APNU AT WORK A WEEKLY SUMMARY OF EVENTS KEEPING THE DIASPORA INFORMED January 25 – 31, 2014

Vol. 27
The Chief Justice’s decision can have unintended consequences
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) does not accept the Chief Justice‟s “decision” in the “Budget –cut” case which was delivered on Wednesday 29th January 2014.

The Opposition if it is dissatisfied with any item in the 2014 Budget, according to a rational interpretation of the “decision”, must refuse to approve the entire Budget in order to give effect to their disapproval.

The Government in this situation if it refuses to amend the Budget to the satisfaction of the Opposition would precipitate a major constitutional crisis and trigger a consequent General Election.

The Minister of Finance has deliberately ignored the decision of the National Assembly, as reflected in the approved 2013 Appropriations Act by spending monies that were not approved by the National Assembly. The Minister, as a consequence, should be censured by the National Assembly for this blatant defiance.

The Chief Justice‟s “decision”, suggests, also, that APNU cannot defend the decision of the National Assembly in the Courts of Law if taken there by the government side.

The Chief Justice‟s “decision”, coming after 18 months but just before the presentation of the 2014 Budget, seems intended to neutralize the Opposition‟s vital oversight role of the National Assembly.

APNU CONDEMNS VIOLENCE
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) strongly condemns the daily saga of armed robberies that has become all too common- place in Guyana today. The Partnership calls particular attention to the violent incident that occurred today at the Follow-up Coop located in Port Mourant; East Berbice- Corentyne Region, where two citizens were killed and three others seriously injured. APNU takes this opportunity to express our condolences to the families of Krisnauth Jagdeo 46 of Port Mourant and Seafield Layne 48 of No.1 Road Corentyne Berbice. We wish a speedy recovery to David Harpaul 38 of Rose Hall, Clement Griffith 48 of Ankerville, and Fazel Abrahim 25 of Black Bush. APNU reiterates its lack of confidence in Minister Clement Rohee to effectively manage the security sector of the nation. APNU calls on President Donald Ramotar (in the interest of the safety of the citizens of this nation) to appoint a new minister to manage the security sector. APNU calls on the Peoples Progressive Party –Civic administration to make the safety of all the people of Guyana its first priority. The Partnership also takes this opportunity to repeat our call for the Guyana Police Force to be brought up to full strength, retrained and adequately equipped and led, so that they can fulfill their mandate and uphold their motto of service and protection.

Shoddy Kwebana/Kumaka road stifling development of Moruca
JANUARY 31, 2014 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS

Toshao makes pitch for laterite surface Roads serve as an integral part of the infrastructure of any community as it relates to its development and the lack of a proper road between Kwebana and Kumaka has been stifling the development of the Moruca and surrounding communities. This is the view held by Toshao of the Moruca Village Council, Basil Cornelius, who related the woes of the community to a team from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) which visited and toured the Northwest District location on Monday last. The APNU team was led by its Shadow Public Works Minister Joseph Harmon, Regional Member of Parliament, Renita Williams and also included political advisor Ronald Backer and Public Relations Officer, Mark Archer. Harmon met with Cornelius at his Office and was told that Kumaka/ Kwebana road is in a continuous state of disrepair due to the fact that there has been no substantial upgrade to it in recent years. upgrade to it in recent years. Cornelius explained that this is the main road in the Moruca sub-region “and the condition of our road is really bad.”He did point out that last year a few short stretches of the road had been graded. Cornelius said that he grew up along the road and from the time he was a young boy to now it remains the same.

According to Cornelius, the state of the road contradicts all of the development that has been taking place in the region. “I feel if the road can be better, our development would go even faster.” He indicated that while there is development in the area no one political party can lay claim to this, as it is the people of the community who are diligent in their quest for development. “They have been working, they have been sacrificing and I believe they deserve a far better road than that.” Cornelius lamented that on each occasion when the regional officials promise to repair the road “they just take a grader and grade it, so it has become more like a drain.” He said that this state of affairs has been raised with President Donald Ramotar, and a request has been made for a laterite road. The toshao stressed that laterite is in abundance in the region and as such, instead of simply grading the road, the resources in the community can be utilised to build a proper road. “We have all the materials here, it would be very cheap to get the laterite,” said Cornelius. He opined that should a laterite road be built, it would stand up longer to the weather than a graded road which would last just about three months. Cornelius pointed out too that the road is very narrow and to compound the situation, when it rains it would eventually leave huge drains in the road. “The majority of our people live along this road,” said Cornelius. As it relates to infrastructural problems, he said that the main hindrance is the way in which the projects are handled. “I wouldn‟t bad talk the government for not giving us projects, they give us a lot of projects, but it is the way they are implemented.” Harmon informed the Toshao that his responsibility in the shadow cabinet concerns public infrastructure, hence the reason to inspect the road. “What is happening now is that government and public officials are not placed under a greater level of spotlight.” According to Harmon, in the previous dispensation, monies were spent in communities such as Moruca but the benefits were not being seen. “Now that we have a more active opposition, a more active media, more active village councils, people now have to give account for what they do.”

