October 21, 2014 By
October 21, 2014 By
By Alexis Rodney
The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry swung into its sixth session on Monday with Dr Patricia Rodney, wife of the slain historian informing the three-member tribunal that her husband was never interested in taking the reins of power during the period leading up to his death.
In fact, though known to be one of the founders of the now political party Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr Rodney was a “grass roots” individual who was more concerned about the working class in and out of Guyana.
Led into evidence by the family’s attorney, Queens Counsel Andrew Pilgrim, the sixth round of the investigation was opened with the mother of three, recounting the life she had with a man who was bent on changing the world, one day at a time.
Her testimony came in light of allegations made by an earlier witness, that the WPA had crafted a plan to overthrow the 1980 People’s National Congress (PNC) Government, whose leadership is believed to have assassinated Dr Rodney.
Former Police Constable Alan Robert Gates had told the commission in April thatDr Walter Rodney and the current leader of the WPA, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine were at the forefront seeking to topple the Government of Forbes Burnham and were acquiring arms and ammunition to achieve their objective.
But the widow said her husband, whom she was married to for some 15 years at the time of his death, was a “kind and thoughtful person” who was able to relate to a wide cross section of people, and was not carried away by his level of education.
“He was interested in the youth and working people. Walter always saw the working class as the vibrant class, the production class and so his focus was on the working people. Whether they were in a community, a church or anywhere”, Mrs Rodney told the Commission.
Asked about his political ambitions and interest in governance, Dr Rodney related that her husband had remained the humblest person she had ever known. She reiterated that as far as she knew, he was not interested in the political ambit, but was rather focused on reaching out to, educating, and mobilising the masses.
She recalled her husband was, however, very concerned about the political division which existed during the time of their return to Guyana in 1974, pointing out that the “inclusive” Guyana she knew when she left was not the same one she and her family had returned to.
The divisions in race and political parties were obvious, she related, and her husband was centrally interested in weaving the social strands back together.
But there came a time when the family had made a decision to leave the shores of Guyana and go to Zimbabwe where he accepted a job offer there. However, that plan was short lived as her husband was killed not too long after.
Dr Rodney said while her husband had an innate interest in the social and economical landscape of Guyana and had a drive to see change happen, he was equally concerned about the welfare of his family and had made the decision to leave, based on that growing concern.
She told the Commission that the situation had become very scary after their return from Tanzania, when Dr Walter Rodney was offered a teaching position at the University of Guyana (UG).
The historian, Dr Rodney recalled, had received a confirmation letter from the institution, informing him that he was accepted.
However she noted that she had an indication, since she returned before him, that her husband “would not be getting the job”.
However, that did not deter him from coming back. He had maintained that even if he had to “drive a taxi” to support his family, he would be returning to Guyana.
Patricia Rodney said there was harassment for the family, which she explained started out in a “subtle” way, as persons were warned to stay away from the “Rodney family”.
She said it became less “subtle” when her home was constantly searched and her husband was frequently arrested, though for a few hours.
It became even “scarier”, Patricia said, after the murder of Father Bernard Darke in July 1979 and worsened after the death of WPA member Ohene Koama.
Dr Rodney said her husband was somewhat conscious of the threatening atmosphere around him. She recalled that he had even hinted to friends in Barbados that should anything happen to him, they should make sure that his family was safe.
She said that was one of the reasons the family was able to leave Guyana some 17 days after her husband’s death.
The widow spoke too about the events on June 13, 1980, the day of the historian’s death and the difficulties her family endured in trying to gain possession of his body from the Police.
According to her, it took 10 days after his death before his body was released. Dr Rodney noted the interest shown by the United States Ambassador, who visited her home the morning after her husband’s death, offering his condolences and an opportunity to enter the United States.
She said he also, on behalf of the Embassy, had offered to assist with funeral arrangements. She said she refused all the offers. When questioned by the Commission, Dr Rodney said she could not draw an inference from the visit from an official she had never seen or known before.
Dr Walter Anthony Rodney was killed on June 13, 1980 when a bomb exploded on his lap. His younger brother, Donald, who was with him at the time of his death, was also injured in the explosion.
