April 23, 2014 By
April 23, 2014 By
On a previous occasion, I felt obligated to pen a letter, to the press, when one Peeping Tom sought through his privileged anonymity to miseducate/misinform the reading public on the status of a Town Clerk in Guyana. On that occasion, it was postulated that the relationship between the Town Clerk of the M&CC of Georgetown and that of a Regional Executive Officer (REO) of a Regional Democratic Council are the same.
On this occasion, this letter is in response to Minister Whittaker, the Minister responsible for Local Government, who has indulged in the same travesty. In one of his recent excursions, in the press, he pontificated that the Town Clerk of the M&CC of Georgetown is analogous to a Regional Executive Officer and as such can conduct the business of that office in a manner similar to the conduct of an REO in the execution of his/her office.
This is far from the truth. It may have been either a misadventure or an attempt to mislead. In either circumstance, the public should be told the truth. I also hope that this instance is not indicative of the public education that is being conducted, under the Minister’s auspices, on the reformed elements of the local government system.
While the City Council and a Regional Democratic Council (RDC) are both statutory/corporate bodies, the only power that the RDC is actively vested with is the authority to carry out delegated functions on behalf of central ministries.
In that regard, a RDC is responsible to some central ministry for every act it carries out. Its resources are provided through a parliamentary appropriation under the Ministry of Local Government and its Regional Executive Officer (administrative head) is appointed by the Ministry as an employee of the Ministry. Such an appointee additionally functions as the Clerk of the RDC and is separately appointed as the Accounting Officer by the Ministry of Finance.
What is the scenario with the City Council? The City Council is a revenue raising body. It raises its own revenue through taxes and may be given a subvention by Central Government. It has its own budget in keeping with its statutory provisions.
It also has statutory officers whose functions are prescribed by statutes, which specifically states: “He shall have the duty of ensuring that the business of the council is carried out with order, regularity and expedition in accordance with the by-laws, resolutions and standing orders of the council.” (inter alia).
The “He” there refers to the Town Clerk. What is clear from this provision is the duty of the clerk to act in accordance with the “resolutions” of the Council. It should also be noted that there is a provision that specifies: “If the council or any of its committees acts against or rejects his advice, he shall be entitled to require that his advice be recorded in the minutes.”
A Town Clerk may also be required to act against his/her own advice once the action does not fly in the face of the law.
Hence, the Town Clerk shares no analogy with a REO. It is also interesting to note that in the case of the City Council, the Treasurer is the statutory officer responsible for finances and may report directly to the council on such matters. This is quite different from the RDC where the REO is also the chief financial officer.
It is unfortunate that public officials are either ill-informed or find it convenient to be strangers to the truth.
April 23, 2014 By
I was at the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) to inform the senior officers there about a document that a regional education official refused to approve. The official appeared to be sexually attracted to me and kept on calling and inquiring about my location.
He wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education inquiring about the document. The matter was brought to the attention of someone who also made sexual advances.
The regional official called to inquire and the disapproval was overturned. Some problems erupted pertaining to these inquiries. I reported the matter to the Guyana Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education.
An investigating panel was appointed in March 2013 (names provided). I am still awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
Name and address withheld by request
April 23, 2014 By
I write with concern and frustration regarding the outcome of the 2014 Budget deliberations in the National Assembly. At the outset, I wish to state that I believe it is healthy for governments to be held accountable by the elected opposition (as indeed by the entire populace) for their degree of spending, administration of programmes and the policies which dictate spending.
In many jurisdictions around the world, the beneficiary in minority government situations are the people, for even though governing with a minority is difficult, this situation often forces elected representatives to develop the maturity to seek compromise, which normally accrues to the benefit of a wider cross section of the population.
Therefore, I am not at all unhappy to see our elected Opposition tasking Government to defend its spending, administration and policies.
What concerns me, however, is the cavalier approach to what has been termed “collateral damage.” In the mature language of compromise and responsible behaviour, which I firmly believe we have a right to expect of our elected officials, this phrase should be regarded as an obscenity.
