September 21, 2014

The Scottish vote and Guyana

Dear Editor,

As I wrote in an earlier piece, I expected the Scottish people to reject independence from the UK and so they did – 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

As I penned, voting to sever ties from the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be like cutting one’s nose to spoil one’s face – there is not much economic gain from such an act.

In fact, it probably would have led to a slide in the standard of living, as Scotland does not have enough resources to sustain independence (border security, free education, welfare, etc) and improve its quality of life.

Nevertheless, the people of Scotland had/have a right to a vote to determine their status and they exercised it wisely rejecting independence. Other countries, especially Guyana and others in the Caribbean should also give their people the right to a referendum on critical matters, especially on how they should be governed.

In Scotland, polls predicted a close contest and just before the vote, the yes was in the lead. But the undecided and those who changed their minds tipped the scale in favour of no. It was a close vote demonstrating the level of disenchantment with London exercising almost total control over the affairs of its territories similar to what obtains in Guyana and around the Region.

Caribbean Governments don’t like to devolve power to its regions or Local

Governments. Hubristic leaders fear the loss of control should they empower people and yet the people tell them they want to exercise control over their own lives and not be told by Central Government what to do.

On this note, the federalist system, as is going to be put in place for Scotland and the other British territories, should be considered for Guyana to devolve power away from Georgetown that has been neglecting the outer areas.

The three major political parties in Guyana should consider giving the people the vote to choose the kind of Constitution they want, including whether they want a federalist structure with a division of powers as exist in the US.

On breaking ties from a major wealthy country as was involved the Scotland vote, the UK is a global power that influences economic, political and social affairs around the world.

Why would a territory want to sever ties with it when you stand to lose that status? It was a major reason why people rejected independence. The same holds true for France and Holland – these are global players with huge clout in international affairs and providing protection to mini-territories (like Martinique, French Guiana, St Eustatius, etc) in the Pacific and or in the Caribbean.

Besides, they also give a lot of handouts to the territories and treat their people as full citizens with a European passport.

Why would any of these colonies want to vote to cut off one’s own benefits? That is why they also reject independence. I should note that recently, Aruba and Curaçao agreed to sever ties from one another because each saw the other as a burden and feel they don’t get enough of the revenues they provide to the Central Government. They feel they would be better off separately than as a union.

I was in Aruba last week. They told me in no uncertain terms they don’t want independence. St Maarten also wanted to control its own affairs rather than be tied with the other poorer territories. Holland granted them their wish after a vote, while they retain their strong ties with Amsterdam.

This is quite different from breaking from Holland. The important point is the people got the right to vote on their status and the kind of Government they should have.

When will the Guyana Government give its people a vote on the kind of Government they should have?

The Scottish vote should be a wake-up call to arrogant politicians (from central governments) that the people want greater control over their own affairs at the local level and they should decentralise governance rather than hog all the powers for themselves.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

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Peeping Tom, you should either reveal yourself or remain silent!

Dear Editor,

I have read with utter disgust the self-serving article headlined “Abuse of office”, written by a self-appointed anonymous crusader and protector of public morals Mr Peeping Tom. This however is an absurd contradiction, for how can one begin to preach about upright behaviour and moral rectitude when such a person hides behind a pen name.

How can someone point fingers at others while masking himself in a cloak of anonymity, appointing himself a public prosecutor and pronouncing on the guilt of public officers whom he feels, disclosed information pertaining to the acts of skullduggery of his paymaster.

This itself calls into question the benefits Mr Peeping Tom is receiving and are these benefits being taxed and reported under a pen name too. I call upon the Commissioner General (since this so called “masked defender of public morals”, is without a doubt accusing him of leaking information), to have this daily columnist reveal himself to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and have his Income Tax returns filed under his true identity.

If he fails to do so, he should be hauled before the Parliamentary Committee as he seems to be in possession of quite a lot of information ?as to who could have been the perpetrators of such a grave misdemeanour.

It’s unfortunate that this champion of “high moral values” has not yet pronounced whether it is an act of great deception to deliberately mask, like he does his identity, the origin of imports to cheat the poor people of this country out of their entitlement to receive state benefits, or whether it is an act of cowardice, disgust and depravity to hide behind two pensioners, stealing their benefits and in so doing robbing the State coffers of over $100 million in taxes.

