APNU AT WORK A WEEKLY SUMMARY OF EVENTS KEEPING THE DIASPORA INFORMED December 14 – December 20, 2013

Vol. 22
APNU SUPPORTS GPSU’S DEMANDS FOR INCREASED SALARIES AND IMPROVED CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR ALL PUBLIC SERVANTS
A Partnership for National Unity supports the Guyana Public Service Union‘s demands for increased salaries and improved conditions of work for all public servants. APNU also supports the re-engagement of People‘s Progressive Party/Civic administration with the GPSU executive in order to arrive at a long-term solution to the current problems affecting public servants. The PPP/C and GPSU have been on a collision course for the past two decades. The Union launched a series of strikes against the Government since 1994, the most massive of which was the eight-week, April-May 1999 strike. That strike ended with the establishment of an arbitral tribunal – comprising Drs Aubrey Armstrong (chairman), Clive Thomas (nominee of the public service unions) and Gobin Ganga nominee of the Government) – which made a final award of a 31.6 per cent pay increase for 1999 and 26.6 per cent for 2000. That award seems to have had the effect of intensifying, rather than eliminating, the conflict between the PPP/C and GPSU. The strike left many of the most serious issues unresolved to this day. APNU, therefore, calls on the PPP/C administration to avoid another collision with the GPSU. It can do so by respecting the collective bargaining process, by reviewing the conditions under which public servants work and by implementing a strategic plan to improve the public service as a whole.  Review the conditions under which public servants work.

The PPP/C administration must appreciate the need to pay public servants ―a living wage.‖ Workers at the lowest levels who comprise over 75 per cent of the Public Service will see their salaries increase by less than $2,500 per month with the proposed 5 per cent increase.

Many workers are convinced that they deserve a higher increase, particularly in light of the high cost of living. Public servants these days are frequently unable to afford to meet some basic household expenses, utilities and transportation. Many public servants must borrow money for emergencies and to settle day-to-day expenses.  Respect for the collective bargaining process.

The PPP/C administration – particularly since the 1999 strike which paralysed some government ministries and state agencies– has abandoned the Collective Labour Agreement and resorted to the imposition of wages and salaries. The PPP/C has also frustrated and obstructed trade union representation by transferring public service employees to semi-autonomous agencies and by displacing traditional public servants with contract employees.  Implement a strategic plan to improve the conditions of service for public servants. The PPP/C must implement a comprehensive, strategic plan to improve the conditions of service of all public servants. It must start by appointing the Public Service Appellate Tribunal as prescribed in the Constitution of Guyana. It must also adhere to the International Labour Organizations (ILO) Conventions ratified by Guyana‘s National Assembly that deal with Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Rights to Organize and Collective Bargaining. APNU iterates its call for the PPP/C administration to invite the GPSU immediately to engage in talks aimed at/restarting the collective bargaining process and restoring normalcy and averting a crisis in Guyana‘s Public Service.

APNU seeks to sanction Finance Minister for unapproved spending
DECEMBER 17, 2013 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS

The political opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has taken the next step in its promise of holding the Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh accountable for allocating unapproved monies that the combined opposition cut from government agencies and projects in the budget. APNU, through its leader David Granger, announced recently that the action by the Finance Minister was unlawful and that APNU will initiate action through the National Assembly to deal with ―Ministers who feel that they are not accountable to the National Assembly and who behave in an unlawful manner.‖ According to the Granger ―As far as that is concerned you have not heard the end of it, any Minister of the Government who is held to behave in an unlawful manner will have to answer to a Committee of Privileges and that action is going to be taken.‖ Granger articulated that the process to bring the Finance Minister to the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges has started.

―A motion has been drafted and I think by now it would‘ve been in Parliament or submitted‖ said Granger. He said that ministers are accountable to the National Assembly and he is aware of the law and what the Constitution and the Standing Orders call for. Speaking on when the Finance Minister will be brought before the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges, the Opposition Leader said that once the motion is brought before the National Assembly, it has to be first approved and after the decision is taken it is then up to the Speaker to convene a committee. ―Given the time of the year it may not occur until next year but it could happen, we are meeting again on December 19.‖ This year‘s National Budget approved $31.35 billion less than what was originally presented to the House. Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh had presented a $208.8 billion budget on March 25. After a series of amendments, the budget was reduced to $177.4 billion. The Opposition had cut the budgetary allocations set aside for the National Communications Network (NCN), Government Information Agency (GINA) and Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL). Cuts were also made to the Ministries of Public Works and Health however Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh went ahead and spent on those agencies, despite such cuts by the Opposition. On the floor of the last sitting of the National Assembly on December 12, APNU MP Jaipaul Sharma as he explained the wrongs of the Finance Minister and the three Ministers to whose Ministries moneys were allocated even though it was cut by the opposition, said that they should be placed before the Committee of Privileges but to that notion most members of Parliament (MPs) sitting on the government side heckled/laughed at the pronouncement.