I direct one of the state entities which have been damaged collaterally: the Institute of Applied Science and Technology, which is among a handful of other agencies whose entire budget has been disapproved, simply because the budgets of these agencies were aggregated together with a few state entities with which the collective Opposition has significant issues.
It is not my jurisdiction or intention to examine the merits or demerits of the Opposition’s vexation with these agencies, as there are able and eminently more qualified individuals on both the Government and Opposition benches whose job it is to concern themselves with such matters of national importance.
My simple question is – does the collective Opposition really believe it is responsibly acting in the interest of the Guyanese populace when “collateral damage” is not only a reality, but when there has been no utterance from these elected officials on the way forward for the stricken agencies?
I meet, as is unavoidable in small Guyana, and indeed am friendly with, many of the elected Opposition as well as elected officials on the Government side. Not a single one of these elected officials have indicated to me that they felt the IAST is underperforming.
Indeed, the criticism I have received from the President is that the institute has not been doing enough to commercialise its exciting research projects, a criticism with which I concur, and we have been taking steps to address this lack, despite some of the inherent systemic barriers to research commercialisation in Guyana.
In fact, Mr Ramjattan has often commended me for the work that we do at the institute, and Mr Nagamootoo has in the past recommended foreign investors interested in peat gas to the institute. Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, who I meet from time to time, also has never indicated anything but admiration for what we have been doing at the institute.
This is of course not to suggest that there is no room for improvement or that we are well funded and well-staffed. But in general, our efforts have been met with approbation, particularly by those who have taken the time to actually observe first-hand what is happening at the institution.
I can therefore only conclude that the collective Opposition has been gravely irresponsible in allowing entities with which they have no articulated issue, such as the IAST, to be placed in an untenable situation with respect to both their operational and capital allocations for 2014.
Incidentally, the institute’s capital expenditure for 2014 was targeted at the acquisition of equipment which was crucial to one of our more important projects: the replacement of mercury in gold mining with activated carbon produced from locally sourced coconut shells (successfully practised elsewhere around the world).
Given the imminent ban on mercury and the crucial role of the gold sector in the national product, is it not cavalier for this kind of project to be relegated to the mortuary because of “collateral damage?” The IAST loses skilled labour constantly to the developed world – only a few months ago, we lost one of our Ph D chemists to Israel.
In the main, this is due to the uncompetitive salaries available, but I can assure you that the current uncertainty of how the institute is to meet its employment and operational expenditures has presented major challenges to staff motivation and morale, and certainly does not help the brain drain.
Furthermore, it is now the end of April – for how long will we allow the follow up negotiations to continue, whilst the collaterally damaged agencies limp along in limbo – doing nothing for the national good, losing morale, and certainly, not being efficient with the taxpayers’ dollars. It is unconscionable for functioning agencies with important mandates to be held ransom.
It is also dangerous for the elected Opposition to assume that they are exempt from being concerned that such agencies function – every Opposition of every nation must be as concerned with good governance and effective functioning of state agencies as is the Government of the day, or they effectively demonstrate that they are not fit to form a responsible government.
I am therefore calling on the elected Opposition of this country to demonstrate to us that they can be mature, that they are not willing to slash and burn in a manner which engenders that obscenity – “collateral damage”, and that when this occurs, they are willing to take responsibility to suggest compromised ways in which to avoid damage to programmes important to the national fabric and national competitiveness.
Why am I calling on the Opposition and not the Government? The Opposition proposed the cuts and enforced them with their majority in the national legislature.
April 22, 2014 By
Amerindians’ greatest contribution to modern Guyana was the help they gave to colonists and subsequent coastlanders in penetrating and understanding its hinterland. All expeditions into the heart of the country and beyond, relied on Amerindians skills as guides, hunters, boat hands, woodsmen or canoers, knowing every treacherous rapid, jungle trail, mountain, hill, tree, cataract or waterfall.
