. Faith Harding

But former Government Minister under the People’s National Congress (PNC), educator, women’s rights activist and Psychotherapist, Dr. Faith Harding does not believe a No-Confidence vote would solve anything. Additionally, the former Minister of State and Minister within the Public Service under President Desmond Hoyte, does not believe the opposition is ready for elections. Speaking exclusively to this newspaper recently, Dr. Harding believes that Guyana’s political situation has reached an “unfortunate” state after so many years of Independence.
Confidence or no- confidence?
“This No-Confidence Motion will just disrupt our minds! Yes, if the population of Guyana—I think the PPP got the plurality of votes in a sense, more than the APNU and AFC got, but together they got more in terms of an opposition, but the majority of the people voted for the PPP. So is it the majority that is having the no- confidence, by one seat, in the government’s operation? One needs to examine that.”
“We still don’t know to collaborate and cooperate and work on behalf of our people and the development of the nation,” she stated.
She expressed the view that there seems to be reluctance on both sides of the House to give and to compromise, “to put Guyana first— people seem to have in the forefront of their minds, vindictiveness…I find that very unfortunate. We are in a situation where there is a lack of total trust; there is no trust between the Government and Opposition and I think they need to develop a sense of trust for each other and give it a break—give Guyana a break!”
Dr. Harding is still hoping that rather than something, “disruptive” like the No- Confidence motion that will require President Donald Ramotar to call an election, “that some negotiations can take place— some camaraderie could be built between the opposition and the government.”
Not ready for an election
If such a motion can be avoided, “that would be the best thing for Guyana.” “If not, it means you have to call an election and I don’t think the opposition is ready!”
She said the incumbent will always have a higher level to operate on in terms if financing and public interest.
“I am not yet seeing the kind of work being done by the opposition to tell me they are ready to win an election; that they are ready to collaborate with each other; and that if they do collaborate, the nation will choose them over the current government.”
“There won’t be enough money for the opposition. People don’t support them financially, especially the APNU!”
When asked where the opposition parties, particularly, APNU have fallen down, the veteran mental health practitioner opined that the opposition does not really listen to their people on the ground.
“They don’t know how to use the government agencies to get at helping the people in the villages— helping their supporters. Their supporters would tell you how abandoned they feel. You don’t have to be in government to help your people, or to raise the level of performance in the economy!”
Advice for the Opposition
She stated that the opposition has fallen down in appreciating Guyana, and in bringing the wrong things that the government does to a position of, ‘this is how I would do it and this is what needs to be done’.” “No, they will criticise— not in a sense that people can understand— you look at all the Bills and this No-Confidence Motion— where was the cooperation and understanding?” she questioned.
“Look at the Speciality Hospital; Amaila Falls Project; where is it going? What is going to happen? Look at how many workers have been so downtrodden by the system! It is as though corruption starts from the very bottom to the top!”
She questioned as to why the opposition does not become involved in social programmes to ease the chaos that is currently taking place in the Guyanese society, among families, among children and youths. “Can you take education and social programmes into the community to help to raise the levels? How can you make women turn their resources into money, to develop an economically sound life?”
Dr. Harding noted that the opposition has fallen down in that way.
But she also blamed the government for not fostering an attitude of partnership.
“This is not a time for conflict…we cannot afford it in Guyana. We’ve been operating like we’ve been in a war zone for the past 20 or 30 years.”

Marriott almost completed but not many locals employed

- contracts with Govt, investors determine local employment

Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in third world countries are welcomed, particularly for the creation of jobs. The situation in Guyana is no different since very often, contracts entered into by Government with investors determine the level of local employees. However, there are certain job-skills that would have to be imported.

The multi-million dollar Marriott Hotel in Kingston is almost completed but there is no local labour for this fence. Government has said that the hotel would employ locals.