Govt.’s explanation of increases is without merit – Goolsarran
Kaieteur News, December 17, 2013 Government has sought to defend its position that the $4.4B voted for revision of wages and salaries cannot pay more than five per cent increase to public servants by saying that the allocation is also used for new recruits and promoted employees. Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, has rubbished this explanation. He said that it does not have merit since every year the National Assembly approves of revised staffing tables for ministries, departments and regions. Goolsarran in qualifying his pronouncement, used as an example, the staffing details for Office of the President under the accounting head, Presidential Advisory: Cabinet and Other Services. According to the former Auditor General, the authorized staffing for 2012 was 176 while that for 2013 is 196, an increase of 20. In terms of wages and salaries, the revised figure for 2012 was $331.1M while the budgeted figure for 2013 is $409.6M, an increase of $78.468 million.

Goolsarran noted that the five per cent increase in 2012, which works out to $16.6M, was met from the Ministry of Finance‘s allocation since the revision of wages and salaries is budgeted centrally under the Ministry of Finance. This amount would have to be added to the wages and salaries for existing staff members to arrive at the new figure for 2013. The difference of $61.9M would therefore be to cover the wages and salaries of the additional 20 staff members. He said that the additional cost relating to promoted staff members would have also been reflected in the budgetary amounts. ―Suffice it also to state that no ministry, department or region can recruit persons beyond the authorized staffing that National Assembly has approved…Therefore, the explanation that the salaries of new recruits are met from the allocation under revision of wages and salaries, is not a valid one.‖ Goolsarran in his writings on the matter pointed out that the Union is obviously dissatisfied with the quantum of the increase which it argues continues to be arbitrary and a breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed upon with the Government. He said the imposition of arbitrary increases is not a new occurrence which can be traced back to the mid-1990s, except for the 1999 Armstrong Tribunal Award which the Union claimed was partially implemented. Goolsarran added that related to the issue of salary increases, are travel and meal allowances which have also not increased since then, despite a five-fold increase in the price of fuel in the case of the former, Goolsarran said. ―How are those public servants, who are required to be mobile in the execution of their duties, able to carry out such duties effectively?‖ He noted that Government is contending that talks with the Union had reached a stalemate and that it has no alternative than to approve of the five per cent increase.

―How valid is this contention, given that for the last 17 years, salary increases have been an imposition and not subject to negotiation and agreement with the Union,‖ Goolsarran questioned. According to Goolsarran, ―the Government also argued that the issue is one of affordability and that its ability to offer a higher increase was affected by the budget cuts, particularly as regards the Amaila Falls Hydro (AFH) Project.‖ Goolsarran pointed out that the implementation of AFH arguably would have seen subsidies to the Guyana Power and Light significantly reduced, if not, eliminated, thereby releasing funds for the payment of higher increases.

―However, AFH would have taken 40 months to build and therefore would not have had any impact until 2017.‖ According to Goolsarran, the Opposition political parties, for their part, quite justifiably argued that the approved budget did not reflect any cuts in the projected revenue but rather in expenditure; and this would have resulted in the availability of more funds to pay salary increases. Goolsarran added out that the current Auditor General‘s report for 2012 for the Finance Ministry is devoid of any findings relating to employment costs, including the expenditure under the line item for revision of wages and salaries. ―One is therefore left to wonder whether the Auditor General was satisfied with propriety of the amount of $2.4B billion that was paid out in 2012 to meet expenditure unrelated to the revision of wages and salaries… ―Or, was it a situation where no tests were carried out in relation to this expenditure?‖ Goolsarran pointed out that the Auditor General is required to examine in such manner as he deems necessary the relevant financial statements and accounts and to ascertain, among others, whether all moneys expended and charged to an account have been applied to the purpose or purposes for which they were intended. ―Funds can only be expended in accordance with the wishes of Parliament, and the Auditor General is by law required to ascertain that this is so…Where there is a violation, the matter has to be reported to the National Assembly…We therefore need to hear from the Auditor General.‖

APNU, AFC flay gov’t over US democracy project
Stabroek News, December 16, 2013 APNU parliamentarian Joseph Harmon yesterday said the government‘s pulling out of the USAID funded $300 million project aimed at educating Guyanese on the local government election exposes the ruling party as being anti-working class. And AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan came out swinging at the PPP government for rejecting the project, stating that the ―neurotic, paranoid leaders‖ in the party who want to see its closure do not want the Guyanese public‘s education in democracy and civic participation. ―I am minded to repeat that it is this PPP Govern-ment‘s control-freakism which compels and informs this closure. It is the communism in their little heads which they are hard put to unlearn! It is so sad to see them remain in Jurassic Park!‖ Ramjattan told this newspaper yesterday. Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Harmon, who had represented his party at the July launching of the US-funded project, pointed out that there is money in the project to help with voter education as well as strengthening grass root democracy. ―The fact that they would not want to agree to something like that, exposes the PPP party for what it is, that it is a party that is not supportive of educating the masses, of ensuring that people are prepared for local government elections and ensuring a certain level of inclusiveness in the political affairs of the country,‖ Harmon told this newspaper.

