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Diaspora News - January 4 - 10, 2014

Diaspora News - January 4 - 10, 2014

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APNU AT WORK
A WEEKLY SUMMARY OF EVENTS
KEEPING THE DIASPORA INFORMED
January 4 - 10, 2014
Vol. 24
APNU AT WORK
A WEEKLY SUMMARY OF EVENTS
KEEPING THE DIASPORA INFORMED
January 4 - 10, 2014
Vol. 24

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Published by: Brigadier David Granger on Jan 12, 2014
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APNU AT WORK A WEEKLY SUMMARY OF EVENTS KEEPING THE DIASPORA INFORMED January 4 - 10, 2014

Vol. 24
APNU calls on PPPC to launch a national flood control plan
A Partnership for National Unity expresses its dismay at the continued failure of the People‟s Progressive Party Civic administration to protect the population from the ravages of repeated flooding. The Partnership calls on the Government to urgently launch a comprehensive national flood control plan. APNU has noted with alarm that every month, major floods occur somewhere in the country – either on the coastland or in the hinterland. The PPPC administration, however, seems unable or unprepared to implement measures to identify the causes, to notify the populace and to mitigate the impact of this recurrent hazard. The extent, intensity and frequency are unmistakable. 2013 was a year in which significant flooding occurred every month: January on the East Coast Demerara; February, in sections of Kingston, Georgetown; March, in sections of Uitvlugt on the West Coast Demerara; April, on the East and West Coast Demerara and the Essequibo Coast; May, at Bartica in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region and St Ignatius in the Rupununi Region; June, at Den Amstel on the West Coast Demerara; July, in Albouystown, Georgetown; August, on the East Bank Demerara; September, at Tuschen, on the West Coast Demerara; October, again in Albouystown, Georgetown; November, in sections of Georgetown and elsewhere; and December, in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region and elsewhere. APNU is concerned that this pattern of monthly flooding continues to incur incalculable personal losses in terms of damage to homes, household goods and domestic and agricultural equipment, the destruction of farms and the death of livestock. APNU laments the fact that the PPPC administration has never conducted an inquiry into the catastrophic “Great Flood” of January 2005 or of the frequent floods which continue to plague the country. The impact of the despoliation, however, cannot be ignored. An Inter-American Development Bank study reported that, from 1988 to 2006, floods affected 965,000 persons and resulted in more than US$663M in economic damage. The „Great Flood‟ reportedly affected 25 per cent of the national population and caused economic losses equivalent to 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for that year.

The study points out, further, that “a result of the dynamic interplay between high tides, high rainfall levels and a network of drainage and irrigation canals, conservancy dams and sluices designed to support agriculture, the coastland, as well as riverine areas and some low-lying parts of the hinterland, are at high risk to flooding.” It is a well-known fact that Guyana‟s coastal zone lies near or below sea level. The rate of sea -level rise in the Caribbean is predicted to be five times greater than the world's average, according to the IDB study. This means that sea-level rise resulting from global warming could “significantly increase disaster risk in Guyana to levels that threaten the physical and economic viability of the coastal zone.” Since the „Great Flood,‟ the administration has been on a spending spree. It has squandered billions on world cup cricket, the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (Carifesta), a five-star hotel and other prestige projects while neglecting the infrastructure needed to protect the country from flooding. The damaging effects and frequent occurrence of flooding in this country demand more serious attention from the government than the usual, annual adhocery and phoney expressions of concern for the victims. The PPPC administration needs to promulgate a National Flood Control Master Plan that must comprehend the consequences of climate change that are so evident to everyone else everywhere around the world today. The proposed Plan must be capable of anticipating the monthly cycle of flooding and of notifying citizens early of the onset of extreme weather and the threat of flooding. The Plan must strengthen disaster risk management agencies and maintain sea defence and flood protection infrastructure. The Plan, most of all, must embody a strategy to protect lives and property from the consequences of the devastating floods of the sort that have affected our country over the past decade.

FLOODING IN LANCASTER-HOGSTYE/CORENTYNE
On Tuesday 7th January, 2014, a delegation from APNU led by Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, MP, and including Dr. Rishee Thakur, visited the NDC at Lancaster/Hogstye on the Corentyne. The visit was in response to several complaints of sustained flooding in the area including a piece in Kaieteur News, 4th January 2014, "Failed predictions - Lower Corentyne still floods". The following day, 8th January, 2014, another story, of the same "flooding", appeared in Stabroek News. The latter it appears was a response from the Regional Chairman to the previous piece in Kaieteur News, which he felt was unfair, if not without foundation. The RDC Chairman suggested that his visit to the area could not confirm what appeared in Kaieteur as generalised flooding due to poor if not the absence of maintenance. He suggested, first, that the complaint of "flooding" came from a single person, a Mr. O'Neil Leitch. Second, he noted that the areas under flood waters were "swamplands" and "marsh", marginal at best to the community and, therefore, of little consequence to its health/welfare. He did admit, however, that while there was some flooding which was only temporary - a coincidental combination of the "spring tide" and the "constant rains", that had simply "overwhelmed the drainage system".