Opposition resolute on stance to cut budget
Kaieteur News, January 30, 2014 By Zena Henry The combined Opposition remains firm in its understanding of the procedures of Parliament and remains unmoved by Chief Justice Ian Chang‟s High Court ruling regarding their inability to cut the National Budget. Both Opposition parties; the Alliance for Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) have expressed their intent to ignore the Chief Justice‟s (CJ‟s) ruling, citing the separation of powers between the Legislative and Judicial arms of the Constitution and the rules of Parliament which allows the Opposition more than “approval or disapproval” before the passing of the National Assembly. The Opposition has also indicated their intent to cut the 2014 Budget if the need arises. Both sides have stated that unless the Caribbean Court of Justice rules on the matter, the Parliamentary Opposition will remain firm in its position of the Budget cut matter. APNU‟s Basil Williams told the media that the party‟s position has not changed. “As far as the Opposition is concerned, until the highest court rules on this, the position of APNU is that it could cut the Budget because Parliament is independent and has the authority to act within its domain…” Williams described the CJ‟s ruling as, “a recipe for disaster.” He continued that it is not the Opposition‟s belief that the Standing Order of Parliament are just rules, but the lead Counsel for the Opposition‟s lawyers, Rex Mc Kay had submitted authorities to speak on that matter. Williams continued that other issues were put before the court, “but before we could argue that, we were struck out, given no opportunity to be heard on whether we can cut the Budget or waiver our immunity.” “We are in a political assemblage representing the people. How could the National Assembly be considered by the Chief Justice to be bound by his decision when he shut out the leader of the majority?; the leader representing the majority of people in Guyana was not given a hearing.” Williams added that the matter involving Brigadier David Granger being a party in the Budget cut case will still be pursued. The implication of the CJ‟s ruling Williams suggested, is that when APNU wins anything in Parliament and government goes to court when dissatisfied, “we will not be able to give our side of the story.” Meanwhile, AFC‟S Moses Nagamootoo said that the CJ‟s ruling was, “sensational, unprecedented and outrageous; and we believe strongly that there should and ought to be an immediate appeal of decision.” He said this matter opens a new political ball game. “If the Opposition in Parliament, being the elected representative of the people cannot disagree or change and vote on allocations we see as unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable… then the ruling interferes with Parliament‟s right to represent their constituents.” Nagamootoo charged that the new engagement in Parliament brought attention like never before to levels and volumes of unprecedented corruption and conflict of interest and malfeasance that has taken place, to the extent that the Opposition has questioned the Finance Minister‟s disbursement and spending of unapproved money. “It is thus convenient to conclude that the CJ‟s ruling is a cover up malfeasance by the Finance Minister.‟ He said money not appropriated by Parliament was spent by the Minister, “who could very well face sanctions” by the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges.

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan stated also that Parliament is independent and can conduct itself based on the procedures set in the House. He said that the CJ‟s ruling will be appealed, but the 2014 budget will be cut if the opposition sees it fit. He said that the AFC will remain firm in its belief that it can cut the budget until told otherwise by the highest legal body.

Stalemate continues over 2014 budget talks - Second invitation rejectedGreenidge
Kaieteur News, January 28, 2014 The second attempt by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh to invite the members of the political opposition on discussions over the 2014 budget was rejected. Carl Greenidge who serves as the Shadow Minister of Finance of the opposition faction A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) was the one rejecting the invitation. The first “serious” invitation to have discussions on the 2014 budget was on January 13, last, via an email to Greenidge and other members of the opposition faction. But this was met with much disdain since according to Greenidge, Singh is yet to respond to the APNU‟s proposal on the process for future discussions so as to prevent the confusion which surrounded the 2013 and 2012 budget discussions. Singh is still to send his suggestions on the refinements to the proposal sent by Greenidge last year. Since the Minister makes his second attempt to invite the faction to engage in discussions on the budget without honouring his initial arrangements, Greenidge says that is a “most inappropriate setting for any discussions, let alone amicable ones. “We have no option but to take the way in which the joint decisions have been studiously ignored as a sign of the lack of seriousness on the part of the Government representatives towards the discussions and their contempt towards the Opposition.” APNU‟s financial spokesman also wrote Dr. Singh expressing his concern about his statements in the press which suggest that the opposition had falsely claimed that there have been no meaningful discussions on the budget. Greenidge in his letter to Dr. Singh said, “Subsequent to the decision of the Party Leaders and prior to November 14, the government and Parliamentary Opposition parties did not meet on the matter. “Since September 9 the Government‟s side has been in receipt of our proposals for topics as well as a process that could form the basis of the discussions. “No subsequent discussions touching on either the substance or philosophy of future Budgets have taken place in my presence…In the circumstances, the portrayal of your invitation of January 13 as something intended to advance our discussions on Budget 2014 is beguiling. It cannot be accepted.” In the letter to Dr. Singh, the former Finance Minister also reiterated that he is therefore not in a position to recommend to any of the Opposition Parties that they take up his second offer.

“It is clear, therefore, that the conditions are not at all ripe for any fruitful Budget dialogue. Further discussions prior to the presentation of the Appropriation Bill would be pointless at this stage.” He added, “If it is the case that your Cabinet has cleared you to proceed to the House with a Budget unencumbered by opinions other than those of the People‟s Progressive Party and those persons and entities it deems politically worthy, that is unfortunate.” Greenidge also stressed that if the Finance Minister had intended to pursue the call for dialogue seriously, then the members of the Cabinet would have ensured that he convened the necessary meetings and provided the agreed information on time. “We reserve the right to react to the presentation in an appropriate manner. I note that you have thrown out an open invitation for the Parties of the Opposition to approach you independently of the process suggested by President Donald Ramotar and agreed to by the other Party Leaders. “Even at this stage one could be sure that the nature of their responses would be a measure of their attitude to the Government‟s cynical and arrogant approach to an exercise we agreed at the very outset could not be rushed through in a couple of meetings, which is all that the time now remaining would permit.”

