March 6, 2015

Neesa’s killers get 202 years

Neesa Gopaul

Neesa Gopaul

… Jarvis Small 96, Bibi Gopaul 106

BY VAHNU MANIKCHAND

The sensational murder trial of teenager Neesa Lalita Gopaul came to a dramatic end Thursday afternoon with her killers; Bibi Sharima Gopaul and her lover Jarvis Small being sentenced to a combined 202 years in jail. Jarvis was put away for 96 years and the teenager’s mother, Sharima Gopaul 102.

The sentence was handed down by Justice Navindra Singh who has developed a reputation for dishing out lengthy jail terms for murders. His decision also culminated with jubilation for many in and out of the courtroom and despair for the couple and their families.

Persons outside the court room after the sentencing of Jarvis Small and Bibi Gopaul on Thursday

Persons outside the court room after the sentencing of Jarvis Small and Bibi Gopaul on Thursday

The trial, one of the most high profile in recent history here, began on February 2 attracting widespread public attention given the manner in which Neesa, a former student of Queens College was viciously killed and her body placed in a suitcase and dumped in a creek at the Emerald Tower Resort, Madewini Soesdyle-Linden Highway. The couple had stridently denied killing the teenager, but the explosive testimony of convicted fraudster, Simone De Nobrega last week, detailing the confession of Bibi while the two of them sat in the East La Penitence lock-ups back in 2010 nailed the Prosecution’s case against them.

Media trial

On Thursday after deliberating for about three hours, the 12-member mixed jury panel returned to the court at about 15:00h to deliver their verdict. Extra seating had to be arranged to accommodate the public, most of whom came out to show support for the dead teenager and to get a glimpse of her killers. Many also stood in the corridors awaiting the verdict.

When the foreman of the jury informed the court that they had arrived at unanimous verdicts of guilty for the two accused, a resounding gasp echoed throughout the courtroom. The 37-year-old father of three appeared shocked when he was told of the verdict and sentenced. When asked if there is any reason why the court should not sentence him, Small opined that he did not get a fair trial. “I think I got a media trial,” he said while adding that “prejudicial evidence” was let into the trial. The man further mentioned that he believes the trial judge was “unfair and political in nature”, claiming that there may have been a political purpose behind the trial. “No evidence has been presented in this case against me to find me or anybody else guilty of murder,” he said.

In response, lead Prosecutrix, State Counsel Diana Kaulesar, pointed out that the evidence presented speaks for itself, while adding that the jury had made its decision. She along with Counsels Mercedes Thompson and Stacy Gooding presented the State’s case.

Small’s Attorney Glenn Hanoman, who appeared in association with Attorneys Zanna Frank, Lyndon Amsterdam and Senior Counsel Bernard De Santos, made an application for a probation report be compiled before sentencing, however, the judge denied the request. Justice Singh then turned his attention to Small, telling the murder convict that he had no political ambitions, before handing down the 96-year sentence.

He began with a base of 60 years and added 10 years for premeditation; 10 because the victim was a child, 10 for brutality and another six more years since domestic violence was involved.

“There is more to it”

Meanwhile, the same question was put to the 42-year-old mother of the teenager who tearfully stated that she did not lie and everything she said to the court can be verified. The woman claimed that Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee had visited her twice in prison. She said that while she was explaining to him about the case and the lack of evidence, the Minister reportedly told her “I know, I know about the case but there is more to it than that”.

Bibi Gopaul went on to tell the judge that she felt he could have done more in her favour when he directed the jury. “I thought I would have had justice here, Sir,” she told the Justice Singh. Her Attorney George Thomas had proffered mitigating factors in favour of his client. He said that the woman had no previous conflicts with the law and is in the process of rehabilitation. The Attorney also asked for custodial sentence to be imposed, while indicating that he would challenge the decision.

After hearing the lawyer, Justice Singh administered the same sentence to Gopaul but imposed an additional 10 years, making it a total of 106 years, since she was the mother of the dead teenager. The judge told the woman that he cannot imagine what moved her to commit such an act. “You lied about everything… this is your daughter… I can’t imagine what monster of a mother would kill their own child,” he said in disgust. In addition, Justice Singh told the woman that while she may not live to serve her entire sentence, he hopes she serves it wherever she goes. After the sentence was handed down, there were no tears from Small and Gopaul. The man appeared angry as he was escorted out of the court room clutching a Bible while Gopaul sobbed as she was being led away by Police Officers. Both were immediately whisked away in separate prison vehicles.

