October 23, 2014

The auspicious light of Diwali

Dear Editor,

Greetings of peace to my dear Guyanese brothers and sisters. In the Hindu philosophy the light is referred to as divine and connotes a powerful meaning. This universal divine light symbolises an abundance of joy, truth, wisdom, love, peace, purity and harmony.

The light connects our souls to our original selves taking us to the righteous path of the Supreme Light or energy. When this happens, negativity is destroyed, humanity evolves and positive strength is drawn. This entire process helps each individual’s life to blossom with ease unto a beautiful path.

The lighting of the diya is a magnificent experience. The whole act of this lighting is an expression of purity, joy and happiness and has great significance. For example, the clay diya represents the human body.

The pouring of oil or ghee signifies the pouring in of knowledge which includes spiritual knowledge. Placing the cotton wick into the diya relates to steadfastness or willpower. The flame signifies the soul and the entire act of lighting the diya depicts how every individual’s life is being illuminated in a virtuous way.

The Cosmic Goddess of divinity regarded as Mother Lakshmi is represented as the Goddess of Light. She is unique, beautiful and is always a donor or giver. This Divine Mother gives continuous blessings and sometimes she is celebrated in various forms like Mother Durga, Mother Lakshmi, Mother Saraswati or Mother Sita.

In festivals like Navratri and Diwali, the Cosmic Goddess is worshipped and in these seasons her luminous vibrations are at the highest peak. Many divine messages, pujas, satsanghs, chantings, meditation, singing of bhajans, and classical dances are being rendered.

These glorious opportunities come to rejuvenate, awaken, and purify our minds and heal our entire being and to remind us of our divine essence on earth.

The Goddess Mother Lakshmi is regarded as ‘mother’ because she is universal and is manifested as absolute energy. She is an embodiment of virtues and resides in every one of us. Our true Lakshmi is really a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of noble qualities and values. We are all part of the Goddess Mother Lakshmi.

Our journey on earth is a sacred one and we should try to enhance our true self with more of the Goddess Mother Lakshmi’s virtues. Every individual has the power to tap into their inner or true self to activate their natural existence.

There is a divine plan for all human beings and Goddess Mother Lakshmi is a powerful gateway to help us to realise our true purpose on Earth. The feminine vibrations are very much potent in the Cosmic Goddess.

Therefore, we females are all part of the Goddess Mother Lakshmi’s divinity. Females are powerful in a positive way. They are supposed to be divine, pure, tender, beautiful, compassionate, content and gentle.

Unfortunately, many females underestimate themselves and do not recognise their sacred qualities, spiritual power and the Lakshmi that resides in them. Also, a lot of our young girls do not value, honour or cherish their entirety. It is important for all females to awaken their Shakti (divine powers) or wisdom and consciousness within them.

Today many young females find themselves getting involved in alcohol, drugs, teenage pregnancy and other destructive activities. Before this situation gets worse in our Hindu community, I suggest that our Hindu leaders play more pivotal roles in moulding our young ladies to realise their ascension pathway.

I know that we have competent Hindu leaders and trust that this Diwali message will help them to become even better change agents within our Hindu realm.

It is very important to build that connection with the Cosmic Goddess energy so that the light within each of us can continue to be illuminated dissolving all vices in our lives. I call upon everyone to recognise the pure meaning of Diwali and celebrate it with peace, love and unity.

Happy Diwali!

Yours truly,

Sandra Lalita Tularam

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Kindle the light of love and hope

Dear Editor,

Diwali is a time for celebration, but it is also a time for reflection – a time when we must remember that there are always others less fortunate than ourselves. This holiday reminds us that we should commit ourselves to helping those in need.

On behalf of the Humanitarian Mission of New Jersey Arya Samaj Mandir Inc, and its Guyana and Canadian Chapters, I am pleased to extend “Shubh Deepavali” greeting to all my Hindu brothers and sisters in Guyana and across the globe on the occasion of this joyous occasion.

At this time we must renew <<our>> commitment to kindness, to think of all those less fortunate individuals, especially all those who are sick, invalid, lonely, abused, and our seniors.

A significant event in the Hindu religious calendar, Deepavali celebrates prosperity and shower <<its>> light over darkness. On this very special occasion that is cherished and loved by many people across the world, Diwali is now celebrated by all communities in Guyana and across the globe.

