April 2, 2015 By
April 1, 2015 By
The PNC-led APNU and AFC coalition is leaving no stone unturned to convince Guyanese to vote them into Government after being exiled to the wilderness of Opposition for more than two decades by the electorate.
The coalition has now launched the “It is time” campaign ahead of the upcoming General and Regional Elections, with the hope of doing massive public relations work on the image of its politicians and the policies they are articulating this year. The campaign started with much enthusiasm and is being headed by a group of former and current journalists, social media provocateurs and communications specialists.
These individuals have managed to put out much negative propaganda about the ruling PPP/C and its leaders, while literally concealing the true nature of the homosapiens within the Opposition coalition.
To their credit, they have managed to paint Moses Nagamootoo, David Granger, Winston Felix and Khemraj Ramjattan, to name a few, as men of the cloth who are born again and standing firmly with their honour intact and Guyana’s future at their heart.
The campaign is continuing every minute of the day with them flooding social media with photos only of the big meetings and unity rallies that they are having across the country and testimonials from youth about “moving forward” with the coalition.
The campaign had the ruling party on its back foot and was gaining momentum until the PPP/C decided to pull its plug and end its silence.
The return of Bharrat Jagdeo to the campaign trail played a key part in the PPP/C’s strategy, as the party knows that the presence of the former President in the elections race leads to fear, uneasiness and discomfort within the Opposition camp.
That aside, it would appear that the party’s strategy of calling out Granger, Nagamootoo and other born again leaders within the coalition to account for their past or involvement in rigging elections, pre and post elections violence, the proliferation of ethnic divisions and presiding over the worst forms of poverty and injustices as also placing the Opposition on its back foot.
While the PPP/C “Progress and Continuity”campaign is focused heavily on advising Guyanese against being lured into promises being made by the Bride and Groom who entered a marriage of convenience on Valentine’s Day, the “It is time” campaigners are making them anyway, everywhere and to anyone who can vote.
They have promised literally everything under the sun without even reaching policy agreements on critical areas of governance and development. The campaigners have their social media thugs railroading anyone who dares to post anything positive about the country, the PPP/C, the President or any campaign issue on social media.
They are engaging in all forms of cyber bullying, cyber attacks and hacking of people’s personal accounts. They are using other blogs to denigrate and attack the integrity of individuals who believe that it is not time for the PPP/C to go.
So desperate, the “It is time” campaigners have become, that they are now fetching and driving crowds from their stronghold areas in Georgetown to various parts of the country to paint a picture that there is unity, ethnic solidarity and acceptance of the APNU/AFC by the electorate to become the next majority Government.
But the campaigners are forgetting one thing, and that is the fact that Guyanese learn from the experiences they have lived and endure on a continuum. They have learnt that politicians, especially those who have a quick fix and solution, to every problem cannot be trusted.
No amount of window dressing, cyber bullying and fetching of crowds will fool Guyanese that their future is safe following the union of Moses and David.
“It is time” for the campaigners at Congress Place and Hadfield Street to realise that they must do more and lead a clean campaign if they want to out maneuvre the PPP/C which is moving slowly, quietly and wisely this time when compared to the noise it kept in 2011.
March 31, 2015 By
David Granger’s 11th hour labelling of the Provisional Electoral List as “dirty”, raises
the question once again as to what are the principles by which we shall we be governed? We had assumed that the question had long been settled: the overriding principle would be the rule of law – the notion that we would be governed by laws and not by men.
As they have done in the past, it is feared that the PNC-led APNU/AFC coalition might be setting the stage for claiming that if they lose the upcoming elections they might claim it was “rigged”.
While we may have had many problems with colonial rule, we assumed unanimity in our
acceptance on the rule of law. But we may be too optimistic. Take one instance in the public domain right now: the killing of an individual – Crum-Ewing – at night while he was exhorting villagers to vote for the Opposition.
Under the principle of the Rule of Law, the Opposition should allow the Police to conduct their investigation – or even have private investigators do so – but have the evidence evaluated by a court of law. In that institution, the evidence would be considered under the laws of the land and under the principle of equity and a judgement would be handed down.