Justice served

Out of the courtroom, onto the hallway of the High Court, it was a scene of high drama. The scores who had gathered to hear the verdict expressed openly their emotions. One man said happily, “Justice has been served!” Another woman was emotional as she shouted “I have children, I’m pleased about it.

You gon kill yuh own child! I’m pleased”. Among persons pouring in the courtroom for the verdict were City Magistrates Ann McGusty and Renita Singh, along with several Police Officers attached to the Court Superintendent’s Office including Court Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent of Police Desiree Fowler-Goodman.

According to the State’s case, the duo killed the teen sometime between September 23 and October 4, 2010, at the Emerald Tower Resort, in Madewini, Linden/Soesdyke Highway.

The prosecution led by State Counsel Diana Kaulesar said that the duo took the teen up to the Highway, where Small allegedly strangled her before bashing her head with a piece of wood.

They then returned to Leonora, WCD, with the body in the car truck. Through its star witness who Gopaul had confessed the story to while at the East La Penitence lock-ups, the State further disclosed that the following night the two returned to the area where they wrapped the teenager’s body in a sheet before putting it in a suitcase. Small then took the bag into the creek and used a pair of dumbbells and a piece of red rope to anchor the suitcase under water.

The prosecution called some 27 witnesses to support its case, which it closed last Friday. Small and Gopaul were both called upon to lead their defences after the trial judge had over ruled no-case submission applications from their respective attorneys on Monday. The duo had proclaimed their innocence, denying that they killing the teenager.

Closing addresses were done by the defence attorneys on Tuesday and Prosecutrix Kaulesar did hers the following day.

On Wednesday before the jury panel retired to deliberate on a verdict, the trial judge summed up all the evidence presented in the case and gave directions as it related to the rules of law that they had to follow in arriving at a decision.

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Selman details abuse, disrespect from APNU’s top brass

Former APNU MP Africo Selman

Former APNU MP Africo Selman

APNU’s infighting, division:

By Michael Younge

Former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Executive Africo Selman said she refused to be a rubberstamp parliamentarian and a young leader who was made to suffer constant verbal and emotional abuse, at the hands of the elders within her party whenever she expressed independent or dissenting views on political matters within what was supposed to be the comfort of her own party.

Selman, a trained schoolteacher, said that she choose to resign her post as a Member of Parliament (MP) for A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) within the 10th Parliament and from its major constituent party, PNCR, of which she was a member after much thought and encouragement from her friends and family who knew the hardships she faced within the two political entities.

Speaking with the Guyana Times during an exclusive interview on Thursday, Selman denied that she was either enticed or coaxed by the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to resign her post and membership within the main Opposition coalition, which recently entered into a coalition with the Alliance For Change (AFC). “Lots of things are being said about me. I want to say to everyone that I have never been offered any posting diplomatic or otherwise. I have never been made any offers by the PPP/C and the decision that I have made to leave the APNU was made in principle almost a year ago when some things that I consider to be important for Guyana’s development – bills and budgetary measures – were voted against by my party,” she explained during the interview.

Inclusionary democracy

Selman, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Guyana (UG) in International Relations, said that she was made more “uncomfortable” in recent times as a result of the unwillingness of some of the elders within APNU and the PNCR to listen to the concerns of their youths and MPs.

She said, “When leaders make their decisions without consulting you, they are unwilling to change those decisions”, even when there are persons with strong opinions and positions that should be considered on a particular subject matter, bill or motion.

The former APNU MP admitted that she was in full support of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill (AML/CTF), the budgetary allocation of monies for the UG Student Loans Projects and other spending in relation to youths but these were axed and not supported by her party despite her expressing reservations about such a move.

“I felt this was not the way to go and I did tell them so,” she remarked.

At this point, Selman felt that she had betrayed the core reasons why she joined the coalition in the first place which was to promote equitable access to education and fight for the rights of youths.