In addition, he acknowledged that the initial flooding was caused by a dysfunctional pump which has since been repaired and now operational. Moreover, the RDC has sent a mini excavator to the area while the drainage sluice, connected to the out fall channel, was functional, operating at capacity. Understandably, the Chairman is peeved at Kaieteur's insinuations of extensive flooding and, according to Stabroek, "slammed" it for "its inaccuracies". "When we come into the ground we are not seeing what these people are writing,” he told Stabroek News. “The motive here is to make the regional administration look bad… I am here and I am not seeing anything of what is reported… I asked residents about the picture of the flooded area but no one seems to know the place,” Armogan said. Cursory reflection and a little investigation suggest that the Chairman's inquiry of the flooding may have been a bit hurried while his assessment may be equally hasty. First, the Kaieteur article suggests that the reporter had spoken to at least three named persons: Charles Smart, Patricia Blendman and O'Neil Leitch. Second, the reporter referenced "residents" at least six times to suggest that he had in fact spoken to several persons in the community and not just one, as the Chairman suggests. Similarly, the APNU delegation spoke to more than a dozen persons, including employees of the NDC who confirmed the widespread flooding - represented in the Kaieteur article. While there may be questions of detail, as per the source or real cause of the flooding, there is no doubt that the flooding was widespread and not confined to a small area in Liverpool and now receding. APNU delegation is similarly confused by what the chairman means by "swamplands" and "marsh". None of the flooded areas visited were outside the residential community, neither back lands nor foreshore. What we did see were drainage canals without withholding dams that had long disappeared while several trenches and drains were overgrown with reeds and brush, quite visible from the public road, indicating that they had not been cleaned for years. What they do suggest is systemic neglect and official dereliction well before the present Chairman's tenure. And while we too, under other circumstances, would naturally see marsh and swamplands the Chairman‟s designation is revealing. Human beings could hardly be expected to live in such conditions. Certainly part of the problem is the absence of an NDC since the passing of the last Chairman a few years ago. Ironically, while the Minister of Local Government has seen fit to replace most of the existing NDCs in the region with IMC‟s Lancaster-Hogstye has been left to fend for itself. No official authority to either take responsibility or provide accountability - the best way, it seems, to exercise authority.

Another section of Mahaica seawall collapses
Kaieteur News, January 5, 2014 “Is only when is Election time that politicians does come and promise we all kinda things…then they left we to de mercy of de sea.” These are the sentiments echoed by several residents of the Unity, Mahaica, East Coast Demerara community as they continue to brace themselves for a possible disaster, if the authority that is responsible for the maintenance of the sea defence does not act quickly. Three days after a contractor sealed a sea defence breach at Mosquito Hall, Mahaica, a huge section of the seawall collapsed a few hundred yards away. Residents said that the sea defence protecting their community has been neglected and the collapse of the section at Unity squatting area is a result of constant undermining. According to the residents, apart from some spot repairs, there has not been any significant work carried out to the actual seawall since it was erected decades ago. In fact, several sections of the seawall in the area are showing signs of total neglect, and according to residents, it is only a matter of time before total disaster strikes. Last week a Ministry of Public Works official sought to dispel reports that the sea defence was being neglected. “At this time we have to do preventative work until the permanent work is approved in the budget,” the official told this newspaper. Meanwhile, the earthen embankment which was repaired on New Year‟s Day is already showing signs of collapsing again. This newspaper revisited the area on Friday and from all indications, it is only a matter of time before the structure is breached again. Residents have described the move by the administration as being “penny wise and pound foolish.” “This is just wasting a lot of money…this temporary thing wha‟ dey doing hey ain‟t mek no sense. Because you do it and not even a big tide come, and it break away, so by spring tide, nothing ain‟t gon deh hey,” another resident observed. The residents share the view that money can be siphoned off if basic works have to be re-done on a regular basis. Kaieteur News understands that following the publication of graphic photos of the deteriorating sea defences, Ministry of Public Works officials visited the area, “to tek shame out of dem eye”, according to a few residents.