But instead there all kinds of inflammatory statements issued, protest marches staged and
ultimatums launched. And all of this from individuals purporting to be from our most “educated” stratum. It is no wonder that we have remained lumped as “Third World” and by definition, “Third Rate”.
We in Guyana want to live like the “developed” countries; we demand the trappings and
titles of the “First World” – but we do not have the fortitude to stand on the bedrock that has made those countries into havens of stability – the rule of law. What is this rule of law and in what way is it being transgressed today?
In modern parlance, the essential characteristic of the rule of law are: the supremacy of law, which means that all persons (individuals and institutions) are subject to law; a concept of justice which emphasizes interpersonal adjudication, law based on standards and the importance of procedures; restrictions on the exercise of discretionary power; the doctrine of judicial precedent; the common law methodology; legislation should be prospective and not retrospective; an independent judiciary; the exercise by Parliament of the legislative power and restrictions on exercise of legislative power by the executive; and last but not least, an underlying moral basis for all law.
In the case that has transfixed the Opposition, let us consider one element of the
rule of law – interpersonal adjudication. This aspect of the liberal concept of justice which an interpersonal one – resolution of conflicts between individual entities.
Entities can suffer or perpetrate wrong. Entities can be punished, protected and granted restitution. Justice is an interpersonal thing. It consists in upholding that which is right and due as between persons or entities.
What is playing out in Guyana is the insistence of one misguided section to pursue their
notion of “social justice” by bypassing the recourse to interpersonal adjudication. In judging the Government as “responsible” for the killing of Crum-Ewing, they risk bringing down the whole edifice of the rule of law so painstakingly won in the last two centuries following the abolition of slavery.
Another problem posing a challenge to the rule of law is the refusal of those individuals to
accept that even under the rule of law, legitimate interests might have to be subsumed under the principle of justice for the greater good.
In all elections, one group will win but this does not mean that the other group has to riot. If under the existing rule of law they feel their interests are being subsumed, then the Constitution has a procedure for altering the rules.
Let the rule of law prevail.
March 30, 2015 By
The ongoing imbroglio surrounding the University of Guyana, should not only raise the issue of the governance and administrative structures at the institution, as suggested by the Vice-Chancellor.
As has been raised several times by his predecessor, it is more than high time we interrogate the very purpose of a university for our country. This is not to say that we do not need a university – but the question that must be asked is , “What exactly is the University supposed to produce for our country?”
We would then be joining a larger debate and discourse that is unfolding in the developed world. They have been forced into this introspection by their economic collapse and with no evident light at the end of their tunnel, they realise that much deadwood will have to be jettisoned.
And a good deal of that deadwood lies in the halls of academia. They are not just questioning the number of Ph Ds being churned out in obscure fields and even more obscure topics. A hard look is being cast at the relevance of the undergraduate programmes.
The bottom line, the powers that be are asserting, is whether the degree awarded is worth the investment. On their own, since the 2007 crash in the US, students have been asking this question. One of their response has been to abandon programs in ‘business’ and ‘language’ in droves and head into fields that are directly connected to available jobs such as in the health field. Suddenly, nursing schools are “in”.
In Guyana, the need for this sort of introspection seems to have escaped both students and administrators. Do we actually need all those graduates in Sociology or International relations? Are we not just creating trouble for ourselves when the young (and not so young) graduates in these fields cannot find employment?
Did anyone hear when a couple of years ago, the investors in the new mining venture complained that Guyana has practically no geologists? Are we going to wait until we strike oil before we have programs and qualified individuals in that field?
And we are not talking only of specialised knowledge in petroleum mining. What about skills in laying and connecting all those steel pipes that even lay-persons can appreciate will be needed in the petroleum industry?
But one development in the US that addresses the need to provide academic knowledge and industry-specific training points in a direction in which we have some experience and which we hopefully can introduce quite quickly: apprenticeships. And since we tend to only copy what is common ‘overseas’, maybe our educators may take notice?