It is a beautiful recognition; that light is something which is universal and important and significant for every one of us. A single “diya” or lamp holds infinite beauty and hope from within us. We need to kindle the light of hope from within our personalities so we can brighten ourselves and the people around us.

 From time immemorial, Diwali has been a celebration of victory over evil or darkness and also symbolises the coming of a New Year. But if we think deeply, what is this darkness that we want to remove? How can we remove the darkness from within us? Where there is darkness, we need light and there is tremendous darkness with each one of us, so let us kindle the light from within us.

Light means to follow a virtuous path such that our thoughts are always pure; our words are sweet and peaceful and thus bring joy to the listeners. Also our actions are always beneficial first to ourselves and to others, as well as the environment. On this Diwali we need to pray and get rid of all the darkness from within our society and ourselves.

Darkness is when our thoughts are negative and when these thoughts are reflected in our words or actions, they bring hurt and sorrow to others at every step.

In reality, evil or darkness does not have an identity of its own – it exists due to a lack of goodness or light. Knowledge, power, and all that is pure are very real characteristics since they are part of us; perhaps hidden yet existing. The Festival of Lights is the fight against evil forces and the creation of peace and happiness.

As we celebrate Diwali, its message is a reminder that we are the “Deepak”, that inner being, to have that experience of enlightenment. When the light of the soul is lit, that fire brings light not only to my own life and my relationships, but also, to all the Deepaks that are in me and you.

When all the Deepaks and the souls are lit with love, truth, peace and respect, they create a rosary. In “Deepmala”, the rosary of Deepaks, the souls have been lit with the light of truth and we are able to bring optimism to ourselves, the people around us, and the whole world.

It is clear that the world contains a lot of darkness. Every one of us are instruments that bring that light into this world of ours, so that we are able to move forward to a world that’s truly loving, harmonising and bringing peace.

So instead of celebrating Diwali, let us experience Diwali in positive ways.

As we clean our homes, let us clean our minds and intellects too. As we wear new clothes, let us also get rid of our old, unwanted, and disturbing habits of anger, jealousy and worries. Let’s our new but original qualities of peace, love, bliss and happiness emerge.

Tonight, we will settle our old account books and begin new ones; simultaneously, let us settle our old karmic accounts, any unpleasant relationships and begin our relationships in a new, positive way. We are all aware of the pollution caused by firecrackers, but it is Diwali. We need to burn crackers, so why not burn all the crackers of evil characteristics within ourselves.

This burning will in fact purify our minds and the environment. As we exchange sweets, let us also exchange meaningful sweet words, good wishes, and blessings. If we really experience Diwali, we will succeed in invoking (calling upon) Goddess Lakshmi. Her name comes from the word, “laksh”, meaning “the goal”.

Experiencing Diwali will help us reach our ultimate goal of heavenly perfection – which Goddess Lakshmi stands for. Worshipping Goddess Lakshmi is good, but what is even better is making the wealth of spiritual knowledge and qualities, a part of our life. A divine character alone can attain prosperity and peace.

 In an attempt to be a unifying force, the devotions during Diwali will seek to encourage greater unity, amity and understanding. “On this auspicious occasion of Diwali, let us pray for our leaders that they will confront the many challenges that are currently abounding in the society.

And even as Diwali is celebrated, we pray that Maha Lakshmi brings the true wealth of peace, health, happiness, and love to all of God’s creation. May the spirit of Diwali extinguish any darkness in every human personality and illuminate their souls with the light of God.

Let us all burn like diyas – giving light and life to others, and then we can truly say that we are celebrating the “Festival of Light.”

Submitted by, 

Pt Suresh Sugrim

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Has Sharma Solomon fulfilled his commitment to APNU and Region 10 residents?

Dear Editor,

As a Lindener, Sharma Solomon, our so-called Regional Chairman has agitated me to respond to his missive published in the October 19 edition of another newspaper: “Baishanlin has failed to fully honour its commitments to agreements, residents and Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice)”.

My question to Mr Solomon is, where is the money you collected to aid the construction of a new school from businessmen, well-wishers and other corporate citizens and companies that were sympathetic to the children and people of Linden?

