December 1, 2015

NIHL: Noise Violence and Assault

In Guyana, the law on “noise nuisance” to individuals is contained in: Sub-section 1 of Section 174A of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act as amended by Act No. 1 of 1989: “No person shall, in any road, street, public place or land or in building or premises, by operating or causing or suffering to be operated any stereo set, juke box, radio, wireless loudspeaker, gramophone, amplifier, automatic piano or similar instrument of music, or by any other means whatsoever, make or cause or suffer to be made any noise which shall be so loud and so continuous or repetitive as to cause a nuisance to occupants of any premises in the neighbourhood.”

A “nuisance” is basically something that causes some level of inconvenience or annoyance to a person. Guyanese today would agree that the law, having been enacted over one quarter of a century ago, does not cater for the wonders of electronic creation, projection and amplification of noise that today bombards the unsuspecting citizen. Over the last decade, the complaints to the press by citizens from all across the country have become more frequent, and more pertinently, increasingly desperate.

It is clear that the law has not served as a deterrent to the offence much less to its eradication and there have been calls all the way up to a Committee in the last Parliament, for amendments to encompass the present circumstance.

Subsection (2) of Section 174A of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, as amended by Act No.10 of 1998, deals with penalties and states: “Any person who contravenes the provision of Subsection (1) shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of not less than $7,500 nor more than $15,000 and to imprisonment for six months and, on a second or any subsequent conviction, to a fine of not less than $20,000 and to imprisonment for 12 months”.

Even when the law is applied by the police against offenders in front of the magistry, which is more done in the breach, a slap on the wrist nominal fine might be pronounced but never the 12 month incarceration. And this for an offence, while described as a “nuisance” can actually cause severe pain to victims and what is described as “noise-induced hearing loss” (NIHL) which can be temporary or even permanent.

The “loudness” of sounds, which actually describes the vibrational energy it transmits via air to the human ear is described in “decibels”, abbreviated “db”. But the ear is sensitive to such a large range of vibrations that if a soft whisper is considered “0” it would take 3000 miles on a linear scale to place the latter. Decibels are a logarithmic scale to that ordinary conversations at 60 are acceptable but sustained sounds above 90 decibels – like revving motorcycles – can cause NIHL. A car or home stereo can deliver 120 decibels – most of it in the bass range – which can vibrate the walls of the home and certainly lead not just to loss of sleep to fretful neighbours, but NIHL if it is sustained for hours. The damage to some sensitive hairs in the inner ear is incremental.

The aborted efforts to amend the laws on “noise nuisance” must recommence forthwith and must begin with a renaming of the offence to signal its new dangers posed by the new and ubiquitous arsenal of mass noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). “Noise Violence and Assault” is respectful?y submitted since it is no different from other physical assaults excepting that sound is not visible while fists are. Fines must range from $100,000 -$200,000 and non-discretionary sentencing imposed with the second conviction.

The Music and Dancing Licensing Act, Chapter 23:03 must also be coordinated with the proposed “Noise Violence and Assault Act” to move beyond the 2am curfew and encompass stricter guidelines to cater for residential peace. NIHL can also be precipitated from sudden, intense noise surges.

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Do not reverse our good record

Over the past month, several families have initiated legal proceedings against three local hospitals, claiming that their negligence resulted in maternal and neonatal deaths and in two instances resulted in injuries to newborn babies.

Following several of these occurrences we have heard Health Minister Dr George Norton announce that investigations were launched to determine culpability.

As a matter of fact in one instance the Minister announced that those responsible could face criminal charges if it were concluded the injuries sustained to a newborn was as a result of negligence by hospital staff. It is commendable the Health Minister is taking such a firm stance on the issue.

In January 2015, the United Nations Development Programme report on Guyana’s progress on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with respect to maternal health in Guyana, stated that the country has succeeded in reducing the number of maternal deaths and increasing the availability of skilled health personnel at births. The report also commended Guyana for the increase in antenatal care coverage.