Harmon argued that democracy must be practised from the ground up to ensure that people at the lowest level of the political system are prepared and educated for their role in the governance of the country. ―So this project, as we understand it is…meant to address these issues, and so by not signing on the government is exposing itself as the anti-working class, anti-people government that they are, he said. He questioned why the government would object to the project when it actually has monies coming into the country for a specific purpose adding that ―it does not make sense to me…‖ Harmon said as far as he knows the project has already started and he said APNU will continue to support it as the party has always stated that the people must be educated and exposed to a level of education that makes them active participants in local government. Meantime, Ramjattan, who was also at the launching of the project in July, noted that it is one which will help youths, women, the awareness of the electorate of the local government process, the Parlia-ment, and political parties including the PPP, among other areas. That being said, he added that his party strongly supports the project‘s continuation The AFC leader said he does not think the government‘s pulling out should affect the project as USAID ―should simply proceed with it at the exclusion of the ill-advised PPP Government.‖ ―If they do not want to participate, the monies should still be spent towards all the good purposes intended initially,‖ he added. According to Ramjattan, at its launch the project was agreed to by all parties. The launch was attended by government MPs, Dr Frank Anthony, who is also the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport and Indra Chandarpal. Ramjattan lamented that the Western donor community may get confused as to whether it should proceed with other projects of a similar kind in future and this will be the country‘s loss if they decide against. ―If the USAID walks away on this project, it will have a very negative impact because a portion of this $300M was intended to go towards public awareness of the local Government processes,‖ he said. The party leader recalled that in 2009 he had written an analysis which developed out of works done by Oxford economist Paul Collier that regimes tending towards kleptocracy, like he said is the case with the PPP, will love when donor communities deliver actual monies, or goods which are consumables like vaccines or equipment in their aid programmes. But when these countries commence projects to give another form of goods, namely, accountability and education in democracy and participation, these regimes condemn this sort of delivery. ―This is what is happening here. Then like good scoundrels, they would scream: `Sovereignty and no internal political interference‘. The USAID and the ABCE countries must not be terrified by these screams. They should challenge these potential tyrants!‖ the party leader declared.

The government recently announced its rejection of the Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project but the US Embassy has expressed the hope that it would still be implemented. ―We look forward to continuing to engage with all stakeholders to ensure the success of this programme in advancing these important goals, ― US Ambassador Brent Hardt told Stabroek News last week. The International Republican Institute programme was launched in July of this year and Hardt told this newspaper that it was expected to bolster the functioning of the National Assembly through encouraging consensus building; and working with civil society and the public to boost citizens‘ engagement with the National Assembly and all parties to support the legislature‘s role as an effective deliberative body. While initially supporting the project the government through Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon on November 26th announced that his government had rejected the project. Asked why the project was pulled, Luncheon would not go into details but stressed that the actions of USAID were not in keeping with conventions of past projects. ―This one in 2012 departed from that convention… we were presented with an agreement to sign over which we had zero contribution… Why the abandonment? Nobody can explain but so grievous has been the consequence of this abandonment, Cabinet had no option but to pull the plug,‖ he said.

Minister warned over ecological, security risks of New River mining activity
Stabroek News, December 15, 2013 The Permission for Geological and Geophysical Survey (PGGS) issued to Muri Brasil Ventures Inc should be revoked since any mineral activity in the pristine southern tip of the country, whether actual mining or just surveying, could have ecological and security implications, according to APNU MP Joseph Harmon. ―I am repeating that the minister has to see what he is doing as wrong,‖ Harmon told Stabroek News. He noted that fellow APNU MP Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, who is chairman of the Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources, had written to Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud in April this year inquiring about the processing of mining licences for blocks in the New Triangle area and drawing attention to ecological-sensitivity of the area as well as highlighting the security implications that mining could bring. Writing to Minister Persaud on April 3, 2013, Roopnaraine called for there to be an inquiry into whether mining licences were at the time being invited, entertained and processed by the GGMC for blocks in the New River Triangle. ―As you must know the New River Triangle is the last completely undisturbed pristine area of our forests with as yet un-investigated and undocumented riches of biodiversity. That apart, such activity would certainly give rise to a fresh surge of anxiety and agitation from our eastern neighbours, straining and putting into jeopardy the present constructive relations that have developed especially since the settling of the dispute over the Corentyne border,‖ Roopnaraine said in the letter, which was seen by Stabroek News.

