January 25, 2015

There is justification to keep faith in the PPP/C

Dear Editor,

Allow me the opportunity to challenge some aspects of Dr Clive Thomas’ regular, specifically his contentions about “looting national resources”, “the PPP/C executive is particularly promoting a frantic scramble for minerals similar to other poor countries of Africa and Asia with the attendant looting of the country’s natural resources”, and “the fire sale of Guyana’s national resources”.

We, Guyanese, have grown up hearing of and believing, even though not really seeing evidence of, the existence of abundant, rich natural resources.  It is unfortunate that Dr Thomas’ charges, presumably arising from that view, further reinforces an incorrect view that we have bonanzas on which many people want to get their hands, and which we, the PPP/C, have been giving away.

I will present pertinent facts, not to “dis” our comforting, seductive  view of our abundant,  rich natural resources, but to help open our eyes to a more realistic view:  there is much hard work and, often times, little or no success, in going after the development of our natural resources.

The Omai gold deposit would not have been economic in a developed country, yet who would say that Omai was not good for us? Its attractiveness lay in compensation (wages, salaries and benefits) payments being less than 10 per cent of total costs.

In a developed country, such payments would more likely have been 20-to-30 per cent of total costs. Essentially, the Omai gold deposits provided an opportunity to utilize competent, competitive Guyanese workers.

It is with a sense of realism and balance that this administration has been pursuing the development of our natural resources, even as we look for our salvation in our people’s work, in our people working productively, individually and altogether, and in achieving high levels of productivity, quality, and timeliness, with the lowest quartile of costs for our products and services.

In responding to Dr Thomas’ charges about “a frantic scramble for minerals and other resources”, I would firstly submit that we live, today, in a world of global trading.  We, Guyanese, want many, many things that other people, in other countries, produce, and we need to produce goods and services with which to trade.

Further, with our small numbers, we need to develop strategic alliances and partnerships for mutual benefits, with whoever is willing to be so engaged.

I would ask Dr Thomas to point to the instances of ‘’looting and frantic scramble’’ – would it be BOSAI and RUSAL, which rescued our bauxite operations? The sad truth is that when we nationalized bauxite in the early 1970s, bauxite in Guyana was in its declining, old age, to use the analysis of a 1980s Jamaica Bauxite Institute paper on a “Life Cycle Study of Bauxite Deposits around the World”.

For most of the time that the bauxite operations were owned by us, we were incurring costs of about 30per cent more than the prevailing prices, and since as much as 90per cent of costs were incurred on imported materials, we were at times losing money from our nation’s foreign exchange account.

Eventually, our national treasury was freed of subsidizing the core bauxite operations, as this Administration welcomed RUSAL and BOSAI.  The addition of their significant internal needs, and their presence in the international markets, improved the prospects for our bauxite mines and communities.

And, to which companies may Dr Thomas be referring, in the gold sector?  Not the development at Aurora, where the Company has been persevering since the mid-1990s to arrive at where it is today.

Not the on-going feasibility studies at Toroparo, where the current owners have been working since about 2000.

Not the mine under construction at Kaburi, where Guyanese Geologist, Jerry Carter, is now happy that after more than forty years of believing in its success, and prospecting the property, he now has a partner who is bringing it into production.

 Dr Thomas should set his mind at ease – no looting, but lots of hard work and lots of money spent, over many years, accumulating and studying information gained from prospecting.

And, do we have agreements in place that provide a fair share to our country, in addition to the jobs, the examples of organization and purpose, and other benefits, which they bring to our country?  Yes, we do.

This PPP/C Administration, admittedly after some questioning, has, nonetheless, been continuing much of the same standard mining, petroleum and timber agreements, as were introduced in the latter years of the PNC administration, under the guidance of UN and Commonwealth agencies.

We, the PPP/C Administration, commissioned a review of the Omai Mining Agreement by one of the top international accounting firms. And, what was the firm’s judgement? That in its international comparison, our offer to prospective investors was not competitive, not attractive enough, and that we should give more concessions and incentives.

But, we did not give in.  Our mineral agreement was truly one of those that demanded the most of investors.  We demanded five per cent off the top, for royalty – many other countries accepted three per cent, or less.

And, what did this PPP/C administration do when, in 2010, we began negotiating Mineral Agreements for the development of the mines at Aurora, Toraparo, and later, Kaburi?  We raised royalty further to eoght per cent, when gold prices are above $1000 an ounce.  There has been no ‘’fire-sale’’, no give-away, to friend or foe, in the mining sector.

And let me remind us here that development agreements for large-scale operations do not ‘see’ nationality, whether local or foreign, but need only that the operations be of sufficiently large size.

Further, though some say a challengeable situation under our various agreements, only Guyanese nationals now have ownership of small- and medium-scale properties and, therefore, protected opportunities to grow, and to develop partnerships.  And, to which companies might Dr Thomas have been referring, in the petroleum sector?

Not CGX, which, with great faith, has been persevering in exploration since the early 1990s.  Not Repsol, and other partners joining that Company in the 2000s.  Not Exxon, which has been here since 1999 and is persevering with its planned well in deep-water, beginning by the end of this first quarter.