As a matter of fact Guyana is currently assessed as having the potential to meet the MDG target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters. According to the World Health Organization in developing countries nearly half of all mothers and newborns do not receive skilled care during and immediately after birth. As such, the report by UNDP shows that as a country we have made significant progress with respect to our maternal healthcare system.

However, the recent incidences of mothers suffering as a result of reported negligence by hospital staff is very disappointing.

According to media reports, Sumarie Balwant of Good Hope, East Coast Demerara, lost her baby following claims that nurses at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) refused to deliver the baby, saying she was not ready.

In another instance, GPHC is being sued by Pholmattie Ramjattan whose baby suffered injuries after a nurse allegedly dropped the newborn onto the ground.

In yet another instance, lawsuit against the Davis Memorial Hospital is pending after a 33-year-old mother and her newborn child died allegedly at the hands of negligent nurses and hospital staff.

Adding to this, Parbatee Ramdat of Reliance Village, Essequibo Coast, Region Two is in the process of taking legal action against the Suddie Public Hospital after her newborn baby suffered a fractured shoulder and hand during delivery.

Therefore, while it is commendable that our Health Minister is taking a firm stance with respect to culpability and responsibility, the fact that families are still suffering at as a result of alleged negligence is still unacceptable. We need to examine within the Healthcare System what are the deficiencies and address these as quickly as possible.

Guyana’s maternal health record is very good, as a nation we have come a far way with respect to our maternal health care. As such the Health Minister should ensure he carries that baton of improved maternal health.

The key priority in maternal health is the improvement of the quality of care offered by the healthcare team, including nurses and obstetricians. As such the task is now left to Dr George Norton to ensure there are increased availability of specialist staff trained in obstetrics and gynaecology and wider geographic coverage of skilled medical staff.

There is no doubt he is capable but it is time he has a tight rein on the healthcare staff in Guyana so as to ensure we do not go backwards on our already good maternal healthcare records.

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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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Whence “Social Cohesion?”

“Social Cohesion” seemingly dropped fully grown from the brow of President David Granger in the launching of his APNU/AFC Cabinet appointments, when Guyanese woke up to discover that they now had a “Ministry of Social Cohesion”. The State had always been tasked with creating “the good life” for its citizens – as the Government’s first budget was to explicitly state – and had distributed what it considered to be the necessary components to achieve that state into “Ministries”. “Social Cohesion”, it would now appear, would be one of the specific components.

In the years preceding the elections, whether as individual parties or the precursor A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition of “10 parties” or from the “multiethnic” Alliance For Change (AFC), there was not a single mention of “Social Cohesion” in terms of a policy aspiration or as a programmatic initiative. Even after the launching of the Ministry or its convening of a “National Roundtable on Social Cohesion” most citizens – and even the Ministers of the Government – would be hard pressed to explain precisely what “social cohesion” is all about, beyond some nebulous notion derived from the word, “cohesion”, that “we should come together as a society”.

At Independence, the People’s National Congress (PNC), in coalition with the United Force, had selected as our “National Motto” the aspiration for us to become “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”. Some thought that the present Government was conceding that divisions in the society have not been bridged much less eradicated as the PNC had previously boasted. There would now be a new effort towards that elusive goal of “One People”.

In conceding divisions in Guyanese society were very salient and presumably a barrier to the good life that the State was mandated to deliver, there would still remain the question as to which of the myriad cleavages, including race, ethnicity, class, colour, location, etc, would be prioritised for addressing or whether there was a “one shoe to fit all approach”. And this once again raises the issue of exactly what is “social cohesion” and is it in fact confined to the dimension of social cleavages.

On investigating the term, one discovers that “Social Cohesion” as a specific goal of the State was an evident recent epiphany of the European Union as it grappled with the challenges of melding a continental collection of States into a cohesive unit and simultaneously within each State to deal with new immigrants who brought with them new cultures and world views. Specifically at the inter and intra State levels, it was grappling with two problematics to what it considered to be a “cohesive” unit – the absorption of the new Eastern, formerly communist bloc and the increase in the gap between the rich and the poor.

