November 27, 2015

Guyana Times Daily – November 27, 2015


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Massive corruption in award of US$18M Specialty Hospital contract

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan

 Lack of transparency

– says Opposition Leader  
– Ramjattan at helm of scandal


Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan has come under intense pressure and the situation promises to heat up even more, following the announcement by the David Granger-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government, that it has contracted Indian Company Fedders Lloyd to continue the construction of the controversial Specialty Hospital.
The situation is troubling, not just because Government has back pedalled on the stance it took against the building of the State of the Art facility, but because the contractor, to whom the project has been given, is closely connected to Minister Ramjattan.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Concerns have already begun mounting following Government’s announcement on Wednesday that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian company, which had lost the bid to Surrendra Engineering Company back in 2011.
The MoU was signed on Wednesday between Finance Minister Winston Jordan and a representative of the company, Ajay Jha. This now paves the way for works to restart the construction of the Hospital.
But the now Public Security Minister is facing severe criticisms and there are talks that the move is an “underhand” one, particularly because there was no tendering process for the project. The sudden move by Government to use the company without giving any other construction company a fighting chance at the tendering process has raised eyebrows.
During the tenth Parliament, Ramjattan was almost hauled before the Committee of Privileges on the charge of failing to declare pecuniary interests in matters debated in the National Assembly.
Ramjattan was said to be in a “conflict of interest” position over his legal representation of the Fedders Lloyd Corporation, which he then believed,  was cheated of the contract to build the Specialty Hospital.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan and  Fedders Lloyd’s representative Ajay Jha during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction of the Specialty Hospital

Finance Minister Winston Jordan and Fedders Lloyd’s representative Ajay Jha during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction of the Specialty Hospital

His role as lawyer for the Indian firm had long been questioned by the then PPP/C Government. It was believed that the then AFC Leader had political rather than legitimate motives for objecting to the US$18.1 million contract for the design and construction of the hospital which was awarded to Surendra Engineering company.
The PPP/C believed that Ramjattan had acted in contravention of Standing Order 107 which states that “No Member of the Assembly shall appear before the Assembly or any Committee thereof as Counsel or Solicitor for any party, or in any capacity for which he or she is to receive a fee or reward.”
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday said that the new agreement between Government and the Indian company “reeks of corruption”, as it serves the interest of its own.
According to him, a single source company could not be awarded a contract that is $18 million.
“How could you ask the person that is making the proposal to you to do the assessment of work done. The proper thing to do was to seek the independent assessment by a consultancy firm of work that has been done before, do new bills of quantity and then go out to tender”, the Opposition said.
According to the MoU, Fedders Lloyd will review the works already started, conclude a design of the hospital that is acceptable to the Government, and commit to fully equip the facility on completion of its construction. The company also undertakes to commence work on the facility immediately following the signing of the MoU.
The Specialty Hospital, a project initiated by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, is aimed at catering for complicated surgeries, ranging from heart operations, organ transplants to cosmetic surgeries. In 2012, a US$18 million contract was awarded to India-based company Surendra Engineering, which was tasked with designing and building the controversial facility. The funding was provided by the Indian Government through a Line of Credit (LOC).
The current Administration, which was on the Opposition side of the National Assembly during the 10th Parliament, had heavily criticised the project. The coalition had even cut the $1.25 billion that was budgeted for the Hospital in 2013. The previous Administration had only received $34.4 million as supplementary funding for the hospital in the 10th Parliament as a result of the absence of APNU Member of Parliament (MP) Volda Lawrence, when a vote had been taken for the funds.
The previous Administration was hoping that the hospital would be a pull factor to bring tourists and overseas-based Guyanese back to Guyana for “health tourism”. However, the new Administration had said with the current state of affairs in the health sector, it was better that the construction of the Specialty Hospital be put on the ‘backburner’ and the money used to enhance the primary health care system.
Government had requested the EXIM (Export, Import) Bank of India to cancel the LOC for the Specialty Hospital and to reallocate the balance of funds to a project to modernise three primary healthcare facilities – Bartica, Suddie and West Demerara Hospitals.
However, the Government of India while indicating that it had no objection and support for the modernisation of primary healthcare facilities, suggested that Government should consider salvaging the Specialty Hospital as it will complement primary healthcare facilities in Guyana.

