July 6, 2015

Youths must become crusaders for national reconciliation – Dr Roopnaraine

Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine (centre) with officials of the Ministry and representatives of UNICEF and UNFPA at the National Youth Policy working session

Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine (centre) with officials of the Ministry and representatives of UNICEF and UNFPA at the National Youth Policy working session

Government, through the Education Ministry, on Saturday brought together a wide cross-section of youths, and private and civil society members, for a two-day working session, aimed at advancing the process of finalising the National Youth Policy and the broad themes of a National Youth Action Plan.

Day One of the session opened at the Arthur Chung International Convention Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, with Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine charging the youths present, to become crusaders for national reconciliation. The Minister, addressing the youths, said in his mind there was no more sacred task confronting youths and Guyana than that of healing of the nation. “We have a nation that is always hovering on the brink of self-destruction; we need to heal this…we need to reconcile,” Minister Roopnaraine said, speaking of the divisions that have characterised Guyana since the 1960s.

Dr Roopnaraine pointed out that Guyanese youths have inherited this fractured and polarised society, and that Guyana cannot move forward as a nation without once again reclaiming and regaining that united anti-colonial democratic movement that it had in the fight for independence. “It is what we in the Government committed ourselves to, it was what inspired the formation of our Government,” Dr Roopnaraine said.

A participant making a presentation at the National Youth Policy working session at the Arthur Chung International Convention Centre

A participant making a presentation at the National Youth Policy working session at the Arthur Chung International Convention Centre

He noted that the latter movement to national reconciliation came about by the reconciliation of the Working People’s Alliance and the People’s National Congress, two warring parties. “Some of you may be too young to know something about the bitterness of the fight that these two parties were engaged in,” the Minister told the youths. He explained that in the 1970s, led by Dr Walter Rodney of the WPA, a national movement was developed and “we entered into the most furious conflict with the People’s National Congress”. He noted, however, that the day came “when we recognised the need for reconciliation”, and from these two warring parties, came the movement for national unity and the bedrock of this alliance, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU.)

Although the country has been developed to this point, there is yet much to be done, Dr Roopnaraine noted. “We still live in a society where there is too much suspicion between major sections of the society,” he said. “I am convinced and I believe that you must be convinced after all this time and all this experience that without joining forces, without in effect becoming one nation, and devoting ourselves to the construction of that one nation, we as a country will falter.”

He urged the youths to embark on this crusade of reconciliation and to “embrace a crusade of love and neighbourliness”.

Youths are the “here and now”

Addressing Government’s recognition of the importance of providing a framework for positive development of all Guyanese youths, Minister Roopnaraine noted that youths were not only the future, but the “here and now”.

In terms of basic arithmetic, Guyanese under 35 years of age make up 70 per cent of the national demographics and are disproportionally affected by “every ill thing that our society has to offer”, the Minister noted.

“… this process that you are embarking on is engaging youths to find solutions about these problems,” the Minister said, adding that he needed an action plan. “…What I am interested in is implementation, any report that comes to me that does not have a programme of implementation and an action plan is not a report that I am going to spend a lot of my time on,” the Minister said. Highlighting how critical it is to empower youths to make meaningful contributions to Guyana’s sustainable development, Minister Roopnaraine pointed out that “the sustainable solutions and actions, for society in a stage of crisis or pre-crisis, have always come from young people”.

He noted that the journey of persons like Forbes Burnham, Cheddi Jagan, Walter Rodney, Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro and Barack Obama all began in earnest during the days of their youth. “They did not come to where they reached by accident … they were inspired and nurtured in their youth,” he said.

He promised that Government will offer avenues for such nurturing for Guyanese youths. “… we are going to listen to you, take your recommendations, work with you as partners, in making this society one that we can all be proud of,” he said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on Youth Empowerment Aubrey Norton, in his presentation, noted that these working sessions were intended to encourage serious discussions on the question of the National Youth Policy and a National Action Plan. “It is important for us to recognise that we are here for ideas to clash, and not personalities,” he said. “….we welcome the clash of ideas, we welcome free and, frank discussions that allow us to disagree, but then arrive at a consensus on the way forward,” he added.