Indeed, it was these expeditions that opened Guyana to its non-Amerindian settlers and showed the riches of the interior – forest products, minerals, natural scenes and other phenomena that brought tourists.
Through trade, alliances and cooperation, the Dutch cultivated friendly relationships with these people and protected them from unscrupulous Europeans. Early Spanish incursions and slave rebellions were all put down with the help of Amerindians.
They policed the interior, served as intelligence gatherers, tracked runaway slaves and provided valuable information which enabled the Dutch to understand the geography, wealth and vastness of the Essequibo.
This information helped the Dutch in delineating Guyana’s frontiers with Venezuela and subsequently provided good support for the British in the territorial dispute in 1899. British Guiana’s boundary demarcation that began in the 1840s and was subsequently revised in 1906 and the 1930s could not have been done without the help of Amerindians.
Research shows that since the PPP/C took office in October 1992, the lives of Amerindians have improved by light years. For instance, 10 secondary schools in Amerindian villages have been built in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine.
In 1992, for the first time, a Ministry of Amerindians Affairs was established with Mr Vibert De Souza, an Arawak from Moruca as the Minister. Two years later in 1994, Ameriang – a national gathering of Amerindians organised by the Amerindian Research Unit of the University of Guyana, was launched.
The following year, Dr Cheddi Jagan initiated the establishment of Amerindian Heritage Month in September. In 2000, an Amerindian Law Centre was established to apply Amerindian Law to protect their rights.
In 2001, the debut of Etauchingpang – a unique festival celebrating Amerindian culture – occurred. Two years later, an Amerindian Hostel was established in March at Mahaicony and in that same year, David James, a former President of the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), became the first Amerindian to successfully complete law.
In 2006, the Amerindian Bill, first tabled in August 2005, was passed. It brought sweeping changes to the lives of the various Amerindian tribes uplifting their status to the same level as all other Guyanese.
In 2008, Ms Carolyn Rodrigues became the first woman and first Amerindian to hold the Minister of Foreign Affairs portfolio. She was previously the Minister of Amerindian Affairs (2001-2008).
In 2009, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs in partnership with the UK’s Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) launched the National Secure Livelihoods Programme (NSLP) in June. The programme aimed to address the many challenges hampering economic development in the Amerindian villages and hinterland communities taking aim at the creation of employment opportunities, sustaining food security, income generation, wealth creation, economic diversification and secure livelihoods
In 2010, former President Bharrat Jagdeo was among six people from around the globe to be awarded the prestigious UN’s “Champion of the Earth” award. He donated the entire US$40,000 that came with the award to Amerindian communities throughout Guyana.
Also in 2010, a spanking new $95.4 million dormitory for Hinterland Scholarship Students was commissioned at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara for many hinterland students to study.
The dorm houses 120 persons and provides modern facilities and communications equipment including state-of-the-art computer facilities. In that same year, the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission was sworn in on September 15 to ensure the continued advancement of the Amerindians, while at the same time ensuring that their rights were protected.
The commission included Norman Whittaker, David James, Patricia Singh, George Simon, Captain Gerald Gouveia, Damian Fernandes, Father Malcolm Rodrigues, Yvonne Pearson, Doreen Jacobis, and Joseph DeSouza.
All of the above occurred since October 1992 when the first democratically-elected Government became a reality since independence in May 1966. No doubt, Dr and Mrs Jagan and the PPP/C will always be in the hearts and minds of Amerindians for generations to come.
Encyclopaedia of the Guyanese Amerindians and Other South American Native Terms, Issues, and Events
April 22, 2014 By
What does it say about a nation when the first thing offered to those arriving to its shores is alcohol? Yes, Guyana makes excellent rum and no, I am not a teetotaler, in fact, I do drink.
However, I was appalled at the sight that greeted me at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) earlier this week. Several women could be seen serving plastic cups of rum punch to disembarking passengers.
There were many young people in the crowd and I witnessed several of them gleefully accepting and imbibing the alcoholic beverage offered. At no point in time was any attempt made to ascertain whether they were underage or not.