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Tobacco: A dangerous killer

Many countries in the world have already passed tobacco control legislation and many more are in the process of doing so. In essence, these countries have recognised the need to have this crucial legislation in place aimed at protecting their citizens from the harmful effects of tobacco use.
Just a few days ago, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Regional Adviser on Tobacco Control, Dr Adrianna Blanco was quoted in the media as saying that there is no reason to justify why tobacco control legislation has not yet been tabled in Guyana’s Parliament. Blanco, like many of us here, is of the view that passing tobacco control legislation should be a top priority for this country considering the number of persons dying from various causes as a result of tobacco use.
Tobacco is a deadly product that kills millions of people every year, and most of its victims are from low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) uses the term “global tobacco epidemic” to describe the deadly effects and the high number of persons dying from tobacco use. It says that every year more than six million people die of preventable diseases caused by direct tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke. These statistics are indeed worrying and should cause all stakeholders, including both Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to recommit themselves to taking the necessary action needed to protect citizens.
There are quite a few interventions which the authorities here may wish to consider in addressing this problem; these include ensuring that the tobacco control legislation is passed in the Parliament without any further delay. Guyana cannot afford to lag in terms of the legislative requirements needed to tackle this issue holistically.
The Tobacco Control Bill fulfils requirements laid out in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The legislation is intended to protect present and future generations from the “devastating harms” of tobacco use, exposure to tobacco smoke and specifically to prevent tobacco use among youths. The legislation would also seek to ensure that the public is protected from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, while preventing the illicit trade in tobacco products.
There is also need for mass public education campaigns which could be used as an important vehicle for changing public attitudes regarding tobacco and tobacco control. Mandatory aggressive, well-funded counter-advertising campaigns, using multiple messages maintained over a long period of time for example as in the states of California and Massachusetts in the USA; in Ecuador, Malaysia, Peru and Romania have been shown to contribute significantly to reduced tobacco use in youth and overall tobacco consumption. Legislation in this regard ensures a binding obligation on the public authority and ensures permanence of public educational programmes for tobacco control.
Additionally, a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is at the core of effective tobacco control legislation and programmes generally. A comprehensive ban involves a ban on all forms of direct and indirect advertisements, promotion and sponsorship.
Further, price and tax measures are an important and effective means of reducing tobacco consumption, especially among young people. Raising taxes, and hence the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products, has a double advantage: it not only generates revenue for Government, but has proven to be effective in reducing tobacco use, particularly among young people and low-income groups.
There are many more effective mechanisms for tobacco control which policymakers and other stakeholders here could capitalise on. There are also many success stories and good practices from leading tobacco control countries such as Russia, Australia, India, Iran, Brazil, USA, etc. which we could learn from.
There is no doubt that we could be successful in the fight to ensure that the numbers of persons dying as a result of the harmful effects of tobacco use or being exposed to second-hand smoking is significantly reduced. However, as a start, it is necessary for all stakeholders to cooperate and coordinate their actions in a more efficient and effective manner. The lobbying by the various groups could begin with pressing the Administration to ensure the tobacco control legislation is passed without any further delay.

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“Night of the Stars” for December 4 @ Giftland Mall