In adopting the programme of “Social Cohesion” from the EU into Guyana; therefore, the Government is repeating the insistence of the early leaders of the country to import unadapted ideologies and programmes from a Europe that is confronting issues that by definition cannot be identical with our local reality. The “independence” generation imported several flavours of European Marxism none of which took root but left lasting effects.

The foreign fixes slit and destroyed our society and economy as the leaders insisted on forcing our unique Guyanese contingencies on the Procrustean European bed. For instance, they chased out our fledgling business class by denouncing and persecuting them as the “comprador bourgeoisie”. It would appear that the present Government wants to go one better than the past rulers to impose their unadapted “ism” on the populace: then, there was at least a prolonged debate on the suitability of Marxism for the country.

With “Social Cohesion”, the Government owes it to the Guyanese people to first circulate its formulation widely for discussion and comment by the people. It can then be debated in Parliament. This was done for the constitutional changes of 2000, and this new goal of the entire society that will now inform even the Constitution deserve no less a public scrutiny and approval.

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Women, abuse and prejudice

Womenfolk across the world are slowly becoming an endangered species as they continue to face crisis after crisis stemming from various forms of victimisation, abuse and marginalisation mostly at the behest of their male counterparts.
Research shows that 35 per cent of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to 7 in 10 women facing this abuse in some countries.
Facts available on the United Nations website also indicate that an estimated 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation/cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.
Also, worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children; 250 million of them were married before the age of 15. Girls who marry before the age of 18 are less likely to complete their education and more likely to experience domestic violence and complications in childbirth.
Added to that roughly half of today’s 60 million forcibly displaced people are women.  Many who flee war and violence are often exploited by unscrupulous smugglers, and frequently suffer gender discrimination and xenophobia in host societies.
This is a worrying trend and could be considered a permanent assault on the right of women to lead free, independent and meaningful lives while contributing positively to their own existence and that of their wider families as well as communities.
While other countries within the Caribbean appear to be developing worthwhile campaigns and successful policies aimed at stemming the tide of violence against women, the momentum in Guyana is on the decline and little effort is being made over the last six months to secure more gains in this respect.
As result, womenfolk here continue to be butchered and brutally murdered at the hands of their reputed husbands and paramours. Almost daily there are reports of sexual, physical and to a lesser extent, political violence against women because of the deliberate choices they have decided to make in one respect or another.
The response of the authorities is appalling in some instances, with the Guyana Police Force coming in for heavy criticism as to how it handles victims of rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence and other forms of physical and emotional abuse. Just recently, there was a 65 per cent increase in reported cases of rape which represented 164 cases.
While this is happening, the new A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change coalition Government appears to be big on talk and small on action.
The new Social Protection Ministers continue to engage in discussions about fighting and ending violence, but have done little to educate the public and Guyanese womenfolk on just what forms and approaches their Government’s new policies and campaigns will take in order to achieve the desired results and create a paradigm shift in the minds of men and the perpetrators of these heinous acts.
Apart from the People’s Progressive Party’s legislative interventions in the forms of the Sexual Offences Act and a series of “Stamp It Out” campaigns and other similar activities, the new Government is failing our womenfolk.
There is still no special fund set up to help abused women or their direct offspring to start anew. There is no holding place established and run by Government to offer counselling, free abode or other specialised services for victims of domestic abuse apart from the help offered by several Non-Governmental Organisations in Guyana.
There is still no public report available on the number of reported instances of domestic violence and abuse against women by administrative region or race presented by the Government and this contributes to the problem as many times officials are ‘speaking with water in their mouths’.
Additionally, the Government needs to make the struggle to end violence against women a political one and it has to start by the signal it sends to its own members who are disrespectful, dismissive or abrasive to women and their involvement at varying levels of society.
The recent incident which saw an APNU/AFC Member of Parliament Charandass Persaud threatening to assault a female Opposition parliamentarian should have never been condoned by the Government. Its morbid response is telling and speaks of the value that it attributes to women especially those on the opposing side.
In short, as this country joins observances to mark International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women, it must take stock of the gains made and the many areas that it is still lagging behind.
The blood of our womenfolk must not be shed and wasted because of various forms of negligence, inaction, lack of political will and poorly administered policies.
Guyana must do all that it can to save our womenfolk and must demonstrate its interest in strengthening them via a series of well-planned Government directed policies aimed at achieving gender equity, equality and nonviolence.
Indeed, it’s a man’s world, but it would surely be nothing without the sacrifices made by our womenfolk who are being slaughtered while the authorities focus their political lenses elsewhere.