Donald had reported that a former army sergeant and electronics expert William Gregory Smith had handed over the bomb, hidden in a communication device that killed his brother.
October 21, 2014 By
In a move that surprised most observers of the Hong Kong scene, there have been sustained demonstrations since September 28 against authorities in a city that is frequently cited as a “poster child” of stability and prosperity.
The demonstrators are all young people – mostly university students – who are using the tactics of the “Occupy Movement”. This was launched in the US when students protested the growing inequalities in their country precipitated by the top one per cent of the populace owning most of the wealth.
In Hong Kong, what are the students protesting? After all, they are living in one of the most affluent locales in the world, where obtaining a good job would not be a problem after they graduate, as it would be for their protesting peers in the US. To appreciate their cause, one has to have a grasp of the island’s history.
Founded by the British and Chine after the Opium War of 1839-1842, Hong Kong was governed along British Westminster lines, by a Governor and a legislature, just as Guyana was, during the colonial era.
The British rule voluntarily ended in 1997 and Hong Kong reverted to China under a “dual governance” structure. Democratic rule and governance structures would be maintained in the city even though “mainland China” would have its Communist Party, selecting its political leaders, which would oversee the economy that was run along capitalist lines.
More specifically, 20 years after 1997, that is 2017, there would be elections to choose the leaders of Hong Kong. And this is what the protests are all about.
The rulers in Beijing are insisting that candidates for the elections must be vetted by a Committee that is dominated by individuals who, though from Hong Kong, have shown themselves loyal to Beijing.
The students, inspired by the tenets of liberal democracy imbibed by the traditions of their city, insist that the candidates must be chosen by a method that is much more open in this inaugural democratic election. It would be a farce, they insist, if all the seven million citizens of Hong Kong were to rubber stamp the candidates chosen by Beijing.
Where would be the “democratic” content of such a process? It would be a “selection” rather than an election. The students would have none of this.
And this is where the Alliance For Change (AFC) should come into the picture, to Guyanese following the protests of the students in Hong Kong. The AFC has consistently boasted about its “liberal democratic” credentials – but when it comes to putting their words into action, they fail ignominiously.
Let us take the selection of their presidential candidate who will lead them into the next elections. If the party were actually democratic, the members should reject, like the students of Hong Kong that the leaders present a pre-selected slate for them to choose from.
But this is precisely what has happened in the AFC. When first asked, two of their younger members, Patterson and Williams, opined that they would be proud to be able to compete to be selected as their party’s Presidential Candidate. However, even before the ink was dry on their opinion being quoted in the press, the now solitary leader Khemraj Ramjattan (upon the departure of Raphael Trotman) announced that his choice was his old “friend” from his PPP days, Moses Nagamootoo.
Nagamootoo, the Vice Chairman, was immediately endorsed by the lame-duck Chairman Nigel Hughes, who willingly accepted Ramjattan reneging on the AFC’s foundational ethnic alternation of candidates. What this did is exactly what the students in Hong Kong are protesting – making a farce of the essence of democracy by presenting a fait accompli to the voters to “choose” who would be their leaders.
The AFC is fond of encouraging Guyanese to protest for their “democratic rights”. We wonder whether AFC members would show the courage of the Hong Kong students.
October 21, 2014 By
On October 14, I was asked by Speaker Trotman whether he has the power, in accordance with the Standing Orders, to convene the next sitting of the National Assembly.
I advised the Speaker that, in my opinion, the answer is no and that he can only fix a date for a sitting when the Assembly is adjourned to a specified date. Standing Order No 8(2) is clear.
If a date was fixed at the last sitting before the Parliamentary recess, only then Mr Trotman could have fixed a date for the next sitting.
When matters are not provided for in our rules, we refer to practice and precedents. The practice is that sittings are requested by the Government.
In the Parliament of Guyana we have two precedents, one involving Frank A Narain, former Clerk of the National Assembly, and the other involving Elwyn Viapree, former Clerk of the Legislature.
In Mr Viapree’s case, on June 8, 1963, he was given the following instructions by Speaker Rahman B Gajraj:
“Mr Clerk, the business of the Legislative Assembly must proceed. It was because I was of the impression that several matters were ripe for putting before the Assembly that I wrote you on June 5 asking for the list.