He said too that at worst, any revival of the border dispute may also have grave consequences for Guyana‘s national security. ―For all these reasons, I ask that you inquire into this development and take such steps as you deem necessary to arrest it,‖ said Roopnaraine. In a response, dated April 8, 2013, to that letter by Roopnaraine, Minister Persaud acknowledged the concerns raised and said that there were ―no mining permits, mining claims or mining concessions granted or issued to any individual or company‖ in the New River Triangle. The minister said that the GGMC had received application for Prospecting Permit Medium Scale in the New River area. ―GGMC is obligated to accepting the application under the Mining Act. These applications are subject to review and would only be granted if the area is open for location,‖ the minister said. Persaud has been accused of not disclosing the grant of the permission for surveying to Muri Brasil Ventures Inc, which is entitled to as many as 18 prospecting licences upon application. According to Harmon, the survey permission granted to the company was not done for general information purposes but for the granting of a prospecting licence. He remarked that the ministry became an entity in January 2012 and in just shy of two years it has granted a large number of concessions. ―This is why the letter writer said that the minister is selling out the country. If he doesn‘t resign right away he should be sent on leave. People should call on the minister to do the honourable thing and resign. The letter issued to the company must be recalled and the company must be told that the approval will not go ahead because of the ecological and security implications,‖ he said, referring to an accusation made by an anonymous writer who blew the whistle on the grant. Harmon also backed up statements by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), which on Friday suggested that it was misled by the ministry. The ministry in replying later that very day to the GHRA said that it had provided the information requested and that there was no attempt to mislead. The ministry said that the minister and his team made a revelation of the PGGS even though there was no specific request for it. Persaud had last month sought to assure the Natural Resources Com-mittee of Parliament and the GHRA in separate meetings that there was going to be no mining east of the New River. However, since these assurances were given, the agreement with the company has surfaced containing a clause which compels the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to provide a maximum of 18 prospecting licences in the said New River for a variety of minerals upon application by the company. Harmon said that the opposition will be putting questions to the minister at the sitting of the National Assembly this Thursday regarding the lack of disclosures and the nature of the agreement with the company, said to be interested in mining rare earths elements used in the manufacture of cell phone and computer hardware components. ―The position of the GHRA is in keeping with the way in which the minister dealt with the questions in the committee when he was trying to be very technical to avoid indicating the existence of the PGGS. I want to compliment the GHRA for the way that they dealt with this matter,‖ he said. ―

I want to applaud them and let them know that what they are doing informed the kind of questions that I was able to ask in the committee,‖ he added. Harmon suggested that other civil society organisations would do well to take a leaf out of the GHRA‘s book on issues that affect people. Harmon is of the opinion that the minister utilised the vehicle of a PGGS to avoid the more rigorous checks of the GGMC. ―This is a procedure which seems to have been utilised to evade the scrutiny of the GGMC,‖ he said. Meanwhile, when contacted for a comment on the ongoing saga, President of the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc Anand Goolsarran said that the body would be issuing a statement on the matter this week after it meets and discusses it.

Berbice Bridge toll reduction is not for the poor — APNU
Kaieteur News, December 15, 2013 “If you want to show that you really want to benefit the poor people then the reduction in the toll must be for the greatest category of vehicles that traverse the bridge,”— Harmon The Berbice Bridge Company Inc has announced a reduction of its tolls, but it did not address the poor man who represents the bulk of the people traversing the facility. This is according to A Partnership for National Unity‘s (APNU), Joseph Harmon, who in an invited comment yesterday, said that while he is happy to see that the company has started to respond to the needs of the people for a reduction in the toll, ―I am disappointed that they have not chosen to reduce that category of vehicles which the poor man uses to traverse the bridge.‖ According to Harmon the announcement by the Berbice Bridge Company Inc is more of an ―anti poor measure.‖ He said that it is the minibuses, cars and motorcycles that the poor man uses to traverse the bridge, but the bridge company did not address the tolls for these categories of vehicles. The bridge company in announcing the reduction of tolls said that the categories to benefit from the reduction are 4 Wheel Drive SUVs/Pickups, Pickups pulling trailers with boats, jet skies for recreational purposes, Pickups and SUVs pulling horse bogies, 50 and 30-seat minibuses and large trucks. According to Harmon, ―This is an attempt to give rich people a further benefit at the expense of the poor man.‖ He said that the general thrust of the motion he intends to lay in Parliament, is to assist the poor people. ―If the Berbice Bridge Company wants to make an impact and show that it is generous let the administration reduce those categories, minibus, cars and motorcycles. He argued, ―If you want to show that you really want to benefit the people then the reduction in the toll must be for the greatest category of vehicles used to traverse the bridge.‖

The decision by the Berbice Bridge to reduce the toll for certain categories of vehicles comes in the wake of the political opposition putting pressure on the government. Harmon is set to advance a motion in the National Assembly for the reduction of the Berbice Bridge toll for all the vehicles.

Harmon is requesting that the National Assembly call on the government to instruct its representative on the Board of Directors of the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. to demand an immediate reduction in tolls charged for crossing the Berbice River. Harmon‘s position is that a reduction in the Bridge toll is necessary since many Berbicians and commuters are complaining about the high costs required to travel across the bridge. His reasoning behind the reduction was that; if the BBCI could reduce the toll by half for vehicles during the ―holiday season‖ last August (which he felt was really done to facilitate PPP/C congress that was held in Berbice) then it could be done across the board. Harmon Further articulated that the motion is to address the question of devolution of wealth from the populace into the hands of a few. The money actually belonged to Guyanese people because the shares for the company belong to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the National Industrial Commercial and Investment Limited (NICIL), he said. According to Harmon, since its commissioning in December 2008, the Berbice Bridge has facilitated the crossing of over 650,000 vehicles, resulting in annual revenue of over $1.5B. He said that the Berbice Bridge was built with significant investment by the Government of Guyana, ―on behalf of the People of Guyana.‖

Private sector statement attacking APNU bridge motion was not vetted with constituents
Stabroek News, December 14, 2013 A statement by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Thursday condemning an APNU motion to have the government move to lower tolls to cross the Berbice Bridge was not discussed with its constituents. Sources say that this lack of consultation by the PSC with its constituents on a matter that was seen as very important has raised disquiet. Sources within the private sector say that an explanation will be sought from the PSC and a full discussion of the issues is expected. The motion submitted two weeks ago by APNU to parliament seeks to have the government instruct its representative on the board of the Berbice Bridge Company to demand an immediate lowering of tolls.