And, the story in the logging and timber sector has not been much different.  Let me admit that I, too, have been in error about the not-so-bountiful nature of our forests.

When, in 1993 or 1994, the Case-Unamco group applied for forest areas upon which to base a second plywood factory in Guyana, I thought that Clayton Hall, then Commissioner of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), was being much too conservative with his position that Guyana’s forests could not well support, even one plywood factory!

I do not think that Clayton has found it consoling that time proved him to be correct.  The Case-Unamco TSA areas languished for many years despite a bright start, with lots of money put into the Case-Unamco road from Kwakwani, past Parrish Peak, and as the plywood factory remained in containers for more than a decade.

Someone observing Mabura (the centre for the Demerara Woods Ltd [DWL]/Demerara Timbers Ltd [DTL] operations) over the years, would recognize that it, too, has not done well.

David Cassells, a past Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Iwokrama, put things on a more theoretical footing, arguing that natural, diverse tropical rainforests such as ours, rooted in highly-leached poor soils such as our sands and laterites, could hardly sustain commercial timber-exploitation in competition with the planted temperate forests.

Our forests attain average growth rates of wood of about 10 cubic metres per hectare per year, and in our diverse forests, each tree logged requires an average of about half-mile of trail.  It is a real challenge to sustain commercial activity at an acceptable standard of prosperity, for stakeholders.

In Africa, average growth rates are twice as good – 20 cubic metres per hectare per year.  At the higher end, the planted pine- forests in Chile, on the sides of the Andes Mountains, attain up to 80 cubic metres per hectare per year, and are ‘clear-felled’ and replanted (like harvesting of cane) every 15 years.

Think of the production and productivity, and lower costs, of such planted temperate forests, and you would understand why Guyanese are finding pine-doors and lumber attractive, typically 70 per cent of the cost of the Guyanese equivalent.  Our saw-mills could soon start importing pine-logs from North America, like other countries do.

To succeed in competition, our tropical wood and wood-products have to attract premium prices, based on either service-properties or customer fashion-preferences. Dr Thomas’ charges may be reflective of the slow move to value-added, particularly by the foreign-owned timber companies.

We must all be for value-added, to get to more and better-paying jobs, but we must be adding value (as judged by the international market) faster than we are adding costs.

Our woods, including the lesser-known species, have to be introduced to, and established in, the new markets.  The export of logs to existing processing and manufacturing facilities, which are already supplying wood-products to the potentially new markets, is probably the most prudent and practical approach, but it takes time – it could be a work of 10 years.

It is not unreasonable that, in looking around for reasons why we are not ‘better off’, we pay attention to the judgements of others who have already gotten to where we hope to get; but, we get different advice at different times.

In the petroleum sector, the same bilateral and multilateral agencies which were pushing, in the 1990s, for Guyana to give more concessions, when they returned in about 2010 when there were high expectations that we were about to strike oil, were telling me that I, in poor Guyana, might have given too much to the oil-exploration companies, earlier.

They were offering to re-read the agreements. Perhaps, I had a look of some consternation on my face, for they then said that we should not be looking to break the agreements: agreements are sacrosanct, but in re-reading the agreements, we might find that we do not have to give as much as we first thought that we had to give!

No doubt, they were offering to be helpful:  we must learn of the advice that was given at different times, before we level charges at one another.  A ‘fire-sale’ today, could yesterday have been a ‘winning bargain’!

Allow me some more of your valuable time and space, to address some charges about a spectrum give-away. Critics of this administration have been pointing to the big sums of money that some countries have made from auctioning of spectrum.

Well, those sums are, at best, a pre-payment by the investor, of moneys that he will recover from the public, over the 10-20 years period for which he/she has bought the spectrum.

The price that any investor is willing to pay, is relatable to the GDP, the per capita GDP, the population, the population density, and other characteristics of the area that he/she would access – in effect, the money that he/she thinks that could be made.

Put in the numbers for Guyana, and you might find that the auction-values that might be attracted by Guyana, would be very small.

This PPP/C Administration has consciously opted for the other model of granting spectrum:  minimizing the initial payment, but pushing for maximum investment in facilities, and an annual payment of a fixed percentage of gross revenues over the period.

We maintain that this option best fits the Guyana situation and, in the end, brings more growth and development, and more money all around.

Recall, also, that many who called for the ‘big money’ of auctions, on the one hand, complained that the minimum figure of G$2.5 million per annum for the spectrum, for a TV station, is too much!  People not in office can take different positions at different times of the day, but a person in office is expected to hold to some consistent position.

I do hope that this letter would have reduced concerns about the charges of ‘’fire sale’’ and ‘’looting of natural resources’’. Far from it, as has been reported by the Commissioner of the GFC, only about half of the sustainable cutting of logs is being harvested.

Indeed, a case could rather be made that we have been too cautious and tentative.  It can be argued that in pursuing development of our natural resources potential, if we had been on a ‘’fire sale’’, we might have been having much more economic activities now, and our GDP might have been five times what it is today, and, no doubt, we might all have been much ‘better off’!

