August 29, 2015

Unpopular decisions

The newly-elected A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government since it took office last May, has been making quite a number of unpopular decisions as it tries to get its feet firmer on the governance in this country. Almost every week, it’s another unpopular decision. One is therefore forced to ask if it’s a case of Government functionaries giving little or no thought as it relates to the policy direction of the administration, or is it a case that they just do not care about how these decisions will affect the populace now that they are at the helm of Government.

For example, amid the rising crime rate, not long after he was appointed Government’s point man on national security, Minister Khemraj Ramjattan took a decision to enforce a 2am curfew for bars and night clubs. This of course did not go down well with partygoers and sections of the business community.Ramjattan’sjustification for this move was that crime would be reduced.

We are all well aware that crime in Guyana has taken on new dimensions and hence, requires modern, strategic thinking and effective policy decisions matched by the necessary resources to confront it. Certainly closing bars at 2 am will definitely not solve the problem. To date, neither the Minister nor his Government have come up with a concrete plan to address the various forms of criminality affecting citizens of this country even though they had boasted on the campaign trail of having an effective national security plan.

Also, in preparation of the 2015 budget, the Government signaled its intention to discontinue the $10,000 voucher programme launched under the previous Government. It’s justification for this move was that this programme was designed by the PPP to win votes at the last elections. A promise was then made by the Government that instead of continuing theprogramme, it would increase the Uniform Voucher Allowance given to students. To the nation’s disappointment, when the budget was finally presented in the National Assembly, it was confirmed that a meager $500 was added to the $1500 uniform allowance that was already there, bringing the total sum to $2000. Every parent knows that $2000 cannot meet the basic uniform needs of a student.

It should be noted too that the Administration has managed to fire thousands of workers from the public service and within Government’s employ. Many of them coincidentally or not have been East Indians and Amerindians who supported the PPP/C. They have done so at a time when thousands of young persons are looking for employment across the country.

However, one of the most unpopular decisions thus far, is to imposeregional flags. The move to assign flags to every administrative region across the country has not settled well all of the regional leaders some of whom have already rejected the plan.

No other than former President and Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo has slammed the move and pointed out that it could be dangerous for Guyana as it could put the country’s sovereignty at risk and reinforce Venezuela’s attempts to win over the Essequibo through encouraging secessionist tendencies.

There are countless other unpopular decisions made since the APNU/AFC government took office three months ago, but space in this column is not enough to detail them. What is even worse is that most, if not all of the decisions so far have been imposed on the population without any proper consultation being done.

In any democratic society, one expects the Government to consult with the citizenry, especially those aspects of the population that will be affected one way or another. The Government has not done so and as such, risks failing the people.

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Monitoring the President’s “new 10-point strategic plan for Hinterland Development”

Dear Editor,

President David Granger’s “new 10-point strategic plan for Hinterland Development” speaks, inter alia, of ‘a Hinterland and Indigenous Peoples Lands Commission and Hinterland Language Cultural and Sport Service”; as if the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had neglected these very important areas of hinterland development. May I remind His Excellency who revels in research and rewriting history that while our Indigenous peoples were marginalised under the People’s National Congress, the PPP ensured that they took their rightful place in our country’s history, that is, as Guyana’s first people.

Specifically, Dr Cheddi Jagan, the then Prime Minister of Guyana ensured that Amerindian culture, art and craft, cuisine, music, dances and other aspects of their traditional lifestyle were kept alive when he officially designated September as Amerindian Heritage Month in memory of Stephen Campbell, the first Amerindian to enter the Parliament of then British Guiana. This is quite apart from the several other support measures of the PPP/Civic Government to ensure that our first people were able to access social services viz: education and primary health care, extended and improved infrastructure, support for the village economy.

Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations also provided opportunities for Amerindians and was another way of bringing Amerindian people and their communities into the mainstream of national development. There was no need to wait until August 2015 to hear of a plan to advance development of our Amerindian people, their language and heritage. It must be noted that the rotation of the designated Heritage Village from year to year provided opportunity for Guyanese , including our Indigenous people themselves, to experience and to learn more of the culture and way of life of our Amerindian people. It allowed them to market their villages, its people and what they had to offer in terms of goods and services. In short, Amerindian Heritage Month was also a medium for promoting hinterland tourism.