In recent decades, we seem to have bypassed the apprenticeship system, introduced in the sugar industry since the fifties. We’ve opted for some nebulous “internship” system that really do not provide the background and training for its graduates to step into any available jobs.
They still need further academic “university” teaching. Apprenticeships, of course, combine paid on-the-job training with college-level or trade-school classes. The Booker’s Apprenticeship Training Programme (now GuySuCo’s) was immensely successful for decades and can become the nucleus for expanding our apprenticeship schemes.
Apprenticeship programmes make economic sense because specific companies – such as the ones in the budding information and communication technology sector, for instance – do not have to look outside the country or towards retraining to fill their personnel needs.
In the US, the Department of Labour is trying to expand apprenticeship models in high-demand fields like health care, green jobs, transportation, and information technology.
One problem with the Technical Institute model that we are expanding at present is that it does not offer the graduates the assurance of specific skills that employers need.
The apprenticeship scheme, by combining the employers with the institutions and the specific training, removes that doubt. It also allows corporations, to more directly absorb the costs of training their employees.
March 29, 2015 By
Today at Kitty, the PPP/C will kick off the “rally” component of their campaign 2015, which will set the tone and pace until May 11. Leading the charge will be President Donald Ramotar, who is facing the same old criticism from the Opposition that he is not an “academic”.
The assumption, of course, is that academic training is the sine qua non of being the leader of a country. We remind readers of our 2011 commentary, on this theme.
Some time ago, Lloyd Best expatiated on the development of what he labelled “doctor”
politics in the Caribbean. In a nutshell he proposed that because the British insisted the subjects in her colonies had to be “tutored” before they could govern themselves, graduates of her educational institutions assumed that they were automatically qualified to become leaders.
Not surprisingly, the hegemonised ordinary folks also accepted this notion and so we had a succession of “doctors” in subjects such as diverse as law, dentistry, history, etc, leading the West Indies, including Guyana, to independence.
The mould was set: to be a leader one had to be a “professional” – never mind that very few of these leaders were actually successful, if at all, because of their ‘doctor’ training.
Take the local case of Forbes Burnham, who is reflexively always described as an “intellectual”. He jumped through all the hoops that the British had established for producing “leaders”: a Guyana scholar in high school, an orator in university, and a lawyer by profession.
But none of these qualities made him into the leader of Guyana’s independence – the latter was accomplished solely on account of his willingness to be a tool of US-British manipulation.
Similarly none of his “intellectual” qualities prevented Guyana from failing in every sphere of national endeavour: a calamity from which the country has still not recovered. One fatal flaw of these so called “intellectuals” is that they have an inflated and unrealistic opinion of themselves. Believing they are “brighter” than everyone, they are impervious to advice, even when solicited and proffered.
On the other hand, Dr Cheddi Jagan, almost never considered Burnham’s “intellectual”
equal by the British-educated elite, was a much more successful leader simply because of his innate disposition to adopt a more principled approach towards achieving real independence for the people of Guyana. He took advice.
Likewise, President Bharrat Jagdeo did not stand down from the greatest threat Guyana faced from internal terrorists because of his training in economics. His innate strength of mind did the trick. But the old “doctor politics” placebo of being an “intellectual” – actually a “graduate” of some professional programme – to become a political leader is still influencing some. Even some purported followers of Dr Cheddi Jagan.
Take the case of Moses Nagamootoo, who claims that he was personally selected by Dr
Jagan to be his successor. (The fact that no one else appears to have any knowledge of this
“selection” is not germane to the matter at hand.) Selected however, by Dr Jagan as a Minister of Government after the historic 1992 return of democracy to Guyana, Nagamootoo felt compelled to relinquish his portfolio and enter law school to burnish his “professional” credentials to be a “leader”.
On the other hand, Ramotar was selected by Dr Jagan to succeed him in the
crucial role (as conceived by the latter) of General Secretary of the PPP/C.
While Dr Jagan opposed the notion of “party paramountcy” after the PNC fiasco, he accepted that the political party was the conceptualiser of the policies and programme its Government would execute while in office.