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Canecutters’ sons

Two of Guyana’s daily newspapers made it a point to highlight the two top graduating students from UG this year – from both Campuses – were the sons of “canecutters”. It was astonishing that more than 180 years after the abolition of slavery and 98 years after the abolition of indentured labour – both being institutions to “cut cane”- the thought of a “canecutter’s son” topping his graduating class at university can make headline news.
And this after our national poet Martin Carter reminded us in a poem all Guyanese who passed through public school system would have learnt “by heart”: “I (meaning all of us) come from the Nigger Yard”. To imply that “canecutters’ sons and daughters cannot excel is to imply that after all these years, we are still stuck with “the scorn” for ourselves that Carter described so powerfully. And to be surprised by their achievement is to imply just that.
Guyana was founded as a colony by the Dutch who had fled Brazil, to produce sugar for an eager European market – but at prices that could only be achieved through slave labour. And though, as Eric Williams argued, that labour produced the wealth on which the industrial revolution was built and which gave the Europeans an advantage they enjoy to this day, the individuals providing the labour were dehumanised and equated into animals.
Maybe it was not surprising that, to use the felicitous phrase coined by Marx a decade later, the freed labour became “alienated” from the land and the honour to coax from it, life’s sustenance. The scorn was transferred to the land so when indentured labour replaced the slave, he too was cathected with assumptions of a lesser humanity and this is what appears to have survived to this day. Ironically, in Guyanese of all persuasions.
Today it may surprise some to learn that one out of three canecutters is of African heritage and perchance one may see this as a sign of progress. A lessening of the self-hating scorn in the wider society, even though one member of the culturati – a pretender to even Carter’s mantle – has used “canecutter” as a trope for all that is backward and uncivilised. As the ultimate put down, he made reference to “some Canecutopian official or their ignorant spawn” for committing some faux pas or other.
And it is why, one of the canecutting fathers of the valedictorian could recount how he took his son to the cane fields and made sure the lad would look beyond the cane fields. Not for the honest labour; not for the salary that is perhaps more than a graduate earns nowadays, but for respect never given to the canecutter after all these years. The story can be starkly summarised by juxtaposing the millions canecutters are supposed to earn versus the refusal of the 40 per cent of unemployed youths to accept that job. It is reminiscent of the challenge the African-American comedian Chris Rock threw out to the whites in his audience to a deafening silence: “Which one of you would exchange your place with me – a Black millionaire.
Today, sugar has fallen on hard times and it is conveniently forgotten that during the dark days of the seventies and eighties as the economy imploded from mismanagement, the sugar levy – extracted like blood from stone – kept the entire nation afloat. An even greater ingratitude is exhibited by expecting so little from the sons of canecutters.
But there is the denouement predicted by Carter:
I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppressors’ hate
and the scorn of myself;
from the agony of the dark hut in the shadow
and the hurt of things;
from the long days of cruelty and the long nights of pain
down to the wide streets of to-morrow, of the next day
leaping I come, who cannot see will hear.

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Bigger, better Banking?