This is according to a senior official of the Ministry of Labour, who said that the desirable scenario in signing these agreements is to have local employment secured.
However, foreign investors feel more comfortable with having familiar persons around.
In fact, not so long ago, Government inked a construction contract for the Marriott-branded hotel in Guyana with Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) with one of the conditions being no Guyanese would be employed in the initial phases.
The justification was that the Guyanese labour force did not have the skills to build such a hotel. Incidentally, Government did not even find it necessary to include a clause that would allow the transfer of skills to prevent a similar situation in the future. Even now at the hotel, where the fence is under construction, there is no local labour evident in its construction. Government has said that the hotel would employ locals for the latter phases.
In addition, Government jumped at the opportunity of lowering the cost of constructing the hotel from US$65M to US$51M at the expense of the Guyanese labour force.
According to the official, the utilization of foreign labourers is monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs- the agency that issues work permits. Personnel of the Ministry are tasked with visiting work sites to ensure investors do not employ more foreigners than the agreed number in the contract.
It has been observed that foreigners have been taking on traditional jobs such as truck drivers and heavy duty operators particularly in the mining and forestry sectors.
For instance, the majority of heavy duty vehicles and trucks owned by Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese company operating in Guyana’s forestry sector, are operated by Chinese nationals. Circumstances under which the foreign nationals were granted drivers’ licences were questioned since a language barrier exists.
The official said that there is a shortage of heavy-duty operators in Guyana. And, even though, there is continuous training, there seems not to be enough to satisfy the various sectors.
It is unclear how many Guyanese are shortchanged with this situation since the rate of unemployment is unknown.
According to the official, the Ministry of Labour is still computing data from the recently completed census. He explained that the Ministry of Labour’s primary roles include mediation, conciliation and to ensure good working conditions exist.
While, many Guyanese have gained employment with these foreign companies, the conditions under which they work are reportedly not in keeping with regulations. The official related that many persons working in the hinterland have been exploited by both foreign and local companies but the Ministry’s hands are tied and can only act once a complaint has been lodged.
The official noted that the Ministry has been doing a fairly good job to help persons receive outstanding payments in the interior. For example, the Ministry was able to recover about $20M in outstanding payments to workers for this year thus far.
The official pointed out that the Ministry is currently moving to get a foreign logging company prosecuted for not paying a family for woods cut.
Only recently, Bai Shan Lin was accused of paying the few locals it employs in Region 10, $500 per day- an allegation the company denies. If that were the case it would mean that the company is in violation of the new minimum wage order of $35,000 per month.
According to the company, for interior locations, most of the Guyanese employed are paid based on performance, “the more you work, the more you will earn.”
The performance scheme was acknowledged by some Amerindians who said they were promised payment on the size and number of logs cut. However, they were never given the opportunity to measure the size of logs. In addition, they accused the company of having outstanding payments for them.

$500M clean-up campaign…More equipment needed to complete work

- West Ruimveldt residents

While the authorities have noted progress made under the $500 million clean –up campaign, residents of West Ruimveldt, Georgetown say that there are insufficient tools to complete the job.

The clean-up exercise in progress at Gilhuys Square West Ruimveldt, Georgetown

Given the urgent need to restore cleanliness in the city, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development mounted a massive clean-up exercise to the clearing of  drains, main canals, parapets, alleyways, cemeteries, and rehabilitate monuments, markets and other public spaces.
Last Wednesday, a community clean-up group from Gilhuys Square, West Ruimveldt, reported that they have experienced difficulty carrying out the work in their area because of a shortage of tools. Mark Anthony Forrester, a spokesperson for the community, said that at the commencement of the project, officials of the Local Government Ministry promised to supply the residents with necessary tools to clear the area.
He said the Ministry has since donated a few cutlasses, long boots, buckets, and a wheelbarrow, but there is still need for additional equipment.
“We are trying to work with the tools that are currently available to us. Some people have been using their personal equipment to do the job but getting some of the work done is difficult without the right tools. We need additional cutlasses, wheelbarrows and a bobcat to complete this exercise.”
He noted, however, that the community group has completed a significant amount of work with the equipment made available to them.  He said that the group has since cleared the drains, parapets and alleyways from Vlissengen Road to the West Ruimveldt playfield.
“I have about thirty-five persons working with me, both males and females from the community. We are getting a stipend from the Ministry, but we are not doing it for the money, it is our community and we want to make sure that we do our best,” he added.
Forrester said the group has approximately ten days to complete Phase One of the project. “We have a lot more work to do and we want to begin Phase Two of the project.  The residents need more long boots, rakes, hoes, wheelbarrows and a Bobcat to complete it,” Forrester reiterated.
He said that the community has already seen the results of work.  “Ever since we cleared drains the area isn’t flooding as quickly as it would usually do.”
The man said that several attempts were made to contact the Ministry for further assistance. “We have been calling on them for the longest time but nobody has responded to us. We need the assistance which they promised as soon as possible.”
The residents of West Ruimveldt are voicing their dissatisfaction in light of reports of progress under the $500 million “Clean-Up My Country” Programme.
The Ministry of Local Government has since conducted a series of consultations under the initiative, which commenced several weeks ago.
Community work has begun in Albouystown, West Ruimveldt and Le Repentir Cemetery. Last week, alleyways and parapets in Albouystown were sanitized. In West Ruimveldt, parapets were cleared and drains within the neighborhood were de-silted. The work also included de-silting of the Sussex Street, Princes Street, Church Street, Downer and Lamaha Street canals.
At the beginning of the exercise, Community groups from around Georgetown presented proposals to the Clean-Up My Country Program Committee, outlining the areas that need to be addressed and the required budget for the communities’ sanitation.
To date, nine groups, including Albouystown, West Ruimveldt, Campbellville, Lodge, East Ruimveldt, South Ruimveldt, La Penitence, Alberttown and North Ruimveldt have submitted proposals after consultations were held in the communities.