ent1We have seen her in Indian movies and for the first time in Guyana, her fans will have the opportunity to see her in person. Yes, we are talking about the talented, beautiful and mesmerising Preity Zinta.
The Bollywood actress will be heading a team of actors and actresses from India for an evening titled ‘Night of the Stars” which is billed for the Giftland OfficeMax Mall, Pattensen, Greater Georgetown on December 5.
Known for her roles in hit movies such as Kya Kehna, Soldier, Mission Kashmir, Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho and many others, she is bound to leave her fans satisfied after her performance.
Joining Zinta will be Dhoom Machaao Dhoom’s actress Sriti Jha, who also appeared in several television shows including Jiya Jale, Shaurya Aur Suhani, Dil Se Di Dua Saubhagyavati Bhava and Balika Vadhu.
Also performing at the show will be Gurmeet Choudhary, an Indian television actor, model and dancer. He played the role of business magnate “Maan Singh Khurana” in Geet – Hui Sabse Parayi. He had played a lead role in the show Punar Vivah as “Yash Sindhia”.
In addition to the high quality cast is Shakti Mohan who is a contemporary dancer from India. She was the winner of Zee TV’s dance reality show Dance India Dance season 2.
Shabbir Ahluwalia who is a television actor, best known for his roles as “Rishi Garewal” in the soap opera Kahiin to Hoga and “Milind Mishra” in the serial Kayamath. He made his debut in Bollywood with his rolle in the movie Shootout at Lokhandwala.
Finally, finishing off the cast will be Shibani Kashyap, an India singer, who is actively working in the Bollywood film industry.
Some of her songs are very popular, such as “Sajna Aaa Bhi Ja” from the movie Waisa Bhi Hota Hai – Part II. She was also the hostess a singer hunt show named Bathroom Singer.
General admission tickets cost $4000 while the VIP tickets cost $10,000. Georgetown tickets are available at the Giftland Mall, Survival Supermarket, Essential Care Pharmacy, Bhagwan’s; Dilip Variety Store and M&M Snackette, Demerara Harbour Bridge.
For those in Berbice, tickets can be uplifted at Nand Persaud (Corriverton), Imran and Sons, Hamid’s, J’s Supermarket, and A Ally and Sons.
Tickets on the West Coast are available at R Mohan, Vreed-En-hoop and R Tularam. Essequibians can purchase their tickets at Jaigobin and Bulkan, Parika Junction.
The show is promoted by NEXGEN Global Promotions and Stars Entertainment.

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All set for King’s Duck Curry competition on Sunday

duckThe participants have started to arrive and are ready to tantalise the taste buds of the judges and patrons, as they vie to be the best duck curry chef in the Caribbean, at the 15th annual King’s Duck Curry Competition.
The event is set for Sunday at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence, East Bank Demerara.
The participating teams are drawn from Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad, the US, and for the first time, a team from Barbados.
They have all promised to bring their A-Game at the cook-off which will see over one million in cash and prizes up for grabs.
However, a massive Trinidadian posse of over 100 persons will be a part of the evening that is expected to be aired LIVE on Win Radio, Trinidad. And in even better news for duck curry lovers, this year, there will be duck curry on sale.
Persons wishing to participate in the competition must bring a minimum of 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of duck meat. All participants are allowed to clean and cut their ducks at home, but the meat must be marinated and cooked at the venue.
Participants must also bring their cooking utensils and ingredients. A ready-to-use stove will be provided by the promoters.
Apart from the cook-off, there will be entertainment galore. There will be performances by Chutney King Rikki Jai; Guyana’s Baboo Terry Gajraj; Trinidad and Tobago’s versatile band Karma and the best in Guyana, the Shakti String Orchestra.
The King’s Jewellery World Duck Curry Competition would not be possible without the generous corporate support of Banks DIH, Digicel, Guyana Lottery Company, Maggi, Caribbean Airlines, Cloud 9, the Tourism Ministry, Impressions, E-Networks, and Massy among others.
Admission to the event is absolutely free. Action starts at 14:00h.

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Car dismembers West Coast Berbice man

Police are investigating the circumstances which led to the death of a West Berbice labourer on Thursday afternoon at Rising Sun Public Road, West Coast Berbice (WCB), Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice).

Dead is Shermon Harper, 41, of Lot 11 Seafield Village, WCB. He sustained a severed hand and leg, along with broken ribs and other bodily injuries.

While details of the incident are sketchy, Commander of B Division (Berbice), Assistant Commissioner Christopher Griffith told Guyana Times that the driver of the car – Davendra Singh of Rose Hall, Corentyne, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) – has been arrested and is in Police custody assisting with the investigations.

According to the Commander, the driver was tested and found to have zero alcohol in his system. Nevertheless, Griffith related to this newspaper that initial reports suggest Harper was crossing the road when the accident occurred.