Where other than in Guyana would someone shamelessly defend such a dastardly and criminal act in preference to having the exposer be disciplined for such exposures? By analogy, is the Peeping Tom saying that if someone were to capture on camera the commission of an act of murder being committed without the consent of the person committing the act, that such an act of filming is illegal and by extension evidence cannot be used to successfully prosecute the offender?

Moreover, how can the Peeping Tom be so sure that the information came from the GRA in the first place? From what I am told, the remigrants first submitted documents to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Furthermore, the Auditor General is engaged in an audit of the documents of all remigrants for the past seven years.

Didn’t the GRA write the Trinidad authorities in the matter of using a false label on imports criminally used to disguise the true origin of the imports of Glenn Lall’s newspaper outfit? All of these suggest that the information could have emanated from many sources in possession of the evidence of tax frauds.

Lall and his wife should thank their lucky stars they are not residing in the United States of America as such offences, if found guilty, are subject to mandatory jail terms.

Every day we are witnessing the public disclosure of the salary and benefits of both the sitting and the former Presidents in no lesser a place than the Parliament. These are the most important persons in the country by any stretch of the imagination.

Therefore what is the big deal with putting in the public domain the acts of deception of someone who appointed himself to defend acts of wrong doing by others? This is not a matter for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and other service committees of the Parliament to determine.

The Guyanese public awaits the revelation of your identity and more unmasking of persons who hold themselves out to stand on high moral grounds. You need to know that the same Parliament is being financed by taxpayers, which is the same cause you Mr Peeping Tom, are attempting to subvert.

Yours truly,

Balram Singh

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Myths, misinformation that shape attitudes towards suicide

Dear Editor,

In the three months since The Caribbean Voice launched Arise, its five-year suicide prevention campaign, we have been appalled by the biases, prejudices, misinformation and disinformation that character attitudes towards suicide. In fact we have arrived at the distinct understanding that suicide prevention can only be effective when attitudes become more enlightened and sympathetic.

When a post was placed on a Facebook page requesting contacts to help organise the Black Bush Polder outreach, one commentator wrote, “All the names I want to give you have all committed suicide.”

And when his comment was pointed out to be in bad taste, he responded that he was not joking but trying to emphasise the magnitude of the problem. This lack of sensitivity is perhaps the number one misguided attitude.

And based on feedback, it seems that sensitivity creeps in only when someone has been personally affected by suicide. Please people, suicide is a national tragedy and all Guyanese ought to be sensitive to this issue.

Also we receive a lot of comments to do with God, religion and temples. Yes faith-based counsellors and individuals with deep religious convictions do believe that faith in God can help. In fact, one commentator posted, “Stop begging and send them to church to pray to God.”

So yes, we are certain that some suicidal individuals might have been brought out of that mindset by faith-based counselling. But faith-based counselling does not work with all, is not available to all and faith-based leaders are not generally equipped for clinical counselling.

Besides, people who deeply believe in God still commit suicide. So while we endorse faith-based counselling as a strategy that may work for some, we believe that there must be a range of strategies and access so all can be reached.

Furthermore, a number of individuals also simply dismiss suicide as the victim’s personal choice and business and feel there is no need to get involved in suicide prevention since nothing can really be done. Yet there is a tremendous body of literature and shared experiences that prove that something can indeed be done and that suicide is preventable.

So as we move forward, it becomes important to dispel some of the prevailing myths and misinformation about suicide. For too long suicide and factors the drive this crisis have been viewed as ‘taboo’ and not an appropriate topic to be discussed in public. That taboo must now be laid to rest.

Myth #1: People who commit suicide want to die.

Fact: Suicide is seen as a way to end the pain. A suicidal person does not see any other option but those who have survived attempted suicide say they never wanted to die.

Myth #2: People, who talk about killing themselves, are just looking for attention and won’t do it.

Fact: If someone is talking about suicide, regardless of how it is expressed, it must be taken seriously. That person is in pain and crying out for help. If you’re in doubt, keep talking to the person and listen carefully. Unless this is done, that person could end up carrying out the threat.