Norton noted that Government has already shown that it has the political will to ensure young people develop a policy by their participation. He said that the intention was to make sure that “we place youth work on a professional footing.” “…the intention is to professionalise youth work so that young people can be involved in youth work; well-trained, well-prepared … young people who are in a position to represent themselves and not necessary be presented by someone else,” he said.

The two-day session, which will see presentations and also youths being involved in panel and groups discussions on the National Youth Policy and a National Youth Action Plan, is being convened in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

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Guyana Times Daily – July 6, 2015

frontpage

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Bandits run amok in Corentyne

Injured, Derwin Lord

Injured, Derwin Lord

…shoot, rob victims in double attack

Armed bandits continue to run amok in Corentyne, Berbice, and on Friday evening, they robbed two families, during which time one man was shot and several others beaten.

The bandits wore masks, and villagers said such indicated that they were determined to conceal their identities, because they were likely residents of the community or nearby villages. Friday’s attack is the latest in a series of robberies committed on the Corentyne, Region Six, (East Berbice-Corentyne).

Market vendor Norbert Raphael, 39, said he was at home with two of his nephews when the men entered their yard in Bush Lot Farm by cutting a hole in the back fence. According to him, one of his nephews, David, had just gone out of the house when what appeared to be a gunshot was heard. At that time, his sister thinking that something was wrong with David ventured into the yard and came face to face with masked men. “She make a big noise and right away I know is thief, so I go and push in the door and try to brace it, but one of them reach and tell me don’t shut the door. So I say, ‘Sorry Sir, you could push the door and come in,’ and then I see two of them come in the house.”

The men then stole from that house three gold rings during which time several gunshots rang out from the yard.

Norbert Raphael

Norbert Raphael

As two of Raphael’s nephews were returning home, they were confronted with strange people in the yard and enquired what they were doing there. They were answered with a gunshot which hit Derwin Lord in the face. He managed to escape and made it to the road. With assistance from his brother, he got a car and was taken to the Port Mourant Hospital where he was seen by a doctor and subsequently transferred to the New Amsterdam Hospital. His condition is listed as stable.

Relatives were only aware of the shooting of Lord after the bandits had left. The robbery spree continued at the house next door where Bibi Bissember, 56, was held up. According to Bissember, she went to the window to look outside and was confronted with a man pointing a gun at her. He told her to go and open the back door and she complied. She told this publication that the masked man and two others entered her house and immediately ordered her to take off the jewellery she was wearing at the time. She handed to them eight gold rings, three pairs of gold bangles weighing 36 pennyweights, two gold bands, one gold chain worth US$2000 and a pair of gold ear rings.

Gunshot holes in the fence

Gunshot holes in the fence

Bissember said she pleaded with the men not to take her wedding ring, but they insisted. They also removed a cellular phone, other jewellery and $110,000 from the house before leaving. According to Bissember, a fourth man also entered the house and during that time she heard more shots coming from outside the house, suggesting that there were at least two more persons involved in the robbery. The men made good their escape before Police arrived. Investigations are in progress.

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CDB affirms support for transformative regional projects

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has announced its support for the 2nd Biennial Community Development Partnership Forum & Exhibition (CDPF-II), which will bring together 400 delegates for discussions on driving development through community partnerships in the Caribbean Region from July 5th to 8th in Trinidad and Tobago.

Participants include Ministers of Government from across the Region, policymakers, private sector stakeholders, members of the community and civil society organisations, and development partners, including CDB. I a statement the Bank said it is a committed supporter of CDPF-II, having agreed to provide funding that will facilitate the participation of representatives of Ministerial Delegations from CDB’s Borrowing Member Countries and Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) implementing agency staff. CDB will be represented by Deidre Clarendon, Division Chief, Social Sector Division and Darran Newman Belgrave, Portfolio Manager, BNTF.