Why is Mr Solomon ranting and raving about accountability and commitment to the people of Linden and Region 10, when he himself is culpable of deceiving the people of Linden?

This is one of several other misdemeanours which have resulted in APNU distancing itself from Mr Solomon. He has lost the respect of his fellow Lindeners and residents of Region 10.

I wish to point out several inaccuracies in his letter which he continuously regurgitates such as: Baishanlin is violating Guyana’s laws and disrespecting and threatening our environment.

Also, he is peddling lies that Baishanlin is underpaying some of its employees. Who in their right senses in Guyana works for $500 per day? Maybe ‘junkies’ – residents of Region 10 are not ‘junkies’, Mr Solomon. It is said when you tell a lie often, others tend to believe; it’s true.

While Mr Solomon is Regional Chairman, his support and that of APNU continue to dwindle. As such, it is mindboggling on whose behalf he is speaking.

The people of Linden do not take Mr Solomon seriously anymore, particularly since he is holding office at a time when approximately G$12 million has disappeared. This is hideous, and he must be fully castigated for misleading the people of Linden and Region 10.

With regards,

Christine Cadogan 

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Diaspora, remittances and illegals in foreign countries

Dear Editor,

Guianese and later Guyanese started to leave the country before independence. They left in droves for the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, and during the racial clashes in the mid 1960s, more and more started to leave for all parts of the world for a better way of life.

However, the consolation is that most of them are doing extremely well in their professions and businesses. Some excelled and made Guyana proud. What is more important is that a large number of members of the diaspora assist their friends and relatives back home and hundreds send remittances on a fairly regular basis.

While most of them are in overseas countries legally, there are tens of thousands who are illegal in several countries mainly the United States, Canada and a few Caribbean countries.

The latest report from Port of Spain is that a total of 110,012 illegals are in that oil-rich country. Incidentally, the illegals comprise one-tenth of the total population and as a result the Ministry of National Security is taking drastic action to deport and even to prosecute some of them.

Guyana has the largest number – 25,884, followed by Jamaica with 19,500.

The illegals in Trinidad and Tobago are from 16 countries,  mainly from six Caricom countries, as well as from Venezuela – 10,570, and nearly 10,000 from St Vincent and the Grenadines; Colombia – 6388 and as far as Nigeria and Bangladesh.

It might be surprising to the readers that as many as 7169 illegals are from Barbados and 4391 from St Lucia.

Although Guyana topped the list of illegals in Trinidad for the country with most illegals; there are several thousands of illegals including Brazilians, Chinese, Colombians, and Caribbean nationals who are in the Cooperative Republic.

It is believed that the immigration authorities in Guyana are not as vigilant and harsh as their counterparts in other countries especially the United States, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

The Treaty of Chaguaramas makes provision for freedom of movement in the Caribbean Community, but the Treaty is not always being adhered to by a few countries especially Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Antigua and Barbados.

Jamaica has recently been criticised for deporting Abu Bakr, a Muslim from Port of Spain who went to Kingston to attend the 19th anniversary celebration of the Million Man March which was attended by Louis Farrakhan and other black leaders.

The Jamaican immigration authorities said that Bakr was sent back to Port of Spain in a chartered jet in the interest of public safety.  Bakr plotted and tried to overthrow the Trinidad and Tobago Government in a coup in the Parliament Chamber more than two decades ago.

Gerald Pereira, Chairperson of the Black Consciousness Movement in Guyana, was also denied entry to Jamaica. Pereira lived in Libya for many years and served in the Green March, an International Battalion for the defence of the Libyan Revolution.

People tend to move from country to country to seek a better way of life for their families.

Sincerely,

Oscar Ramjeet

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Ramjattan, Nagamootoo owe Hindus an apology

Dear Editor,

I write to condemn the AFC for its religious insensitivity in calling for the convening of Parliament on the eve of Diwali, the most significant celebration for Hindus in Guyana and one in which almost every Guyanese enjoys through its participation in the motorcades, concerts and meals (delicacies).

Hindus in Guyana were fuming with rage that my very good friends Moses Nagamootoo, Khemraj Ramjattan and Veerasammy Ramayya and other MPs and executives of AFC have the audacity to sign on to the party’s demand that Parliament meet on the eve of Diwali.