“This reached me by my own messenger only at about 16:00h yesterday – too late for these instructions to be prepared before today, which is a Public Holiday. As a result, this will be sent to you on Monday morning, June 10.
“In accordance with SO 6(6), please give notice to Members in good standing (NOT those under suspension) that there will be a meeting of the Assembly on June 12, 1963. Prepare Notice Paper and let it be delivered to Members (at least those in the urban area) by Monday afternoon.”
Rahman B Gajraj
Mr Viapree referred the instruction of the Speaker to the then Attorney General Mr Fenton Ramsahoye for advice as follows:
“Hon AG, I shall be grateful for your advice with reference to 1 and 3.
“I do not share His Honour’s view that notice can be given to Members ‘that there will be a meeting of the Assembly on June 12’.
“I am of the opinion that this is a matter for the Government to decide, that is, the date and time of the next sitting.”
E V Viapree
Clerk of the Legislature
Mr Fenton Ramsahoye, then Attorney General, gave the following advice to the Clerk of the Legislature:
“Clerk of the Legislature, under SO 1(9) (to which however, there was no reference in the Assembly), the Speaker could suspend the sitting for a time to be named by him. Alternatively, he could adjourn the Assembly without question put, but in the latter case the adjournment, unlike the suspension, is an adjournment simplicitor and not for a time to be named by the Speaker.
“Even, therefore, if it was competent for the Speaker to adjourn to a date to be notified’ (as he did), this formula did not vest him with the competence to notify the date, and the Clerk of the Legislature is under no duty to comply with the Speaker’s direction in that behalf.
“The competence in this matter resides where it normally rests, namely, with the Government of British Guiana.”
The second precedent occurred in 1972. On May 12, 1972, Dr Cheddi Jagan, Opposition Leader, wrote the Deputy Speaker, Derek Jagan, who was Acting Speaker in the absence of Speaker Frank Narine, who was out of the jurisdiction.
The following is a copy of Dr Jagan’s letter dated May 12, 1972 to the acting Speaker:
“Sir, there is widespread and growing concern in Guyana about the flood situation, so much as that many knowledgeable people expect that there may be a food shortage as a result.
“There is little doubt that the flooding has already assumed the proportions of a national disaster, with many thousands of acres of crops of every kind completely lost, and irreplaceable for many months. There will be a further rise in prices when shortages begin to be felt.
“In the circumstances, I feel that there should be a national effort towards overcoming the difficulties that have arisen, and that it would be in the best interest of the people for the National Assembly to discuss the situation.
“In view of the fact that the Speaker is out of the country, I am requesting that you take steps to convene Parliament as early as possible.”
The Deputy Speaker (Acting Speaker), thereafter, wrote the Clerk the following letter on May 16, 1972:
“Dear Mr Narain, further to our conversation yesterday on the telephone, enclosed please find the letter which was sent to me by Dr Jagan, Leader of the Opposition, calling for a meeting of Parliament to discuss the flood situation. Since the receipt of this letter I have given this matter very serious consideration.
“There seems to be no doubt that as a result of the flooding a number of persons have been affected and thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed. The Government itself has regarded the situation very serious and committees have been appointed to collect money, etc and/or to distribute assistance to the affected persons.
“In my view, it is in the public interest that Parliament should meet to discuss the matter which I think is of urgent public importance.
“In the premises, please summon a meeting of Parliament on May 22, 1972, at 14.00h.”
D C Jagan
The Clerk of the National Assembly thereafter, wrote the Deputy Speaker (Acting Speaker) the following letter on May 18, 1972:
“Dear Mr Jagan, I hereby acknowledge receipt of you letter dated May 16, 1972, in which you requested me to summon a meeting of Parliament for May 22, 1972, at 14:00h.
“I wish most respectfully to advise you of the provisions of the Standing Orders which deal with Sittings of the National Assembly. Paragraph (2) of the Standing Order No 8 states as follows:”
‘If, during an adjournment of the Assembly, it is represented to the Speaker by the Government, or the Speaker is of the opinion that the public interest requires that the Assembly should meet on a day earlier than that to which it stands adjourned, the Speaker may give notice accordingly and the Assembly shall meet at the time stated in such notice. The Clerk shall as soon as possible inform each Member in writing, or if necessary by telegram of any such earlier meeting.’