“CDB continues to build strategic partnerships to drive transformative community development in the Caribbean Region. Through CDPF-II, we have the opportunity to discuss with key stakeholders the issues and challenges of implementing community-based programmes, and to explore solutions for reducing poverty in Caribbean communities. Community participation and local ownership help strengthen the impact of our investments; we’ve seen this evidenced in the projects we implement through the Basic Needs Trust Fund,” said Deidre Clarendon, Division Chief, Social Sector Division at CDB.

The BNTF is a CDB grant-funded programme that contributes to poverty reduction in targeted communities in 10 countries, by providing infrastructure and livelihood enhancement services. The Fund drives cooperation and agreements between community-based organisations, representative local government, village councils, consultants and contractors, small businesses and ministries and other development partners.

During CDPF-II, CDB representatives will hear firsthand of the tried and tested implementation modalities in community-driven development in the region as community and civil society organisations, practitioners and professionals share experiences and knowledge on their community-based development initiatives. The event includes sessions and workshops spanning hot-button topics in community development such as Sustainable Community-based Food Production/Agriculture, Sustainable Community-based Tourism and Public-Private-Community Partnerships for Community Entrepreneurship and Innovation. CDPF-II is an initiative of the Ministry of Community Development, Trinidad and Tobago and takes place at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre, Port of Spain.

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Regent St Mall owner gunned down at home

Crime escalates

…killers spotted leaving scene on bicycles

By Bhisham Mohamed

Owner of the Regent Street Multiplex Mall was shot dead allegedly by a group of bicycle bandits moments after returned to his La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara home early Sunday morning.

Slain businessman, Ganesh Ramlall
Slain businessman, Ganesh Ramlall

Ganesh Ramlall, 48, of Lot C La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara, was shot at least seven times, including once to his head. The killing of Ramlall has come amidst an upsurge in violence across the country, with Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan admitting last week that it would take an herculean effort to contain the situation.

According to information received, the businessman was out with his friends at a BBQ in a neighbouring village and upon his return home at about 00:30h, he went to collect a plate as well as use the outside washroom. While doing so, Ramlall was attacked by gunmen who discharged a round, hitting the washroom door. Guyana Times understands that the businessman might have attempted to run into the bottom flat of the house form which he had emerged and was riddled with bullets. He dropped a few metres from his back door where he was left to die.

This publication was told that four men were seen leaving the area on bicycles. One source revealed that the men joined a waiting car behind the village and then drove eastwards. Police investigation has so far revealed that the men also took away Ramlall’s licensed firearm, jewellery and wallet before escaping. Ramlall’s wife was too devastated to speak to the media, however a niece of the dead man, told Guyana Times that her uncle returned home about 00:30h and opened the door to the bottom flat of the house and went in. Within seconds, she stated that he left to use the outside washroom as well as to collect a plate to maybe eat some of the BBQ chicken he had brought home.

She then recalled hearing the sound of a gunshot and she, along with her aunt and cousin, immediately locked the adjoining door to the upper flat of the house and stayed upstairs. There, they telephoned for the Police as her uncle was shouting at the top of his voice for “Thief! Thief”.

She recounted that they heard about six other gunshots and the place became silent, but they did not take the risk of opening the door until they heard the neighbours calling out to them. As they opened the door, they saw Ramlall lying in a pool of blood on the tiled floor close to the backdoor. Relatives and neighbours rushed the man to the West Demerara Regional Hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The niece told this publication that the Police did not arrive at the scene until about one hour later. The Den Amstel Police Station, she noted, is just about a 10-minute drive from the scene.