Crumbling Mosquito Hall seawall…Urgent action required to avert a catastrophic event – APNU
Kaieteur News, January 7, 2014 A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)‟s Joseph Harmon, along with other members of the coalition yesterday paid a site visit to the crumbling seawall at Mosquito Hall, Mahaica, East Coast Demerara (ECD), and said that there needs to be an urgent session held to allow stakeholders to come together and devise a strategic plan of action. Harmon said that based on observations, there are several sections of the sea defence structure in the locale that are crumbling and need to be urgently addressed. According to Harmon, should the wall be breached and the coast flooded, it will not be a case of APNU, the People‟s Progressive Party (PPP) or Alliance for Change (AFC) supporters being affected, “all of us will be affected”. Harmon said that ever since the budget presentation earlier this year, he had pointed out to the House that the amount of money allocated for emergency works was clearly not enough. He said that with the monstrosity of an erection that was recently built on the seawall as well as the sandbagging exercise earlier in the year on the lower east coast, he is quite certain that the money allocated for emergency works has already been utilised. Harmon reported that during the visit, a couple of workers from the Ministry of Public Works were observed putting bags with what they said was concrete mix into the gaping hole in the seawall. He said that there were breakages observed at several points along the clearly brittle seawall. The damage, he said, appeared to have been caused by erosion and high tides. Harmon reiterated that there must be a special session where they can sit down and structure a response to the failing sea defences, while charging that “the Government needs to get away from the mentality that no good suggestions or recommendations could come from the opposition benches”. The coalition, in a subsequent statement to the media, quoted Harmon as saying that the visit was done at the request of concerned residents, to inspect the crumbling sea defences in the area. It said that after viewing the gaping holes and the crumbling sea wall, Harmon asserted that what he had witnessed was the result of systemic neglect and a lack of a structured national plan to deal with the nation‟s sea and river defences. The Member of Parliament opined that because of the neglect, the lives of the residents of Mosquito Hall are now in jeopardy and those persons, most of whom are fisher-folk, are now threatened by the very sea from which they earn their living. “We are in a constant battle to protect and maintain the structural integrity of our sea and river defence structures, and to develop sustainable shore management systems to contain the ravages of the ever encroaching Atlantic Ocean and the PPP/C Administration is not doing enough to safeguard the lives and livelihood of the residents of coastal communities like Mosquito Hall, Mahaica.”

As a result, APNU called on the administration to “act now, so as to avert a catastrophic event”. “The nation‟s sea and river defences are all in need of urgent attention.” APNU further called on the Ministry of Public Works and all other relevant government agencies and departments to expedite repairs and the structural rehabilitation work to the Mosquito Hall sea defences. Harmon was accompanied on his visit to the Mosquito Hall sea defences by Regional Councilors Shondel Hope, Ramrattie Jagdeo and Ronald Backer from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. Meanwhile the Ministry of Public Works in a statement yesterday said that two major contracts involving the rehabilitation of concrete river defences at Mosquito Hall/Lancaster were executed during the period 2011 to 2012. “These works addressed problematic sections of sea defences which were undermined and frequently overtopped during spring tides.” The Ministry said that in addition to concrete works, a total of 700 metres of eroded earthen embankment was rehabilitated and adjacent façade drains constructed for the storage and conveyance of overtopping discharge in order to reinforce the flood defence system. It said too that during December 2013, a contract requiring the rehabilitation of a section of the earthen embankment and slope protection works in undermined areas was awarded to a private contractor. Those works commenced during December 2013 and are scheduled for completion at the end of this month. The Ministry said that in addition to the ongoing contracted works, the Ministry‟s Force Account Unit will be engaged in the execution of maintenance works in the area. It noted that major reconstruction works have also been scheduled for Mosquito Hall/Lancaster under its 2014 Capital Programme for certain critical sections. According to the Ministry, designs are currently being finalised for projects involving the reconstruction of river defences in the area which will be advertised for public tendering during the course of this month. The Mahaica area was recently included in a list of vulnerable coastal/ riverain communities specifically mentioned in the Ministry‟s monthly spring tide advisory published in the local print media. There were no reports of flooding at the Mosquito Hall/Lancaster area during the recent spring tides period.

APNU reiterates call for revamping of GuySuCo board
Guyana Times, January 5, 2014 The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has once again called for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) board to be revamped. Opposition Leader David Granger told a press conference on Friday at the coalition‟s Hadfield Street headquarters that the corporation has fallen on tough times due to poor management.“I would have a board of people who know about sugar and who are committed to running an enterprise along economic lines, I wouldn‟t have a pack of politicians there, a lot of political appointees,” he said. Nevertheless, he said GuySuCo should review its labour relations, pointing to the scores of industrial actions by workers over the past few years.

Last year, the Alliance For Change (AFC) also called for the firing of the GuySuCo board. AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan said the corporation has failed Guyana miserably and changes should be made from management downward. “It is time to turn the board of GuySuCo on its head since they do not know what it takes to lead GuySuCo,” Ramjattan said. In the 2013 national budget, government gave the corporation $1 billion to help in the implementation of its modernisation plan; however, the Skeldon Sugar Factory remains a major obstacle. The life of the current board ended on December 31, 2013 and a new board is expected to be appointed this month. Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, when asked about whether GuySuCo Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paul Bhim will remain in his post, had said that decision has not yet been determined. He, however, assured that the new team being considered will help to move the industry forward and place the corporation in a better financial position.Dr Ramsammy said the corporation is currently looking at a different business plan. He said all of these issues are expected to be addressed this year, with the appointment of a new board. Amid all of its production and financial woes, GuySuCo has been functioning under the guidance of a board of directors whose term expired in October – one that seems not to be capable of turning around the industry. The life of the board was extended to December 31, 2013.