At the West Coast motorcade and various other Diwali-related events where I was present and in the mandirs on Sunday morning, it was a subject of discussion – like myself, they cannot understand how the AFC, a party that should have been different from the others, could display such gross disrespect for Hindus on insisting that Parliament meet on October 22 when Hindus are in the midst of celebrating their festival, which is followed by a public holiday in recognition of the importance of the religious event.

Worse yet, they feel Moses, Khemraj, Ramayya, all of whom come from Hindu families, and have Hindu neighbours, should know better to seek the convening of Parliament on such an auspicious occasion for Hindus.

These gentlemen are my friends, but I cannot let them off the hook by not criticising their insensitivity towards Hindus.  It shows they don’t even know their own culture. How could these men allow themselves to be led astray to disrespect the entire Hindu population?

Here it is that non-Hindus and non-Indians could appreciate Diwali, but the AFC MPs can’t show any respect for the festival. Openness and tolerance of other faiths must begin at the very top of any organisation.

When Hindus themselves don’t understand their practices and traditions, they open themselves to humiliation and become the laughing stock of others. Hindus, in fact all Guyanese, are disappointed in the AFC for its religious insensitivity. A public apology is needed.

Diwali is an eternally sacred Hindu event of great spiritual significance in the Rig Vedic Adivasi Puranic culture of Hinduism and Hindus. The extraordinary secular features of public displays of pomp and splendour should not detract from the essential protocols of devotion and worship and respect for those who do.

Recognition of the Shakti (invulnerable divine powers) of Maha Lakshmi Devi, the Divine Mother, is of paramount importance to Hindus in Guyana.

I expect my friend Moses, for whom I have great regard and consistently extolled his virtues, and, by extension, the AFC to be mindful of Diwali being a national festival with spiritual, religious and temporal features in respect of which any form of disrespect or violation will redound to the discredit of the country and the nation. DIWALI is a legacy of our illustrious indentured immigrant ancestors and should be seen and duly respected as such.

Calling for reconvening Parliament on Diwali Eve is very disrespectful – it is no different than reconvening Parliament on Christmas Eve or the eve of Eid.

Diwali is not a one-day event. It is observed over a five-day period and it really comes to an end on the sixth day with Goberdhan puja, the day after official observance of Diwali. It is for this reason that Parliament goes into recess in many societies (India, Mauritius, Fiji, Natal, Durban, Guadeloupe, etc) with a large number of Hindus – they don’t wish to appear insensitive to Hindus.

Even in the US, Congress is in recess as in Canada and Britain. In neighbouring Trinidad and Suriname, Parliament has been in recess for the festival. But in Guyana, it appears it is okay for the AFC to disrespect Hindus.

It is also noted that while Diwali is officially celebrated as a holiday on October 22, the day before and after Diwali are very auspicious in which all Hindus engage in fasting and performing pujas.

Also, this year, because of the eclipse and the position of the moon, some experts have claimed that Diwali is on October 22 while others claim it is on the 23th.  Because of the interpretation, and to please Goddess Lakshmi, many Hindus are observing the festival with celebrations on both nights and some mandirs in New York are having special pujas on both evenings.

At any rate, it has been the custom in Guyana that diyas are lit in front of homes of Hindus on the eve of Diwali and business close up early on that day to facilitate rituals.

Parliamentary business cannot and should not be conducted on that day as it is inauspicious for Hindus – Hindus close out business on that day for the old year in the Hindu calendar; they don’t engage in new business.

AFC should seriously think of attending cultural sensitivity courses and to learn about the religious practices of the various faiths in Guyana. The party leadership needs training in religious sensitivity. They have to be trained to follow the practices of peers in India, Durban, Mauritius, Fiji, Guadeloupe, St Lucia, etc, all of which show their respect for the Indian population.

 

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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GRA has unenviable task of ensuring Govt gets fair share of taxes

Dear Editor,

Mr Khurshid Sattaur is a man of moral uprightness and one to be emulated. A fearless, no-nonsense public servant who is doing an excellent job in a hostile and unfriendly atmosphere.