The young politician said she became extremely worried when the practice of meeting, discussing and debating various items on the Order Paper for sittings of the National Assembly became diluted and watered down over the past year and a half moving from monthly meetings which would last a day or hours to a one-hour meeting or half an hour brief. “This, in my opinion, does not give the MPs the opportunity to make our input within the party. I am dissatisfied with that, because I believe in consultation and compromise,” she remarked as she listed the many developments that troubled her.

Chief Whip’s abuse

Selman recalled sending an email to Opposition Leader David Granger on another occasion stating her reasons why APNU should support the Anti-Money Laundering Bill in Parliament, but got the surprise response of her life an hour later. “I received a call from the Chief Whip, Amna Ally who basically lambasted me for an email with my reasons for supporting this bill. I mean she literally cursed me out. She said this is the APNU position – we are not supporting it and you have to go with that,” she said. The 33-year-old woman said that she “felt really hurt” and “should have not been berated or abused” for expressing her views internally.

She decried the way the other female youth MPs were treated by the Chief Whip and how other MPs were disrespected by seniors within the party. Asked why she would endure such treatment and the unwillingness to at least consider her contributions, Selman said: “I have never stood up to anyone. I have never said to her, this is not the way you should speak to me. When she was finished I would say okay, because I did not want to become a person I am not,” she responded.

Asked to expound further, Selman said: “I was always taught to respect authority. My father said “your ears do not grow past your head” as she admitted that she preferred to comply and toe the party line rather than be further victimised and disrespected.

She said that she saw what happened to her colleague Vanessa Kissoon when she stood up against the seniors and Ally. “I did not want to become a Vanessa Kissoon and be demoted to the back bench and then disrespected.” Selman recalled complaining to both the party’s General Secretary and Leader David Granger to no avail about the excesses and disrespectful behaviour of Ally. She noted that even another MP, Rinta Williams, had formally written Granger complaining about Ally’s outburst and treatment of other young female MPs.

Ally’s alleged treatment of Selman at the December Christmas at Congress Place function was the final straw.

Record, performance

She criticised Granger’s leadership, opining that he “was not doing a good job” as far as protecting the rights of young girls and parliamentarians in the PNC/APNU grouping. It appeared as though Granger was using Ally to effect the abuse and was playing a game when approached by the women and youths claiming not to have knowledge of the abuse whenever dissent occurred. “The records would speak for themselves. I have made my contribution. I never shied away from responsibility,” the politician said. She conceded that with her departure, APNU would lose more than one vote as she revealed the disrespect shown by some within the PNC/APNU leadership to her and the work she did for the party.

“I am convinced now that I made the right decision. I would make this decision all over again if I had the chance, but a little earlier,” she remarked.

The politician is open to joining any party or grouping that would share her vision for inclusionary democracy, education and youth development. When pressed, Selman said this included the ruling PPP. Both APNU and the AFC have been accused of undermining the potential of youth within their fold, given Granger’s elitist style of party management. There continues to be a rift between those who hold posts, aspire to hold posts, and are in line to hold posts within the Opposition camp, with infighting, accounts of victimisation and discrimination reaching alarming levels since 2010.

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PPP/C restates opposition to GECOM’s ties to IRI-funded youth group

The Progressive Youth Organisation has reiterated its call for GECOM to end ties with the Guyana National Youth Council even as A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change (APNU-AFC) accuses the group of attempting to silence young people.

The PYO wants GECOM to break its engagement with the GNYC or to formally engage a wide cross section of other youth bodies and organisations to develop strategies for mobilizing and encouraging youth to participate in the electoral process on May 11, 2015 if was indeed serious about targeting the youth population.

According to the Youth arm of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), GECOM, if it is interested in its independent image and transparency, cannot afford to enter into piece-meal arrangements with selected groups, which purport to represent the interests of young people, to develop messages that are intended for the entire population of young people who are eligible to vote.

“We firmly believe that if GECOM is also seriously interested in boosting its critical voter education programme, it must try harder to put mechanisms in place that will remove suspicions of political bias and covert political interference in its work,” the group said.

The APNU-AFC coalition addressing the media on Thursday said it found it ‘disturbing’ and ‘bizarre’ that the ruling party would attempt to condemn a process which was aimed at encouraging all, particularly, young people to exercise their right to vote noting that at no time, has the council indicated that it was biased or slanted in favour of any one party.