I previously drew attention to the Constitution of Guyana through Articles 35, 149 G and 212 S which focus respectively on the very issues which the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) are now seeking to highlight in this 10-point plan . These include our ‘indigenous people’s right to the protection, preservation and promulgation of their language, cultural heritage and way of life’. There was already established under the PPP/C Government an Indigenous Peoples Commission which was already involved in work aimed at addressing the needs of and enhancing the status of our Indigenous people.

Our Amerindian people’s ownership of their lands including the forests resources thereon and their right to plan and manage the use of these resources, and to negotiate in mining, are enshrined in the 2006 Amerindian Act drafted through the consultation and input of Amerindians and Hinterland residents. This is a reflection and a representation of the nature and extent of the progress the PPP/C made as a Government and with the involvement of our indigenous leaders and their people.

Integral to the acceleration of the development process in the villages and communities has been the PPP/C’s greater focus on economic activities that create employment and generate income for the people who must live and work in the hinterland communities.

The National Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programme initiated through the Amerindian Affairs Ministry of also sought to address some of the challenges of economic development in the hinterland. These challenges included the inefficiency of some traditional farming methods and practices, limited knowledge of managing nontraditional crops, inadequate diversification, absence of food processing technology to cater for “periods of shocks” and the need for our farmers to develop an appreciation for enterprise.

These diversified activities lead to the creating of more opportunities for income generation among our Amerindian people, increasing accessibility to goods and services while improving the standards in the communities.

There is concern that the APNU/AFC by their political and ethnic discriminatory actions directed at our Amerindian people because of their massive support for the PPP/C at the recent 2015 General and Regional Elections have determined to remove these gains and take such punitive measures against our Indigenous people such as terminating their employment.

However, the PPP/C stands by its commitment to the hinterland population and our first peoples, in ensuring that the APNU/AFC’s actions are closely monitored, examined and upbraided where necessary.

Sincerely,

Norman Whittaker

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Call to Priya Manickchand to represent the people of Mahaicony creek

Dear Editor,

We were very happy, when we had a visit by the Public Health Minister and the Regional Health Officer of Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) some time back during the floods, in Mahaicony Creek, East Coast Demerara.

We had discussed many issues affecting communities in the Mahaicony Creek, including the shortage of doctors at the heath centre and the price for paddy.

We the residents of Mahaicony Creek are suffering from non-access to health care, because there is no doctor or Medex at the health centre to provide service to the people. We are paying high costs for transportation to access health care at the Mahaicony Hospital.

The Public Health Minister and the Regional Health Officer during discussion with us, promised that next week a doctor will dispatched to the health centre to provide service to the residents in the Mahaicony Creek.

We have been trying since then to make contact with the Minister, but our efforts were futile. His office keeps insisting: “you have to make an appointment.’’ Residents of Mahaicony Creek are still waiting on the service of a doctor, promised by the Public Health Minister.

We want to urge the new Government not to make promises you cannot fulfil. We are now calling on our Region Five Member of Parliament Priya Devi Manickchand to make some additional representation for her people in Mahaicony Creek.

Sincerely,

Concerned residents of Mahaicony Creek

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Poll: TT People’s Partnership barely ahead

Dear Editor,

An ongoing opinion tracking survey being conducted by New York-based North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) has found the ruling People’s Partnership (PP) of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is barely ahead in several critical marginal seats necessary for victory in the September 7 general elections.

The UNC is ahead in Pointe-A-Pierre and four other marginal seats (Mayaro, Moruga/Tableland, Barataria, and St Joseph) while the Opposition PNM is leading in two marginals (San Fernando West and Tunapuna) since the final list of candidates were announced two weeks ago.

The candidates of other parties and independents are trailing in these seats and on course of losing their deposits (one eighth of the votes is necessary to retain one’s deposit). Two critical marginals – Chaguanas East and LaHorquetta/Talparo – are being polled and the findings will be released in a follow up report. Other marginals in Tobago show People’s National Movement (PNM) in huge leads.

The poll interviewed an average of 120 likely voters in each constituency to reflect the demographic composition of the population. The poll has a margin of error of four per cent.