The motion in the name of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) MP Joseph Harmon and seconded by Amna Ally has a clause that says ―Be it resolved that the National Assembly call on the Government of Guyana to instruct its representative on the Board of Directors of the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. to demand an immediate reduction in tolls charged by the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. for crossing the Berbice River in the following manner.‖ The motion which is to be debated at an upcoming session of Parliament, seeks to have the present toll for motor cars and minibuses slashed from $2,200 to $1,000. It also wants the toll for a 50seater bus cut from $12,800 to $9,000 and for a 30-seater bus from $7,200 to $6,000 among other adjustments. Arguing for these changes the motion says that the Berbice Bridge was built with significant investment by the Government of Guyana which through the National Industrial & Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL) is a preferential shareholder and a member of the Board of Directors of the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. On Thursday, the PSC excoriated the motion without naming APNU. It said ―The Private Sector Commission of Guyana notes with deep concern a recent call by some members of Parliament that the Government interfere in the management of the Berbice Bridge Company, a Private Sector Company and concessionaires for the Berbice Bridge, and force Tariff reductions. ―The PSC will vigorously oppose any form of non-regulatory interference in the management of Private Sector companies, which in this instance if allowed to proceed will negate against attracting private investment in similar infrastructural projects. ―The Berbice Bridge Company is owned 80% by Guyanese Private Sector interests, including pension funds and 20% by an institutional investor, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), that also holds non-voting preference stock in the Company and provides one of the few opportunities for a good investment return on Guyanese workers‘ NIS contributions and may also be considered critical to the future life of the Scheme. As far as we are aware, the Government directly or indirectly has no investment in, or liability relating to, the bridge at this time. ―The Bridge Company attracted investment by offering a minimum return to investors who were prepared to take the financial risk; this must not be interfered with. The company‘s safety and maintenance records are well above average, as are customer facilities at both ends of the Bridge. The Company is managed by a Board of Directors representing the investment interests; no one Director can determine or undermine the decision of the full Board, Government or not.‖ Since the PSC statement was issued, business analyst Christopher Ram said the PSC is completely misguided on the matter. In a letter to Stabroek News, he referred to the PSC contention that ―As far as we are aware, the Government directly or indirectly has no investment in, or liability relating to, the [Berbice River] bridge at this time.‖ Ram described this as ―mindboggling ignorance given all the public revelations and exchanges over the Bridge Company‘s ownership and performance.‖ Ram argued that ―The ownership structure of the company is made up of ordinary share capital of $400 million and preference shares of $950 million. The holders of the ordinary shares are NIS, New GPC, Queens Atlantic and Secure International Finance Company each having $80 million each, and Hand-in-Hand and Demerara Contractors each holding $40 million.

―What this means is that the Government, inclusive of the NIS, owns 76% of the issued shares of the company. Apparently, the PSC‘s awareness, or lack thereof, also does not extend to knowing that NICIL, a government agency, owns what is called a Special Share in the company.

The Articles of Amendment of the company expressly provide that in respect of specified matters, `no action can be taken by the [Bridge] Company, without the affirmative vote of the holder of the Special Share.‘

And because the PSC claims not to know that the Government has this $950 million investment in the Bridge Company, it does not need to address the illegality of NICIL granting the Bridge Company an annual subsidy of around $110 million of dividends forgone. ―When purporting to speak for the private sector, the PSC is expected to be a little more careful with facts. Failure to do so may not embarrass those who cause such statements to be made but reflects poorly on the rest of the private sector‖, Ram said.

APNU to investigate Volda Lawrence’s abstaining vote – Granger
Kaieteur News, December 14, 2013 Some members of the Opposition are not only disappointed but almost furious that the government triumphed on Thursday during a vote for the approval of provisions for works on the controversial Specialty Hospital. A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)‘s Leader, David Granger, has announced that he will launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the absence of Volda Lawrence during the vote. Thursday‘s sitting was unique. Thirty-two members sat on both sides of the House. The Opposition‘s one seat majority had disappeared because Deputy Speaker, Deborah Backer, was absent. The Opposition was having its way on each call of division until the House voted on Provisions for the hospital. It was here that the government had the majority since Lawrence was absent at the time.

As the rules mandate, the bell rang to alert all members outside that voting was about to take place, but Lawrence did not return to her seat. While members on the government‘s side rejoiced, APNU‘s Amna Ali bowed her head and left the chambers in search of Lawrence. Lawrence returned to her seat about 15 minutes after the vote but remained silent on two other votes.