“Guyana National Youth Council and their financiers have every right to execute a campaign to sensitize young people, who, in many instances, are first time voters. The campaign is designed to educate young voters of the need to vote and be part of the democratic process of selecting a government of their choice,” outlined APNU-AFC Campaign Manager Raphael Trotman.

He was supported by James Bond who noted that m, PYO’s call can only be interpreted as an attempt by the ruling party to silence the voice of young people since it was threatened by the voting power that the youth population holds.

“It has become obvious that the beleaguered PPP is afraid of the voice of young people who have had enough of their mismanagement and corruption. Young people have no confidence in another PPP government and Mr. Rohee and Freedom House are well aware of this and seem to be employing subversive means of intimidation in attempting to cow young voters from casting their ballot,” he said.

He noted that the coalition saw nothing wrong with the partnership stating explicitly that it supports the efforts of the GNYC and all other organizations and agencies engaged in sensitizing young people about the need to vote and stands ready to offer whatever support may be required in this regard.

However, the PYO said such suggestions were nothing but a disregard for truth, expressing that the coalition was only trying to protect the vested interests of the youth council.

“Bonds’ statements are far from the truth and a sordid attempt by desperate youth leaders within the APNU’s fold to achieve cheap political mileage from peddling misleading propaganda.

The PYO has taken note of Bond and the APNU’s vested interest in safeguarding the political agendas of the Guyana National Youth Council which we believe is working on their behalf to craft subtle and partisan messages to be sent to the youth electorate,” the PYO said.
According to the PYO, while they were not necessarily against the partnership, it was sceptical about the reasons why other youth organisations were not approached and offered a similar agreement.

GECOM and GNYC last Thursday, in what they said was in the interest of increasing the voter turnout of youths in Guyana on Elections Day, agreed to work in consultation and collaboration with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in the production of a number of strategic communication messages for dissemination countrywide.

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“Fight for your rights,” Ramotar urges Guyanese women

President Donald Ramotar on Wednesday evening called on women to support each other regardless of race, colour, creed or political persuasion in pursuit of their rights, as he delivered the feature address to a gathering at State House to commemorate International Women’s Day.

Speaking to the hundreds of women, invited guests and a few men gathered at his official residence, President Ramotar urged women to remember the sacrifices of those who had gone before and their struggles for equality. He noted that the early leaders of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) awakened the consciousness of Guyanese to the need to mount a special struggle for the rights of women. He read an article, which was written by the late Party co-founder and former President, Janet Jagan, on October 1, 1944 and printed in the Argosy Newspaper. He said that the article which focused on the need for adult suffrage for women and the obstacles they faced, “captured a vision that we still embrace today”.

President Donald Ramotar (centre) with women honoured for their contributions at a State House ceremony to mark International Women’s Day

President Donald Ramotar (centre) with women honoured for their contributions at a State House ceremony to mark International Women’s Day

The President lauded the achievements of Mrs Jagan and recalled her struggle for human rights for all. He added that he was proud to be part of a political party that has scored many firsts for local women, these included the first election of a woman to political office. “In 1951, three members of the PPP contested the Georgetown Council elections: Cheddi Jagan, Forbes Burnham and Janet Jagan. Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham lost. Janet Jagan won a seat on the Georgetown Town Council! This fact was one of the many that saw Mrs Jagan being named one of the 100 most rebellious women, ever, in the world.”

The achievements of the first Chief Justice, Chancellor and first female Caribbean Court of Justice Judge, Desiree Bernard were also recalled by the President. The struggle for women’s rights is also one for justice and all must have equal opportunity to be educated, President Ramotar emphasised. He added that he was also proud of the fact that the country has attained universal nursery and primary education and was very close to achieving the same at the secondary level.

He said the time would come when all were judged not by gender, but by their ability. The rights of women, it was also noted, are enshrined in the Constitution and ratified by international conventions such as the “Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women”. Gender based violence must be stopped, the President stated, saying “I know we can do better as a country”.