As head of the Guyana Revenue Authority, he is given the unenviable task of ensuring that our country gets its fair share of taxes. Simply put, he is in a crucial position, a make or break situation if you please – the collection of revenue for the smooth running of the state we call Guyana.

For us to succeed as a nation, the all-important dollar – millions of it – must be collected in a timely and honest manner. This means that his success is our success and conversely, his failure will automatically be our failure.

In this regard, all illegal and unsavoury practices to undermine the rights of the people to earn their fair share of taxes is a criminal act and should be condemned for all its worth. At this juncture of our development, we can ill afford the likes of those who intentionally rob us.

Tax cheats ought to be exposed and brought before the courts for non-payment of their dues. They have to pay what they owe, not Khurshid Sattaur, but they owe the people of Guyana.

This is why the Commissioner General would remain my mentor and my hero. I join with the countless number of persons in support of your good work. We salute your most valuable contribution to this nation.

Yours truly,

Neil Adams

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No-win situation for all parties

Dear Editor,

One of my lasting memories of Cheddi was his love for people and his constant desire to meet, chat and discuss matters which were very important to them – be it personal or community-related, whether he was in Opposition or the Executive President of Guyana.

Today, we are witnessing a different breed of his students and party comrades. In this context, Cheddi, therefore, had set aside one day in each month in order to meet the public at Freedom House.

Those of us who knew him and who worked with him would know he always prepared for a very long and hard day. He would work well into the following day, until the last person was seen and their problems discussed and giving the necessary instructions to those Ministers who were assigned to work with him on that day.

Sometimes he used to remain in the Office of the President, busy getting matters done. At the end of the exercise, an assessment of the day’s work would be prepared by all of his Ministers and the actions taken, together with the notes for future reference.

People came from all walks of life and from all over the country, both coast and hinterland areas. Today, if you have an appointment with a Minister, you cannot find him in office. The problems raised with Dr Jagan were many and varied.

People with problems that could not be resolved at the local level looked to Cheddi for the necessary representation. He made sure that the matters raised and discussed were dealt with promptly and the decisions made and passed expeditiously.

Cheddi was a serious President, regardless of your position – be it Office Assistant, Minister or General Secretary, you knew you had to perform. He was a source of inspiration.

He would tell us where there is a problem, there is a solution. Smilingly, he said that your success served to prove whether you had leadership potential and abilities. There was no doubt that he was by far the most popular PPP politician among the party’s grassroots supporters.

He is known to have got the highest number of votes at each PPP Congress.

In the meantime, the PPP is in crisis. Many observers believe that the party will need the most intelligent, able and acceptable candidate to lead the PPP at this time. The reality is that rough times are ahead. This election could lead to a no-win situation.

Yours faithfully,

Mohamed Khan

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Deepavali – origin, significance and message

Dear Editor,

Deepavali – the most vibrant, colourful and grand festival of the Hindus literally means ‘array of lights’.

As the name suggests, it is a festival of lamps (deep means oil burning lamp) and falls during autumn, in the second half of Karthik month (October-November) around the new moon night and the celebrations actually spread over five days.

People start preparing many weeks in advance; by renovating or at least by whitewashing/painting their homes, making major purchases (a car, a new TV, jewellery for the women folk or any other major expenditure), purchasing new clothes for all family members, decorating their homes, doing shopping for everything that adds to the vibrancy and praying for the well-being of their family and the world.

Many beliefs surround the origin of the festival; the celebration dates back to 50-100 AD. According to one belief, it was an after-the-harvest festival to thank the deities for the bountiful harvest and prosperity bestowed upon them all through the year.

Another belief ascribes the festival to commemorate the return of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, one of the trinity, to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile in the forests and after winning over the Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, in a fierce combat, all of which is described in the great epic, the Ramayana.

That’s the day of actual Deepavali, the third day when homes are lit up and courtyards are decorated with colours and flowers. Several oil lamps are lit and firecrackers burnt to celebrate the victory of good over evil, darkness over light, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

Another belief associates the festival with Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, the deity personifying well-being and prosperity, who appeared during ‘Samudramanthan’ – churning of the Ocean by the Devas and Asuras; hence, the day is celebrated as ‘Danteras’. People shop to acquire valuables and invest in property on the auspicious day, believing in a good return for the same.