Opposition likely to vote against further money for GuySuCo
Stabroek News, January 7, 2014 Opposition parties A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) are unlikely to vote in favour of budget measures for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) given the continued dismal production and in the absence of a comprehensive turnaround strategy. Sugar for 2013 hit a 22-year low, with GuySuCo producing just 186,000 tonnes, falling short of the European Union quota. Following peak production in 2004 of over 300,000 tonnes, the output of the corporation gradually began to decline over the years. The corporation has been revisiting its yearly targets downwards every single year and at every budget presentation for the past five years the Minister of Finance has an assessment of the economy and the „non-sugar economy‟ in speaking of the country‟s performance for the previous year. Speaking to Stabroek News recently, Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo Paul Bhim confirmed that Guyana had not met the EU quota; only 135,000 tonnes of sugar had been exported to the European market at the end of November 2013. The corporation had a target of 232,000 tonnes as its minimum production for its international and local quotas but this faded into oblivion as GuySuCo slid towards a large deficit. Bhim had told this newspaper that the corporation would suffer no injury through undersupplying the European market since there were no penalties attached to the commercial contract and that the local market would not be affected by the shortfall. The corporation has been plagued by a flurry of industrial relations issues over the years compounded by bad weather which reduced days available for work. In addition, the Skeldon factory‟s performance has been way below par following its commissioning some five years ago.

The annual production for the industry has been projected to be 350,000 tonnes with Skeldon brought into the picture. This had been scaled back from an ambitious 450,000 tonnes earlier due to issues with the Chinese built factory. A plan recently seen by the Stabroek News had a startling admission – that the Skeldon factory is only now capable of delivering 71 per cent of what it had been originally designed to deliver. That document pointed out that Skeldon made a loss $2.7 billion in 2012. It said that the projected loss for 2013 had been $1.8 billion and that profitability is expected to improve to $407 million in the year 2017 once all of the expectations for improved factory performance are met. Dr Rupert Roopnaraine of APNU said GuySuCo‟s performance in 2013 is nothing short of a catastrophic collapse and that any consideration of allowing future subventions to the beleaguered State-owned entity must be tied to a Commission of Inquiry or similarly structured mechanism to address flaws over the long term. Speaking to Stabroek News on Saturday, Dr Roopnaraine said, “My own feeling is that any assistance should be tied to a Commission of Inquiry.” He pointed out however that the party‟s Shadow Cabinet has not yet considered the issue. “We could no longer think short term in terms of five-year plans. There must be a serious examination of the industry for the next 20 years,” he said. “There is no serious strategic thinking going into it,” he said. “My feeling is that it is beyond rescue. We are calling for a Commission of Inquiry into the industry,” Roopnaraine said. “Until we subject it to that kind of scrutiny there will be no change,” he said. Roopnaraine is convinced that government will return in the 2014 budget for more money for the ailing industry, “but it is not leading to a recovery.” He said the government has not provided any serious document on the way forward for the industry. He said that the plan that was presented for 2014 to 2018 is nowhere near what is needed to effect change to the industry. “We just cannot go along on the same way. We will not be voting [on any sums for Guysuco] unless there is a plan for the next five, 10, 20 years. We should insist that a Commission of Inquiry or a serious task force be established,” said Roopnaraine. Khemraj Ramjattan of the AFC said that the party will access the answers that government will provide before deciding whether or not to vote in favour of further bailo uts. “The AFC will react this time with tremendous hesitation and, though this is a personal position, there is every likelihood that either an abstention or a no vote will be the case,” he said in a comment to Stabroek News yesterday. “At the appropriate time a collective party position is what we go along with,” he said. He said that normally the AFC members would ask searching questions of the minister as to reasons for the allocation. “And once answers provided are satisfactory to the seven AFC parliamentarians, we will support,” he said. He added that bailing out GuySuCo cannot go on indefinitely; at some stage a halt must be called. “We foresee the propaganda machinery of the PPP going to work after that saying how AFC does not like sugar workers and it only wants to give Lindeners bailouts and so on. These devices ought not to deter us,” said Ramjattan.

Granger calls for collision-free Parliament in 2014
Guyana Times, January 4, 2013 Opposition Leader David Granger is calling for 2014 to not be a year where government and the opposition parties collide in Parliament, but rather one of cooperation and transparency. Speaking at a press briefing on Friday at his Hadfield, Georgetown office, Granger said the administration should start by respecting the decisions made by the National Assembly as he pointed to the bills passed, but not assented to. “We want President Ramotar to assent to the bills that the assembly has passed, we want President Ramotar to implement the resolutions of the National Assembly, we want good governance, that‟s what we are fighting for,” Granger said. The opposition leader is also calling for the establishment of a new social contract that will pave the way for national unity, guarantee human safety and foster economic development growth. He said major sections of society, including the government, political opposition, trade unions, private sector and civil society should seek an agreement on a broad national programme to accelerate growth of the country over a two-year period. Combined talents The contract will combine the talents of a wider constituency and simultaneously create conditions for social cooperation and economic progress as it fulfils its objective. “The three -fold purpose of such a contract would be to reach a broad consensus on the goals of national development; to establish a sustainable institutional architecture; and to create effective policy instruments for the achievement of the objectives of the contract,” Granger explained. Questioned whether the call is a realistic one, the opposition leader said he is more than optimistic. “Bearing in mind what the president had to say in his New Year‟s address, he seems to be very worried because he himself acknowledged that there were obstacles to what he calls the transformative agenda. “Well, if he wants to remove those obstacles, let him come to the negotiating table, sit down with the opposition and let us decide how the country will move forward.” In justifying the need for a new social contract, Granger opined the People‟s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) administration has demonstrated an inability to address issues of national interest, noting that the economic crisis has lowered workers‟ standard of living. “Protests by two of the country‟s largest trade unions, the Guyana Public Service Union and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union, have demonstrated how labour relations between the state and its workers have degenerated. The ranks of unemployed young people are increasing. Poverty is rampant,” the opposition leader noted. Unimpressive rating Reference was also made to the World Bank 2014 World Development Report which rated Guyana as the second poorest country in Caricom. According to the report, Guyana‟s Gross National Income (GNI) of US$3410 per capita is unfavourable when compared with The Bahamas, which has a GNI of US$21,280 per capita. “The security crisis has disproportionately hurt the poor. Guyanese are pained by the surge in serious crimes last year, 2013, representing a seven per cent increase over the same period in 2012,” Granger said.