The Domestic Violence Act enacted in 1996 was also mentioned by the Head of State as were the Women’s Affairs Bureau and the Men’s Affairs Bureau along with the revised Sexual Offences Act, all of which give females some of the protection they may need. Women, the President also reminded, are often at the forefront of community development and holding leadership positions, and these facts “must be celebrated”.
The Head of State spoke out against politicians who were aspiring to return to office and urging the public to forget the past, when many of them trampled on the rights of Guyanese. He said, “I do not want to recall the past because I want to live in the past, but I want to recall our past so that we can understand our present, and we can appreciate our achievements, and we can plan our future and ensure that the same people who are refusing to apologise for wrongs that they did in this country must never, ever, again hold high office in this country.”

The women were also addressed by Home Affairs Minister and PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee. Following brief remarks by Chairperson of the Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO), Indra Chandarpal, PPP/Civic’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Elisabeth Harper reflected on the theme of the observance, “Make it happen” and commended the WPO and other women’s organisations, as well as some men, for their work in advancing women’s rights. Several women were also honoured and presented with tokens of appreciation for their contributions to the struggle for human and women’s rights.

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Wildlife management

On March 3, Guyana and the rest of the world observed World Wildlife Day (WWD) under the theme: “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.” The day is set aside by the UN every year for countries and international organisations to reflect on what is being done and plan for the future in terms of sustainable wildlife management and conservation.

The UN took the opportunity recently to renew its commitment in doing all that is necessary to protect wildlife and stop wildlife crimes, such as poaching and trafficking.

According to the UNDP, wildlife trafficking and poaching have ravaged key populations of endangered wildlife, driving many to the brink of extinction. Elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions, sharks and gorillas, among many others, are under serious threat.

The UNDP explains that poaching threatens local livelihoods, and undermines environmental health and ecological integrity, removing species that play important roles in maintaining a natural balance in their respective ecosystems.

All over the world, especially in countries with a huge wildlife population, the call is being repeated for the authorities to take more proactive steps in halting the illegal trade in wildlife and to manage wildlife in a more sustainable manner.

In Guyana, persons are still engaging in the illegal trade in wildlife. This is despite the fact that a number of critical steps were taken by the authorities to bring a halt to the practice. There are even allegations that the illegal trade in wildlife is being done sometimes with the knowledge of the law enforcement authorities who turn a blind eye to it.

Just recently, as part of observances to mark WWD in Guyana, the Government issued a passionate call for citizens here to push for tangible results in the area of sustainable wildlife management and conservation.

The subject Minister Robert Persaud expressed a similar view shared by this newspaper on a previous occasion that collaborative partnerships are crucial in the promotion of innovative initiatives that seek to conserve wildlife and combat illegal activities relating to wildlife management.

On the part of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, he said though the air was clear on all the technicalities of wildlife management such as the implementation of a licensing system for wildlife dealers, and the establishment of quotas for harvesting targeted wildlife species, it was also cognisant of the challenges that must be overcome before these are implemented.

“Some of those challenges include: building capacities of staff within the Wildlife Division and EPA for scientific research, the provision of the requisite training and equipment to detect, investigate and prosecute wildlife offences; and educating the general populace on the importance of wildlife resources and the need to conserve such resources,” he said.

Government has embarked on a number of initiatives that seek to address the issue of wildlife management and conservation. Central among these is the establishment of the Wildlife Management Steering Committee in November 2014.

The Ministry has collaborated with an international NGO – Panthera – to develop a project in the south of Guyana on sustainable hunting practices as a foundation for managing wildlife harvest. It should be stated that when completed, this project will be replicated in other regions of the country.

In an effort to strengthen the regulation and management of the international wildlife trade, a Wildlife Import and Export Bill was tabled in the National Assembly in 2014. This Bill seeks to repeal the Species Protection Regulations and establish the Wildlife Import and Export Authority to replace the Wildlife Division.

These regulations make provisions for among other things, penalising the harvesting of prohibited species of wildlife, exporting, re-exporting or importing wildlife without permits and the use of prohibited devices and methods to hunt wildlife.

Government must be commended for the serious attention it has shown in relation to the manner in which wildlife management is addressed in Guyana. Guyana can only be successful if all communities, NGOs and various State agencies enhance cooperation and work collaboratively in this regard.

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GRA admits unable to control “bottom house” rum shops

GRA head quarters

GRA head quarters

… out of 200 defaulters only 60 regularised

By Devina Samaroo

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has acknowledged that it was struggling to regularise the alarmingly high number of illegal rum shops in the country, disclosing that out of the 200 it was able to identify last year, only 60 have been regularised.