$15M revetment project in Moruca turns to slush…Toshao laments poor quality of rehabilitated bridge
Kaieteur News, January 30, 2014 The $43M rehabilitation of the main access bridge in the Moruca Sub Region, in the North West District was supposed to have been completed in three months but according to the villagers, it is now almost two years since the project commenced and is still unfinished. To make matters worse, more than $15M which was used for revetment works on the eastern end of the bridge has since turned into slush. It is below the water level and has led to the residents resorting to a makeshift walkway in order to access the Bridge. The bridge facilitates just about 7000 persons, including an average of 1000 school children who traverse the facility on a daily basis. As a result of the pleadings of the residents of the community, a team from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Monday last travelled to the interior location to witness the situation first hand and listen to the woes of the persons living there. The APNU team was led by its Shadow Public Works Minister Joseph Harmon, Regional Member of Parliament, Renita Williams and also included political advisor Ronald Backer and Public Relations Officer, Mark Archer. Harmon and team held a community meeting as well as met with Chairman of the Village Council, Toshao Basil Cornelius. During that meeting, Cornelius, in venting his frustration, told the APNU team that the present Regional officials are treating the problems associated with most of the projects in the region “lightly” and with the bridge they are “going too far.”

He spoke of what he called favoritism by the Regional officials in the granting of numerous contracts to a single individual or a selected few. “I would say that is the main cause for the very poor quality of work,” said Cornelius. On the matter of the bridge, he related to Harmon that the works started in 2012 and was supposed to be finished at the end of that year. “The contractor gave me his word on that, it was not a new bridge, it was a rehabilitation of the bridge.” According to Cornelius, they had been shown the drawings of the plan for the bridge and from a layman‟s perspective they believed that it looked good, when in fact it was that very plan that was the beginning of the problems. Among the many problems with the bridge is the fact that the contractor used appropriately short piles which were even shorter than those that had been in place on the older bridge. According to Cornelius, what in fact happened is that only a few new piles were installed and the top of the bridge redone. “Where the inferiority of the materials is concerned I think that adds more to the insult,” according to an upset Cornelius. According to the official, the bridge is now worse than it was years ago. Cornelius said that as a leader in the village, he tries to work with the system and keeps negotiating with the relevant authorities and while the officials would usually make promises, the woes continue. “As the year dragged on and the bridge kept being an issue I realized that the Regional officials are not going to answer the questions, they are not going to do anything and as such we started to make our voices heard as a village.” Cornelius said that to date (Monday) he is yet to receive word from the officials on the way forward. Cornelius is calling on the authorities to complete the bridge given that thousands of people depend on it. The Moruca area is described as a number of islands in between rivers and swampy areas. The bridge in question is the main one that provides access across the Moruca River. Cornelius described the current state of the bridge as a setback for the community for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Cornelius called the state of affairs with the bridge, an insult to the village council as well as the people of the Region.

He questioned how it is that the contractor for the bridge has not been penalized and asked, “Why is this contractor so powerful.” Cornelius noted too that when the contractor decided to pull out his equipment from the project, the Council had taken a decision to seize the equipment given that the bridge was yet to be completed but was advised against such a move when they sought legal advice.

Harmon however told Cornelius that as far as the contractor is concerned the project is completed. He informed the Council Chairman that he had met with the contractor before travelling in to the region and was told that by the time he reached the community on Monday the revetment work would have been completed. “I am to assume that what I have seen there is the completed work,” said Harmon. Harmon in his observations noted that on the western end of the bridge there was a pitch road leading onto the bridge and questioned why in the contract the same could not have obtained, rather than the use of loam revetment. It was noted that the revetment was built on pegasse. “You needed to have something firm in order to take that traffic…on a sealed surface,” said Harmon. The APNU Executive Member is adamant that this was something that the members of the community deserve. “The community is entitled, this is not something that you have to beg for, you are entitled to a better quality of work,” Harmon told Cornelius. He reiterated that it is the nation‟s money being spent. He suggested that it was eye-pass to the Region and posited that this had transpired because it was being done outside of the glare of the public‟s view. According to Harmon, public works fall under his portfolio as shadow minister and regardless of the project, Guyanese deserve a better quality of work and that the contractors must execute works in a better manner. Cornelius told the APNU official that he met with President Donald Ramotar, last Wednesday and had expressed alarm over the state of the bridge. While he did not secure a firm commitment from the President, he said that Ramotar did indicate that the Administration is exploring the idea of securing another contractor to complete the bridge.

Clear as day that GT&T being pushed out of business – APNU
Kaieteur News, January 28, 2014 Parliament‟s main Opposition has expressed concerns over statements by the country‟s biggest telephone company that its expansion plans to introduce new technology was halted because of a delay in permission by Government.