Myth #3: If people are determined to kill themselves, then nothing is going to stop them.

Fact: Various studies indicate that showing someone you care and giving that person just five minutes of your time has proven to reduce suicide attempts. A person’s urge to kill him/herself, regardless of the reason, is only temporarily. A study of those who survived the jump from the Golden Gate Bridge stated they would not have jumped if someone had just spoken or even smiled at them during their period of crisis.

Myth #4: People who commit suicide never tell or show any signs of distress.

Fact: In various studies it was noted that up to 80 per cent of victims leave clues, either verbally or through their change in behaviours. That is why, it is important to learn about and become familiar with the warning signs.

Myth #5: Discussing suicide with someone will put the idea in his or her head.

Fact: Talking about suicide lets the person knows you care and that he/she is not alone. It gives a sense of relief and promotes a greater chance that the person will unburden himself/herself.

Myth #6: Only Indo-Guyanese commit suicide.

Fact: Guyanese of all ethnic backgrounds commits suicide.

Myth #7: Only the poor commit suicide.

Fact: Suicide does not discriminate and it can affect the lives of anyone regardless of social status or financial background.

Myth #8: Telling someone to cheer up when he/she is depressed will stop him/her from acting crazy.

Fact: Telling someone to cheer up will cause more distress because it will appear as if that person’s feelings do not matter and the person is not being taken seriously.

Myth #9: People commit suicide on impulse or a whim.

Fact: People do not commit suicide on an impulse. Those who end their lives have thought about it over and over in their mind; it’s this process that allows them to carry out the act.

Myth #10: Only cowards commit suicide.

Fact: It’s not a question or being a coward or being brave. The reality is that it is difficult to imagine the agony someone goes through before committing or attempting suicide.

Myth #11: If you go to church you will not commit suicide.

Fact: Regular church attendance, by itself has not stopped individuals from committing suicide. And while belief and faith-based counselling may help some it takes more than that to help others.

Myth #12: Only people who drink commit suicide.

Fact: Alcoholism or being under the influence of alcohol is not a reason for suicide, but may provide Dutch courage to the already suicidal.

In the final analysis please remember that “Suicide Prevention is Everybody’s Business” and if each of us plays a part, we can save lives and enable potential to flower.

Also do remember that suicide is never an answer, no matter what the problem or issue is; suicide simply leaves too many unanswered questions. Finally, suicide does not eradicate pain; it leaves behind a circle of agony that encircles those left behind.

Sincerely,

Norkah Carter

Devv-Ramdas Daniel

Judy Deveaux

Annan Boodram

Bibi Ahamad

Collis Nicholson

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Improving literacy

The recent announcement by Education Minister Priya Manickchand that only 32 per cent of pupils at the early grades can read speaks to a literacy predicament at the primary level-one that the Education Ministry promised to address through a series of measures.

The Education Minister must be commended for being open about the severe shortcomings at primary schools, which can measurably improve with more parental and community involvement, but it perhaps points inescapably to the poor performance of teachers at that level. And undoubtedly, even though the five-year plan outlined by the Minister to address the problem, which inter alia includes remediation classes, training of teachers to deliver literacy programmes, provision of support materials, monitoring and evaluation of teachers and the enlistment of faith-based and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the drive, the goal of literacy by Grade Four seems some distance away.

In fact, some of these measures are already in place in the school system and need strengthening, but to a large extent, the gamut of actions outlined by the Minister is now entirely new to the Ministry. From the face of it, the measures listed by the Minister appear to be similar to those contained in the Basic Education Access Management Programme, which ended some years ago.

That multimillion-dollar programme sought to accomplish what the Minister is now trying to achieve. And while the recruitment of NGOs and faith-based organisations in tackling the literacy problem is commendable, it is important that the Ministry looks more inward in addressing the crisis in primary schools.

About a decade ago, when the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) was implemented, it featured three vital components to address pupils’ poor performance in literacy and numeracy. The assessment was designed in such a manner that at Grade Two, learners are schooled in the basics of phonics and reading, their deficiencies corrected in Grade Three and by Grade Four they should be able to read.