She added that at the West Demerara Regional Hospital, there was no proper system in place to cater for emergencies, relating that her uncle was placed on a stretcher, but there were no porters to take him into the facility.  Sonia recalled her uncle leaving home about 15:00h to join his friend as per normal every Saturday. He reportedly went to the wake for a friend in Herstelling, East Bank Demerara after which he attended a barbecue at Cornelia Ida.

Stunned
The shooting has sent shockwaves through the West Coast village. The father of one was described by all as a gem. He had only last week attended the graduation of his daughter at Queens College after completing her CAPE exams. Ramlall was a noted philanthropist a staunch Hindu and was a benefactor of the village Mandir, a block from his home. He had worked his way from owning stalls in the Stabroek Market, where he was one of the largest importer of clothing from Cuarcao and Panama, to owning a Mall. The small village of La Jalousie is mostly populated by relatives of Ramlall.

Ryan Saywack, a close family friend, in a Facebook post, stated that he was dumbfounded and left speechless when he heard the news that one of his  role models and surrogate father was killed by bandits.  “It ripped my heart and soul out. All I could think of was how and why. How a man of such worth could be taken in three seconds. Why was a man with such heart given no mercy? He was a man of character, loyalty, respect, gratitude, humbleness, and, most of all, a man with the warmest heart of all,” he lamented. Ramlall’s body was taken to the Ezekiel Funeral Home to await a post-mortem examination. He leaves to mourn his wife, daughter, seven siblings and other relatives. Police are continuing their investigation into the shooting incident.

The area where Ramlall was found lying in a pool of blood
The area where Ramlall was found lying in a pool of blood

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud hours before the shooting had recommitted the Guyana Police Force towards tackling the scourge of crime, telling ranks following a parade to mark the Force’s 176th Anniversary that the time for excuses was over, as more and more resources were becoming available to the entity to make Guyana safer. Ramjattan on Friday had acknowledged that a “herculean effort” was needed to solve the current crime situation, admitting that the new Government may have underestimated the gravity of the situation before gaining access to office. Back in 2011 and in 2012, Ramjattan, who was then an Opposition politician, had severely criticised then Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee for not doing enough to control the crime rate in the country. Ramjattan had lambasted Rohee and the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration for failing the people and not being able to properly administer his responsibilities as security minister. It has been just two months since Ramjattan has been appointed Guyana’s Public Security Minister and already he has been facing the same criticisms as Rohee from an impatient citizenry anxious to enjoy a safe and secure society.

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Fire ravages Alberttown house

…damage estimated in the millions

A fire suspected to be electrical in origin completely ravaged the upper flat of a two-storey wooden and concrete building in Fourth Street, Alberttown, Georgetown in the wee hours of Sunday, causing millions in damage and a family of six to make alternative living arrangements.

The aftermath of the fire on Sunday morning

The aftermath of the fire on Sunday morning

The fire, which started about 02:30h, reportedly originated in the front of the four-bedroom home and engulfed the entire flat within a few minutes.
At the time of the fire, there were three young men in the house. According to sources, the young men – the son of the homeowner and his cousins – were awakened by the smoke and had no time to salvage any household items. The owner of the house and his wife, along with their daughter, were in Bartica, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) when the house went up in flames.

The daughter, Zoya Khan, told Guyana Times that she and her parents received a call from her brother about 02:34h on Sunday informing them about the fire. As speedboats in the area did not operate in the night, they had to wait until the sun rose to travel to the city.

She noted that they recently renovated the house to the tune of millions of dollars. She added that upon departing from Bartica on Saturday morning, her two cousins and brother were warned to check all electrical outlets and stove before retiring to bed. This was reportedly done.

Khan’s parents were not at home when this newspaper visited the scene, but one of their sons who was on site assessing the damage told Guyana Times that his two cousins and another brother who were at home at the time had to run down the back steps to safety.

“They say after they realise the house was on fire, they telephone the Fire Service [the Alberttown Fire Station] which is separated by a fence [from the home], but they were told that the driver was sick,” he stated. After some time, firefighters from the Central Fire Service responded to the report, but by the time they arrived, the upper flat of the house was already engulfed in flames.