According to Member of Parliament of A Partnership For National Unity, Joseph Harmon, it is obvious that the delays in permission to the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) have nothing to do with new legislations in place to liberalise the telecoms industry. Those legislations are currently being examined by the Special Select Committee established by the National Assembly last year. On Saturday, GT&T‟s Chief Executive Officer, Radha Krishna Sharma, complained to media workers that the US-owned company applied to Government four years ago for new spectrum to allow for significant investments in Third and Fourth Generation (3G/4G) technology, and which would have seen faster internets to smart phones and other devices. This was after the company had already spent $6B to bring a fibre optic, high speed data cable from Suriname. The company also criticised Government‟s involvement for a US$37M E-Governance project to connect its agencies with internet using towers and a fibre optic cable from Brazil. Such a project should have been handled by the private sector, GT&T said. According to Harmon yesterday, it appears that the E-Governance project was being pushed in a manner that could run GT&T out of business, a scenario not hard to imagine especially since there seems to be no reason why permission to expand was not granted. “We are talking here about a company that has been around for almost two decades. I understand now that GT&T has brought technical experts to make presentations to Government on its plans for the 3G/4G networks. The issue here is very clear. GT&T is wondering whether there is a level playing field.” APNU, Harmon said, will be looking at the new telecoms legislations in the National Assembly to ensure that a level playing field will be provided to any companies that wants a part in the industry. Harmon, whose faction has 26 seats and with the Alliance For Change, controls the House by a one-seat majority, made it clear that note has been taken of the fact that at least two companies have been earmarked for telecoms licences when the industry is liberalized for new players to enter. However, he was reluctant to say what changes will be made, only pointing out that work is being done. The telecommunication industry took the spotlight last year after investigations by Kaieteur News found that there is a clear attempt to take it over. There have been speculations that the E-Governance fibre optic cable will be used by a number of favoured companies to directly control data and telephone services. Two companies, Global Technology and Quark Communications, have been named in the legislations as being first in line for operating licences. The problem that has been angering industry operators is that both companies have links to friends of the administration. Quark‟s operations is housed in the Versailles, West Bank Demerara compound of TVG, a company owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi „Bobby‟ Ramroop, who happens to be a close friend of former President Bharrat Jagdeo. Ramroop also sits as a director on Global Technology. Sitting on Quark as a director is Sabrina Singh, a niece of Jagdeo. Winston Brassington, a controversial figure who spearheaded a number of large scale projects for Government including the Marriott Hotel and the troubled Amaila Falls hydro facility, is a central figure in Quark.hat there is a clear attempt to take it over. There have been speculations that the E-Governance fibre optic cable will be used by a number of favoured companies to directly control data and telephone services. Quark‟s main founder is Brian Yong. He is known to be a close friend of Jagdeo and was even on his party‟s elections campaign as a candidate in 2011. The companies, Quark and Global Technology would be able to compete directly with Digicel and GT&T once the laws are passed in the National Assembly and assented to by President Donald Ramotar. The companies have already reportedly started expansion, even though the licences have not yet been granted.

With Government unveiling an aggressive project to connect 90,000 poor families with internet, any company receiving a telecoms licence will be poised to capitalize also on the mobile phone market, an area that is jealously guarded by the current companies and worth billions of dollars. Leader of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan, last year said that his party had found it strange that Government had decided up front who are the four companies that will be receiving licences. “A telecoms licence is not a joke that is handed willy-nilly to anyone…We are supposed to have an open, transparent system allowing everyone to have a chance to compete.” Ramjattan said that “to decide beforehand who you want to operate in the market is indeed strange and worrying…We can draw some conclusions from this…We will move to make some changes to change this criminal nonsense.” There has been growing worry over what appears to be a takeover also of the media landscape.

Consultations necessary for decision on legalising marijuana AG, Granger
Stabroek News, January 28, 2014 Recognising that marijuana offences are putting pressure on the justice and prison systems, legislators say that consultations are needed to determine whether there is a need to decriminalise minor related offences and legalise the drug for personal use. There continue to be frequent prosecutions for possession, trafficking and to a lesser extent cultivation and not only are the Magistrates‟ Courts feeling the pressure but also the High Court, where persons often go in an attempt to get bail once it has been refused at the lower court. Last week, Guyanese-born security specialist Dr Ivelaw Griffith told this newspaper in an exclusive interview that he supports the “selective decriminalisation” of marijuana as part of the overall strategy for responding to the wider drug threat facing the Caribbean region. He went on to say that countries in the region have long complained that it makes little sense to arrest for one marijuana cigarette simply to spend hundreds of hours in the courts that are already overcrowded. Stabroek News asked both the Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Opposition Leader David Granger about their positions on the legalisation of marijuana. The AFC, when contacted, was unable to offer a comment on the issue. Nandlall noted that the issue had been the subject of an ongoing debate for some time now. He said that recently it has picked up great momentum because of certain legislative and policy changes, which have been made in both the United States and Canada. He said that a number of states in the United States have passed legislation which legalises the use of marijuana up to a certain quantity as well as for medicinal use. Similar changes, Nandlall said, are taking place in Canada and he added that he is aware that Canada is on the market to purchase marijuana to be used there for medicinal purposes and that several Caribbean countries have the matter under consideration. Nandlall said that in terms of Guyana, he knows “of strong views held by large groupings within our country both for and against the decriminalisation question.” He said that perhaps the time has come for us to begin a national conversation on the matter and for public consultations to be held. According to the Attorney General, in terms of the revision of the penalty for the possession of marijuana which currently obtains in our laws, “again, this had been the subject of ongoing debate”.