At the opening of the new headquarters of Demerara Bank Limited (DBL) President David Granger called for banks to increase their number of branches – especially in the rural and hinterland areas. While not saying so explicitly, he reminded the audience that as the first “local” bank to be opened in 1989, Demerara Bank benefited from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) strictures imposed on the Guyanese economy in the wake of its bailout of the then PNC government.

Up to that time all Banks, including the US Chase Manhattan, Britain’s Barclays and Canada’s Royal Bank of Canada, had been nationalised, and Guyana National Co-operative Bank (GNCB), having taken over their portfolios since 1973, ruled the financial roost, such as it was.

Since IMF-imposed policies, which had the liberalisation of the financial sector to meld with international finance at its core, we had a half-dozen new banks opening and all making substantial profits every year. Like DBL, two others are affiliated with local manufacturing conglomerates, while the others are foreign branch operations.

In the post-IMF neoliberal world, banking in the developed countries has moved far beyond the simple intermediation of funds from depositors to users via loans. The distinction between investment and commercial banking has been deliberately erased and savings deposits are just another facet in what has been dubbed the “financialisation” of the economy.

Most profits in this “Alice in Wonderland” world are generated not from activities in the real world but through speculation in what are essentially international casinos using mathematical equations generated by “quants” to produce an exotic number of “securities”. Billionaire Warren Buffet calls these “financial weapons of mass destruction”.

Up to this point, Guyana has fortunately remained in the backwater of international finance, because of its minuscule size and its lack of sovereign rating. It has therefore fortuitously been spared the blushes of some poor economies in Europe – Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIGS) for instance – which are locked in the death embrace of banks moving money across national borders with impunity in their quest for high profits in a world where the bottom had dropped out of the model.

In Guyana, the concerns have been more mundane. While President Granger would have been concerned about security (people moving around with “bags of money”) the easier access to transferring funds, which has revolutionised microtransactions in Africa via mobile phones, has not taken hold in Guyana. While initially there were concerns that this new way to handle credit might affect the bottom-line of banks, the reverse has been true as it has led to those mobile users opening traditional savings accounts.

And we arrive at the need that has not been filled with the new privately owned commercial banks. With the closure of GAIBank, the agricultural sector, which inevitably has to form the foundation of Guyana’s development, has been undercapitalised. This is more so in the Agri-processing subsector that can generate greater profits from value-added activities. While one hears of rice farmers receiving loans, for instance, the deposits in the rural branches of each of the banks far outweigh the loans in those areas or farmers. Those funds will rather be intermediated to corporate customers in Georgetown. The efficiency of allocating resources in the economy is not optimum – especially when one looks at the stubborn spread between savings and lending rates.

The government has announced that it is going ahead with the idea floated by the previous administration to initiate a Development Bank to replace GAIBank in our financial intermediation mix. The plan is being vetted by the Caribbean Development Bank. There is a misconception that GAIBank failed because of a poorly supervised loan portfolio (and there was that) but in reality, the albatross that actually sank it was the devaluation of the Guyana dollar by the Hoyte administration, as part of the aforementioned IMF deal.

Banks must be regulated to intermediate funds efficiently for productive activities and not to create “financial weapons of mass destruction”.

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Finally: Local Government Elections