He added that there was an increase in the number of armed robberies involving the use of firearms by 16 per cent while contending that other serious crimes include banditry in the hinterland, murder, piracy, fatalities on the roads and interpersonal violence. Granger told reporters that the PPP/C administration should start addressing issues affecting Guyanese by honouring its obligation, noting that tripartite consultations with workers‟ and employers‟ organisations should continue in an effort to promote increased production and productivity. APNU is also advising the government to establish a framework for genuine consultation among social partners and to implement national economic and social programmes, in keeping with the Caricom Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community.

Procurement of drugs a national scandal- Harmon
Kaieteur News, January 4, 2013 A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament and shadow Minister of Public Works and Communication, Joseph Harmon, has said that President Ramotar‟s recent comments on the issue of shortage and wastage of drugs are totally unacceptable, and a belated recognition that corruption abounds in the health sector. “I do hope that we are picking the right people for the right jobs… We spend billions of dollars every year to buy drugs yet we are confronted with shortage of drugs at health facilities nationwide… millions of dollars of expired drugs are written off and dumped in large quantities this is totally unacceptable,” President Ramotar had said. “The statement by President Ramotar coming at the end of the year echoes what we in the opposition have been saying for over two years – that the procurement of drugs is a national scandal.” Harmon said that it is clear that the President has come to the realization that this type of corruption can no longer remain a national secret. “Unless Executive attention is placed on corruption the perpetuators remain emboldened to continue this practice which has the effect to gut the natural resources and the energies of its people of Guyana. The onus is now on the President to take action against the gutter men of Guyana.” “Now that he has picked up the cudgel, the President will be well advised to examine closely the award of contracts in the mining and construction sectors of Guyana,” said Harmon. The Member of Parliament articulated his hopefulness that in 2014 the Executive can work with the Legislature to ensure that the resources of the country are utilized for the benefit of all Guyanese and not just a few. “We have no right to be ranked as the second poorest nation in CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) by the World Bank. This government has brought us all to shame not only in Guyana but abroad. “It is my further hope that all Guyanese in the public and private sector, workers all join with the opposition in fighting for a better life for all and that the heart of the few in the obscenely rich cabal will be motivated to free up some of the wealth to the benefit of the majority of poor Guyanese.”

Granger pays tribute to Desrey Fox
Stabroek News, January 6, 2014 Leader of the Opposition, Brigadier David Granger has paid tribute to Dr. Desrey Fox, née Caesar, former Minister in the Ministry of Education who died in a traffic accident on 11th December 2009. A release from his office said that he pointed out that the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region and the Waramadong community have lost one of its most famous daughters. He added that it was most fitting that her life be commemorated. Granger was addressing the memorial service held at the Queenstown Seventh Day Adventist Church, Queenstown, on what would have been Fox‟s 59th birthday on Thursday 2nd January. The release said that the service was attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn RodriguesBirkett, Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai, Dr George Norton, MP and members of Fox‟s family among others. Following the 2006 general elections, Fox was appointed Minister within the Ministry of Education after a career in academia. Granger recommended that the present, problem-plagued Waramadong Secondary School be renamed the “Dr. Desrey Fox Secondary School in honour of the late Minister.” Not only would such a renaming be a lasting tribute to Fox but the government would be encouraged to pay greater attention to the way in which the school is managed, he said. Fox was born and grew up in Waramadong on the Karanang River.

Culture Minister will have to comply with audit of Caribbean Press funds- Opposition says Anthony must justify how money will be used before approval
Kaieteur News, January 6, 2014 The political opposition is insisting that the Culture Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony will have to comply with an audit of the funds used by the Caribbean press. He will most certainly also have to justify how local writers will benefit if his Ministry is to be granted the funds for the establishment for an Editorial Board for the Press. At a recent press conference, Dr. Anthony had stated that the Caribbean Press may face possible closure if the money for its establishment is not approved in the 2014 budget. The request for a Permanent Editorial Board, the Minister said, comes in light of the fact that the current panel attached to the press has been unhappy about the constant accusations of mismanagement of the publishing house and its funds. Trevor Williams of the opposition party, The Alliance For Change (AFC) told Kaieteur News said that the Minister will have to comply with an audit and he will have to supply justifiable reasons as to why funds would be needed for the Board and how it is going to benefit local writers. “The Minister just can‟t come and say he wants x amount for the board and everything is going to be fine. We are not against the development of any initiative that can serve as a platform to support and facilitate the growth of our local artists. The AFC is always in support of such activities but when it involves taxpayers‟ money we must see transparency.”