He reminded this newspaper of the changes that were made to the law to allow for persons with small quantities not to suffer imprisonment as a mandatory sanction as it was before. He said that the magistrate has the discretion authority to decide whether to impose a fine or imprisonment if the quantity is of a particular size. “Perhaps the time has come for us to revisit this aspect of our law again, especially in light of the changes taking place internationally,” he said. He added that the question will always be who would be the driving force behind such an initiative, having regard to the fact that there is strong public opinion in respect of both sides. He said there is a view that there needs to be stronger penalties for crime, especially unlawful drugs and drugrelated crime, while, on the other hand, the more liberalist will argue for decriminalisation as well as a reduction in the penalty. Social impact Granger, who noted that the main opposition APNU does not have a position on the issue and has not discussed it, said he believed that attitudes towards marijuana and the enforcement of the law are creating more problems than they are solving. “…The present attitudes to marijuana consumption and trafficking are creating bigger problems, bigger social problems,” he said. “I agree with you that the criminalising of marijuana has contributed to the large number of persons who are in jail,” he said. He said that there are many persons, particularly women in the New Amsterdam area, who have been imprisoned for trafficking in small amounts of marijuana. “I think this is a pity because many times we find prisoners or the persons who are criminalised are mothers and they are forced to leave children unattended for three years or more,” he said, while noting that the large number of persons who have been imprisoned for use of marijuana is creating more problems than it is solving. But Granger noted that Griffith might have drawn his experience from a different jurisdiction, while adding that what is needed is a careful study of Guyana. “I think the basis of such a study must arise out of consultations with different persons in Guyana itself. So it is not a question of one size fits all. We can‟t just take something from one jurisdiction and plant it in another jurisdiction,” he stressed. He went on to say that in the case of Guyana, there are religious considerations, since members of the Rastafarian community have different views on the use of marijuana, as well as legal and medical considerations. He said that there have been some investigations into the medical application of marijuana for relieving pain and curing certain diseases. Asked whether it would be wise to go the route of legalising it for personal use as Jamaica attempted to do back in 2000, Granger said that this is something that can be addressed during consultations. He made the point there is already difficulties preventing alcohol consumption in persons under 18 and “we don‟t want marijuana to penetrate society.” He said that there are reports and evidence of marijuana abuse in some hinterland schools. “I am very cautious in transplanting experiences from one jurisdiction to another and as I said countries like Jamaica have a different experience with marijuana and even some developed countries, I think, in the Netherlands, may have different attitudes to legalising marijuana,” he said.

“If it becomes an issue in Guyana, we can have a consultation with our constituents and arrive at a solution which is desired by all of the stakeholders. We don‟t want to make a decision without the regulatory framework in place. You have to look at the social impact. The impact on children, the impact on families and households and the impact on society,” he said. ‘Jail is not the solution’ Chief Counsellor for the Salvation Army Steve Sookraj believes that jail is not the answer and is of the opinion that the accused must first be assessed to determine whether he/she is a chronic user and in need of rehabilitation. Speaking to Stabroek News, Sookraj said that to be able to effectively assess these persons, there needs to be a system at the courts where a drug counsellor is available. He said that when a case comes before the court, the magistrate instead of jumping to a conclusion should first get the involvement of the drug counsellor. He said that it should be based on the report of the drug counsellor that the court should make a decision as a court may not be able to independently recognise the signs of addiction or detect the differences between a first time user and a chronic user. “Jail is not the solution to the problem. There is rapid use even in there [jail]… when you go in there it is like you are not being punished because you still have access to it and you are still using,” he said. According to Sookraj, more persons are using the drug because it is more accessible but at the same time they are not recognising its dangers. Sookraj is strongly against legalising marijuana. He said that given the history of the drug, it would create problems if it is legalised even for personal use. “You get psychological damage after a while,” he said, while adding that marijuana is often referred to as a gateway drug. Sookraj also said that he is counselling persons as young as 15 and he questioned what will happen if it becomes legal. Meanwhile, a security source made the point that in wake of the problems already being faced with fighting alcoholism, legalising marijuana might just make matters worse. The source said that we will be faced with a variety of problems, including an overburdened medical system. The source said that he does not agree with sending persons to jail for minor marijuana offences and instead favours non-custodial sentences, such as a fine, community service or treatment if it is determined that the offender has an addiction. According to the source, Guyana‟s population is too small to allow the legalising of marijuana. “It should not be legalised… our social and medical costs will be more,” the source stressed. A source within the judiciary, however, differed, saying the drug should be decriminalised entirely as it is a plant that was placed on earth by God and scientists have found that it is less addictive than alcohol. According to the source, it would make much more sense to send repeat offenders to rehabilitation as oppose to jail. The source said that if this is done and persons are given lighter penalties for minor offences, it will help to reduce the overcrowding in the prison. According to the source, lots of persons go to the High Court for bail on marijuana-related offences. The source pointed out that marijuana is not something that we can stop from growing as it will always be there. It was noted that by making it illegal, a whole lot of problems have been created.