“From this Standing Order, it will be seen that the extent of the Speaker’s power in the summoning of the National Assembly is limited, and although:
(i) It may be represented to the Speaker by the Government, or
(ii) The Speaker may be of the opinion that the Assembly should meet.
“Nevertheless, the Speaker can give notice for the Assembly to meet only when the Assembly stands adjourned to a specified date, and not when it is adjourned sine die.
“The Law Officers had confirmed the above interpretation of the Standing Orders and this was some time ago conveyed to the Leader of the Opposition by His Honour the Speaker.
“When the Assembly last met on the April 13, 1972, it was, on completion of its business, on a motion by the Minister of Housing and Reconstruction (Leader of the House), adjourned sine die and not to a specified date.
“In view of the above, I respectfully advise that I am not of the opinion that you are empowered to give notice for the Assembly to meet on May 22, 1972.”
It should be noted that there has been no significant changes to SO 8(2) over the years. In view of the foregoing, I stand by my interpretation of SO 8(2). Mr Frank Narain, former Clerk of the National Assembly, shares my opinion.
I also take this opportunity to state that Sir Michael Davies, Commonwealth Senior Parliamentary Staff Advisor to the National Assembly of Guyana, made the following statement in his February 18, 2005 Needs Assessment of the Guyana National Assembly:
“Standing Orders are for Clerks, not for Members. One reason Clerks are employed is to provide advice to Members on the Standing Orders and on the procedure of an Assembly.”
In closing, I wish to quote from a report dated July 2013 by Mr Frank Narain on this matter:
“Did the National Assembly awake and take steps to simplify or clarify the procedures on this matter to avoid a further recurrence? I do not think that it did. A poor Clerk will continue to be involved.
“A Speaker will continue to feel that he has the power to call Parliament, if he wants the sitting.
“The present Opposition will feel that with its one-member majority, it has the power. Who really has the power under the Standing Orders? Who is the poor Clerk to take instructions from? Will members have to run to the Chief Justice for his opinion?
“MPs, please do not continue to involve and suffer my successor. Do something about this matter now. NOW! Something that will suit you if you become the Government and something that will also suit you if you become the Opposition.
“Is this not possible? Surely it is?”
F A Narain, CCH
Former Clerk of the National Assembly
S E Isaacs
Clerk of the National Assembly
October 21, 2014 By
Once again I noticed the embattled Kaieteur News is in its usual ‘rumour mill’ mode to cast aspersions and paint a picture of rampant corruption and malpractice as was attempted in its October 19 edition with a prominent front page headline, “Log export doubles in 2014”.
As if this is the end of the world. I have been engaged in the forestry sector for a number of years and have heard numerous calls from the Guyana Forestry Commission encouraging companies to increase their production as several companies are harvesting far below the allowable cut which is the threshold to ensure the sustainable exploitation of Guyana’s forest resources.
With this in mind, I am confident that if not all, some companies are still harvesting way below the allowable cut. Most naturally, if there is an increase in the production of logs, there will be an increase in log exports and other value added production as well, which I am sure will be reflected in the Forest Product Development and Marketing Council’s year-end report.
While Kaieteur News failed to highlight any significant malpractices or breaches resulting from the increase in log exports, those in the sector have welcomed this bit of news which will only serve to further increase the demand and prices for Guyana’s logs.
This will continue to produce further export earnings contributing to foreign exchange and development of Guyana as a whole.
Further, over the past few years, there has been much public debate over the exports of logs. However, the outcomes from those stakeholders’ meetings have remained unchanged, as the export of logs will continue but with a phased increase in royalties and taxes on exported logs. Stakeholders are against the ban on the log trade.
Additionally, the relevant agencies have maintained that deforestation is kept within the allowed margin. In fact, only recently it was announced that deforestation rates have dropped from 0.079 per cent as the annual rate for 2012, to 0.068 per cent as the reported rate for 2013.
Meanwhile, it is evident that Kaieteur News needs to distract the public from its own misdemeanour by once again misrepresenting the forest sector and efforts accrued to strengthen its sustainable exploitation and management.