The latest poll finds the UNC (PP) ahead in Pointe-A-Pierre, Barataria, St Joseph, Moruga, and Mayaro. The PNM is ahead in Tunapuna and San Fernando West. In none of these seven seats has any party (candidate) crossed the 50 per cent magic mark to secure it suggesting all the seats are still in contention and are likely to go down to the wire.

An average of 18 per cent of the voters is still undecided and they may well determine the faith of the candidates (or parties). The PNM is winning in two Tobago seats by a landslide.

Overall, the NACTA poll is showing the PP leading 19-18. Of two seats not recently polled, earlier polls showed the PP and PNM winning two each making the final outcome possibly 21-20 in favour of the PP.

But two more weeks till election’s day is a long time in politics, and the chance of the third force ILP led by Jack Warner in a few seats is good as many voters say they would like to see divided power so that no party has an overwhelming majority in Parliament.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

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Need for better road conduct

Dear Editor,

Driving in Guyana calls for extraordinary skill. If one can master the art of driving on these roads and sharing the roads with daily bullies, then one can probably drive anywhere in the world.

Not only are there crater-like holes on most streets in Georgetown, but there are also hardly any road signs to guide drivers, especially remigrants who aren’t familiar with the host of unspoken road rules. One often has to guess if streets are one ways or not, and often, when the City declares new measures to change directions, no notice or signboards are installed.

When a regular citizen invests in a vehicle, the duty is already exorbitant. However, the maintenance and reparation costs which soar as compared to other countries with acceptable infrastructure, makes owning a vehicle almost a luxury.

Dysfunctional traffic lights are also a constant frustration in Georgetown’s busiest spots, as well a grave health hazard and an ideal battle ground for daily bullies.

Lack of adequate road signs and dysfunctional traffic lights together constitute a cocktail for the regular chaos one encounters in the nasty, disorganised capital.

In addition to this, dealing with impolite drivers who sometimes are downright road bullies, ready to spit racist remarks and graze the vehicles of others, is quite a normal scene. Where there might be road signs, there is hardly any respect from drivers.

Then, the attitude of pedestrians and cyclists and motorbike users also calls for reprobation as none seem to quite understand the concept of having to share a common public utility which is the road space. From pedestrians overstepping in driving lanes, to riding in the middle of the road and crossing when lights are red, the behaviour of too many is favourable to road accidents. Also, Government institutions contribute to the chaos by monopolising the road space for parking. For instance, there are always way too many vehicles parked on Upper Brickdam where the Natural Resources and the Environment Ministry is located. Taxis are accommodated on the opposite side of the road leaving no space for pedestrians and creating bottle necks on a daily basis.

The Guyana Revenue Authority, despite having two car parks at its disposal, clogs Camp Street every day and still finds the means to appropriate parking spaces in front of homes and businesses, much to the loss of other users.

Indeed, the road culture in Guyana is unacceptable and depicts a very negative image of Guyanese which they seem to be comfortable with, particularly in Georgetown. It is the duty of the Government to reign in those who disobey simple road rules. It can boast of a clean, garden city, but Georgetown is neither clean nor in the least way comparable to a garden, and it is surely not a safe or friendly place to drive. The APNU/AFC Government, quick to boast of its famous action plan has forgotten that the path to development lies in a solid and functional infrastructure.

Road users in Georgetown should adopt a better, healthier attitude and the Government needs to “haul [it’s] ass” to quote Minister Khemraj Ramjattan.

 

Sincerely,

Stacy Cheong

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Re: Laura George’s timely letter a breath of fresh air!

Dear Editor,

No sport writer or Journalist has resorted to the practice of investigative journalism, towards highlighting publicly the major inefficiency and unprofessionalism that occurred, in the recently concluded Digicel Secondary Schools Championship KO Football Tournament. Consequently, Laura George must be commended on the bold initiative for the publication of a letter the letter: “Who gives athletes hot dogs for breakfast?”, published on August 8 in another newspaper.

Indeed, Digicel’s involvement on an annual basis is indeed commendable. But with administrative glitches continuing unabatedly, much is left to be desired. Moreover, the individual tasked with the responsibility of coordinating the tournament, which attracts financial remuneration, from all indications is not well rounded in the overall administration of the sport, despite the fact of the numerous portfolios held (Sports Organiser, UG Vice President, GFA, and Executive Member, Fruta Conquerors).