This was the practical role into which Ramotar was groomed, and accepted, as General Secretary – not the theoretical and cloistered one of “intellectual”. Ramotar is the first Guyanese President to be trained in politics, as a vocation. Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
March 28, 2015 By
In the wake of the cheating scandal in Bihar, India, an education official appealed to parents – and students – to assist the Education Ministry in stopping the activity. The situation in India brings to mind our own issue of teenage pregnancy in Guyana, said to be the second highest in the Caribbean, and the role both parents and teenagers – many of the latter students – must play in reducing its rates.
As in India, Opposition members have laid the blame squarely at the door of the Education Ministry, seeming to ignore the role society, including parents and teenagers, must also play in reducing teen pregnancies.
While Guyanese teens seem well educated about celebrity, movie and music culture through television and the internet, especially with its often highly sexualized content, many remain seemingly uninformed of sex and birth control education, though well aware of their own sexuality.
Why, in the days of instant information via the internet or TV programmes, should a Guyanese teen’s information download relate mainly to these topics and not include sex education? How can Government and society effectively use these popular technologies to teach sexual responsibility among Guyanese teenagers?
Despite the efforts of agencies such as the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA), programmes such as Health and Family Life (HFL), and free access to methods of birth control, teen pregnancy rates are still high. Is there a need for more education or education that is more effective, or is this a reflection of a lack of attention to these efforts among teens?
The GRPA notes that many Guyanese adults display a lack of education about sex, so it should be little surprise that their offspring also lack awareness. Is it that Guyanese traditional society sees sex and birth control as taboo topics, and parents would rather “someone else” have these discussions with their children?
It is bewildering that teen pregnancy often focuses on teenage girls; it takes the male and female to create a pregnancy yet it has become the burden of young girls to avoid teen pregnancy.
Why aren’t teen boys also held responsible for teen pregnancy? Why are teen mothers often blamed for the pregnancy? There should be no chauvinistic approaches to tackling teen pregnancy.
As teen years are those of increased sexual energies, to quote one politician: “sex happens” – in these times, ideas of abstinence and the morality of sex before marriage are considered archaic, even derisory. To blame a single Government agency for the increasing sexual activity and pregnancies among teenagers is short sighted at best. It requires both Government and society to arrest teen pregnancy.
One puts policies in place to help prevent teen pregnancies and one encourages teens to follow the policies put in place. Alternatively, one encourages a responsible approach to sex while the other complements this with policies geared to make these responsibilities easier to attain and maintain.
This brings to question the role of teenagers themselves in preventing teen pregnancies: how much do teens themselves adhere to the education and guidance they receive from these programmes and from their parents, if they do, regarding sex and birth control?
We are encouraged to view teens as capable of a lot more than we give them credit for – indeed teens insist on their independence and ability to make their own decisions. But is the high incidence of teen pregnancy one result of their own decision making, or an illustration of the need for adult guidance (what teens often consider adult “interference”)?
Blaming everything Government is not the approach needed to tackle teenage pregnancy in Guyana. A strong look at the role society plays in helping to make teenagers educated and aware of sex and their responsibilities if they wish to engage in sex is also necessary –several programmes, laws and policies are already in place, with plans and support for others to come.
Sound Government policies, good parental/societal guidance, and an informed and willing youth population together are key to stopping teen pregnancies.
March 27, 2015 By
On March 24, Guyana joined the rest of the world in observing “World TB Day” under the theme, “Reach the three million; reach, treat, cure everyone”. The focus of activities was based on building public awareness about the global epidemic of Tuberculosis (TB) and the efforts that are being undertaken to eliminate the disease.
Tuberculosis is one of the world’s top health challenges with nine million new cases and the deaths of nearly 1.5 million people each year. Over 95 per cent of tuberculosis deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, poor communities and vulnerable groups. This airborne disease is a risk to all and every effort must be made to reduce the number of persons who are losing their lives due to TB.
Globally, the disease is among the top three causes of death for women aged 15 to 44. It accounted for an estimated 500,000 cases and 74,000 deaths among children in 2012. In 2013, the largest number of new TB cases occurred in the South East Asia and Western Pacific Regions, accounting for 56 per cent of new cases globally, while Africa carried the greatest proportion of new cases per population with 280 cases per 100,000 populations in 2013.