“The Minister has to come with a proper proposal. We have been very skeptical of Dr. Anthony and anything that he comes with because he has not been forthcoming with pertinent information just like the rest of the government. He has not been transparent. We want to see a plan to show how this editorial board will work and how it will benefit the people and improve the press itself. He will not get the money through bullyism” Williams stressed as well that at present there are several local writers who are disappointed in the way the Press is being managed. The Press is currently being managed by its Editor, Mr. David Dabydeen. Moreover the Member of Parliament said that Dr Anthony will have to confirm to an audit of past funds, and if he gets this sum approved for the board he will also have to comply with an audit for that as well. “The AFC has a keen focus on him this year,” Williams said. Supporting his comments as well was A Partnership for National Unity‟s Shadow Minister of Public Works and Telecommunications, Joseph Harmon. “The Minister of Culture cannot expect that any allocation of funds in the budget will not be subject to the most intense scrutiny. We encourage the expansion of the Arts and we support the position of Williams as it regards the compliance with an audit. The Minister must understand that when it involves funding we want transparency and this proposal he is coming with will undergo careful and intense inspection.”

New River Triangle debacle…Exposure, not hostility, unraveled MURI deal – Harmon “…our natural resources are finite and if in one generation all are given out what will happen to future generations” – Harmon
Kaieteur News, January 6, 2014 Muri Brasil Ventures Incorporated has blamed its pullout of the Permission for Geographical and Geophysical Surveys (PGGS) on prejudice and hostility but A Partnership for National Unity‟s (APNU) Executive Member, Joseph Harmon, believes that it was in fact the scrutiny and exposures that resulted in the decision. Commenting on the matter yesterday, Harmon said, “there was no hostility on our part or on the part of the media.” He said that it was the exposure of the information that should have been in the public domain even before the permission was granted. Harmon warned too that this level of scrutiny will be applied to all future transactions. He said that this level of scrutiny must be applied to all allocations of such large scale areas of land. According to Harmon, “our natural resources are finite and if in one generation all are given out what will happen to future generations.” The APNU Executive Member believes that the nation is in fact indebted to the level of scrutiny that was focused on the Muri PGGS. He said that in future the same level of scrutiny will be applied to ensure that there is probity and transparency. Harmon believes that companies must be thoroughly scrutinized before any such deals are inked, to ensure that they have the capacity to undertake their proposed ventures. As it relates to Muri‟s claim of hostility, Harmon said that it was the same „blame game nonsense‟ that was used when the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric project fell through and the government resorted to blaming the opposition.

Muri Brasil Ventures Incorporated on Saturday last made the announcement that it had pulled out of the PGGS it had been granted by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). The company in its announcement said that although the process was legal and transparent, “this decision is due to the misinformation, prejudice and hostility to this proposed survey by persons and agencies which are fostering an adverse investment climate in Guyana.” The news came just days after Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, had confirmed that the Ministry denied permission to the company for the construction of an airstrip. Muri had previously announced that it was awaiting permission from the Ministry to build an airstrip to facilitate its aerial surveys. Benn had told media operatives that an application was made for an airstrip in the New River Triangle area and approval had not been granted. He was adamant that the refusal of the permission for the airstrip had nothing to do with the imbroglio in the press over the company and the terms of its agreement. Ever since it was discovered that Minister Robert Persaud had authorized granting the PGGS, several commentators had come out in condemnation and called for it to be recalled. Minister Benn was asked if refusing permission for the airstrip was not a backdoor approach to ending the PGGS to which he responded that this was not the case. He said the application had been made long before the disputation in the press over the company and its PGGS. Benn said that as it relates to his Ministry‟s decision, it was a question of whether there is really need for an airstrip in the area and also whether it would present additional difficulties in terms of security and oversight. Critics of the PGGS had called it a threat to national security. The Muri debacle had sparked a livid public debate as to the Government‟s policy on mining in the disputed area. The military has traditionally warned against mining in the area but Government‟s chief spokesperson, Dr. Roger Luncheon had said that the army has no say in making the decision.

E-Governance Project Director comes under Parliamentary scrutiny
Kaieteur News, January 7, 2014 With the government‟s E Governance Project suffering from extensive delays coupled with the fact that there is to be modification to the design of the project, A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) will be moving to the Parliament to grill Prime Minister Samuel Hinds on the consequences. Several questions have been formally tabled in the National Assembly by APNU‟s Joseph Harmon, who will be looking to elicit from Hinds, among other things, what the cost overruns related to the project would be. He has also formally requested of the Prime Minister to provide the résumé of the Project Director, Alexei Ramotar, as it relates to his prior experience with Fibre Optic Cable installations, designing and managing a project of this complex nature. The party is also looking to find out what salary and allowances Ramotar, the person running the project, is paid on a monthly basis.