With this being my first letter on this year’s tournament, I must reiterate that a collaborative effort is needed among the Department of Sport within the Education Ministry, the Guyana Football Federation and Digicel towards improving the coordination of the tournament. Seminars, workshops and courses in Administration, Coaching, Nutrition, Physiotherapy and Match Commissioners are all essential components that have to be addressed.

Is a detailed competition’s report submitted at the conclusion of the tournament, in addition to an audited financial statement of expenditure, compatible with the budgeted sum? For transparency and accountability, this question begs an answer, since the nation’s largest School Tournament, if continued to be coordinated in an ad-hoc manner, will continue to tarnish the image of the sport and the sponsor.

Finally, as the Liaison Officer of the Kashif and Shangai (K&S) Organisation and previously having had the privilege of working with Waramadong Secondary, a few years ago in a K&S School’ Tournament, I can attest to the fact that of the 16 participating schools, Waramadong was the most disciplined, cultured and well mannered.

It is disappointing to read of the treatment meted out to Waramadong Secondary.

By relevant comparison, accommodation was provided at Dawn Cari and Wind Jammer Hotels instead of the Young Women’s Christian Association. Meals were catered for by both hotels, laundering was under the supervision of the team’s management, utilising the services provided. Transportation, compliments of the Ministry (sponsorship) along with payments to George’s Transportation Services, in pursuit of training, matches, plane tickets and the National Cultural Centre, for an Adventist Church Convention. In relation to medical treatment, physiotherapists were present at all matches. While one was specifically assigned to Waramadong, since a few of the players came to Georgetown, with niggling injuries. Also mention must be made of one player, who upon arrival was taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital for evaluation by a medical practitioner for an ankle injury. Gratitude must also be expressed to individuals for providing sponsorship for paid dinners on two occasions.

Respectfully yours,

Lester Sealey

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Making up…

…budget numbers

Winston Jordan was reintroduced into the political system as a technocratic kinda fella. You know…the back-room, number crunching faceless drudge who keeps their Ministers looking good. There was always the school of thought that in areas like finance, where you don’t need too much (any?) charisma or razzle-dazzle, maybe fellas like Jordan can take centre stage. Bumping up, rather than cutting off, the middle man – so to speak.

Well if Jordan’s the test of that theory, then it’s back to the drawing board. The man has made such a mess of the APNU/AFC 2015 budget that this Eyewitness wonders what the ***** he was doing during Jagdeo and Ashni Singh stints as Finance Minister- when he was in the back room. What he has shown is he’s straining mightily to be the Rottweiler political type – with his heavy handed put-downs and ponderous attempts at “cutting wit”. He mostly managed to cut himself!

The most egregious blunder – which got his PRIME Minister in hot water – was to not cater for the fact that his President had signed legislation mandating several agencies being funded directly from the Consolidated Funds. Now this wasn’t just for administrative or bureaucratic convenience, screamed APNU/AFC but that those agencies were “being muzzled by the hand that feeds them” and all that jazz. Apart for Nagamootoo having to grovel, hat in hand to Jagdeo to beg for “understanding” Jordan forced even supporters to wonder if, in fact, the PNC-led APNU/AFC hadn’t lost its penchant for muzzling!

But just when you think Jordan couldn’t get his foot further up his mouth, up comes Jagdeo to point out that the $23B he boasted of paying to farmers for paddy shipped COULDN’T BE FOUND IN THE ESTIMATES!!! And this wasn’t the only instance of “Case of the missing money” (Jagdeo thinks it’s “Purloined Money”!) There was a $3.8B to GuySuCo and $5B to GRDB – but these are chicken feed, no? $23B would pay for 200,000 tonnes of rice!! An entire year export to Venezuela!

What Jordan’s trying to do is to let APNU/AFC have their cake and gorge themselves on it at the same time. First they say the Treasury’s bare as well as the PetroVaribe Fund. But what Jagdeo figures they did was to transfer some numbers on the books to simply pass the $23B in the Budget as a debt to PetroCaribe.

But any self-respecting bookkeeper would know this is just financial legerdemain – trickery and conjuring of numbers out of thin air.

But thin air leads to a hard landing. As Jordan will find out soon.