I know rum punch does not contain a great deal of rum and that one cup alone is unlikely to cause any major problems, but that is not the point. The point is that Guyana already has a problem with alcohol use and abuse.
We are not a society that imbibes moderately; instead alcohol abuse is widespread, at all levels of society, contributing significantly to many societal problems such as interpersonal violence, traffic accidents, etc.
I have traveled a fair bit to points all across the globe but at no time, not even when I arrived at Piarco, Trinidad, on the eve of Carnival, was I ever offered an alcoholic beverage upon landing.
I can understand the impulse to showcase a Guyanese product.
However, there are other smarter, less problematic items that do not come with the negative impact of alcohol which could have been proffered such as ‘baigan choka’ and bake for example, which I read that recent UK tourists were recently feted with.
This would have made more sense and been gladly accepted, since we had not been provided with breakfast on the plane. The choice of rum punch however, was inappropriate and misguided. What role did the rum-making companies play in making this possible? How long has this been going on?
Let us not promote a culture of lawlessness, one that disregards the health and well-being of the Guyanese people and society. Let us make better choices – for ourselves, for our community, and for our nation.
Let us not just drink up and wine down as our society crumbles around us. Let us see some thoughtful and positive decision-making. That in itself would make Guyana a real tourist attraction and pleasure to come home to.
Failing that, if reality-altering substances are going to continue to be handed out at the national airport to all, let me suggest the humble cannabis instead of rum punch. At least then, some enlightenment might be attained, instead of just mindless obliviousness.
In a press release dated April 19, CJIA’s Commercial and Administration Manager Dursatty Doodnauth-Mangru commented on a kite flying distribution exercise held at the airport.
“We are customer service-oriented and it is a fitting gesture to welcome home visitors and Guyanese citizens,” she said, adding that a number of companies partner with the CJIA to promote the country’s festivals/holidays, while simultaneously marketing their products. These include Edward Beharry, Windsor Estate, and DDL.
“In relation to distilleries serving rum punch and other concoctions, these beverages are only served to adults. That is the policy of CJIA and the beverage companies – one that we will never compromise. These gestures are usually well received by travellers who come here for the festive seasons.”
She added: “Guyana is revered for its world-class rum and black cake…and periodically, CJIA and its sponsors provide them to passengers.” Samples of soft drinks and fruit juices are also offered to passengers.
April 22, 2014 By
Judging from several of his recent columns, and most recent in a letter in another section of the press, it appears that Freddie Kissoon has found a new “whipping boy” in the person of the most respected Minister of Education.
Freddie is being emboldened by the editor(s) who allow him to besmirch the impeccable character of a decent, hard-working woman without censorship or consequence.
I had written two previous letters in defence of Priya Manickchand, in response to attacks from Freddie Kissoon, and they were both not published by the Kaieteur News. I was told by the editor that he “did not feel comfortable” with my letter. As such, I expect this letter to suffer the same fate in that newspaper.
Referring to a quote from another publication, Kissoon accuses the Education Minister of “vulgarity.” Kissoon also felt “disgusted” and turned away when Minister Manickchand “sought to upbraid Mark Benschop over an unflattering piece on her on Benschop’s web page”.
Benschop, of course, is another character who slanders our President and Ministers of the Government on his Internet “hate” radio on a regular basis. He knows that he is protected by the non-existence of laws governing slander on the Internet, but Kaieteur News must be ever cognisant and vigilant of Kissoon’s abrasive and contentious style that rubs people the wrong way.
Kissoon shamelessly tries to turn things around to save face. He admitted to calling Minister Manickchand after misinformation he had published in July 2013 was brought to the attention of the publisher.
But what he failed to admit to his readers, is the fact that he called the Minister, not out of concern for her children, but to apologise after he was informed that legal action would be considered if his intellectual dishonesty persists.
Kissoon was again caught when he referred to Minister Manickchand as a “practising Hindu”. Those who truly know Minister Priya Manickchand, would testify that although she has tolerance and respect for all religions, she is a strong believer in God and Christian theology.