However, the dead man’s stepdaughter, Keisha Moore, told this publication that shortly after 13:00h, she received a telephone call informing her of the accident. She said she went to the neighbouring village, where she saw Harper lying on the road with an arm and leg missing. “When I went there, the Police were already there and they said they are investigating,” Moore related.

The woman further explained that a part of one of Harper’s hands was left in the car which was parked some distance away from the body. Another relative, Samuel Daniels, told Guyana Times that when the family arrived at the scene of the accident, Harper’s covered body was lying on the road.

He noted that the man’s leg was across the road from where his body was lying. The relative said the man was riding home from his boss’s house, where they were celebrating someone’s birthday. It was unclear whether Harper was intoxicated at the time of the accident. There were no witnesses to the accident.

Reports are that the labourer, who is differently able and has a hearing impediment, was pushing a bicycle alongside a boy, when the boy ran to safety leaving him in the path of the oncoming car. This publication understands that the driver of the car was allegedly speeding at the time but this information is yet to be confirmed.

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Two killed, one critical in EBD smash-up

Two persons are now dead and another critical after the vehicle in which they were travelling smashed into a filled sand truck on Thursday at Coverden, East Bank Demerara.

Dead: Rohini Durga

Dead: Rohini Durga

Dead are George Madhulall, 72, a Canadian-based Guyanese, and 49-year-old Rohini Durga of Lot 337 Block X Section A, Diamond New Scheme, EBD, while her husband George Durga, 62, is hospitalised in a critical condition.
The accident occurred just before 10:00h in the vicinity of the Prairie International Hotel.

Guyana Times understands that the couple was heading to Timehri to drop their guest at his relatives, when the Toyota Spacio car, bearing registration number PPP2513, slammed head-on into the truck which was travelling in the opposite direction.

The vehicle was pinned under the truck, GRR 7651, and Madhulall in the front passenger seat, died on impact. Durga was sitting in the backseat and her body reportedly sustained severe damages. This newspaper was told the woman was alive after the collision but died when the car was pulled from under the truck.

Meanwhile, her husband who was driving survived the impact. He was pulled from the wreckage and immediately rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital, where doctors said his condition was critical.

At the scene, the traumatised truck driver briefly recounted to Guyana Times what transpired. He recalled that on his way to Georgetown, he saw the car heading in his direction and at the time there were no vehicles in front of him or the car.
“The car just come over on my lane and just head straight into the truck. I was blowing my  horn really loud on him, I even almost dead-stop, and he still came head-on into the truck and just fit right under it,” he disclosed.

Dead: George Madhulall

Dead: George Madhulall

When this newspaper arrived at the scene, the bodies were already removed. However, persons at the scene related that it appears as though the driver of the car fell asleep or had lost control of the vehicle, since it was seen swerving in and out of its lane.

According to an eyewitness, she recalled hearing a loud ‘crash’ sound and upon investigating saw the car pinned under the truck. The woman noted that by the time she came outside, persons were already rushing to the vehicles while those passing stopped to render assistance.

“People start building up trying to get the victims out but they were pinned down but then they try, try till they get out the driver cause he was alive and when the police come, they take he to the hospital,” the eyewitness recalled.
She added that Fire Service later arrived and moved the car from the truck’s clutch: “When they pull out the car, the whole front fold in and the man in the front seat pinned down. The woman in the back, her head was down between the seats, like it got stuck there or something.”

About an hour later, the wrecked car was removed from the scene but the truck could not move. However, repairs were done to the truck and sometime after, it was removed.

Meanwhile, at the home of the dead woman’s sister, the family gathered as close friends and relatives poured in to offer condolences. The sister, Nanda Persaud, said her mother who recently came into the country, informed her about the accident.

“One of we neighbour was passing same time and see the accident and call my mother, so come she call me. But when we reach there we didn’t see anything, the police just tell we that the female and the male in the front seat passed away and that we need to go to the hospital,” Persaud related.

She explained that whenever Madhulall came in the country, he would stay with the Durgas and on Thursday morning, the couple were taking him to Timehri to attend a relative’s religious function when the accident occurred.

Durga leaves to mourn her three children, husband, six siblings and elderly parents. Mahulall who came to Guyana for a court case and was schedule to stay for the Christmas holiday, has nine children, all whom are overseas.