Anti-Money Laundering discussions … We are not opposed to the presence of the Press – APNU
Kaieteur News, January 26, 2014 Shadow Finance Minister of the A Partnership of National Unity (APNU), Carl Greenidge is saying that the opposition, which is a part of the Parliamentary Select Committee, is not opposed to the presence of the media fraternity, except in the cases where there are discussions on “sensitive matters.” This position was also supported by Joseph Harmon of APNU who serves as the Shadow Minister of Public Works and Telecommunications. Chairperson of the Special Select Committee, Ms. Gail Teixeira and even President Donald Ramotar, were reported as being in agreement with having members of the media alliance and stakeholders present at their meetings. This, Teixeira believes, will allow for a true understanding of what really transpires during the discussions on the controversial Anti-Money Laundering Bill. Teixeira and Minister of Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall, are also of the firm impression that the political Opposition is only employing delaying tactics for such a very important Bill. Teixeira said that since the first meeting on Monday the Opposition‟s attitude towards discussions on the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill (AML/CFT) has not changed. President Ramotar noted that there were several members of the political Opposition who, after attending the meetings, expressed that they would not be able to “make decisions on simple matters until they consult with the leader of the Opposition.” To this comment, Greenidge asserted, “When such statements are made I would like to ask how many times we said we needed time to consult. It was only once. Is it a crime to consult? “Because doing that enables you to come back with a definitive decision. If the government is saying that consultation is simply a waste of time I would like to refer to the time they have taken and wasted to consult on their nominees for the Public Procurement Commission which they have still not submitted. The government should be the last to talk about delaying tactics. Those who live in glass house shouldn‟t throw stones.” Harmon in support of his colleague‟s points said, “We are not opposed to the presence of the media. Our position on this matter will be clearly stated on Wednesday. But on the point of the media being present, it is surprising that they would now ask for that because how the Chairperson (Teixeira) behaves is very appalling at times. And I‟m sure she wouldn‟t want the media to be preview to her unparliamentary language.” Greenidge then said, “We don‟t believe that the presence of the media would be conducive to frank and candid discussions. Our position is that we can call on them when it is something that is not of a sensitive nature.” He added, “Some aspects just need to remain confidential.” “When we look at the discussions held by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on several matters such as the Audit Department and promotions or criticisms on areas of weaknesses, such meetings are held privately. It is not open to the media because of its sensitive nature.” With the case of the Anti Money Laundering Bill, this is perhaps even more sensitive because of the issues pertaining to businesses, smuggling of drugs, people, fuel, gold and other related issues.”The Member of Parliament added, “Discussing issues about the security of information and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and its adequacy and its mode of recruiting personnel, I believe should not be open to the press. These are all matters that will be on the table for discussions. However, I wish to reiterate that our position should not be misconstrued by any means to mean that

we are against the presence of the press. We are in support of transparency but some discussions should just remain private. It is too sensitive.”

No decision on replacing Backer as MP – Granger
Stabroek News, January 25, 2014 The main opposition coalition has not taken any decision on replacing Deborah Backer as one of its Members of Parliament (MPs). After falling ill, Backer has missed several sittings of the National Assembly since early December last year. With the budget debates and the ensuing consideration of the budgetary estimates fast approaching, APNU and Opposition Leader David Granger was yesterday asked if there are any considerations to replace Backer as an MP. Former APNU MP Richard Alleyne, who fell ill during the consideration of the 2013 budgetary estimates, was replaced by APNU Rennita Williams after it became obvious that he would not fully recover in time to enable the APNU to maintain its one-seat majority on votes. Granger told a news conference that no such decision has been taken with regards to Backer. Granger said that he has been in constant contact with Backer and disclosed that she is currently on her way back to Guyana but has stopped over in Trinidad. The purpose of the stop-over is unknown. Granger did, however, reveal yesterday that Backer has been replaced on the Special Select Committee on the anti-money laundering amendment bill by fellow MP Jaipaul Sharma.

Ashni Singh needs to adhere to recommendations- PAC Chairman
Kaieteur News, January 26, 2014 Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, (PAC) Carl Greenidge, has firmly asserted that if Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh does not comply with the decisions and recommendations of the Committee then it will not approve the monies he would be asking for. Greenidge, who also serves in the capacity of Shadow Minister of Finance of the political opposition faction, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), stated that there is widespread concern over the unacceptably low standards to which financial management has deteriorated. “These decisions are to safeguard hard-earned financial resources and to ensure accountability in their use, not to mention their cost-effective and efficient deployment.” The Chairman stated that since the Committee outlined a number of recommendations and made several decisions, only some of them were adhered to by the Minister of Finance.The level of compliance on the part of the Minister, Greenidge said, was in some cases induced by withholding the approval for monies. He said, “It was only in these cases that Dr. Singh listened to some of the decisions. It was only until he was backed into a corner that he listened.” Greenidge also stressed that the Minister of Finance needs to comply more with the decisions of the Committee and not wait for them to resort to actions such as not approving the money they would ask for. “For example, we made certain recommendations and decisions with regard to the 2013 budget and when they were not adhered to, we withheld money and they complied. Some of those very decisions have not been complied with and we will continue to monitor and examine the budget to ensure government complies. We will continue to do what is necessary until the minister understands that he needs to comply.”