This regimen is well supported by the Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) programme, utalising an edutainment approach to learning. Apparently, many teachers at these grades have not been following this diagnostic approach to address the deficiencies in all their charges, which most likely is the primary reason for learners being unable to read at Grade Four and the poor performance in English at the NGSA.

Encouragingly, under the new five-year literacy plan, mention was made of monitoring of teachers and action against those who are negligent, but this is only part of the problem.

To achieve the goal of pupils being able to read by Grade Four would also require school managers sticking to established systems in place, notably, the use of the National Grade Two and Grade Four assessments as vital tools to detect and correct learners’ weaknesses.

If this is done, undoubtedly, by the time the students reach Grade Six they would have adequately mastered basic concepts of literacy and numeracy. Since the goal is to get pupils to read by Grade Four, it would be wise for the Ministry to introduce a reward system so as to motivate pupils to do well and encourage greater parental involvement in their children’s education.

Perhaps, the Ministry can issue certificates to pupils who pass the Grade Four Assessment, and do so in a ceremonious way to make them feel recognised for their hard work.

Ultimately, the aim should be when pupils reach Grade Six, they are well grounded to do well at the NGSA. This will stop the exportation of pupils who are literate and numerate deficient into the secondary school system, and enable better results in Mathematics and English at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

The problem of literacy and numeracy has to be addressed at the primary level, and based on the admission of the Minister; the Ministry has a difficult but achievable task ahead. It is expected that all hands would be on deck at the Ministry’s level to address this predicament.

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Ramjattan’s mental state in question

Dear Editor,

The Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) deems as utter rubbish the so-called “public revelation” by the Alliance For Change Leader (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan that he has received information that the ruling Party is attempting to “buy off” three Parliamentarians at $30M each to vote against the No-Confidence Motion.

This startling “disclosure” which is tantamount to a smear campaign follows a long line of baseless and delusional utterances emanating from the mouth of Ramjattan which forces the PPP/C to seriously question Ramjattan’s mental stability.

The Party notes with relief that based upon recent disclosures, Ramjattan will not be vying for either the Presidential Candidate or Prime Ministerial position for his party and therefore the people of Guyana will not be burdened with a person in such a mental state.

The PPP/C rejects this outrageous allegation and challenges Mr Ramjattan to forthwith disclose, publicly, the names of the three Parliamentarians to which he makes reference and to further make a full and frank public disclosure of all or any information which he claims he has received in relation to this matter.

In addition, the PPP/C expects Ramjattan to lodge a report with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) forthwith furnishing the Police with the information he has received with a request to immediately commence an investigation since his allegations border on criminality.

From all appearances, the AFC appears to be in stiff competition with the APNU in a race to the bottom aimed at grabbing media headlines, thus the reckless statements and challenges emanating within recent times from both Parties.

The PPP/C has a well established track record spanning over six decades of defending and struggling for electoral, parliamentary and constitutional democracy and the rule of law. Our democratic credentials are not only recognize nationally and internationally but can withstand scrutiny from any quarter.

The party of Cheddi Jagan will never do anything to undermine the democratic rights and constitutional freedoms of our people.

The PPP/C holds firmly to the view that within recent times, the AFC has become unpredictably desperate and is obviously prepared to adopt senseless postures and make irrational statements in their quest to exaggerate their importance and standing.

Moses Nagamootoo’s statement about “political diarrhoea” must therefore be situated in that context.

In any event, the AFC must be advised that such statements and postures will get them nowhere save to have them end up with a petard in their hands.

Submitted by PPP/C

Freedom House

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An assassination plot in the making

Dear Editor,

Last Tuesday’s display by the Mayor and City Council and “friends” all adds up to an assassination attempt by the group on the acting Town Clerk which should result in her dragging the chief culprit before the court.

After mounting several unsuccessful protest actions to unseat the acting Town Clerk, the City Council thought it best to resort to what the old bully is known for – violence.

It is a long sordid story, that is, Hamilton Green’s persistence to get Carol Sooba out of office, all of which ended in his defeat. Having been embarrassed by these futile attempts he has decided to gather a few of his notorious characters to stage a mock funeral for her.