At a press conference, yesterday, at the Office of the APNU leader on Hadfield Street, Granger disclosed that he would not be pronouncing on the implications with regard to her silence as the investigation would have to clearly determine the reasons for her absence in the first place. Granger also deemed the fact that Lawrence did not inform the other members of her party about why she was leaving, as a ―mere breakdown in communication.‖ The Brigadier said, ―My information was that in the first instance Ms. Lawrence left the chambers because she was not well. And as you would know, two other Members of Parliament went to assist her. One actually came back and asked for some medication which she had in her bag and took it over to her. ―I was told last night that she was not well and I inquired about her condition and when she came back and she sat in her chair she was obviously distraught. I heard no sound from her and while I wouldn‘t use the word abstain; I heard no sound from her when other votes were taken.‖ ―This matter has to be investigated. I haven‘t been able to meet with her or speak with her as yet, (but) at present, we feel there might be a case for her.‖ The politician also informed members of the media corps that the Shadow Cabinet had met earlier on Thursday and took decisions on the vote affecting the Specialty Hospital. ―Our positions were clear and it was quite evident that we voted together.‖ However, when asked why Ms. Lawrence returned to the Assembly if she claimed that she was truly unwell, Granger said, ―I don‘t have all the answers.‖

Mursi deal with Robert Persaud further exposed
DECEMBER 17, 2013 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS

A company director openly campaigned for PPP – Granger The scandalous events unfolding that involves the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Robert Persaud, and Mursi Brasil Ventures Inc, is a matter of concern for all Guyanese, and must be seen as a clear and present danger to our National Security and the preservation not only of the pristine environment of the New River Triangle, but more importantly, the territorial integrity of Guyana. This is according to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), who yesterday in a public missive, said that the Granting of Permission for Geological and Geophysical Survey (PGGS) to Mursi Brasil Ventures Inc. might seem innocuous on the surface, but a deeper examination of the parties involved makes it even more sinister. APNU said that it notes that one of the persons listed as a Director of the Company- Mursi Brasil, is Yucatan Reis. According to the party, ―One would recall that in the November 8, 2011 issue of the Kaieteur News, a photograph was printed showing the Brazilian Governor of the State of Roraima addressing a People‘s Progressive Party (PPP) rally at Lethem- Upper Takatu- Upper Essequibo Region…In that Kaieteur News photograph standing next to the Brazilian Governor Jose de Anchieta Junior, on the PPP platform is Mr. Yucatan Reis.‖

APNU said, ―The question that now springs to mind is whether as an inducement for his support of the PPP campaign was handsomely rewarded with the granting of the PGGS.‖ The party further said, ―The question also arises as to the involvement (if any) of the Brazilian Governor of the State of Roraima in this nefarious scheme to sell off Guyana.‖ According to APNU, the PPP‘s financial empire and the failure of the Ramotar administration to be open and transparent are now being exposed for all to see. APNU is the latest to come out in condemnation of the permission granted to Mursi Brasil Ventures Inc. Permission granted by Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Persaud, to Muri Brasil Ventures Inc, to survey more than two million hectares of land in Guyana for rare earth elements will pose a border and security threat. According to Financial Analyst, Christopher Ram, in latest writings points out that the Permission Area is located at the confluence of the Kuyuwini and Essequibo Rivers and is right on the border.

―Indeed, Annex A to the permission states that Point C of the area is located approximately three hundred yards from the Brazil Guyana border‖. Ram charges that had the Minister done the kind of background research which one associates with such major decisions, he would have recognised that the national policy was against any commercial activity in the area. According to Ram, ―National security and territorial integrity could be compromised over a huge swathe of Guyana.‖ He reminded that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) voiced its opposition in an earlier attempt under the Cheddi Jagan Administration. He said, ―It is to ensure that we are not exposed to such threats – as Robert Persaud‘s action now does – that the GDF is given a place on the Board of the Geology and Mines Commission.‖ He said that the ―tragedy is that the law allows Persaud to bypass the GGMC and engage in the kind of recklessness starkly demonstrated by the Muri permission.‖ Regarding the threats to the security and border that Ram suggested; that could be incurred as a result of the deal inked by Minister Persaud.

The financial analyst drew reference to the fact that it has drawn a not particularly friendly reaction from Suriname. In that country, its Deputy Speaker of Parliament is calling for her country to lodge a formal complaint with Guyana. According to Ram, ―that will certainly complicate issues even as the bigger question remains the border with Brazil.‖ He said that Guyanese will now wait to see if President Donald Ramotar will define himself and protect the integrity of the borders of this country. ―Decisive action on this issue will give some credibility to his Presidency…If he fails to act now, nothing ever will.‖ Ram has suggested that, in face of the implications and improprieties, President Ramotar has only one option in this matter. According to Ram, the President must scrap the ‗Permission to survey‘ given to the company and relieve Robert Persaud of any ministerial duties. Ram suggested that Persaud‘s Ministerial performance has been characterised by some grave lapses and his commitment to responsible governance and accountability is even poorer than Guyana‘s.

Barbados hails Burnham as anti-Apartheid fighter
Kaieteur News, December 14, 2013 While Guyana provided a disunited front led by its government in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela on his passing, the Barbados Parliament came together as one and even acknowledged Forbes Burnham‘s anti-Apartheid role. As people complained in letters to newspapers, and on the social media, of the divided manner in which Guyanese political leaders approached this solemn time that is being observed across the world, President Donald Ramotar jetted off to the funeral activities in South Africa with a government and People‘s Progressive Party team. He left behind Opposition representatives of the people in contrast to the example set by neighboring Trinidad and Tobago where Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar included members from the other side of parliament, amid similar gestures by world-leading democracies such as the US and Canada. Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said, ―Countries like Barbados, and in particular in the Caribbean, a country like Guyana under the late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham took a determined position against Apartheid in South Africa, and against that system of oppression and racism‖. Stuart was speaking in that island‘s parliament Tuesday in a sitting, specially set aside for paying tribute to Nelson Mandela. Stuart had backgrounded his statement with examples of murderous action by the then South African government, including the 1960 Sharpeville massacre of 69 protesters, and killing of activists Steve Biko and Chris Hani.