The dog that managed to save itself from the inferno

The dog that managed to save itself from the inferno

This, he noted, was unacceptable since a quick response by the Fire Service could have resulted in a portion of the building being saved. He also highlighted that several days ago, the electrical wire in front of the house was sparking and despite the family making a report to the Guyana Power and Light, no one came to look into the matter.

He is of the opinion that given the fact that there was an arc welding shop close to the house, there have been some fluctuations in electrical current in the area and this might have caused the fuse in the house to trip.

Two nearby buildings, including the welding shop, were damaged by the flames, as the exterior walls were scorched and windows shattered. Four animals – a macaw and three kittens — perished in the fire while a dog managed to run to safety.

The Guyana Fire Service has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire.

The ruins of the upper flat of the home

The ruins of the upper flat of the home

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Caricom stands with Guyana

… against extension of Venezuelan revanchism

Caribbean leaders have expressed solidarity with Guyana and have called on the Government of Venezuela, “in the spirit of friendship and cooperation”, to withdraw the elements of Decree 1787 as they apply to the territory and maritime space of Caricom states.

President David Granger on Saturday joined his colleague Heads Freundel Stuart of Barbados, Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque at their news conference
President David Granger on Saturday joined his colleague Heads Freundel Stuart of Barbados, Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque at their news conference

The regional leaders had gathered for the 36th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in Bridgetown, Barbados between July 2 and 4. President David Granger had used his speech at the opening ceremony last Thursday to plead with his colleagues to support this country over the issue which threatens Guyana’s economic growth.

Venezuela has been adamant  in its claims on Guyana’s territory, including its maritime  zone, which was recently found to have oil in what appeared to be high quantities when exploratory work was carried out by the United States oil giant ExxonMobil in early March. Despite an 1899 arbitral award which was the final determiner of the border between Guyana and Venezuela, the Bolivarian Republic claims that the area under exploration is within its territory.

Guyana, through its new Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge, had invited the oil-rich nation to move toward judicial settlement of its contention of the 1899 award. Granger, in an earlier announcement, had said that Guyana would be taking the route of judicial settlement no matter the cost, since the area which Venezuela is claiming has an abundance of natural resources.

The Heads of Government, following the summit which ended on Saturday, reaffirmed the inviolability of international treaties, agreements, awards and legal instruments and made particular reference to those international legally binding instruments that establish international boundaries.

They also noted the negative implications the decree could have on several other Caricom countries. “Heads of Government called for adherence to accepted principles of international law in relation to the delineation and delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf in the Region. Caricom states do not accept any unilateral proclamation which is inconsistent with international law,” the leaders said in a communiqué following the summit.

They emphasised that Caricom states have legitimate territorial and maritime entitlements which conform to international law, noting that these must be respected.

Huge threat
Granger on Thursday told the opening of the summit that years of “naval superiority” should not be allowed to suppress the law, noting that the actions, as demonstrated by Venezuela, must be condemned.

“Guyana assures the representatives of the international community here today of its adherence of international law. We assure the Secretary General of the UN, we assure the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, and the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), that Guyana today and, for all times, will pursue the principles of mutual respect for each other’s territorial sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-appearance in each other’s internal affairs and mutual cooperation for peaceful coexistence between neighbours,” Granger told his 14 colleagues who listened with rapt attention.

He said his country faced a huge threat, recalling that “Decree Number 1787”, promulgated by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, was timed to coincide with the country’s independence anniversary on May 26 this year and his inauguration. “The decree sticks in my throat like a bone. It lays claim to much of the coastline and most of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Guyana. This decree has dire implications for the entire Region, but most particularly, the eastern states including Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.”

Caricom’s grave concerns
Meanwhile, as a result of these concerns, and in an effort to have the rights and entitlements of the affected Community Member States fully respected, a delegation of Heads met with the Vice President and Foreign Minister of Venezuela to express the Community’s grave concern about Decree 1787.