Earlier this week, this newspaper reported that the GRA had commenced the sale and renewal of liquor licences amid the flourishing of “bottom house” rum shops. However, the revenue body chided the newspaper for what it said was the publishing of “half truths” when this newspaper merely pointed out that while the sale of licences has commenced, the GRA was yet to clamp down on the mushrooming of illegal shops, which it acknowledged in its statement.

The GRA statement added that for the year 2014, alone it conducted a series of control visits throughout Guyana in an effort to ensure non-compliant businesses were regularised. “These visits saw more than 200 business operatives being engaged over a 10-month period by staff of the agency and efforts were made to have them legalise their operations.

“However, given the vast expanse of Guyana and the limited human resources at the Agency’s disposal, most of these visits were conducted in central areas, or in areas where intelligence was received that illegal rum shops were in operation. It should be noted that in most instances the GRA only becomes aware of and take action against these illegal operators when the public provides information.”

Further, the GRA wishes to remind holders of Restaurant Liquor, Off-Licence; Spirit Shop; Members’ Club; Hotel; Malt Liquor and Wine that they can purchase their licences in Georgetown at the GRA’s Headquarters which is located at 200-201 Camp Street, Georgetown, while persons residing in Anna Regina and New Amsterdam can purchase their licences from the GRA’s Branch Offices in those locations.

Licensing

Meanwhile, speaking with the Guyana Times, in a telephone interview on Thursday, Senior Manager and Licensing Officer Sean Richmond revealed that the GRA had only succeeded in getting just over 60 operators to legalise their business.

In fact, Richmond noted that the requirements for a liquor licence are not rigid, indicating that the average person would be able to easily acquire one once they meet the yielding requirements. Licences can be approved by either the Commissioner General or by the Liquor Licensing Boards.

Licences approved by the Commissioner-General only allow for the sale of spirituous liquor, wine or malt liquor not to be consumed on the premises whereas licences approved by the Board – malt liquor and wine licences – authorise the sale in any licensed store, shop, floating shop, room, shed, stall or yard, of malt liquor and wine, whether to be consumed on the premises or not.

In either circumstance, some of the requirements to obtain a liquor licence include a police clearance, sanitary certificate, the applicant must not have committed a criminal offence in at least five years and the applicant must be above the age of 18. Richmond highlighted that while the GRA can do its part through public notices to clamp down on these lawbreakers, other stakeholders like the local Police need to do their part by monitoring the operations and reporting the illegalities. The GRA also justified why it has failed to address this crucial issue by casting the blame on limited staff. Additionally, the GRA noted that in most instances it only became aware of and took action against these illegal operators when the public provided information.

When questioned about the penalties the perpetrators face when found guilty of operating without a licence, Richmond expressed that the GRA would opt to give them an opportunity to become legalised. This process, he explained, would require the operators to get their business and premises under the required conditions before the licence can be granted.

Nonetheless, Richmond noted that the penalties are very limited, considering the legislation was dated to a time when the currency exchange rate was lower.

Great nuisance

Meanwhile, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) Chairman Bindrabhan Bisnauth expressed that the situation was a great nuisance in the district. He said he instructed all Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) to identify the culprits and they in turn would contact the Police.

Bisnauth said he was unaware if the GRA was informed during the process, but he noted that the Police did do their job in trying to curb the issue. Police and other stakeholders have said in the past that the many illegal rum shops were contributing to the high incidence of road fatalities in the country. “Bottom house rum shops” are a feature in most rural communities, with patrons sometimes spending hours imbibing before climbing into their vehicles to drive far distances to get home.

According to a GRA notice, licence holders are required to have their licences renewed with immediate effect. Further, in accordance with the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act, Chapter 82:21, failure to obtain the relevant licences to operate can result in enforcement actions being taken and goods being forfeited.

Over the years, the GRA has threatened to crack down on illegal rum shops, but has failed in its bid. Many of these illegal outlets trade in uncustomed liquor. Previously, a Marias Lodge, Essequibo businessman, Whithman George had complained about the unfair competition posed by some of the illegal shops. George, in a letter to the editor, had said that he was a licensed owner of a liquor restaurant and provided employment for two persons on a daily basis. He said too that he subscribed to all the regulations and laws in relation to operating a liquor restaurant and bar.