Local Government Elections (LGE) are finally on the cards – March 18, 2016. With the last scheduled LGE’s supposed to have been held in 1997, Guyanese will have been waiting for 19 years, if this one actually comes off next March. We have had a checkered history on LGE’s even though our began when the “Free Village” movement introducing Village Management Councils immediately after the purchase of abandoned plantations in 1838.
While there were sporadic tinkering with the laws governing the Village and Town Councils, in 1932 a decentralised system of administration via District Commissioners was introduced. LGE were scheduled to be conducted in stages during 1970 but the PPP claimed the initial phase was rigged like the 1968 General Elections, and refused to participate further. The PNC ended up controlling all entities.
In 1973, the year in which the General Elections were rigged with the assistance of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the District Commissioner System was abolished and replaced by a nebulous “Ministerial Regional System”. This started the degutting of the historic autochthonous Village Councils that had served the country so well, while empowering the local people. The Village Councils had been robust bastions of democracy in service of citizens at a level to which they could relate, while the new “Ministerial” system moved power upwards, without improving performance. The tradition of leaders moving to national leadership from the incubator of the Villages was sundered.
With the 1980 Constitution expanding the “regional” system from six to 10; six towns and 65 Neighbourhood Councils (NDC’s) were recognised by the Local Democratic Organs Act and demarcated to “take democracy to the people”. While there was much rhetoric about the improvement in democracy, the agglomeration of several villages into each NDC ensured that the “principle of subsidiarity” – where power is exercised at the lowest possible level – was vitiated.
But even though General Elections were held in 1980, 1985 and 1992, the next LGE after the fatally flawed one of 1970, was finally conducted under the PPP government in 1994. In those elections, the empowerment of the local organs was overshadowed by the contest to control Georgetown. A new party, the “Good and Green Georgetown” (GGG), formed by Hamilton Green who had been expelled from the PNC, contested.
The GGG received 40.7 per cent of the votes with 12 seats; the PNC 31.7 per cent – 10 seats and the PPP/C 26.7 per cent – eight seats. In an early attempt at “power sharing”, there was an informal agreement for a PNC’s candidate to be Mayor for one year, the GGG’s next, to be followed by the PPP’s. As second in line, Greene refused to step aside for the PPP’s nominee and remain as Mayor to this day.
The PPP won Anna Regina, Rose Hall and Corriverton while the PNC secured Linden and New Amsterdam. The PPP/C won more than two thirds of the 65 NDCs since the PNC did not overtly contest those NDC’s. One notable feature of the 1994 LGE was the formation of some 17 citizens groups entering the race yo run the NDC’s.
The overall voting participation was 47.91 per cent but in Georgetown was down to 33.37 per cent. In most other areas it was in the high 50’s and 60’s with some more than 70 per cent. Georgetown voters represented approximately 23 per cent of the total number of eligible voters in the country.
Following the constitutional reform process in 2000, the Local Government Act was amended to give more powers to the NDC’s. While there was a bipartisan PPP/PNC committee to craft the necessary legislation to give effect to the need to make the NDC’s “autonomous”, these were finally passed by Parliament in 2013 and signed into law this year. The pertinent changes had to do with the fiscal powers delegated.
However, while there are three additional towns, the mooted re-empowerment of the Village Councils died on the vine. And maybe with it, the opportunity to return “power to the people”.

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Is crime really not spiralling out of control?

A quick perusal of the local newspapers on a daily basis will quickly and conclusively rebut claims being made by the Guyana Police Force that crime is not spiralling out of control.
As a matter of fact, Guyana Times has been reporting on a number of crime stories daily under that caption, As crime spirals out of control, evidently much to the chagrin of the Guyana Police Force. They specifically and emphatically denies crime in on an increase.
According to the official, based on statistics and other data proffered, this statement  was simply not true. However, it took a creative use of statistics to assert that the admitted eight per cent increase in crime over last year was not significant. The efforts by police in the apprehension and prosecution of several high profile groups of criminals are noted, but this simply emphasize the onslaught by the criminal fraternity.
Fortunately, the Private Sector Commission (PSC), with no need to sensationalise, came out on Friday with a contra-view of the crime situation. While taking care with their words, they expressed their concerns about what they described as a ‘hype in crime’ and questioned ‘who is next?’
Like numerous other expressions of concerns, the PSC is now of the view that criminals no longer fear the authorities. According to the commission, the business community is ‘terrified.’ They asserted that Guyana is witnessing an increase in crime which shows that criminals are taking advantage of all means available to them, including opportunity crime, inside information, lack of public cooperation and police responsiveness. The criminals are strategising, and it is time the police display they too are on top of their game.
The PSC, in apprehension of the escalating crime rate has since submitted a comprehensive crime reduction strategy proposal to the Guyana Police Force. A quick perusal of the PSC’s strategy included the reactivation of the Law and Order Commission and the continuation of the role of community policing, whereby persons  themselves can help to protect their own communities. It is also recommended that there be a deployment of adequate ranks and plug the loopholes within the force so as to ensure adequate manpower is available.
Interestingly, the PSC is calling for continuation of community policing. In the 2015 Budget there was no provision for Community Policing Groups as was previously done by the past administration. Justification for such a move was that past budgetary allocations catered mainly for CPGs and not actually to the Police Force.
Further crippling the community policing efforts, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan has since taken away the vehicles from the CPGs and handed them over to the Police Force. The question that lingers is whether this move was carefully thought out, since community policing is seen as collaboration between police and the community that identifies and solves community problems.
It is time politicians and the police put differences and pride aside and work together to come up with a crime fighting solution. Reporting crimes does not create crime. The pettiness of dismissing good ideas simply because they come from those who are not of a similar political persuasion, should stop.
As was recommended by the PSC, to address crime it has to be done in a holistic manner and not ‘piecemeal’.