It was Government‟s Chief Spokesperson, Dr Roger Luncheon, who recently confirmed that the laying of the fibre optic cable had to be modified, and that it was years behind schedule. He had explained that this was done to maintain the integrity of the cables. He explained by stating that the view is that 10 kilometres (km) lengths of the reels of cable were probably too long to ensure the integrity at minimal risk, hence shorter lengths are now being utlised in some sections. He said that the project has now started to utilise 4km lengths, specifically in areas where the 10km lengths have been exposed to damage and breakages. Dr. Luncheon said that where the 10km lengths are intact and integrity tested, those will remain in place, but in other areas where there is a sustained basis for thinking that a shorter length would be easier to secure and maintain its integrity, those are being switched out. Dr. Luncheon said that as it relates to the stations that are conceived and being developed to propagate signals in specific areas, work has gone a very far way in establishing them. He said that the administration is also looking to have them be provided with the necessary paraphernalia that they need and have them ready and waiting to enter into service. With the project already two years behind schedule, Dr. Luncheon said that the administration is looking to have the project wrapped up this year. The E-Government Project consists of the setting up of a Data Centre, a transmission network and the data network. The Data Centre, or control centre, is being housed in the compound of Castellani House, in the same building that is used for the Central Intelligence Agency. The Transmission Network stretches from Moleson Creek on the Corentyne Coast to Charity on the Essequibo Coast. The cable runs from Lethem in the Rupununi through Linden to Georgetown. It consists of a fibre network and microwave network. Fibre will be available from Lethem to Georgetown, Moleson Creek to Parika, while microwave will be available from Moleson Creek to Charity. From Parika to Moleson Creek, the network allows a fallover from fibre to microwave for all sites.

$$M in municipal fines not benefitting City Hall – Mayor Green
Kaieteur News, January 7, 2014 While the increased violation of the municipal system by taxpayers has been a common occurrence, City Hall has been unable to benefit from the millions of dollars paid by defaulters to the court, as the money is automatically diverted to the consolidated fund. This issue is being highlighted as the lack of a standardised Municipal Court takes centre stage. Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green had told reporters that the establishment a Municipal Court would go a long way in aiding the Council to rake in outstanding monies owed by private persons and entities. Green further believes that with the prosecution of those offenders, tax collection may become an easier task for the Council with this implementation. In a recent interview with Kaieteur News, Mayor Green briefly explained how the cash-strapped Municipal authority is unable to benefit from the present court system even after frequent calls were made to the administration for the implementation of a Municipal Court.

“The Mayor and City Council is quite conscious that there has been an increase in violation of Municipal Laws in the city, particularly with regard to the constabulary, public health and engineering department. But the city does not benefit from the monies collected by the present court system because we lack the legal framework to do so…We had desired a Municipal Court, which would require action by the cabinet and the government. The Municipal Court would deal exclusively with our matters, and will allow for incentive to be directly deposited towards the development of the City. “This will allow us to go after more violators. It will also assist in avoiding time spent by our prosecuting team in the courts, even as it is today. Beyond that we had asked that a ticket system be introduced, hence, for example, a man found littering would be issued a ticket and the money will be paid directly to us. But that also was not agreed to by Government,” Green added. According to the Mayor, in 1997, the council made appeals to then Chancellor Desiree Bernard and Chief Justice Carl Singh to have the issue suitably rectified. “Mr. Singh was quite sympathetic and cooperative and today what we have is a court that deals with these matters but it falls short of our initial request for a special Municipal Court. The other issue is that the municipality benefitting from the fines imposed remains unresolved; our effort to have this remedied has not met with the success we desire. The money collected by the court, over the years goes into the consolidated fund.” An average of fifteen matters directly related to the municipality engage the attention of a City Magistrate every week. While custodial sentences are the standard penalty for burglary offenders, court fines imposed upon offenders of similar crimes against the city range from $5000 to $50,000. Crimes against the municipality include unlawful disposal of garbage, break and enter and larceny, unlawful obstruction of the public way, and forbidden soliciting of passengers „touting‟. Judicial Officers have confirmed that as a result of court action taken against such offenders, a minimum of $100,000 is collected on behalf of the municipality every week. This amount accumulated over a five-year period is quite significant. It has been 20 years since City Hall has benefitted from the money paid by defaulters through the court system.

US not budging on democracy project -source
Stabroek News, January 8, 2014 The United States is standing by its position that a democracy project here should go ahead despite the government‟s opposition, the most serious diplomatic stand -off between the two countries since the PPP/C took office in 1992 on a wave of western support for free and fair elections. The US position on the $300m Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project was conveyed to the Government of Guyana in response to a Note Verbale from Georgetown requesting clarification on an interview granted to Stabroek News by US Ambassador Brent Hardt in which he said the project would proceed. “We did get a response last Friday…basically repeating what they had said before,” a source close to the government told Stabroek News yesterday.