“But my biggest problem is the constant unfair competition that I have to endure from the so-called bottom house rum shops that operate with impunity in my village.

While I am not afraid of competition I strongly believe that the playing field must be level at all times. I am totally surprised and grossly dissatisfied that despite several reports to the Suddie Police Station and to the Customs Department, no effort to the best of my knowledge has been made to ensure these unlicensed places of business cease to operate.”

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Massy Under-15 League football commences this weekend

The inaugural Massy United Insurance Under-15 Football League kicked off this weekend with a total of 12 games at the Tucville Ground, the home

The aim of the competition is to unearth the next crop of Georgetown footballers

The aim of the competition is to unearth the next crop of Georgetown footballers

venue of Fruta Conquerors.
The Club is collaborating with the sponsor, as well as with the Georgetown Football Association and the Guyana Football Federation to stage what is predicted to be a sneak peek into the future of Georgetown’s football.
The competition will feature youth teams of 12 affiliates of the Georgetown Football Association. There will be six games both days this weekend, starting at 09:00h.
On Saturday, Western Tigers will face Georgetown Football Club in the opening match-up, followed by Renaissance versus Riddim Squad. Santos and Houston Stars will clash in Match Three, with hosts Fruta Conquerors taking the field against Beacon immediately after.
Match Five will bring together Camptown and Pele, with Order and Discipline facing up to Black Pearl in the final encounter of the opening day.
On Sunday, Santos will square off with Riddim Squad in the curtain raiser, immediately followed by a clash between Houston Stars and Georgetown Football Club. Western Tigers and Renaissance will contest Match Three, with Camptown and Beacon set to collide in Game Four.
The final two games of the first weekend of action will bring together Pele and Order and Discipline, followed by Fruta Conquerors against Black Pearl.
The competing teams have been divided into two groups and the top two from each group will advance to the knockout round. The final is fixed for April 4 at the Tucville Ground.
Fruta Conquerors President Wayne Forde, speaking at the launch of the tournament, expressed sincere gratitude to the sponsor for its support towards the development of football. Forde pointed out that the Club’s intention was to develop youth football and this was one of the mechanisms.
“Over the years, the Club has paid tremendous emphasis on youth football, so this tournament is definitely a timely one,” Forde said.
He further noted that the Club was known for producing some of the better local players, declaring that several of the nation’s stronger clubs currently field players that came through the establishment’s youth academy.
Guyana Football Federation (GFF) Technical Director Claude Bolton pointed out that tournaments of such nature were definitely the future of the game. “While I am very impressed with the vision of Fruta Conquerors, this tournament is important towards youth football,” he revealed.
Bolton further declared league football is the best vehicle for youth development, while commending the Club for its continued emphasis on grassroot and youth football initiatives. (Avenash Ramzan)

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Front page – Guyana Times Daily – March 6, 2015

frontpage

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Holi – a reflection of harmony in Guyana

Dear Editor,

Holi/Phagwah is a Hindu Festival, which is celebrated at the end of the winter season, on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalgun (February/March) that usually falls in the month of March or sometimes in late February.

This festival, which holds much significance, marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year as well as thebeginning of spring.

Also, history teaches us that inthe 17th century, it was identified as a festival that celebrated agriculture and commemorated good spring harvests for the farmers and their families, as well as the fertile land.

Hindus believe that it is a time for enjoying spring’s abundant colours and saying farewell to winter.

More importantly, the beginning of a New Year is a perfect time to reset and renew ruptured relationships, end conflicts and accumulated emotional impurities from thepast. This is represented by the bright, beautiful colours that form the celebrations around the world.

Hence, giving it the common name “festival of colours,” these colours overcome the barriers of language and convey true feelings. They also convey a message as the various colours all carry individual meanings.

These are: green – compassion and understanding and a symbol of prosperity; yellow – optimism and it is also regarded as an auspicious colour, and yellow is also associated with Mother Earth; red – the colour of fire, the source of energy and security; blue – loyalty and trust; and pink – love and compassion.