On April 3, Kissoon was quick to chastise the Minister for remarks she made in Parliament, insisting that she was referring to former APNU Parliamentarian Jaipaul Sharma. He even joined Opposition picket lines calling for her to apologise.
Then on April 15, he shifted away from Jaipaul Sharma being the victim of the Minister’s comment, to her intended target, the accused CN Sharma.
Freddie Kissoon has a history of trying to besmirch the character of this lady. On March 31, 2010, Freddie Kissoon apologised to Priya Manickchand in a local newspaper.
Kissoon, in a previous article had suggested that Manickchand had made comments on the Court of Appeal (Amendment) Bill as it relates to the Director of Public Prosecutions and a quest for more power.
Manickchand made available with the Hansard (verbatim record) of her presentation which makes no reference to what Freddie Kissoon made mention of…when confronted with the evidence, Kissoon accepted that he had made a mistake and sincerely sought to have an apology publicly issued to the Minister.
Kissoon insists no harm was intended by the statements he made and attributed to the Minister.
The 19th century Prussian and German statesman Otto von Bismarch is credited with saying, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
It would appear that Frederick Kissoon has not yet learnt from his mistakes.
April 22, 2014 By
It is now beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Alliance For Change (AFC) was only interested in cutting the budget and not in contributing meaningfully to the 2014 budget debate.
Even their walking out was a well-orchestrated pretext since they have no facts to rebut the Education Budget allocation, nor can they deny the excellent performance of the education and social sectors, or the social and economic development of the country as a whole.
However, the Opposition Chief Whip Amna Ally had to remain after her colleagues from APNU had absconded from fulfilling their duties to this nation, not because of disagreement with her ‘bosses’, but simply because she had to extol the virtues of a dictator, the late LFS Burnham!
It simply deprives me of any good sense why she would do that, but then these people need to rewrite Guyana’s history in order to remain relevant to Guyanese politics and to dupe the populace. Indeed, they are trying their utmost to fool and brainwash our young people!
Instead of MP Amna Ally wasting her time going around and ascertaining which school toilet or IT lab is out of order or does not have regular electricity, she should have made a comparison of the education sector during the time of her ‘idol’ Burnham and the entire PNC era.
She should have looked at the massive development in the education sector. But alas! She cannot do that because to do that will let the young people of this country become aware of the atrocities meted out to children, adults and old people during the PNC dictatorship era – the Dark Age in the history of this country! Let me briefly highlight a few.
Children suffered from gross malnutrition since their main diet was ‘broken rice’ and ‘rice flour’. There was no milk powder on the empty shelves and to have a tin of milk you needed to line up or have a PNC party card! It was ‘white mouth’ even among the adults.
Over 65,000 schoolchildren are now benefiting from the National School Feeding Programme! Their parents can now afford chicken which was a luxury during the PNC dictatorship! Getting food on the table was a criminal activity during the PNC rule!
Parents had to neglect their children because they had to join ‘Guyline’ in order to get even a pint of cooking oil and a half pound of butter. “Guyline is now gone! Thanks to the PPP/C Government!
Many parents ran away through the ‘backtrack’ and left their children to become juveniles and criminals. Ironically, they did that to provide for those same children! Now almost everyone is given a 10-year US visa. Why is this so, MP Amna? They have no reason to run and hide! Guyana has recovered its status among the developing nations of the world.
Children were selling cigarettes by the roadside during the PNC days! Now they are in schools or in vocational schools learning a trade. Child labour was the order of the day in order to survive. Many times it was the elder siblings who had to make the inevitable sacrifice. Food was more important than education! More children are now in schools than ever before! They are being better fed in and out of school!
The school dropout rate was astronomical. Students now are encouraged to even spend their holidays doing remedial programmes in schools.
Hospitals were run down and dilapidated and the infant mortality rate was sickening! All drugs had to be bought and bribes were the order of the day. The hospitals are now equipped with doctors, trained nurses and an adequate supply of drugs.