PNCR to seek probe of all police torture, shootings over last 20 years
Stabroek News, January 25, 2014 The People‟s National Congress Reform (PNCR) today said that it will move to have every act of torture or shooting by the police over the last 20 years investigated. This was one of the commitments made at the first General Council of the party for the year today. The PNCR is the main partner in the opposition coalition APNU. Both are led by Opposition Leader, David Granger. The PNCR statement follows: The first General Council of the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) was held today January 25th 2014 at the Party‟s Headquarters, Congress Place, Sophia. Held under the theme“achieving inclusive democracy and respect for workers through a social contract”, the General Council meeting was chaired by Chairman of the PNCR Mr. Basil Williams MP, who welcomed members and called on them to recommit themselves to working to overcome any challenges to a good life for the people of Guyana. In his remarks Williams made mention of the rampant poverty, youth employment and violent crime that continues to be pervasive in communities all across the nation. General Secretary of the PNCR Mr. Oscar Clarke gave a report on the work of the party secretariat and reports from the eleven party regions. Mr. Clarke reported that training for local government elections were well advanced and charged party members to aggressively mobilise within their various districts and regions. The feature address was given by party leader Brigadier David Granger. In his address Granger said that the PNCR was committed to inclusionary democracy and respect for workers. Towards this end he said that the party had declared 2014 Year for Workers and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU} had called for a social contract to promote national unity, ensure human safety and foster economic development. The party leader reminded the Council that the PNCR started as a working class party and pledged the party‟s continued support for the working men and women in Guyana. Granger also said that APNU would advocate for the human rights of all Guyanese citizens. He said that the Partnership will seek to have investigated every act of torture in the last 20 years; every shooting in the past 20 years; Brigadier Granger said “we (PNCR) will work to protect the rights of persons who suffer police brutality and will not rest until there is good governance. Referring to the Year for Workers, Granger said that the People Progressive Party Civic (PPP-C) had damaged the labour movement in Guyana. He said “the PPP has divided the labour movement…and the PNCR will fight to reunite the labour movement.” The leader of the PNCR said that the country‟s economic future lies in hands of the workers and Guyanese workers must be able to look forward to a better future, better wages and a good life in 2014. General Council is the governing body and second highest decision making forum of the PNCR between Biennial Congresses and meets at least once every quarter of each year.

Increase in illegal guns points to dangerous situation – Granger
Stabroek News, January 25, 2014 Recent discoveries of high powered arms and explosive devices in the hands of civilians is a sign that we are in a dangerous situation, says Opposition Leader David Granger who believes that a shakeup of the upper command of the Home Affairs Ministry and a reform of the Guyana Police Force is the best solution to this problem. An M16 rifle, grenades, a telescopic rifle and a number of small arms have been found within the last year and while in some cases persons were arrested and charged, many are questioning whether the police are trying to ascertain the origin of these weapons, or put systems in place to stop their entry into the country. The issue of illegal firearms has been a longstanding concern but from all indications more and more of these weapons and ending up in the hands of criminals. During an interview last week, Granger, who has often spoken on firearms and their use in robberies and other criminal activities, told Stabroek News that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has a clearly stated position on gun running and illegal firearms. “We feel that the present administration is not doing enough to prevent the influx of illegal weapons into the country,” he said adding that teenagers being charged with having high -powered rifles and grenades suggested that “we have reached a very dangerous situation.” The teenagers he was referring to are Kevin George, 18, of 21 Castello Housing Scheme and Samuel Johnson, 17, of 158 Curtis Street, Albouystown who were last Wednesday allegedly found with an M-16 rifle, sixtyone .233 rounds of ammunition, a concussion grenade and a fragmentation grenade. They were later charged and were remanded to Georgetown Prisons. Granger told this newspaper that it is because of the present situation and the discoveries of dangerous weaponry that the opposition since 2012 has called for the revocation of the appointment of the Minister of Home Affairs. He said the ministry “is not keeping our people safe.” Granger, a retired Brigadier who has a wealth of knowledge about the security situation in Guyana, said, “As I said before we are sitting on a time bomb…” He said the President needed to take the resolution of the National Assembly seriously, that is to appoint a (new) Minister of Home Affairs, while adding that now is the best time for a cabinet shuffle given the resignation of the Minister of Local Government. “If we can have a change in the Home Affairs Ministry I think we can look to better control of these gun crimes. When you see these illegal firearms… we talking about three armed robberies a day [and] that is what the weapons are most likely to be used for. This is not a state of insurgency or a state of insurrection in this country,” he said. According to Granger the right apparatus is needed to create a public security system which could bring gun running to an end. In addition to this, he said that there has to be reform of the police force with the police given manpower and the equipment – aircraft, all-terrain vehicles and boats – which could interdict gunrunning. He stressed that to date there has been introduction of an updated National Drug Strategy master plan even though many of the guns coming into the country are to protect the narcotics trade. “So the two are linked; it is not that they are coming in to rob restaurants and gas stations. These weapons come in to protect the narcotics trade which is doing a lot of damage to our country,” he stressed.