In Guyana, thousands of Guyanese, from all walks of life, come together to observe this auspicious day, celebrating with colourful powders, abeer,abrack and water, spreading cheer and love throughout the land.

This is a representation of the diversity of the country’s people and the harmonious environment that has been created by those in authority.

If we are to look at the world at large, we will see many schisms within regions and between religions, and this cannot help but make mewonder about the Guyanese reality.

Despite disagreements and challenges, the current administration has encouraged religious tolerance and promoted harmony among its population, irrespective of religion, creed, political differences, gender or ethnicity. These are the littlethings forwhich we should be grateful.

When I look at the television, and see thousands of people losing their lives because of their religious beliefs or differences, it saddens me; but, it makes me proud to be a citizen of this beautiful land, where six races live in harmony. Don’t you feel the same way too?

I know we are in a politically crucial time, with the upcoming General and Regional Elections, but despite whom we support, let’s not forget, as our National Motto says, we are “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”

So for this reason, I urge you to get up! Grab your powder and colours, and get out and join the celebrations on March 6! This unity shall forever live on.

Shivanie Rampersaud

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Caricom states still violate free movement obligations

Some of the immigration officers paying keen attention to the presentation on CSME

Some of the immigration officers paying keen attention to the presentation on CSME

― Guyanese immigration officers informed of protocols

Legal Officer attached to the Caricom Secretariat, Oneil Francis has acknowledged that many member countries continue to violate free movement obligations under the Treaty of Chagaraumas.

Speaking at a workshop for Immigration Officer here, Francis outlined that the excuse of contradicting domestic laws is often employed. However, once a country ratifies a treaty, this supersedes domestic law – as was the case of Jamaican Shanique Myrie Versus the Government of Barbados.

Francis explained that Caricom member countries are obligated to amend their local laws to coincide with the Treaty and had approximately 5 years to do so, but many countries are yet to make such changes.

This, he noted is one of the many challenges immigration officers often face in the execution of their duties.

It was also noted that many citizens are unaware of their rights under the Treaty.

Reflecting on the Shanique Myrie Case, Oneil explained that the woman was fully cognizant of her rights and therefore, made a smart and well-informed decision to sue the Government of Barbados- a case which she won.

As such, Caricom has embarked on a series of workshops aimed at educating the general public about their rights under the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The CSME allows for the free movement of people and goods within Caricom member of states in order to facilitate a better standard of living for all citizens.

There should be no differentiation and no biased treatment influenced by nationalities.

But many times, citizens are still being treated unfavourably at certain ports of entry. Guyanese and Jamaicans have often complained of the unjust treatment at certain airports in the Caribbean. Guyana has made the varying requisite changes through acts of Parliament.

According to the legal affairs officer, citizens can only be denied entry once creditable reasons are provided, such as for security purposes or for the protection of public moral and human, animal or plant health.

Subsequently, these reasons must be submitted to the relevant authorities for scrutiny.

Francis noted that an immigration officer must take into account a person’s past records before allowing entry, but must not let a stained past be the only basis for denying that person as that person may be reformed. He stressed that once a citizen is not current threat to the country, he has a right to enter.

He also pointed out that an officer cannot deny a person entry on the basis of protecting moral values or laws if such laws are not strictly enforced within that country.

Francis used for example a situation concerning prostitution. He said if a country states in their laws that prostitution is illegal yet turns a blind eye to the situation, then to deny a person entry on those grounds would be considered discrimination.

Many other scenarios were explored to help immigration officers better understand what protocols to take to ensure all citizens within Caricom are faced with fair and just treatment upon entry to various members of state.

The workshop was held at the Police Training Center and saw 31 immigration officers in attendance.

The presentation was also facilitated by Technical Coordinator of the Technical Action Services Unit of the Caricom Secretariat Melbour Phillip. The wider initiative was compiled by the Caricom Secretariat to improve the flow of information within six member states. It is being executed by Right Angle Imaging Consultancy; a St Lucian-based organisation, and forms part of component 300 of the Caricom Trade and Competitiveness Project.

Free Movement of Skills, Free Movement of Capital, the Caricom Complaints Procedure, Free Movement of Services, Free Movement of Goods and the Right of Establishment were among the areas.

The Guyana leg of the Canadian funded project is expected to conclude in March.

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