Chinese restaurant murder…Cameras record gunman killing waitress

A young man wearing a black and red cap fires a gun through the bars of the counter where cashier/ waitress Debbie Blackman stands.
The first bullet, reportedly from a 9mm pistol, strikes the attractive, 48–year-old mother of five on the shoulder.  Wounded and terrified, Blackman runs towards a door that would lead her further into the restaurant. It’s locked.
The gunman shifts his position to get a better view of his target. He fires again… and again. A bullet pierces Blackman’s throat, and she slumps to the ground. The gunman and three accomplices calmly leave.

Deborah Blackman

This is the chilling scene that police sources said they witnessed on a security camera, which recorded the final seconds in the life of Deborah Blackman, who was shot dead at around 19.30 hrs last Saturday in the Chinese Delicious Restaurant.
Police said that the footage they saw gave no indication that the gunman had attempted to rob the restaurant.  This has led to questions as to whether the killing stemmed from a motive other than robbery.
The recording has also given police a look at the unmasked man who killed Blackman, as well as two other men who appear to be his accomplices. Police recovered two warheads and a bullet casing from the scene. The restaurant was shut tight when Kaieteur News returned to the scene yesterday.
Kaieteur News viewed part of the footage, which showed a man in a black cap, with red peak, going up to the counter and apparently making a purchase. Two other men then come to the counter, and one of them gives Blackman a $5,000 note. The footage shows the apparently nervous men constantly glancing around.
According to police sources, Blackman, of Critchlow Circle, Tucville, placed a box of food on the counter, which is barred off from the dining area.  Sources who viewed the footage say that the men walked out of the restaurant, but then the one wearing the cap returned to the counter and shot Blackman.
A police release stated that two men on a motor cycle drove up to the Delicious Chinese Restaurant on Durban Street, Georgetown, and the pillion rider entered the restaurant.
“He ordered and paid for a meal after which he pulled out a firearm and shot the cashier Debra Blackman to her shoulder and neck and escaped on the motor cycle.”
Blackman was pronounced dead on arrival at the GPHC, the release said.
Latoya Blackman, one of the slain woman’s daughters, said that her mother left for work at around 10.30 hrs on Saturday and was scheduled to work until the following day. She said that a woman who was at a salon in D’urban Street informed the family of the shooting.
The daughter said that when she arrived, a crowd had gathered but she managed to enter the restaurant, where she saw her mother lying in a pool of blood.
Relatives claimed that the owners of the restaurant took several minutes before they opened the restaurant for the police, and Blackman’s body was left for some three hours at the scene.
Kaieteur News was told that Blackman had been working at the restaurant, located between Halley and Hardina Streets, for some eleven years.
According to a relative, bandits had attacked the restaurant last March. A daughter said that the bandits had kicked open a door leading to the counter and robbed Blackman and the restaurant owners.
The relative said that the proprietors would leave the door behind the counter open to allow Blackman to secure herself in the event of future attacks, but that the door was locked on Saturday night when the killers struck.
A daughter said that after the robbery in March, her mother had expressed concern for her safety and had planned to leave her job and start her own business.

The no confidence motion if passed could change the political direction in Guyana