Another belief associates with the day of the vanquishing of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna and his wife Sathyabhama on naraka-chaturdasi, the 14th day of the second quarter, celebrated as the second day.

The next day after Deepavali, Padwa commemorates the compassionate deed of Lord Krishna who saved the people of Brindavan from Lord Indra’s (the God of Rain) curse to bring doom to them by flooding the area with a deluge.

The young Lord Krishna lifted the big Govardhan Mountain full of greenery by his little finger, thereby creating a shelter under it. This day is deemed as Padwa when loads of different food items prepared in homes are stacked as a mountain and offered as thanks-giving to the Lord; also husbands and wives gift and recognise each other’s contribution on the day.

The fifth day is Bhai-dooj when brothers and sisters visit each other, wish and give gifts to each other to show mutual affection and appreciation.

Deepavali is enthusiastically celebrated in 13 countries of the world and is a holiday in most of these countries. Melas or big community gatherings are organised with multiple activities of fun and frolic for all ages. It is lights and more lights everywhere, sparklers and pyrotechnics included wherever feasible.

In India, different states celebrate the festival in slightly different ways – Ram Lila in the North, birthday of Lord Mahaveer for the Jains, Sikhs Guru’s appearance day, Kali puja in Bengal and Ganesh-Lakshmi puja in Maharashtra and Gujarat, as the New Year commences for them on Deepavali Day.

In the South, people wake up before dawn and take a traditional oil bath, (considered equivalent to a dip in the holy Ganga River), wear new dresses, jewellery and pray to God. Adults and children alike begin their day lighting up many different kinds of fire crackers and wishing friends and relatives a happy and prosperous Deepavali.

Adults exchange sweets and savouries with friends and relatives, pray and visit temples, perform Lakshmi-Kubera puja… it is the time for joy and cheer, camaraderie all around, time to renew relationships and strengthen bonds. Businesses start their new year of accounting on the day after a fervent Puja – praying to Goddess Lakshmi Devi for all success in their endeavours for the ensuing year.

New inventory is acquired and an assessment of the previous year’s work is also done at this time. The festival symbolises hope, positive energy and bright vibrations to lead life on to greater ideals.

Deepavali philosophically also signifies the enlightenment within the Divine inner light that glorifies the power of the Soul and the Infinite imminent and transcendent Reality. It reminds the world/societies to move away from Adharma – eschew immorality, lead life into the Righteous Path, to follow the perfect code of conduct and relate to the Supreme Being.

As an ending note, here’s the message for the World from the big festival of lights – May this Diwali purge your heart, mind, and soul from hate, malice, anger and keep your person free of illness.

May it open your hearts and minds towards other fellow beings, the underprivileged and all the animals, birds and other living things that share this world with us.

May the festival brighten every life and mark the advent of a new era of Fulfilment and Perfection, bring Peace, Salvation and true Freedom to one and all.

Many wishes for a very happy and prosperous life.

 

Submitted by,

Mekala Ravishankar

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Interpretation of Standing Order No 8(2)

Dear Editor,

On October 14, I was asked by Speaker Trotman whether he has the power, in accordance with the Standing Orders, to convene the next sitting of the National Assembly.

I advised the Speaker that, in my opinion, the answer is no and that he can only fix a date for a sitting when the Assembly is adjourned to a specified date. Standing Order No 8(2) is clear.

If a date was fixed at the last sitting before the Parliamentary recess, only then Mr Trotman could have fixed a date for the next sitting.

When matters are not provided for in our rules, we refer to practice and precedents. The practice is that sittings are requested by the Government.

In the Parliament of Guyana we have two precedents, one involving Frank A Narain, former Clerk of the National Assembly, and the other involving Elwyn Viapree, former Clerk of the Legislature.

In Mr Viapree’s case, on June 8, 1963, he was given the following instructions by Speaker Rahman B Gajraj:

“Mr Clerk, the business of the Legislative Assembly must proceed. It was because I was of the impression that several matters were ripe for putting before the Assembly that I wrote you on June 5 asking for the list.

“This reached me by my own messenger only at about 16:00h yesterday – too late for these instructions to be prepared before today, which is a Public Holiday. As a result, this will be sent to you on Monday morning, June 10.