School buildings were falling down and children had to use the bushes to excrete! Billions of dollars are now spent on the construction, rehabilitation, extension and maintenance of our educational facilities. They now have access to the Guyana Learning Channel, access to Internet and free laptops to access information.
AFC Councillor, Region Six
April 21, 2014 By
The education, health, welfare, and respect for our Amerindians have always been a key factor in the PPP/C’s strategic thrust for a better Guyana. Indeed, to this day, the party remains the country’s oldest, best-loved, and most cohesive political institution. Considered the dominant and most progressive force, it is the pace-setter for all political aspirants.
The genesis for caring for Amerindians was based on Dr Cheddi Jagan’s own commitment to uniting all Guyanese, with aims transcending racial group interest and his admiration of Philip Storer Peberdy, a Briton and curator of the British Guiana Museum and Welfare Officer for the Amerindians in the 1940s under the Colonial Government.
Mr Peberdy (who died in London in 1990), cared deeply about the Amerindians and strongly advocated improving their economic conditions. In his 1948 “Report of a Survey of Amerindian Affairs in the Remote Interior of British Guiana”, he recommended some revolutionary proposals to improve the way of life of the Amerindians, including a programme to have them integrated into mainstream Guyanese society.
He even suggested that the then Barama Mouth Sawmill in the North West and the Rupununi Development Company that operated the Dadanawa Ranch in the South Rupununi be bought by the Government and run on a cooperative basis for the benefit of Amerindians.
Ever since Dr Jagan entered politics in 1943, he and Mrs Jagan visited the majority of Amerindian villages over the years, listened to their problems, identified with their plight, and acted where they could to alleviate the sufferings of our first people. Early PPP stalwarts like Eugene Stoby, Ignatius Charlie, Eustace Rodrigues, and Basil Williams helped in paving the way and are names well worth remembering.
There are currently nine Amerindian tribes living in Guyana – Akawaois, Arawaks, Arekunas, Caribs, Makushis, Patamonas, Wai Wais, Wapishanas, and Warraus. Comprising over 10 per cent of Guyana’s population and occupying almost 90 per cent of the landmass, Guyanese Amerindians live in over 130 villages throughout the country.
Many of the technological contributions of Amerindian societies have already been recognised by the native terminology. Quite a number of native products became current only after the Europeans and other immigrants settled on the coast – pepperpot, hammocks, balata, medicinal herbs, íte palms and troolie leaves (for thatching roofs).
In their widely differing environments, Amerindians adapted and poured forth a stream of unique inventions, each one a distinct response to a local necessity: asphyxiating fish by the ground leaves and roots of specific plants in the absence of hooks and nets; bending twigs to mark a trail or preventing one from getting lost in the forest and to mark their route.
It was through these bent twigs in Guyana and an Amerindian line as a guide, that the cattle trail was cut (1916-1920) from Surama in the Rupununi to Takama in Berbice. The trail brought beef to the tables of citizens in Georgetown.
Amerindians are superb mimics of the sounds of animals and birds. They can mislead even the jaguar. For instance, they bring the yarrow fish to the surface through a slow seducing whistle and can even reproduce the mating call for the tapir.
They bring other fish to the surface by splashing the water in such a way to mimic the falling of ripened seeds.
The Amerindians showed settlers a range of dishes based from the forest plants and animals, for example, food from root crops like cassava and yams, and oil from turtle eggs.
They can recognise medicinal properties in hundreds of plants – knowledge that is a priceless resource of the rainforest. Armed with the knowledge of thousands of medicinal plants – peaiamen fought goitre, headaches, malaria, constipation and other illnesses are treated. Ipecac from Amazonian roots cured amoebic dysentry. Quinine from the cinchona bark cured malaria. Curare killed without affecting the heart.
These medicinal plants were eagerly sought by the early colonists to supplement the old world’s pharmacies.
Author of Encyclopaedia of the Guyanese Amerindians and Other South American Native Terms, Issues, and Events
April 21, 2014 By