October 21, 2014 By
The current, apparently intractable wrangling in Guyana’s body politic presents a most disturbing hopelessness for us ordinary folks, regular citizens who are anxious to see our dear land of Guyana progress to its optimal level.
Where does one turn? Where do we look for the ‘promised land’? Perhaps our leaders can draw lessons from other societies, communities, countries that faced similar dead ends.
For example, Peter Senge, renowned MIT Professor, writing in the book titled Presence, described how the whole history of change in South Africa was a remarkable example of people creating a different future together by using scenario-building exercises, which involved people from all racial, ethnic, cultural, political and similar sub-groups thinking and talking about alternative futures.
They eventually came up with four scenarios:
* “Ostrich” was the one in which the then white South African Government put its head in the sand to avoid facing problems.
* “Lame Duck” was the other where the powers of the new black Government were so strictly limited by constitutional instruments that its power to act was crippled.
* “Icarus” was the third whereby the new government instituted economic reforms that were so radical that, like Icarus, it burned itself by flying too near to the sun.
* “Flamingo” which no one particularly liked because Flamingos typically take off very slowly. But Flamingos also take off together.
So, as the groups thought through these different scenarios, they became convinced that the only viable way forward was the Flamingo way.
Senge concluded that while no one can be certain about how much these “scenarios” influenced the changes in South Africa, he firmly believed that they had a major impact in shaping the thinking that allowed the new Government to hold the country together.
Can we develop our own scenarios and come up with our own solutions?
October 21, 2014 By
We, the members of the Guyana Trans United (GTU), wish to publicly condemn the Guyana Police Force (GPF) for their continued discrimination against our community.
We have been attending court since June 3, trying to get justice for several of our members who were shot at from a vehicle as they stood peacefully on the streets of Georgetown in April.
From the beginning, the Police discriminated against us – calling us names when we attempted to report the matter at the Police station, and refusing to take a statement.
Additionally, even though we provided the Police with the licence plate of the vehicle involved, it took over a month, and us picketing in front of the Brickdam Police Station before one of the perpetrators of this violent attack was charged.
However, even though the matter is now before the court, it appears that justice is still far from us. Every time the matter is raised in court, we have heard the Police Prosecutor say that the file has been sent somewhere for additional information to be added, corrected, or for review.
At the last hearing, the Police said that they were unable to locate the file and the Magistrate declared that unless the file is produced, the case will be dismissed by October 27.
It has been seven months since we were shot at for no reason. We demand that the GPF do their job and help bring the perpetrators of this violent act to justice. There is no reason for the case file to still be incomplete at this point in time.
It is also unacceptable for the Force to have lost or misplaced the file. We believe that this shows further discriminatory behaviour against our community and is an attempt to simply make the matter go away and to allow the perpetrators to walk free without any punishment.
The GTU is calling on the Police Force to take violence against transgender individuals seriously and to properly investigate and respond to all attacks reported against us. We are Guyanese citizens just like everyone else, with the same human rights as all others and equally deserving of justice.
The Police have a responsibility to all Guyanese and should not be discriminating against anybody on any basis. Also, when other segments of the population see that we are not being served by the authorities who are supposed to protect us, it sends a message that abuse of transgendered persons is acceptable. It is not.
The discrimination and disrespect that we face on a regular basis simply for being ourselves must stop. We demand and deserve justice and accountability from all individuals and systems of Guyana in this and all instances.
We are also still calling for justice to be done regarding the role of staff of a private company (name of company given) in the murders of our friends and colleagues Jason John and Carlyle Sinclair.
Guyana Trans United
October 21, 2014 By
Minister of Agriculture, D Leslie Ramsammy has called on countries to spend more in sustainable agriculture research, saying that this is critical in the development of the sector.
Minister Ramsammy was at the time speaking at the Agriculture Ministry’s annual Research Conference at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC) under the theme “Consolidating Food and Nutrition Security in the Region-Increasing Economic Opportunities and Entrepreneurship for Rice and other Agriculture.” This three-day conference is aimed at highlighting the importance of research in the area of rice and other agriculture products.