Dear Editor,
If as expected, the no confidence motion is passed in Parliament, the government will have to resign but the president will act as the caretaker until the results of the next elections are known. The 2015 general elections will provide voters with a clear choice between three parties, three contrasting styles of governance and three visions of what Guyana should look like in the 21st century.
They will also present three opposing plans and policies for taking our country forward, and three management styles generally reflective of the different philosophy of the three parties.
We are told that the AFC management style is more participatory, inclusive, and consensual, characterized by more listening and less talking and necessarily includes a broader range of perspectives of advocacy on behalf of the masses. This choice between the three parties vying for power means that Guyana is on the threshold of a new type of politics in this century.
The AFC is very fortunate to have leaders like Moses Nagamootoo, Khemraj Ramjattan and Nigel Hughes with the political experience, competency and qualifications that will take the country forward. According to recent polls and abundant anecdotal evidence on the streets, these three leaders are much more popular and much more liked by the voters compared to the other leaders and politicians.
Let us face it, they bring a refreshing perspective to Guyana’s politics. It took a while for the people to become accustomed to their style and to understand their politics but gradually it is taking hold and they are beginning to understand and like it. The “in your face” macho, very hierarchical, dictatorial, and the “divide and rule” old-time leadership style to which Guyanese have grown accustomed in the past is rapidly becoming irrelevant to a brighter and much more educated younger population who in 2015 will be roughly 65 percent of the voters.
The old time management style of governance proffered by the two old parties has not served the people well. Issues like corruption, abuse of power, vindictiveness, disrespect for the people and the constitution and the marginalization of one ethnic group were routinely swept under the carpet and virtually ignored by both parties. It is only under the AFC leadership that these issues have been brought to the limelight and have received focused attention since independence.
The AFC has become so fed-up with the corrupt practices, high crime rate and the high-handed and dictatorial minority PPP regime that its leaders were left with no choice other than to spearhead the no confidence motion against the PPP. And for this, the people have recognized Moses Nagamootoo as the more mature politician to lead them in a coalition government.
It was not by accident that the two major parties have failed to understand the irreparable damage they have done to the people, institutions, and the social fabric of the country. Their actions were willful, vindictive and deceitful. They have put their parties first and not the country and people.
In fact, they are oblivious to the political wreckage they have caused the people and the country over the years. That is why the clear choice for 2015 will be the AFC, which will need at least two terms to undo the massive damage done to our beloved country since independence.
Let us make it abundantly clear that we are not saying that the two old parties have not done anything good.  Yes, they did and still have a role to play; but primarily the people want real change in 2015 and this means they will be supporting the AFC and perhaps a coalition between the AFC and APNU.
The AFC is quite correct to bring the no confidence motion against the minority PPP regime which has shown contempt for the constitution, disrespect for the people and has ignored the rules of Parliament.
The leaders of the PPP have projected themselves as the savior of the country as though they know it all. Yet they have presented the worst elements of old style leadership and dictatorial politics of the dinosaur era which the youths are moving away from.
The people, especially the youths will not in 2015 cast their votes for any of those old parties with their “race-bait “style of politics and their “divide and rule” concept despite the nation’s motto of “one people, one nation, one destiny.”  The AFC will be the people’s choice in 2015.
Asquith Rose and Harish Singh

Creating conflict when there is none

It is always worrying when in the height of a campaign of one sort or another something untoward happens to one or more of the people against whom the campaign is directed. Immediately people on the side suspect something sinister and become swayed to support the target of the campaign.
This is not unusual since most people are not violence-oriented. Recently, there has been a campaign against what people see as the unlawful operations of Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese logging company operating in Guyana.
Logging itself is not illegal unless the logger cuts down rare trees or young trees or simply log without the permission of the authorities. In Guyana there is another condition that makes logging beyond a certain scale illegal. That condition is predicated by the agreement signed between Guyana and the Kingdom of Norway for US$250 million over five years.
In the run-up to that signing, Guyana had already moved to help protect the environment against global warming. There is enough evidence to suggest that the earth is becoming warmer and the experts say that this is due to greenhouse gases from large scale industrial activities. Guyana, with its huge rainforest, offered to halt deforestation in an effort to limit the existence of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Experts calculated the volume of forest that could be cut in each year without affecting the equilibrium. In the wake of disclosures about the operations of Bai Shan Lin the government keeps insisting that the extent of deforestation is well within the prescribed limits. No one is supposed to dispute these facts. However, similar comments by the government have been found to be far from the truth.
For example, in its advertisement, the Guyana Forestry Commission claimed that everything done to facilitate the operations of Bai Shan Lin was prescribed by an Act of Parliament. It turned out that he misapplied the Act.
Given certain facts one will most certainly question any response provided to the media by the Guyana Forestry Commission. It is here, when the defenders appear to be caught in a quandary that distractions are created. There was one such distraction last week when someone reportedly broke into the vehicle owned by Jacy Archibald, the lawyer for the Guyana Forestry Commission.
Archibald was reportedly at the National Park for a bout of exercise at the end of which he returned to his car to find it vandalized. The perpetrator reportedly removed a laptop and other documents. The immediate reaction that the vandalism was linked to the expose on Bai Shan Lin could only be intended to distract from the real issue—the legality of Bai Shan Lin’s operations.
Suddenly there were reports of death threats against other members of the Forestry Commission. If there were these threats why were they not reported? The police said that they never got such reports. This then begs the question of whether these ‘threats’ were concocted.
The authors of the distraction are seeking to initiate a dangerous game, one that pits investigative journalists against the government. President Donald Ramotar, at a recent press conference said that the questions about Bai Shan Lin’s operations are part of an anti-investment policy. He refused to examine the legality.
Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee rather than discuss the issue, placed the investigative reporting in the light of a corrupt transaction of the media. “They probably beg for something and didn’t get it,” he said at a press conference.
Without saying as much, the government has pledged its support for Bai Shan Lin to the exclusion of everything else. One can therefore see how this recent distraction would seek to fashion a conflict between the media and the government.