…for lack of size

It’s been a running joke for decades that fellas with challenges in their trouser-equipment try to make up for it by getting bigger cars. It’s called the “compensation syndrome”. Well, it’s a theory no longer. A study in England published in the Daily Mail last year proved that the charge just wasn’t an urban legend! And as if to provide definitive evidence up comes (we use the adverb “up” figuratively) Nagamootoo with his pouting demand for a $22 million SUV!!

The Fella says he MUST have it so that he can visit “constituents”. Now can you believe this load of horse manure? Here it is, the man just told his constituents that he can’t reduce VAT (apart from Mayonnaise) or raise salaries more than 5% but to comfort them he’s be tooling around in his new, black (and of course, totally tinted) Landcruiser.

This beats Marie Antoinette telling the peasants crying for bread to “eat cake”. But we know what the guillotine did to her neck, no?

Other parts of the anatomy can ask be further decimated!!

…crimes?

Whatever happened to those 60 choir boys who strayed from the straight and narrow to filch people’s cell phones and were pardoned?

Have they actually not sinned again?

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GPL made progress notwithstanding challenges

Dear Editor,

Overview:

I write this letter to put another side, (my side, which the public might have been expecting) on the dissensions at the top of GPL, which were being disclosed and discussed in the media.

Great Tensions and dissensions have always been in play in the provision of our electricity. They may even be inevitable in our circumstances. What I think is most important however, and what we should keep in focus before us as we chew on all these disclosures and furor is the great improvement that has been brought about in our electricity utility It has progressed greatly since 1992, when it provided electricity an unpredictable 60 per cent of the time to 75,000 customers, to today when it supplies electricity about 95 per cent of the time to 175,000 customers!

Great tensions have always been present at our electricity utility

There have always been great tensions and dissensions at the top of our electricity utility, amongst and between Senior and Executive   Managers, the Board ,the Minister and the Cabinet, caused in my judgment by, the historical insufficiency in capital equipment and all the resources required; the high expectations inclusive of low costs and pricing which could not be met in our situation(prices In neighboring Trinidad, Suriname and Venezuela could not be matched: they have their natural advantage that we do not yet have); the high non- technical or commercial losses ,reduced presently but still high at about 16 per cent which indicates that about one in six of our customers has arranged by one way or the other to pay little or nothing for the electricity he has consumed; and the many instances of obvious   failings, shortcoming and misdemeanours of utility employees at all levels. It can all be confounding, confusing and frustrating!

There have always been tensions between Chairman and Board on the one hand and CEO and Management on the other, as each pressed from its own position and view for the best performance of the utility. Robin Singh as CEO before and after the period of privatisation of GEC/GPL was not reluctant to assert that subsidies and subventions to GPL were not subsides to the company GPL itself, nor to its employees, but to the customers, the public at large. Additionally the onus was on the Government as owner, to provide the equity investment for sustaining and progressing the utility. Such assertions through true would have jarred us at times.

My review of the board’s 2014 appraisal of the CEO

Towards the end of 2014 the Board did come to me with the failing grade assessment of the CEO Bharat Dindyal. I conceded to the Board that there was nothing factual which I could fault in their assessment but with the projects almost completed at that time, let’s look back and see where things could realistically have been done differently and better.

In my judgment the overrun in cost and time of the two major projects were indicative primarily of the limitations of our envisaging and projections at the start of the projects. There had not been in my view, any wasting of money nor time: if we had the knowledge and experience we now have, the projections would have been closer to how things turned out.

With respect to the transmission upgrade project, it had been specified in the bidding document that the winning bidder would review and refine our original broad specifications and put recommendations for enhancement. The contractor had put proposals for enhancement entailing a cost increase from just over US$ 30 million to about US$40 million which were considered by the GPL Board and Management, recommended to and approved by Cabinet. We received value more then commensurate with the increased expenditure.

With respect to the Vreed-en-Hoop generating station, when we arrived at the decision to have the power station built, we wanted and needed to have it built in a hurry .The first estimates and projections to start the project moving were based on best judgment before soil testing and detailed foundation design. As it turned out the soil conditions at Vreed-en-Hoop were much more demanding than what we had found at Kingston. With delays growing, owing to the slow delivery of the longer wooden piles required, Wärtsilä was asked about substituting concrete piles for wooden piles. Wärtsilä replied that the whole foundation would need to be redesigned. There could be no   substituting of wooden piles with concrete piles.