The post-2015 TB strategy aims to end the pandemic by 2035. This may be seen as quite an ambitious target, but it is possible to achieve once the right decisions are made and the necessary financial support mechanisms are in place to assist the hardest-hit countries, especially in the developing world.
Already we are seeing some positive signs – the death rate for TB has dropped globally as an estimated 37 million lives were saved through diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2013.
Guyana still has a far way to go, but this country has done remarkably well in its fight against TB. It could be recalled that the actual number of new TB cases diagnosed by the National TB Programme (NTBP) rose steadily throughout the 90s.
With some key interventions by the current administration such as the implementation of the Directly Observed Treatment Short (DOTS) programme (2002-2007), annual cases declined from 2008 and stabilised for four years thereafter due to further DOTS expansion.
The DOTS System was successfully implemented in all the regions of the country and has been essential to ensuring case detection, standardised treatment, with supervision and patient support. Guyana is already showing a good trajectory of declining TB incidence. In 2014 only 12 new TB cases were detected; the lowest number of cases recorded in over 10 years. This is a positive indication that TB is on the decline in Guyana.
The TB Control Committee which was established in 2009 in collaboration with PAHO is also making quite an impact with the work it is doing in providing the necessary strategic guidance in order to further reduce the number of persons being infected with TB.
The battle against TB could only be won if the necessary resources are provided to undertake critical interventions needed. Attracting the required funding to carry out the necessary TB programmes has always been a challenge.
The WHO and Global Fund had identified an anticipated gap of US$ 1.6 billion in annual international support for the fight against TB in 118 low- and middle-income countries. The organisation had pointed to the fact that filling this gap could enable full treatment for 17 million TB and multidrug-resistant TB patients and save 6 million lives between 2014-2016.
Once the necessary funding for TB is provided, the gains made so far could be improved greatly. Hence, international development partners need to make bolder financial commitments and follow through with them.
All partners can help take forward innovative approaches to ensure that everyone suffering from TB has access to TB diagnosis, treatment and cure. Governments and NGOs may have the best ideas to tackle TB, but it makes very little sense if there are inadequate financial resources to ensure their effective implementation.
March 26, 2015 By
In choosing Elisabeth Harper as his Prime Ministerial running mate, President Donald Ramotar revealed he selected the Director General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry because he hoped that being a victim of domestic violence, she would motivate other women to speak out.
He was therefore placing the very highest priority “in tackling this scourge on our society”. Mrs Harper had shown great courage in being willing to openly discuss this issue which is routinely shoved under the carpet by other women and society.
This issue cannot be made into political football and we hope that all the candidates will focus on the root cause of the “scourge”. This has been stated very succinctly in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women of December 1993: “Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women….”
We are not advocating abandoning the efforts in dealing with the symptoms: sensitising the Police in recognising domestic violence as a serious infraction of the law; establishing shelters; improving the legislative regime; establishing a family court; etc. But all of these measures skirt around the root of the problem: that many men generally view women (and children) as lesser beings and in the extreme case, as chattel. It is generally men who inflict violence against women.
The instances of the converse occurrences are relatively small. The facticity of violence against women as a universal problem signals there are deeper, underlying structural imperatives that determine this outcome rather than any peculiarity in our Guyanese makeup. Within countries, the violence cuts across boundaries of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity and age.
Studies estimate that, from country to country, between 20 and 50 per cent of women have experienced physical violence at the hands domestic partners. From anecdotal evidence gleaned from newspapers, Guyana appears to be at the high end of the spectrum. But just as revealing is the statistic that the rates of violence against women are not constant in countries across the world and in those countries sometimes by region.
All studies show a direct correlation between the lack of recognition of the rights and autonomy of women and the level of violence directed against them. This offers hope that measures to ensure that women have equal rights with men and that those rights are enforced stringently by all the institutions of the state and society are the only road to successfully extirpating the root cause of domestic violence against women.