Granger said he was not surprised that people have become brazen enough to transport these weapons during daylight hours. “We do not have an effective Minister of Home Affairs so as far as I am concerned anything can happen in terms of banditry, piracy. …There is no machinery in place to prevent that type of criminal behaviour and that is why we have been calling for the revocation of the minister‟s appointment,” he added. Worrying A source pointed out that the recent discovery of the M16 and the grenade is worrying but what is of even more concern is where the items were heading. Stabroek News has since been told that one of the teens is related to a murder convict who is currently servicing a 78-year jail sentence. Their brother was found in a house in George Street several years ago with a gunshot wound to the head. It is still unclear who or what was responsible for his death. The source explained that the M16 is similar to an AK 47. It was explained that this weapon uses a smaller calibre and is easier to handle. “This is a cause for concern,” the source said stressing that a grenade is very serious business and can be very dangerous if one does not know how to use it. The source said that it seems as if there are some people above the law and they have decided that they will and can do whatever they like.” According to the source, illegal weapons are smuggled across the borders mainly from Brazil and Venezuela. The source said the gun and grenades recently found may have been smuggled into the country from Brazil. It was pointed out that within recent times a lot of weapons have been coming from Venezuela. The source said that police first need to stem the flow of these illegal arms and to do this there must be better security at the border. The source stressed that investigators should aim for the bigger players in the gun trade. “Too many of the transporters are being caught and placed in jail. Where are the people who give them the guns to transport?” the source asked adding that the issue of illegal guns here is a cause for worry as the numbers are increasing and police seem to be finding more and more on a regular basis. The source said it is time all the stakeholders come together and come up with a plan to tackle this issue. In September last year police stopped and searched an F150 motor pick-up at Yarrowkabra, Soesdyke/Linden Highway and found a .44 Harrington and Richardson telescopic rifle with 38 rounds and a .32 Taurus pistol with 7 rounds. Seven men who were in the vehicle were arrested. It is unclear what happened to that case. Then there was the case of 14-year-old Ryan Persaud who was shot and killed by a stray bullet from a high powered rifle also in September. To date, police have been unable to find the weapon or the person who pulled the trigger. It is believed that the bullet came from a weapon fired from a boat moored on the Demerara River. The child at the time of the shooting was standing not far from his home at Vive la Force, West Bank Demerara. The river is located behind his home. It is suspected that the weapon used could have been an M82, M15 or M16 as these can fire bullets over long distances. Police were only able to recover part of a warhead from the child‟s body but it did not have the required marking for a comparison.

Region Ten feels neglected by government- Like wood ants, they corrupted and under resourced the health facilities in the region – MP
Kaieteur News, January 28, 2014 The dark politics of the government has crippled Region Ten. It has transformed the district into a system of underdevelopment said Region Ten Councilor, Renis Morian. The Member of Parliament is of the firm belief that while the resources of the district continue to be exploited the community has become nothing more than a “living nightmare for most residents.” The parliamentarian said that the government continues to build “chip sealed” roads in the region, a very cheap form of roads now called “election roads.” They last for six months. “Three-quarters of all public roads in the region are in their worst condition some for the past 20 years. From Linden to Ituni to Kwakwani is a nightmare. The price of having roads that are bad is borne by the residents as transportation costs continue to rise, repairs to vehicles are more frequent, and the fire tender and ambulance cannot reach some residents due to the road conditions. While some market tarmacs on East Coast Demerara are having bituminous surface we are relegated by this PPP administration to endure living in a quagmire,” explained the Lindener. As it relates to utility services, Morian said that Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, continues his misleading outbursts on the electricity situation. “The PPP administration is responsible for destroying the stable and cheap environment of electric production in Linden. Government is always ill advised, always looking for a hustle and sold the lone steam power plant to TEXAS OHIO ENERGY. “This was done without consultation with locally elected leaders or with members of the community,” he explained. The representative of Linden added, “This hush-hush corrupt deal resulted in the Government and Linmine taking TEXAS OHIO ENERGY, which was filed in the court in August 2002 and by this time the lone steam plant was destroyed, underperforming and wasted. The hearing was held in Washington DC, USA. One of the persons testifying was Hinds who spent over three days under direct cross-examination. The Government of Guyana claims against TEXAS OHIO ENERGY are as follows; US$998.6 million for loss of bauxite sales, US$ 1.25 million for failure to apply insurance proceeds to repair or rebuild the plant or remit those proceeds to the Government and US$2. 052 million for loss of power plant through sale to Linden Power Company.” “This is 2014; the good Prime Minister continues to sleep walk in his outbursts that the Government is working in the interest of the people of Region Ten but he would have to explain to residents in linden what has happened to the arbitration money? “Why the Government never honoured the will of the people of Linden to replace what they destroyed through corruption by his fellow „kleptocrats.‟ We would require the Government to replace what they have stolen through mismanagement.”

On the topic of health facilities, Morian also explained that years ago Lindeners boasted of having two well managed and resourced hospitals but when the People‟s Progressive Party entered, like “wood ants, they destroyed ,corrupted and under resourced the health facilities in the region.” “The Prime Minister should visit the Wismar Hospital and the “State of the art hospital” built at Mackenzie. Poor people sometimes have to forego some drugs ordered by their doctors due to cost at local pharmacies.” Morian added that there seems to be a programme of under-resourcing when he takes everything into consideration. “Our schools are a long way off in terms of physical facilities and resources when placed alongside schools in the city. The security and fire services need new vehicles. “It seems when they are used elsewhere, then Linden is the final dumping ground. We don‟t have fire tenders suited for local conditions at Wismar.” The Parliamentarian said that the government needs to draft programmes that are geared towards agricultural development, the development of tertiary facilities, infrastructure and financial support for some of the programmes which locally elected leaders have crafted on the basis of economic development.

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