They recalled the numerous agreements in the area of trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people contacts which bind the Governments and peoples of Caricom and Venezuela together.

They recalled too that just under a year ago on September 8, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, in his capacity as Chairman of Conference, had written to President Maduro, encouraging Venezuela to redouble its efforts at an early delimitation of the maritime boundary between Guyana and Venezuela. Browne had also encouraged Venezuela to assist in the finding of an early solution to the controversy which emerged from the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 that established the boundary with Guyana was null and void.

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AG promises to address Hugh Wooding woes

…as students cry discrimination
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams has committed himself to resolving the ongoing challenges

Attorney General Basil Williams pose with the Guyanese students attending the Hugh Wooding Law School

Attorney General Basil Williams pose with the Guyanese students attending the Hugh Wooding Law School

between Guyanese law students and the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) vowing that he will explore all available options.
This commitment was communicated to 25 of the 27 Guyanese students currently attending the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) in Trinidad and Tobago when they paid a visit to the Minister during the course of last week to raise several issues and concerns about their education in relation to tuition, discrimination and disadvantages faced in pursuit of their Legal Education Certificate (LEC).
Sherry Hewitt, who serves as secretary to the group, raised the issue of fee payment, while other students raised concerns about immigration, course content and late arrival of the Guyana student list to the Trinidad immigration department.
According to the students, the number one challenge to the pursuing of the LEC is the tuition fee which amounts to TT$65,792 ($2.2 million in local currency or US$11,000) per student. They noted that they were now required to pay the full tuition at the beginning of the September semester each year as opposed to 50 per cent in September and 50 per cent in January of the following year as previously obtained, making it exceptionally difficult to study.
The students also requested help from the Attorney General to address the courses of Family Practice and Procedure, Legal Drafting and Interpretation for second-year students in relation to the unique Roman Dutch system of land titling in Guyana as opposed to Trinidad’s laws.
According to the Guyanese students, the two courses have a high rate of failure at the law school; hence, their desire for a tutor who has knowledge of Guyana’s laws.
The issue of immigration was also highlighted, since students were turned back by the Trinidad immigration owing to the late submission of the list of Guyana students accepted to the law school.
In the meantime, they are requesting scholarships for their final year with the understanding that they will serve for a contracted period. Of the 27 current students attending the HWLS, only one is the recipient of a Public Service Ministry scholarship.

Fee payments
The Attorney General shared with the students how different it was when he studied at the Law School.
In empathising with the students, Williams promised to explore what help they needed to address the issue of fee payments and the accommodation of more Guyanese students, since the top 25 students were selected out of a total of 80.
The students explained that the issue was not one of space as was being peddled by the School since six Trinidadian students were placed in the Guyanese class after the academic year had commenced.

Impasse
Days after the Council for Legal Education had stated that it would not be guaranteeing any of the 25 places usually offered to Guyanese students at the end of the degree programme at the Turkeyen Campus of the University of Guyana last year, its Chairman Jacqueline Samuels-Brown had said that the placement issue was not one that was of pure bias, but one of space and accommodation for the students who stay on campus. Samuels-Brown had said that UWI had, in the past, released statements alluding to changes in teaching methodologies, teaching content and the poor conditions of the facilities afforded to students as well as the overcrowded nature of the law school. In light of this, she noted that the school had initiated precautionary safety measures before facilitating students and it was on these grounds that the decision was taken to accept the students only if space was available.
Samuels-Brown had noted that the Council was facing a monumental task in finding accommodation and facilities for students, as the law school was built to accommodate some 200 students, but was facilitating approximately 400 students.