One of the most significant indices of the equality or inequality of women in the society is their low relative presence – in numbers and in position – in the institution regarded as the ultimate repository of power: the political system. But in every country there is the tendency on the part of the political directorate to avoid making meaningful change in this area.
In Guyana, the number of female MPs has increased from 12 in 1992 to 21 at the present. This figure is commendable and in fact fulfils the goal of one third of our parliamentarians being female. But the question is, why not parity? One answer could be to acknowledge that we have to move gradually in a progressive direction. But our position is that we shall never have equality – or justice for women – if the ideal of equality is not always stated right up front.
The PPP/C in general, and President Ramotar in particular, has taken a bold step in rectifying the historical power imbalance skewed against women.
A few years ago, before she passed away, Dr Faith Harding of the PNC revealed how shabbily she was treated by men in her party’s selection process for their Presidential Candidate. And not even women protested. Women must salute the PPP/C.
March 25, 2015 By
Over the last two weeks, much has been said about former President Dr Cheddi Jagan, his legacy, and the principles he stood for.
There has also been an emergence of a group of former PPP/Cc Executives, supporters and self proclaimed close friends of the late President who appear to be running to defend his name and legacy whenever they conveniently feel that it is being besmirched, misused or trampled upon.
This group includes Moses Nagamootoo and Ralph Ramkarran, along with the usual Opposition media provocateurs who are capitalizing on the controversy surrounding Dr Jagan’s legacy to suit their political agendas.
Nagamootoo and Ramkarran have argued ad nauseam that Jagan’s party is drifting away from his principles and that its current leadership is corrupt and incapable of further realizing Jagan’s vision of a more developed, unified and modernized Guyana.
But one can’t help but question whether Nagamootoo and Ramkarran, as well as the other born-again Jaganites, are being genuine in their expression of concern over both the path that the party is pursuing, and the manner in which it is abiding by its founding principles.
Neither man has done anything of consequence over the last four and half years to further Dr Jagan’s vision at the level of the working class or the masses. None of them can argue that they have played a positive role in strengthening Dr Jagan’s vision or his party.
Instead what these two men have done is to undermine Jagan’s party by engaging in a never ending war against the principals of the PPP/C who were their former comrades. Both men appear disgruntled, bitter and driven by hatred for Jagdeo and the others within their former home.
History is replete with examples of the half-truths and lies told by Ramkarran and Nagamootoo because they were interested in personal aggrandizement.
This led them to adopt anti-PPP/C postures in their public statements, writings and positions adopted with Nagamootoo eventually joining the AFC and PNCR-led APNU coalition.
Why did those faithful Jaganites who are sounding their voices now fail to object to the Opposition’s decision to axe more than $89 billion dollars from the budget? Where were their voices when the Opposition bullied and misused the 10th Parliament to cause a collapse of the Government through a slew of spurious motions, bills and other acts of parliamentary terrorism?
Where were their voices when the Opposition sponsored several acts of aggression, violence and criminal acts that saw Guyana bleeding in the early 2000s, all with the aim of unseating the PPP/C which was democratically elected?
Why do they fail to condemn the media and the Opposition spinsters who have no doubt twisted and taken out of context every statement made by Jagdeo in relation to his lifestyle, the PPP/C and Dr Jagan?
Surely, had Dr Jagan been alive he would have taken them to task for their public disclosures about his personal life and the manner in which it is being used to undermine the PPP/C.
Dr Jagan would have never allowed his Ministers to live in poverty to prove that they were not corrupt nor would he have allowed Nagamootoo or Ramkarran to embark on a crusade in his name of any sort.
He would have never left the PPP/C, but would have stayed and toiled within it to create the change that was necessary to strengthen it so that it could provide the quality of leadership that Guyana deserves in 2015.
Guyanese must be aware of this sinful campaign that is being executed by these two men and Opposition politicians in the recently formed coalition in the name of Dr Jagan against the PPP/C.
It appears they are hoping that they can weaken the PPP/C’s support base if they paint the picture that Dr Jagan’s legacy is being trampled upon. If they have any respect for Cheddi and the party he built, they must stop their ‘foxish’ campaign.
March 24, 2015 By