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Time for AFC to man up

On Thursday Guyana observed International Men’s Day under the theme “Make a Difference for Men and Boys” with Guyana focusing on working to expand reproductive options for men.

The objectives of International Men’s Day 2015 included a focus on men and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.

But even as Guyana celebrates our menfolk, there are those among us from who much is expected. Recently, one elected member of the National Assembly continued his excruciating abusive outbursts towards reputable Hindu leader and Parliamentarian Dr Vindhya Persaud.

Charandass Persaud, Attorney and APNU/AFC parliamentarian, showed utter disrespect to women in Guyana when he was blatantly abusive towards women’s rights activists, who had called upon him to apologise to Dr Persaud.

As we celebrate International Men’s Day, more specifically our local men, we should be ashamed as a nation to have a man sitting on the highest decision making institution of our land and yet think women are so inferior that they should kiss his a**.

What utter disrespect! Why is the government, more particularly the Alliance for Change (AFC) aspect of the administration, silent on this issue? Charandass’s outburst speaks to the fact that Guyana is heading down a road of acceptance of lawlessness which is being condoned by our leaders. What justification is there for this man, shamefully an elected representative in Parliament, to want to ‘haul off’ Dr Vindhya Persaud from a stage simply because she ventured to differ from his viewpoint? More so, what justification is there for him to ask that the women’s rights activists, who condemned him and demanded that he apologise must now ‘kiss his a**’ before he does so? Is this seriously the behaviour of a Member of Parliament? Is this seriously something the government has accepted? Is it seriously going to be brushed aside by government without disciplinary actions or prosecution?

Sadly, as announced by the Clerk of the National Assembly, there is no Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians. This in itself says Parliament cannot sanction the MP for his unbecoming behaviour.

According to the Clerk, a draft code of conduct, which will regulate and monitor the actions of each Member of Parliament (MP) both on the Government and Opposition benches of the House, is with the Ministry of Presidency. The question now is, how long do we have to wait for a review of this draft code of conduct and when will it be implemented?

It is time as a nation that we hold our leaders to the highest level of scrutiny and accountability not only for finances but in all facets of leadership.

Charandass is what is considered in law a ‘repeat offender’ since this is not the first time he as attacked women in our society.

In 2013, he ridiculed Dr Vishalya “Artie” Sharma for being “so fat, she could probably not fit in the front seat of her jeep” when he was arguing she could not administer the New Amsterdam Hospital.

The leadership of the AFC then had reprimanded him and he publicly apologised to Dr Sharma. If he was sanctioned then, why not now? But what is obvious is that his sanction for this ‘repeat’ offence should be greater and heavier since he is now a serial abuser towards women. Charandass should by all means, do the respectful thing and step down from his public post and seek therapy for his obvious lack of respect for women.

Therefore, as we reflect on the achievements of our men in society, we must also condemn those who blatantly disrespect our women.

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