He also referred to international incidents of discrimination against black sportsmen such as English cricketer Basil D‘Olivieira, and American Tennis player, Arthur Ashe. Stuart‘s presentation in the Barbados Parliament was followed by that of Leader of the Opposition, Mia Mottley, and a number of members of parliament from both sides of the House. In a bipartisan gesture, they then proceeded as a group to sign a national book of condolence.

PNC pays tribute to Mandela through reflections, pledges to uphold legacy
Kaieteur News, December 16, 2013 The People National Congress Reform (PNCR) yesterday hosted a rally in honor of the late world icon Nelson Mandela. Perhaps because of the weather, the rally had no more than 150 people but those that gathered paid attentive interest in the message and reflections that characterized yesterday‘s event. The rally was intentionally planned to be on the day when Mandela was laid to rest. The gathering was treated to both cultural entertainment and speeches intended to recognize the past as well as guide the way forward. The programme was chaired by Parliamentarian, Christopher Jones and blessed by Annette Ferguson, also a Member of Parliament. Jonathan Adams delivered reflections on behalf of Region 10 and was immediately followed by Vincent Alexander, who spoke on behalf of the Burnham Foundation. Alexander delivered a biography on Mandela‘s life, beginning from his younger years and covered the occurrences from that time to when he became a world leader. Alexander noted how Mandela evolved from an advocate of peaceful resistance to the leader of an armed struggle. The Guyanese politician noted too that even before Mandela became the first black President of South Africa, Guyana supported his struggle and what he stood for. Alexander recalled the heavy contributions that Guyana‘s very own Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham made to the movement. He also recalled some of the lessons that Guyanese were taught through Mandela‘s action. Those being that an oppressed people can respond to oppression in various ways; ―there can be no individual freedom in the midst of oppression and squalor.‖ Alexander ended his speech with words that encouraged the maintenance of the legacies of both Mandela and Burnham both of whom he lauded as extraordinary human beings. ―Freedom isn‘t free, it comes at a price,‖ was a message brought out in an absolutely impacting speech delivered by Pastor Lawrence Haywood. He said that Mandela was VAST —Visionary, Authoritative, Servant hearted and Transformative. Haywood said that those are qualities of a good leader. The pastor urged those that gathered not to disappoint Mandela ―don‘t disappoint the man in the mirror, the ball is in our court and God is on our side. ― Such an event could not have passed without the Opposition leader and historian, David Granger making his contribution. He told the gathering that Guyanese have been behind Mandela a long time and emphasized that he lives on Mandela Avenue.

Being the historian he is, Granger highlighted the years, 1970, 1975, 1977 and 1980 as significant years in the history of Mandela‘s struggle and the years where Guyana made significant contributions to the movement to which Mandela gave his life and said that his party is not invoking a ―phony‘ love for the hero. Granger placed emphasis on saying that each has a role to play in ensuring that the legacy of Mandela is not destroyed by those who may want to take over from where the oppressors left. The politician said that it must be remembered that Mandela fought not only for equality between white and black but for equality between rich and poor blacks as well. He asked that all join in his prayer to see Mandela‘s legacy become a reality in Guyana. Leader of the Yoruba Singers, Eze Rockcliffe, quoted Kwame Nkrumah ―Freedom is not a commodity that is given to the enslaved upon demand, it‘s a precious reward, a shining trophy of struggle and sacrifice,‖ as he delivered his contributions to the programme. Rockcliffe sang two renditions, ―African people‖ and ―Farewell Mandela.‖ The Circle of Love also made two contributions. There was also representation from ACDA and Parliamentarian Volda Lawrence contributed by highlighting the role of women in struggle and movements.

APNU in local govt election campaign mode
Guyana Times, December 16, 2013 The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has started its elections campaign as it prepares for the highly anticipated local government elections. Coalition leader David Granger said that the Guyana Youth and Student Movement (GYSM) recently kick started a series of rallies across the country, three of which have already been held. APNU Member of Parliament Winston Felix, who is directing the campaign, is the key person who will set dates and times for rallies at various locations. The coalition launched its election on November 28, and Granger said the response thus far has been satisfactory. ―As far as the parties are concerned, we are going into the election campaign as a partnership…‖ he added. He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the president‘s non-assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill .However, he said the party will continue to work on getting the president to accent to the critical piece of legislation. Dissatisfaction ―We are confident that election will be held and the bill will be assented to,‖ he said. APNU has been pushing for the past two years to have the local government election held, pointing out that the dysfunctional local government structure is creating little room for the improvement of community life. APNU has also stated its dissatisfaction with government‘s response to the call for local government elections. Government on the other hand has made some effort to ensure that local government elections are held, especially since there were numerous calls by the diplomatic corps to ensure that this becomes a reality. Four local government reform bills – the Fiscal Transfers Bill 2012, the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2012, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2012 and the Local Government Commission Bill – were passed by the National Assembly, after the bills were tabled in the house.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said it is fully equipped and ready to stage the longanticipated local government elections. GECOM‘s Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally had said that the commission is prepared for the elections. Foreign donors According to him, GECOM has already demarcated the various boundaries and constituencies – 71 districts. Each of these areas has been targeted for voters‘ education. Further, Dr Surujbally added that with support from foreign donors and funds covered under the commission‘s own budget, finance will not be a problem. GECOM has conducted approximately 7000 transactions ahead of the closing of its fifth cycle for continuous registrations on November 23. Additionally, the Local Government Ministry has given the green light for GECOM to commence its public awareness programme.Next year will be 20 years since local government election was last held in Guyana. Government has indicated that local government election is expected to be held in either the second or third quarter of 2014.