Longstanding agreement
As part of a longstanding agreement between the Council and UG, every year, 25 automatic places are reserved for UG students at the Law School.
It was understood by this publication that the original agreement had initially expired in November 2012, but at the request of the Government of Guyana, it was extended until 2013. Negotiations were scheduled to take place to facilitate the 2014 batch of students. However, this discussion never took place until the matter arose last year. Although provisions have been made for 2015 , current UG law students remain concerned over the future relationship between UG and the Hugh Wooding Law School. Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall had assured some time ago that a long-term solution will be instituted to prevent future limbo. As it stands, talks are being held on the possibility of Guyana establishing its own law school here.

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A broken education system in Guyana – Minister Roopnaraine strains credulity

Minister Rupert Roopnaraine disdainfully pronounced the other day that the education system in Guyana was close to collapsing when he took over the leadership of that ministry less than two months ago. We believe that Minister Roopnaraine lacks credibility on this matter.
His duty as Minister of Education is to make the education system of Guyana better than it is today and make it serve each Guyanese child. But Minister Roopnaraine didn’t inherit a broken education system. Indeed, he inherits one that’s stronger than at any other time in our country’s history, whether it’s our colonial history or our post independence history. The new Minister of Education should be honest about this fact.
Education for children at present nursery, primary and secondary levels, exceeds levels of such education than at any other time in our history. More Guyanese citizens are accessing tertiary and post graduate education than ever before in Guyana. A greater diversity of tertiary and post graduate education programs is available through in-school education programs or distant learning. There’s also greater access to technical-vocational training than anyone would have imagined just less than a decade ago. At all levels, public and private sector programs are transforming the skill-levels of the Guyanese citizens – young and old.
When Dr Roopnaraine was a boy, he was able to attend an elite high school although he was one of less than 10% of Guyanese children who could even benefit from secondary education. Cheddi Jagan and the PPP/C initiated a transformation in the early 1960s that today see most of our children with access to high school.
We produce our own lawyers, doctors, dentists, engineers, accountants and managers. We even train pilots. Our nurses are trained at higher levels. We train our own specialists in surgery, orthopedics, trauma, medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and psychiatry. The diversity of education opportunities are such today that Dr Roopnaraine would not have imagined when he left high school.
Much of the success that has led us from being a country with limited opportunities for a limited number of Guyanese to now where vast education opportunities are available to most Guyanese comes from the vision and the platform that Cheddi Jagan and the PPP/C initiated in the 1960s. The expansion of programs resulting from investment in the last twenty years by the PPP/C Government today is one that APNU+AFC has a chance to make even better.
Let’s remember that out of the eight CXC top awards given in 2014, Guyana won four and one of those was attributed to the overall top CXC student in Caricom. In 2013, our children won five of the eight awards and no country has won more of the top CXC awards than Guyana over the last decade.
This has resulted from an improved investment milieu for the education sector. From just about $8US per capita in 1991, Guyana today invests over $200US, more than 25 times it did in 1991. The education sector commands close to 20% of the entire national budget today, compared to about 4% in 1991. It is the reason why most of the schools have been reconstructed or rehabilitated and new schools have been constructed. The Education Ministry has massively invested in infrastructure and technology so that our teachers and students could benefit from modernization.
A goal of any education program is to achieve Universal Access to Education at all levels. Guyana has long surpassed the goal of 100% access to primary education. In terms of secondary education, Guyana has emerged from just above 30% in 1992 to greater than 95% today. More than 70% of our children have access to nursery education, one of the highest accesses in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The education sector has increased the training of teachers through in-service training and pre-service training. From less than 30% trained teachers in our schools in 1991, there are now more than 75% trained teachers.
Many schools in our hinterland have a hot meal feeding program for children while on the coast have there’s a juice and biscuit snack program in place. A Free Textbook Program in Guyanese schools is not new, but before 1991, it was a promise not kept. Guyanese schools are increasingly utilizing ICT as an education strategy. Many schools have computer labs and most children today have access to a computer. This has been bolstered via the One Laptop Per Family Program.
From where we stand, the education system of Guyana does not appear to be close to collapsing. Indeed there are weaknesses to be corrected and strengths to be enhanced. There are standards and quality regulations to be put in place. But to dismiss the achievements of the PPP/C administration is cheap politics. The best way of securing his own legacy is for Minister Roopnaraine to build on the successes of the last twenty years. Can he move the APNU+AFC Government to make the investment in education that is necessary? Or is he setting the stage to justify his failure to better the successes of the PPP/C?
Readers are invited to send their comments by email or Facebook to times.notebook@gmail.com.