Despite full page ads which claim compliance….Bai Shan Lin delinquent with NIS and PAYE payments

Even though Chinese Logging Company Bai Shan Lin in a full page advertisement last Thursday claims to be creating jobs and contributing to Guyana, it has not been up to date in its NIS and PAYE payments.
Checks revealed that the company, Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development which was registered in 2007 only started paying NIS and PAYE in 2013. Bai Shan Lin Housing and Construction Inc which was registered in 2012 only paid NIS and PAYE in October 2013.
Further checks revealed that Bai Shan Lin Ship Building Inc which was registered in 2012 has never paid NIS or PAYE. Bai Shan Lin Mining Development Inc was registered in August 2013 and has never paid any NIS or PAYE contributions.
The records are a clear contradiction of what the advertisement by Bai Shan Lin claimed. In the advertisement, BSL stated that it is committed to abiding by the laws of Guyana in its execution of work in the forestry sector.
It is unclear whether workers are required to pay their own NIS and PAYE, but the company has not been up to date with payments, one source explained.
The company also claimed that having started operations in Guyana since 2007, it then moved to purchase logs from local concessionaires and entered into joint venture agreements with several.
However even though Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc began local operations in 2007, the records would show something different. The company registered with the Deeds Registry in 2012. Required by law, it submitted financial statements up to August 2014.
Bai Shan Lin International Ship Building and Company Inc was registered around the same time and has submitted financial statements up until 2014.
Indian Logging Company, Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc, has been paying since 2007. But Vaitarna is not registered with the Deeds Registry as a company operating out of Guyana.
Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese logging company, has big plans for Guyana: forest concessions covering 960,000 hectares; a 20-kilometre river gold mining concession; a 500-hectare Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Cooperation Park and a 160-hectare real estate development.
Despite the scale of the planned operations, Bai Shan Lin’s agreements with the government of Guyana are not public and there has been no discussion in the National Assembly about the company’s plans.
In Guyana, it is illegal for a logging company to take over another logging company’s operation, unless officially authorized by the President. Yet Bai Shan Lin has managed to enter into large scale joint ventures with a number of locals.
In June, Bai Shan Lin submitted an application to the Environmental Protection Agency seeking environmental authorization to undertake a large scale logging and sawmill operation.
According to the public notice which was published, the company asked for the authorization for several areas including the Left Bank of the Essequibo River, Right Bank Berbice River, Right Bank Essequibo River, Left Bank Corentyne River, Left Bank Lysles River, River Bank Berbice River and Right Bank Powis River, as well as locations with Regions Nine and Six.
Bai Shan Lin has been granted a forestry concession that amounts to close on one million hectares of rainforest, from which it plans to extract logs and ship them out of Guyana. The company estimates that it will make US$1,800 from each hectare of land, giving it profits totaling US$1.7 billion, according to redd-monitor.org.
In addition, the Chinese company sought permission to dig up a 20-kilometre stretch of river to look for gold.
Other plans include setting up what it is calling a Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Corporation Park, plus a 400-acre real estate development. The plans were announced in 2012 by Chu Wenze, Chairman of Bai Shan Lin, at the Second World Congress on Timber and Wood Products Trade in Taicang, China.
Those plans were announced even before Guyana knew of it. The country became aware of what was happening only when Bai Shan Lin officials visited Guyana and held discussions with President Donald Ramotar and other Government officials.
On Redd-monitor.org, it was stated that in November 2012, Chu Wenze, the Chairman of Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin, gave a presentation outlining his company’s plans for Guyana at the World Congress in Taicang, China. These plans have threatened Guyana’s proposals to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
In November 2012, Whu Wenze and David Dabydeen, Guyana’s Ambassador to China, took part in a signing ceremony for a loan from the Chinese Development Bank for Bai Shan Lin’s forestry projects in Guyana.
According to the website Global Timber, Bai Shan Lin’s concessions were acquired from other concession holders, a process known as “landlording” which is illegal in Guyana (unless officially authorised by the President). Under Guyanese law, forest concessions cannot be traded, but must be re-advertised by the Forestry Commission in an open auction.

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.