Mayoral elections could have been called since December 2008 – Alexander
Stabroek News, December 17, 2013 Local government ministers, since December of 2008, have held the power to call elections to select persons to the posts of Mayor and Deputy Mayor and their failure to do so is in part responsible for Mayor Hamilton Green‘s extended tenure, says UG Registrar Vincent Alexander. Alexander‘s observation comes in the wake of the government‘s criticism of Green‘s management of the Georgetown Municipality. He said that the government continues to say how bad a job Green has been doing, but suggested that it is somewhat accountable since it gave itself the power to hold elections through which Green could have been removed. Alexander currently serves as a Commissioner to the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom). He also served as Co-Chair on the Joint Task Force on Local Government Re-form. In December of 2008, the National Assembly voted unanimously to pass the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill, which postponed local government elections until December 1, 2009. The decision was made to allow some time for key constitutional reforms to take place. Since then, the bill has been laid and passed annually, to allow for the holding of local government elections until the necessary legislation is put in place. Such a bill was passed again during the last sitting of the National Assembly. But, the government, using the majority it enjoyed at the time, voted to include an amendment to the bill that makes provision for elections for the post of Mayor and Deputy Mayor within the local municipalities at the request of the Local Government Minister. Kellawan Lall occupied this post at the time.

The amendment reads: ―Notwithstanding anything in Section 2 or in any other provision of this Act, the Minister may request of a local democratic organ (or on his instructions) authorize the holding of elections at any time for a Mayor, Deputy Mayor, or a Chairman or a Deputy Chairman of a local democratic organ.‖ The parliamentary opposition, at the time headed by Robert Corbin, opposed the amendment, arguing that it gave the minister the ability to dictate decisions to the town councils. Notwithstanding the opposition‘s stance against the amendment, a call for division following the vote showed that government passed the amendment 29-22. Justifying the amendment, Lall argued that the provision would allow local democratic organs to hold elections for a mayor and a deputy mayor after many years, and dismissed the opposition‘s claims that the amendment was ―sinister‖. The government therefore has held the power to call for elections for the positions of mayor and deputy mayor for some time now, but has not done so. Instead, it has lamented the ineffectiveness of the Georgetown City Council, which they say has grown under Green‘s leadership. Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud did not hold the portfolio in 2008 when the bill was passed, but he has held the position since 2011. Asked why he has not called for election in the Georgetown Municipality, in the light of his government‘s constant criticism of Green, he said he could not recall what piece of legislation was being referred to, and needed to do some research to get familiar with the issue in question. The government has even tied Green‘s ―ineffective ability to properly manage the city‖ to the PCNR, of which he is a member. Local government elections were last held in 1997, along with general elections. Since then, a series of developments has caused local government elections, which according to the law should be held every three years, to be postponed. Following turmoil which surfaced following the 1997 elections as a result of dissatisfaction with the electoral process used, an agreement was signed to review and amend Guyana‘s constitution. It was believed that changes to the constitution would quell the disquiet which was spreading rampantly. The Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) was therefore set up, and the body went about receiving proposals from various stakeholders. Eventually, some of these proposals were presented to the National Assembly and voted on. But after the process of constitutional reform was completed, decisions were taken to hold off on local government elections to facilitate the implementation of the changes to the constitution, and subsequent to that, yet another decision was taken to hold off the elections until local government reform had taken place.

PNCR reaches out to owner of collapsed house
DECEMBER 19, 2013 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS

The Leader of the People‘s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Brigadier David Granger visited with Ms. Doris Nero on Tuesday, to extend words of comfort on behalf of the leadership and members of the PNCR. Ms. Nero is the 71-year- old Beterverwagting resident whose house collapsed when high winds struck Saturday night. Before touring the site of the collapsed building, Brigadier Granger presented Ms. Nero with a television set. The North American Region (NAR) of the PNCR also made a cash donation. The PNCR and the North American Region also promised to donate additional household items including a bed and microwave oven to the BV Senior Citizen. After touring the wreckage where Doris Nero‘s house once stood, an official who accompanied Granger said that an important part of the PNCR mission was to assist members of the community who fall on hard times and/or are victims of floods, fire and other catastrophic incidents. Brigadier Granger was accompanied by PNCR executive committee members, Mr. Joseph Harmon, MP and Mr. Larry London.

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