The source said that Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon, who has been the government‟s lead spokesperson on this matter, will be dealing with the issue at his post -Cabinet press conference today. Diplomatic observers say the government will no doubt have to weigh how it responds to Washington‟s latest position. It was Luncheon who on November 26th last announced that government had rejected the project, which, among other goals, aims to boost citizens‟ engagement with local parliamentarians and improve overall governance. He had argued that his government had no input, saying any notion of consultation was really “just cosmetic.” The ruling PPP also expressed concern, saying it believed the project was implemented in collusion with the opposition to hasten its exit from office. “There is deep suspicion in political circles that this particular project was conceived to bolster the political fortunes of the opposition political parties in Guyana. Small wonder why the political opposition and sections of the media are enamored with the project and have gobbled it up with hunger and satisfaction,” a statement from the party read. “After all, the money tree has now sprung up in the opposition camp to fund trips to the interior of our country, and radio and TV time, in short, to provide funding for activities of the opposition political parties so that they may have some political advantage over the PPP. From all indications it appears that we have turned full circle to the extent that we have returned to the days of the mid 1960s when the AFLCIO funded opposition trade unions and political parties to destabilize the Jagan-led PPP government during the 1962-1964 period,” it went on to state. Luncheon has severely criticised the United States Ambassador, accusing him of challenging Guyana‟s sovereignty after the ambassador said in the Stabroek News interview that the project would go ahead. The US Ambassador had told this newspaper that there was no truth in the claim that the administration had not been consulted and the US Embassy released a series of correspondence showing that from the start the administration was actively engaged on the project. Luncheon had even thanked the embassy for its “diligent” efforts to inform government. The government then dispatched a diplomatic note to the US State Department and challenged the US Ambassador to prove that USAID has a right to go ahead with the project here despite government‟s objections on grounds of a lack of consultation. It said Hardt violated ambassadorial duties by pushing ahead although given a red light by government. However, diplomatic observers say that the US Ambassador would not have announced the continuation of the project without Washington‟s go ahead. Opposition figures and non-government groups have accused the government of contriving the charge of a violation of sovereignty in relation to the US project. They have argued that the project would be helpful considering that local government elections have not been held here since 1994. They have also pointed out that when it was in the opposition prior to the 1992 general elections, the PPP invited US intervention in many electoral areas without seeing it as a violation of sovereignty. Washington recently took a hardline position on Ecuador. It cancelled aid to Ecuador worth US$32 million over the coming years after long-running disputes with the government of President Rafael Correa.

According to a US State Department spokesperson, Ecuador recently informed the US Agency for International Development (USAID) it could not undertake new activities or extend existing ones without an accord governing bilateral assistance. This led to the US decision to cancel the aid. “Our planned US$32 million in assistance programs for the coming years would have allowed us to partner with Ecuadoreans to achieve their own development goals in critical areas,” said a letter dated December 12 from USAID to Ecuador, according to Reuters. A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Quito said two years of negotiations failed to reach a new agreement.

APNU never received any cash from USAID Project – Granger “Govt. lamentations nothing but Cold War rhetoric”
Kaieteur News, January 10, 2014 A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has not received any cash from the USAID/Guyana – Elections and Political Processes (EPP) Fund, Leadership And Democracy (Lead) Project that Government has been lamenting over, given the US Government insistence on its implementation. This was confirmed yesterday by Leader of the opposition coalition, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger who, in an invited comment, said the only assistance it has received thus far is the facilitation of a public meeting meant to provide voter education on the holding of local government elections. Granger told this publication that in October last year, he met with Glen Bradbury, who is the Chief of Parties for the International Republican Institute, the body USAID procured to implement the project. At that meeting, Bradbury sought to elicit from the coalition‟s Leader, the scope of assistance they would require. According to Granger, the only assistance required was with voter education, given that APNU did not have the resources to roll out any wide-scale programme. The Opposition Leader stressed that the education programme is targeting only the Local Government Elections. According to Granger, Local Government Elections is a complex arrangement involving 71 organs, namely the 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and six Municipalities. He stressed that there is an entire generation of voters who would not be au fait with the system which is mixed – first past the post as well as proportional representation. As it relates to assistance from the project, Granger stressed that the only assistance received was the facilitation of the public meeting held at Anna Regina. “The Government‟s lamentation over the project is nothing but Cold War rhetoric,” Granger said. Government‟s Chief Spokesperson, Dr Roger Luncheon, at a recent press engagement had described some of the objections made by Cabinet as it relates to the project. He said that the four components of the project were analyzed by Cabinet and one contained major activities that captured a relationship between USAID and individual political parties in Guyana.

This, he stressed, was a source of concern, given that Guyana does not have a public policy by government for the support for political parties. He said that there is nothing like that in the law or in practice and the Americans through the project “invited a profoundly sensitive issue.” Dr. Luncheon said that this is something that has not been dealt with by any post-independent Guyana Government and further “for us represented a usurpation of our authority.” He said that this was drawn to the attention of USAID which was asked to make the overtures and activities to be a relationship between institutions such as Parliament or the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and not parties.

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