He cannot deny this fact because those so called protesters went straight to his office where he welcomed their presence there at City Hall. So, Green cannot now say that the “protesters” were just an overzealous bunch of people who were agitating for their “beloved Mayor”, nor can he say this was an idle prank.

It goes quite contrary to that statement, what we now know is that the raucous horde was a group of paid individuals who went there with the expressed intention to terrorize and or harm the acting Town Clerk, and for this Green must atone.

Persons mounting a mock funeral for the acting Town Clerk under the auspices of the Mayor of Georgetown whether publicly or privately constitutes a criminal act and Ms Sooba should not hesitate to take Mayor Green to court. He must tell the court what his plans were when that mob stormed into City Hall.

The marauding horde’s actions are all consistent with threatening remarks made by Green such as “watch your back” among others.

Ms Sooba herself recently suffered a violent attack at her home when shady characters channa-bombed her residence. These are not matters that the acting Town Clerk should take lightly, they are assassination attempts which must be dealt with immediately.

I recall similar actions by PNC thugs against former President Janet Jagan, when mock funeral services were held at City Hall. In fact they did follow through with their plans to assassinate her when a grenade was thrown at the Pegasus Hotel, thinking that the President was there at an official function.

Thankfully, the President was not there and their attempt to assassinate her was thwarted. So, these events are no chance occurrences they are planned, and if opportunity affords itself, would have been well executed attempts on the life of Ms Sooba.

Once again I call on Ms Sooba to take this very serious matter to court.

Sincerely,

Neil Adams

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Pot calling the kettle black

Dear Editor,

I refer to one Peter Persaud’s letter in your newspaper of September 17, calling on PNC MP Joseph Harmon to provide 1964-1991 assessments and compliance reports to the Public Library for public reading when the PNC was in Government.

My opinion on this idea by Persaud is that I am in agreement, since if Mr Harmon of the PNC is concerned about public accountability, then he should put his money where his mouth is.

And if he is unable to provide the past PNC Government’s 1964-1991 reports to the National Library for public scrutiny he should submit his resignation.

In this connection, it is important for Mr Harmon and the others in the Opposition to have recognition and respect for the saying, “Those living in glass houses must not throw stones.”

And my conclusion after reading Mr Harmon’s outpourings in the daily newspapers is nothing edifying, but a typical foolish behaviour where the “pot is calling the kettle black”.

Yours sincerely,

Bernard Issacs

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Kudos to the GRA for exposing a tax cheat, bully

Dear Editor,

Isn’t it predictable that the Peeping Tom article would carry a column on the deliberate release of privileged information on taxpayers?

Isn’t it also even more predictable also that the same Peeping Tom does not find it despicable to have a special column written concerning the abuse of the remigrant scheme by a notorious character who masquerades as a paragon of virtues?

What is even more biased and jaundiced is that the article makes absolutely no reference to public disclosure of a vehicle belonging to a major Chinese investor, which purportedly received full exemption of the taxes under a policy of Government no different from what applies to the policy of encouraging Guyanese to return to their homeland as remigrants.

That newspaper which is known for its anti-government views expressed under the guise of exposing corruption, would appear to be an asylum for some persons whose sole agenda is not to be respectful to persons who hold public office and who are in the employ of the Government and to engage in unbalanced journalism.

How else does one explain the constant harassment and intimidation that public officials are being subject to, through the rantings and ravings of a lunatic posing as a journalist, in a daily column that passes as satire.

Even a little child knows that this column which is an integral part of the newspaper sale, whom it is authored by. It’s time that both Peeping Tom and this colomunist expose themslves, sheltering behind a pen name before calling for the Parliament to censure persons for doing a civic duty in exposing information that the Guyanese public has a right to know as a matter of public interest.

This is the only way we can expose wolves who masquerade in sheep’s clothing.

I am therefore calling on His Excellency the President to officially sanction the release of this information that has been put in the public domain through which the unsuspecting public is much more enlightened as to the true character of this masquerade of the protector of public and moral virtues

Kudos to the GRA for exposing this tax cheat and bully.

Peeping Tom, how ironic that you are calling on those who expose information to be sanctioned. We are now waiting on you to show your true self.