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The Enforcer…

 …of Cummingsburg is missing
When the Cummingsburg Accord was being hammered out, there were clearly stated concerns by the AFC about linking up with APNU – since it was practically just a non de plume for the “PNC”. In the always colourful language of AFC’s leader Khemraj Ramjattan, such a move would turn them into “dead meat”. And only three years before, Ramjattan’s hand-picked Presidential candidate Nagamootoo, had been declared as an unreconstituted and irredeemable crypto-PPP. What could’ve changed since?

So Ramjattan drew a line in the sand. As a long-time lawyer, knowing of the powers of the Guyanese presidency, he demanded that either Nagamootoo became “Presidential Candidate” or “no deal”. He even slammed the table when he said it, to show how serious he was. And as a fella who’d slammed dominoes on tables as he drank his way through Guyana, Ramjattan was quite a slammer. However, when the Cummingsburg Accord was announced and – lo and behold (not “lol” and behold!) – Granger was announced as Presidential Candidate, Ramjattan was asked whether water had washed out his line in sand.

Not so, he replied sternly, as is his wont when he made excuses. He pointed out that APNU had agreed to the appointment of the most eminent scholar and gentleman – even higher than Granger, who was just “an officer and a gentleman” – as the enforcer to all the “tenets” of the Accord. Now lest that some doubt the word of your humble Eyewitness (who is not a scholar, officer or gentleman) he’ll quote from the Muckraking KN – mouthpiece of both AFC and APNU.

After pointing out that Lutchman had to ensure the divvying of the seats in the 60/40 ratio, it continued: “The coalition agreed that the Representative of the List will be assigned other responsibilities such as ensuring that the TENETS of the Cummingsburg Accord are upheld by both of the political groupings.” The Stabber reported that Lutchman “would have to ensure that the agreements between APNU and the AFC as it relates to the National Assembly and OTHER MATTERS are honoured.”

So now that the TENETS of the Accord have been more violated than any of the working girls dragged out of the bush by Simona “I is” Broomes, inquiring minds want to know what’s the eminent Dr. Lutchman doing about it? And he can’t excuse his inaction by Nagamootoo and Ramjattan’s saying they’re enjoying the violations, whether for fringe benefits or not. Violations are violations and the least that the good Doctor can do is to “tell it like it is”. Not to do so would vitiate all the nice words he uttered about helping democracy in Guyana.
He’d be participating in its rape.

…of media fairness?
Now, after the violations of Nagomootoo’s “powers” – as spelled out under the Cummingsburg Accord, – he was dropped a crumb in the form of being “responsible” for information. Note that he wasn’t officially made into a “Minister of Information” – he was just delegated some residual power inherent in President Granger. And so Nagamootoo has come to a full circle – a circle with a 23 year diameter – to where he was with the PPP in 1992.

Anyhow, he immediately assured the nation that the State media under his control would not be a lapdog for the government; presumably as it was during the PPP regime – because Nagamootoo explicitly said so – but not as under the former PNC’s time, because they weren’t mentioned. So your Eyewitness was intrigued to see two new columnists in the Chronicle – David Hinds from the WPA (a member of APNU) and Sase Singh of the AFC.
ça ne change plus….?

The Enforcer…
Even though he moaned that the spiking crime rate needs a “Hercules”, Minister Ramjattan sounded more like Dirty Harry when he threw out this warning to the drug lords: “We’re gonna get you.
Come what may, we’re gonna get you!” “Dirty Ramo”?

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