Concerning the adverse comparisons of outsourced and in house performance, these comparisons are seldom “on all fours.” We would need to give some thought to the causes of the differences.

I acknowledged the frustration all around as each side sought to better the overall performance of GPL. Such attempts however often exacerbated the dissensions. I recalled a year or two earlier that the Board called on the CEO and Management to return with a   budget in which GPL would have in place all the equipment and other resources such that the Management would have no excuses and could be held to attaining the performance standards set. That budget however when presented could not be funded and Management was required to return with a fundable budget which was much like the first.

Time for parting

It was clear that the relationship between the CEO and the Board was beyond mending: an orderly separation was to be contemplated. I set a period of six months to one year for a separation, both sides considering and developing options within the first six months which would be implemented anytime during the second six months, hopefully at a time of mutual convenience.

The CEO’s compension package

It may be recalled that on the privatisation of GPL in late 1999, the core investing partner required that the top five posts of GPL be filled with their   appointees so as to put their face on the company. Messrs Robin Singh and Bharat Dindyal the numbers one and two at GEC/GPL were let go and had to find their way as best they could.

When the core partner walked away from GPL about four years later (the partnership foundered on the non realisation of the rapid reduction in nontechnical/commercial looses, the reduction of which was key in the financial sustainability of the business model), we called on Messrs Singh and Dindyal then heading electricity utilities in small islands in the Caribbean, to drop whatever they were doing. We committed to fully compensating them, matching and even bettering whatever they were then receiving as foreign   North American   Nationals.

A few years ago I wrote the Board affirming the North American compensation package of the CEO, which was particular to him. At the same time our not so long term target must be to fill the post of the CEO (and all other Executive Managers) with ‘Guyanese” receiving compensation packages which would be in line with the compensation packages of executives in other Guyanese Companies, and well related to the compensation of the unionised employees in GPL. We had to get past the forced practice of having to pay whatever we had to pay, which payment would be particular to the individuals.

Loss reduction: A source of great vexations

GPL needs to and it is being constantly demanded of GPL that it spares no effort to reduce non technical/commercial losses. Those losses now down to 16 per cent nonetheless indicate that at least one in six of GPL’S customers and a number of past and current employees of GPL are involved in stealing electricity. Responsible GPL personnel cannot but pursue suspicious persons and situations in the face of possibilities of error. The regular publication of loses in various geographical areas across GPL’s network appears to add useful area identification with additional pressures to end stealing.

The Deputy CEO operations

Sometime in 2012, Mr Welch was introduced to me as a Guyanese who had studied at Harvard, had worked at major US Companies and who was keen to contribute his expertise and experience in Management to his country, specifically at GPL Mr Welch although he had no utility experience, seemed to be just what GPL needed. He could be a great addition to the Executive Management Level where there was a shortage of numbers and everyone seemed too much stuck in hands; on day to day work. I requested the Chairman to negotiate with Mr Welch with intent to hire him, seeking the best (lowest) acceptable compensation package.

The first appraisal of Mr Welch by the CEO was blistering. I ruled that it was too early to make such final determinations. Mr. Welch should have more time to catch his feet.

Sometime subsequently, Mr Welch in focusing on Loss Reduction had risen with the Human Resources Manager the propriety and procedures of a high level appointment in the Loss Reduction Division. Not obtaining a response to his satisfaction he sent me a copy of his letter which I requested the Board to investigate and report on. The Board apparently in a reflex, replied that the matter should not have been brought to my attention as yet. I replied that even so I wanted a response to the substance at issue .I learnt later that the appointment was reversed.

With this background, I can understand the strong feelings and passionate actions of this Deputy CEO as well as the CEO. It might have been too great a challenge for the Human Resources Manager to have arranged things to the sufficient satisfaction of the two parties and to have avoided that confrontation.

The Deputy CEO Admin

Early this year the Board sought my approval to raise the pay of the Deputy CEO Admin to that of the Deputy CEO Operations saying that there might have been a promise to do so. I pointed to the fact that by all accounts the Deputy CEO Operations would be let go at his next appraisal and what would we do then? Reduce the pay? Up to the time of the ending of my mandate I did not approve the increase.