“In accordance with SO 6(6), please give notice to Members in good standing (NOT those under suspension) that there will be a meeting of the Assembly on June 12, 1963. Prepare Notice Paper and let it be delivered to Members (at least those in the urban area) by Monday afternoon.”

 

Rahman B Gajraj

Speaker

Mr Viapree referred the instruction of the Speaker to the then Attorney General Mr Fenton Ramsahoye for advice as follows:

“Hon AG, I shall be grateful for your advice with reference to 1 and 3.

“I do not share His Honour’s view that notice can be given to Members ‘that there will be a meeting of the Assembly on June 12’.

“I am of the opinion that this is a matter for the Government to decide, that is, the date and time of the next sitting.”

 

E V Viapree

Clerk of the Legislature

Mr Fenton Ramsahoye, then Attorney General, gave the following advice to the Clerk of the Legislature:

“Clerk of the Legislature, under SO 1(9) (to which however, there was no reference in the Assembly), the Speaker could suspend the sitting for a time to be named by him. Alternatively, he could adjourn the Assembly without question put, but in the latter case the adjournment, unlike the suspension, is an adjournment simplicitor and not for a time to be named by the Speaker.

“Even, therefore, if it was competent for the Speaker to adjourn to a date to be notified’ (as he did), this formula did not vest him with the competence to notify the date, and the Clerk of the Legislature is under no duty to comply with the Speaker’s direction in that behalf.

“The competence in this matter resides where it normally rests, namely, with the Government of British Guiana.”

 

Fenton Ramsahoye

Attorney General

The second precedent occurred in 1972. On May 12, 1972, Dr Cheddi Jagan, Opposition Leader, wrote the Deputy Speaker, Derek Jagan, who was Acting Speaker in the absence of Speaker Frank Narine, who was out of the jurisdiction.

The following is a copy of Dr Jagan’s letter dated May 12, 1972 to the acting Speaker:

“Sir, there is widespread and growing concern in Guyana about the flood situation, so much as that many knowledgeable people expect that there may be a food shortage as a result.

“There is little doubt that the flooding has already assumed the proportions of a national disaster, with many thousands of acres of crops of every kind completely lost, and irreplaceable for many months. There will be a further rise in prices when shortages begin to be felt.

“In the circumstances, I feel that there should be a national effort towards overcoming the difficulties that have arisen, and that it would be in the best interest of the people for the National Assembly to discuss the situation.

“In view of the fact that the Speaker is out of the country, I am requesting that you take steps to convene Parliament as early as possible.”

 

Yours sincerely,

Cheddi Jagan

The Deputy Speaker (Acting Speaker), thereafter, wrote the Clerk the following letter on May 16, 1972:

“Dear Mr Narain, further to our conversation yesterday on the telephone, enclosed please find the letter which was sent to me by Dr Jagan, Leader of the Opposition, calling for a meeting of Parliament to discuss the flood situation. Since the receipt of this letter I have given this matter very serious consideration.

“There seems to be no doubt that as a result of the flooding a number of persons have been affected and thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed. The Government itself has regarded the situation very serious and committees have been appointed to collect money, etc and/or to distribute assistance to the affected persons.

“In my view, it is in the public interest that Parliament should meet to discuss the matter which I think is of urgent public importance.

“In the premises, please summon a meeting of Parliament on May 22, 1972, at 14.00h.”

 

Yours sincerely,

D C Jagan

The Clerk of the National Assembly thereafter, wrote the Deputy Speaker (Acting Speaker) the following letter on May 18, 1972:

“Dear Mr Jagan, I hereby acknowledge receipt of you letter dated May 16, 1972, in which you requested me to summon a meeting of Parliament for May 22, 1972, at 14:00h.

“I wish most respectfully to advise you of the provisions of the Standing Orders which deal with Sittings of the National Assembly. Paragraph (2) of the Standing Order No 8 states as follows:”

‘If, during an adjournment of the Assembly, it is represented to the Speaker by the Government, or the Speaker is of the opinion that the public interest requires that the Assembly should meet on a day earlier than that to which it stands adjourned, the Speaker may give notice accordingly and the Assembly shall meet at the time stated in such notice. The Clerk shall as soon as possible inform each Member in writing, or if necessary by telegram of any such earlier meeting.’