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Windsor Forest man feared dead after truck topples

A 27-year-old man is believed to be dead after the truck he was travelling in toppled on a trail along the Soesdyke/Linden Highway.

Feared dead, Ravi Persaud

Feared dead, Ravi Persaud

Up to press time, information about the accident remained sketchy, but Guyana Times was told on Thursday that Ravi Persaud, a logger of Seven Street, Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara, may have lost his life in the accident.

According to reports, Persaud’s father has a logging site on the highway and he was returning home from there when the accident occured. It is believed that he was pinned in the truck while one of the porters travelling in the lorry is missing.
This newspaper was told that sometime around 11:00h on Thursday, Persaud’s family received a call informing them that he was in a serious accident and died. The man’s father immediately left to go into the trail to confirm whether his son was indeed killed. It is said to be a 12-hour journey to get to the location.

A relative told Guyana Times on Thursday evening that they are unsure whether Persaud was indeed killed in the accident since he had his workers with him. He noted, that up to the time he spoke with this publication, they had not heard any news from Persaud’s father.

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Guyana suffers as APNU/AFC flip-flops – Irfaan Ali

– says coalition wasted time on key developmental projects

With the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition continuously backpedaling on its initial position towards key developmental projects, the country continues to suffer tremendously. So says People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Executive Member and Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali.

PPP/C Executive Member Irfaan Ali

PPP/C Executive Member Irfaan Ali

During an interview with Guyana Times, the politician lamented the fact that Guyana continues to lose as a nation, as a result of “the destructive politics pursued by the APNU/AFC” between 2011 to date.

“We have lost almost four years of implementation time and costs associated with the list of time. By today, we could have had a positive investment climate with a heavy focus on manufacturing. The continuous flip-flop on policy and political negativity has cost this country tremendously,” Ali stated.

The former Minister was referring to several projects, including the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project and the Specialty Hospital; both of which were heavily criticised and shutdown by the then APNU/AFC Opposition.

Dubbing the situation as a “typical example of deception, fluff and immaturity”, the former Minister pointed out that Finance Minister Winston Jordan clearly stated during his Budget speech that “It would not only be irresponsible, but downright criminal act of deception, were we to proceed with the Amaila Falls.”

Then, at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s (GMSA) annual dinner recently, the Minister retracted his comments and stated, “I hope that it is absolutely clear that contrary to reports that we have abandoned the project; that the project has always been on the burner.”

Drawing attention to the duplicity and absurdity of the situation, Ali asserted that it was the APNU/AFC Administration that conveyed to the people of Guyana, investors and the international community, that to pursue with the Amaila Falls project would be “criminal”.  Jordan had stated that Government in seeking another review of the project, however, the former Minister strongly believes that the talk of another review is just a play to save face by the Administration.

“Of course they are many other statements by Government officials that contradicts this position and branded quite rightfully this project as a PPP/C project,” Ali stated, noting that just like the Specialty Hospital, the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the Amaila Falls Project are all proof that the PPP/C’s development agenda and platform was the right path for Guyana.

Ali went on to highlight that the APNU/AFC Administration has no choice but to go back to the transformational agenda of the PPP/C.

“It is clear that the new Government has realised that the developmental path of the PPP is the prescription for Guyana. I therefore call on the Government to stop the time and money wasting,” Ali stated.

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Trio remanded for robbery

Three men were on Thursday remanded to prison after they were denied bail on a robbery charge by Magistrate Fabayo Azore.

The men – 27-year-old Carl Hillman; 19-year-old Kevin Cumberbatch and 28-year-old Troy Scott – all denied the charge which stated that on November 25 at Georgetown, they robbed the Virtual Complainant, Troy Fields, of one cellular phone valued $20,000.

Police Prosecutor Simone Payne objected to bail, revealing that additional charges of a similar nature were expected to be laid against the trio soon. It was also disclosed that Cumberbatch had been charged in the past for armed robbery. The objections were overruled and the men were granted bail in the sum of $75,000 each.
They are scheduled to make their second appearance on December 8.

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