Sincerely,

Name and address

withheld by request

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People are not pleased with Nagamootoo as Presidential Candidate

Dear Editor,

This is in response to Asquith Rose/Harish Singh and Oscar Ramjeet’s letters on the Nagamootoo-Hughes ticket. Both pieces gave opposing views, with the former praising the combination, while the latter saying people are opposed to it.

The ticket should be the reverse; that is Hughes-Nagamootoo.  Also, I must note that I found in my NACTA polls people who are not very pleased with the idea of Moses Nagamootoo being made the Presidential Candidate of the Alliance For Change (AFC).

People feel Nigel Hughes should lead the ticket. The general view is that it is not Moses’ turn to lead the AFC and his name at the top of the ticket would not increase support for the AFC.

It is also time for a woman of substance to lead a party into an election and Cathy is a darling of the younger generation.

The NACTA poll also revealed that people consider her a good debater.

As Ramjeet found in his interactions with people, and as the NACTA poll found, most PPP/C supporters feel Moses should find a way to reconcile with his old party and let old wounds heal.  They say vengeful politics is not the way forward for progress and development.

Traditional PPP/C supporters say if Moses could find a way to work with PNC that persecuted him for 28 years dodging violent thugs, then he can sure find some way to work with his old comrades.

The AFC was viewed as an African party between 2006 and 2011 because it drew most of its support from Africans and Mixed Guyanese, and is largely viewed as an Indian party post 2011 because it now draws most of its support from Indians. It should make every effort to reach across to Africans to bolster its base and be transformed into a genuine multi-racial party.

In order to attract more African and Mixed support, the AFC needs to implement the suggestion being promoted by Mahadeo Persaud. Someone of the stature of Nigel Hughes or Raphael Trotman or Cathy Hughes should be the AFC’s Presidential Candidate, and an Indian (perhaps Nagamootoo or Ramjattan or Veerasammy Ramayya) should be the Prime Ministerial candidate.

Nigel or Cathy would expand support for the AFC, whereas Nagamootoo’s leadership, as GHK Lall pointed out, and as the NACTA poll found, would not lead to an increase in support for the party.

Instead of the six (seven) seats it currently has, it could end up with only four seats.  Hughes or Trotman would increase support for the party.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

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RHTY&SC at wits end with omission of Ivan

Rajiv Ivan

Rajiv Ivan

Dear Editor,

The Management of the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club (RHTY&SC) would like to express its disappointment at the treatment of Rajiv Ivan by the Senior Selection Committee of the Berbice Cricket Board. Mr. Ivan, who recently represented Guyana two years ago was left out of the Berbice one-day team for the first two matches, but was belatedly included. To make matters worse, he has now been overlooked for selection on the Berbice 4-day Inter-county team.

The RHTY&SC, as is well known, has always placed the interest of Berbice cricket above its own and that is why year after year we have worked beyond the call of duty to make sure that Berbice cricket receives the highest percentage of cricket sponsorship in Guyana and we sometimes look after the interest of Berbice more than we do our own.

The RHTY&SC has never used this to gain selection of its players and never will because we strongly believe that selection should be based on merit.

Mr Ivan’s performance at the Berbice first division level over the last three years has been outstanding and has a better record than most of those selected over the year. He stays at home and performs, while others leave for greener pastures.

Only recently, he led the RHT Gizmos and Gadgets to its 10th Busta Cup with a Man-of-the-Finals performance and was named our runner-up Cricketer-of-the-Year. His non-selection is based on the attitude of several selectors who seem to have a personal problem with him.

The sad part of all this is that these same selectors are among the non-performers in Berbice cricket. The RHTY&SC is also concerned that Jason Sinclair, one of the top performers in Berbice cricket over the last six years, had to carry ‘drinks’ for all four matches in the one-day tournament.

We stand behind our players and hope that they would be recognised for their outstanding performances. Ivan deserves to be in the Berbice 4-day team and we hope this injustice would be corrected. In closing, I would like to issue an appeal to all cricket officials in Guyana to serve cricket to the best of their abilities and to look after the interest of all players and not only the players from their club.

Ivan, based on performances, deserves a place in the Berbice team and the Management of the RHTY&SC demands that this injustice be corrected.

Submitted by,  

RHTY&SC

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