Board Fees

Our Cabinet had been repeatedly resistant to generally raising Board Fees from where they were earlier pegged. Eventually, earlier this year, new increased levels were set, payable from the current date. The question of arrears was raised but to my knowledge remained open up to the time of the ending of my mandate.

In conculision

The supply of electricity in our country has long been full of many contentions and controversies. These tendencies became unconstrained in that long void after the declaration of the election results: my mandate being at an end in mid May; the new responsible Minister not being identified with certainty for some time; the Board paralysed; and the new Government saying that it had no confidence in the person who was Chairman and would let him go as soon as they were finished with him.

CEO Dindyal was ready to separate out on June 30th. I kept asking him to stay on for a smooth handover. I was not wrong in so asking.

I call on all who have been Chairmen and Board Members, CEO ‘S, Managers and indeed all employees of GPL during my mandate to celebrate the progress we achieved in the presence of all the contradictions, contentions and dissensions, within and without the utility.   Furthermore, we have invested so much in GPL we cannot but continue rooting for its continued improvement and success!

Yours truly,

Samuel A.A. Hinds

Former Prime

Minister responsible

for Energy

and Electricity

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Alleged illegal mining out of control in Marudi Mountains

Dear Editor,

Aishalton Village residents of the South Rupununi Region Nine are highly concerned over the actions of Carl Parker, the acting Regional Executive Officer (REO) of the region.

On Sunday August 16, Carl Parker is reported to have visited the Marudi Mountains and at a meeting with illegal gold miners he would have informed them not to heed the advice of authorities, but to continue their illegal gold mining activities. Currently, officials of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) are reported to be unable to perform their duties because they are said to be physically threatened by the illegal miners not to interfere with their “work”. It is not known if the GGMC officials at Lethem have reported this problem to the GGMC Commissioner Mr Rickford Vieira. The Commissioner needs to act very quickly.

It is believed that the Deputy Toshao Dorothy James is very silent on the illegal Gold mining activities at Marudi Mountains because she has a shop there that allegedly buys illegal gold which is alleged taken to Brazil. It is also said that illegal guns are in the possession of these miners. It is therefore important that the Public Security Minister, Hon. Khemraj Ramjattan dispatch a police team from Georgetown to conduct investigations. The situation at the Marudi Mountains is reported to have gone out of control where it is like a State within a State.

Sincerely,

Joseph Thomas

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There should be a Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO)

Dear Editor,

The sitting Government shouldn’t be investigating graft or theft by the former administration. This should be the responsibility of a Special Prosecutor Office (SPO) and a Public Watchdog.

The SPO should be created by constitutional decree. Moreover, the same should happen to subsequent amendments to strengthen the SPO in effectively carrying out its mandate of prosecuting former and current Government officials for graft and theft of public resources. The superintending prosecutor and the deputy would be elected figures. They would serve for a period of 15 years and should only be removed from office by special elections or gross misconduct as defined by the office charter. The SPO would have the power to issue warrants and subpoenas, including wire-tapping and temporary freezing of assets as well as travel restrictions. In addition, the SPO may involve other law enforcement agencies both national and international in its quest for justice. The SPO would have its own special agents to carry out arrests and investigations.

Funding for the SPO would be prioritised under the constitution. For this reason, politicians would not be able to manipulate the SPO for their own partisan agendas. The SPO would be audited annually by a reputable international law firm paid for by the USA, EU or UN.

The Public Watchdog would be setup to act as a conduit between citizen whistle blowers and the SPO. Staff of the watchdog would be under oath subject to a minimum of 25 years of jail time if they are found to have violated the secret act. The watchdog would be the initial point to collect information regarding suspected illegal activities by Government officials. Information would include documents, recordings videos (including smartphones), texts messages, emails etc. Whistle blowers will be able to supply information anonymously via web portal, telephone, letters. All information and recordings will be digitized, and copies stored off site. IT systems will store information in encrypted format and access will be password protected at minimum.

SPO should be a bipartisan office answering only to the people. Its primary responsibility should be to prosecute criminal wrong doings committed by Government officials past or present. Nevertheless, there must be checks and balances, i.e. staff of the SPO must be citizens and not above the law.

Monies recovered from successful prosecution should go back to the national treasury. Jail terms must be without probation.

Keith Bernard

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