“From this Standing Order, it will be seen that the extent of the Speaker’s power in the summoning of the National Assembly is limited, and although:

(i) It may be represented to the Speaker by the Government, or

(ii) The Speaker may be of the opinion that the Assembly should meet.

“Nevertheless, the Speaker can give notice for the Assembly to meet only when the Assembly stands adjourned to a specified date, and not when it is adjourned sine die.

“The Law Officers had confirmed the above interpretation of the Standing Orders and this was some time ago conveyed to the Leader of the Opposition by His Honour the Speaker.

“When the Assembly last met on the April 13, 1972, it was, on completion of its business, on a motion by the Minister of Housing and Reconstruction (Leader of the House), adjourned sine die and not to a specified date.

“In view of the above, I respectfully advise that I am not of the opinion that you are empowered to give notice for the Assembly to meet on May 22, 1972.”

 

Yours sincerely,

Frank Narain

It should be noted that there has been no significant changes to SO 8(2) over the years. In view of the foregoing, I stand by my interpretation of SO 8(2). Mr Frank Narain, former Clerk of the National Assembly, shares my opinion.

I also take this opportunity to state that Sir Michael Davies, Commonwealth Senior Parliamentary Staff Advisor to the National Assembly of Guyana, made the following statement in his February 18, 2005 Needs Assessment of the Guyana National Assembly:

“Standing Orders are for Clerks, not for Members. One reason Clerks are employed is to provide advice to Members on the Standing Orders and on the procedure of an Assembly.”

In closing, I wish to quote from a report dated July 2013 by Mr Frank Narain on this matter:

“Did the National Assembly awake and take steps to simplify or clarify the procedures on this matter to avoid a further recurrence? I do not think that it did. A poor Clerk will continue to be involved.

“A Speaker will continue to feel that he has the power to call Parliament, if he wants the sitting.

“The present Opposition will feel that with its one-member majority, it has the power. Who really has the power under the Standing Orders? Who is the poor Clerk to take instructions from? Will members have to run to the Chief Justice for his opinion?

“MPs, please do not continue to involve and suffer my successor. Do something about this matter now. NOW! Something that will suit you if you become the Government and something that will also suit you if you become the Opposition.

“Is this not possible? Surely it is?”

 

F A Narain, CCH

Former Clerk of the National Assembly

Yours sincerely,

S E Isaacs

Clerk of the National Assembly

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So what if log exports double in 2014?

Dear Editor,

Once again I noticed the embattled Kaieteur News is in its usual ‘rumour mill’ mode to cast aspersions and paint a picture of rampant corruption and malpractice as was attempted in its October 19 edition with a prominent front page headline, “Log export doubles in 2014”.

As if this is the end of the world.  I have been engaged in the forestry sector for a number of years and have heard numerous calls from the Guyana Forestry Commission encouraging companies to increase their production as several companies are harvesting far below the allowable cut which is the threshold to ensure the sustainable exploitation of Guyana’s forest resources.

With this in mind, I am confident that if not all, some companies are still harvesting way below the allowable cut.  Most naturally, if there is an increase in the production of logs, there will be an increase in log exports and other value added production as well, which I am sure will be reflected in the Forest Product Development and Marketing Council’s year-end report.

While Kaieteur News failed to highlight any significant malpractices or breaches resulting from the increase in log exports, those in the sector have welcomed this bit of news which will only serve to further increase the demand and prices for Guyana’s logs.

This will continue to produce further export earnings contributing to foreign exchange and development of Guyana as a whole.

Further, over the past few years, there has been much public debate over the exports of logs. However, the outcomes from those stakeholders’ meetings have remained unchanged, as the export of logs will continue but with a phased increase in royalties and taxes on exported logs. Stakeholders are against the ban on the log trade.

Additionally, the relevant agencies have maintained that deforestation is kept within the allowed margin. In fact, only recently it was announced that deforestation rates have dropped from 0.079 per cent as the annual rate for 2012, to 0.068 per cent as the reported rate for 2013.

Meanwhile, it is evident that Kaieteur News needs to distract the public from its own misdemeanour by once again misrepresenting the forest sector and efforts accrued to strengthen its sustainable exploitation and management.

Sincerely,

Samuel Singh

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