Minister Ramsammy noted that this event starts yet another tradition in Guyana- research in agriculture, and underlines the Ministry’s commitment in this regard. Minister Ramsammy added that the productivity that is seen today would not have been achieved without research, and Guyana’s goal of feeding the world, creating a food secure and a nutrition secure world will not be achieved. “Any Government that neglects research does so at its own risk. The post-2015 sustainable development agenda will not serve our global interest unless we recognise that research is very much a part of that development agenda,” Minister Ramsammy said.
Rice is the third most prevalent crop in the world, and because of research, this crop has developed to where it can be able to feed most of the people in the world. Minister Ramsammy said that the Indian rice varieties cannot be ignored, noting that they have transformed the world’s production of the grain, and is a good example of how research can increase production and efficiency in agriculture.
The Agriculture Minister emphasised that even as there are talks about producing Guyana’s own food, the energy equation must be looked at so as to establish where the energy would come from, at what cost and how it would affect the environment. “These are answers that must come from research, and that is why countries need to invest,” he added. For every one dollar spent on global research in agriculture; thousands of dollars are spent in other types of research. “We have not invested enough in agriculture, it is our collective failure… some one trillion dollars is spent in research overall and yet without agriculture there is not a world. There is no other way of feeding people and establishing the basis for nutritious food in the world, there is no life without agriculture,” Minister Ramsammy further explained.
Speaking on climate and its effects on the sector, Minister Ramsammy noted that the agriculture sector is the most affected by this issue, and research can also be done in this regard. He said the production of greenhouse gases is another area that agriculture research can resolve. Agriculture has led Guyana to a sustainable development path, and it continues to be an important contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment generation, foreign exchange earnings and rural development.
He added that in Guyana, five percent of the National Budget is dedicated to those areas of training and research. Building capacity at the University of Guyana and the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) and Technical Institutes, enhancing Agriculture Science in Secondary schools, engaging young people in the sector are just a few of the aspects Government has been investing in. This is not enough, he said, but for a developing country it is impressive.
Speaking of the role small farmers has been playing in the development of agriculture, Minister Ramsammy further called on the world to pay attention to that fact that farmers in countries like Guyana are disadvantaged by a global legal framework that keeps developed countries’ farmers on the top of its ladder and bind farmers from developing countries to stay at the bottom. Research however can change that dispensation, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Vyjayanthi Lopez, Plant Production and Protection Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), congratulated the Government of Guyana for organising such an event. With a food import bill of over US$4 billion per annum and the rising level of obesity and Chronic Non-Communicable disease (NCDs) in the Caribbean, Dr. Lopez said the subject of food and nutrition security should be on the agenda of policy makers, producers and consumers. She urged the participants to take full advantage of the conference to improve their knowledge so as to increase productivity.
October 21, 2014 By
Days after the headless corpse found at Cumming Lodge Old Road was reportedly identified by elatives as that of missing MFK Trading boss, Mohamed Khan a post mortem conducted on the remains on Monday was undetermined.
The post mortem was performed by Dr. Nehaul Singh at the Georgetown Public Hospital Mortuary who took samples to be sent for further analysis. Now that the results were not too clear, the other alternative is to send samples of the headless corpse to perform a DNA test to verify whether the remains are that of Khan. As of now the remains, are still with the police.
The headless corpse was discovered on September 22 at the Cummings Lodge Old Road, East Coast Demerara. Relative had identified the body as Khan, but police have insisted that a DNA test must be done. The corpse was reportedly identified as that of Khan by the underwear and a belt that was discovered amongst the remains. The businessman, who was residing in Venezuela after selling off his Hadfield Street business, left that country on August 21 to visit his Guyanese attorney here. He was expected to spend five days in Guyana. After his disappearance, his family members had contacted several of his friends, but, unfortunately, they claimed that they had not seen him.
He was last seen by his close associates about a few months ago. The 54-year-old businessman was shot to his abdomen by a gunman at La Grange, West Bank Demerara in a failed execution attempt on July 9. It was reported that Khan may have entered a business deal that turned sour. At that time, he claimed that he had sold a property, but the buyer wanted to rob him of millions and thought that the execution attempt may have been orchestrated by him. The businessman left the business world about six years ago after he has received death threats.
October 21, 2014 By