Making our people ‘better off’, is all that this PPP/C administration has been earnestly working at, in trying to bring about the sustainable, equitable exploitation of our natural resources so as to provide us with opportunities to work and make a better life.

To those who may say that I have ignored other charges of Dr Thomas’ presentation, I would concede that I have deliberately constrained my response to an area wherein we might be able to establish some objective facts, in addressing those charges of Dr Thomas that reveal his ‘felt’ frustration and a searching for answers.

At times, it appears to me that we, in Guyana, are very much like the blind men who walked into an elephant, grasping different parts of it, and who each proclaimed that the elephant was, respectively, a snake, a rope, a wall, a tree, depending on the part that each came up against.

People and societies (especially developing societies, such as ours) are complex and many- sided, and full of imperfections:  one can see the picture that he/she is inclined to see, in what is happening.

One can, indeed, see in Guyana, today, a ‘wild-west’, with all that that entails, whilst flourishing in the USA and elsewhere, today, one can see good order, good governance, and the rule of law.

But, one should also see, in yester-year, the ‘wild-west’ in the USA that was extolled in the ‘cowboy movies’, and see us, in Guyana, also attaining good governance and the rule of law, in the coming years.

There is good justification to ‘keep the faith’ in the PPP/C administration.

 

Samuel Hinds

Prime Minister

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Jeffrey is wrong in supporting British diplomat

Dear Editor,

For the last few months, none of my letters have caught the Editors’ eyes at the Guyana Chronicle, Kaieteur News and Stabroek News, despite the USAID’s revamped democracy and press freedom mission.

Maybe, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key” or whatever, if it can be solved. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill certainly did not have little me in mind in that pontification.

But British Guiana was certainly on his mind when he suspended the country’s Constitution in 1953. Can British presence still be debilitating?

“Since one only requires a cursory (sic) understanding of the political situation in Guyana to appreciate that the (PPP/C) regime has broken the Commonwealth Charter, the most sympathetic interpretation of the Guyana Government’s response to the British Government’s position is that, like the military theorist Karl Von Clausewitz, it believes that ‘the best form of defense is attack’,” as Dr Henry Jeffrey wrote in affirming that “the British High Commissioner was in order”, easily found by checking out the SN features column of January 21.

When Dr Jeffrey quotes Von Clausewitz, one must bear in mind the current PNC leader’s lifetime military background. Who stands to benefit is not in doubt.

Von Clausewitz as a soldier, also had many aphorisms, of which the most famous is “war is the continuation of politics by other means”.

Mr David Granger as the PNC leader, has already revisited the tragic 1960s Sun Chapman’ s bombing for another Linden monument, while the PNC pleads innocence and no responsibility for Dr Walter Rodney similar worldwide denounced horror.

No sheep for sure, but with such sharp horns and possessing both exemplary education and many privileged unique experiences, one can be bedazzling brilliant like Dr Jeffrey.

The question becomes topical whether, with age and boredom, the wine or man is getting better, or the marbles being juggled have become lost in transit to more than gravity.

Naturally when one Beneba is unwell, it’s a hint to all Quashebas, most concerned about the tribal family’s wellbeing. Under what classification would Dr Jeffrey’s unsupported claims fall under when he wrote:

“Prorogation is only indicative of a trend towards administrative profligacy. In the first place, the regimes financial waywardness and the )pposition’s belief that it has broken the law is what led to the forging of the no-confidence motion the prorogation is attempting to avoid.”

How many times must it be affirmed that the Judiciary, legally empowered to interpret the country’s Constitution – the highest law of the land, mind you – specifically ruled the (AFC-APNU) Opposition was without legal authority to cut the budget?

What exempts the Opposition to be above the law? Why is flagrant contempt of court by the Opposition to be condoned? What makes it valid and furthermore excuses the Opposition’s violation of the law to, in effect, exonerate their lawlessness?

Can anyone, not only the good doctor, care to explain why anyone would justify the AFC-APNU with a superior entitlement or empowerment to slash the budget in violation of Guyana’s Constitution?

Without consent of the Finance Minister representing the Executive Government, such AFC-APNU actions have no validity, therefore shamelessness can only boomerang to its slashers.

Historically, only one man did turn water into wine. Dr Jeffrey is probably fit to unfasten his own shoe laces. Unfortunately, he is ill equipped for “fixing” even if he has gone around the block.

Dr Jeffrey’s assertion that “the (PPP/C) regimes financial waywardness and the Opposition’s belief that it has broken the law” has absolutely no validity whatsoever. Absolutely none. But Dr Jeffrey seems to believe if he repeats the British diplomat’s assertion that the PPP/C’s regime was wrong it would become right by his say so chorusing.

Between, “How does thy honour? Let me lick thy shoe. I’ll not serve him; he’s not valiant” (Shakespeare’s Tempest), the very highly educated Dr Jeffrey was with choice between the British diplomat and his own country’s Judiciary.

Guyana’s Judiciary clarified the law very clearly as it applies within constitutional boundaries. Few in Guyana are likely to go British when Chinese has always been preferred and satisfying.

Something must be seriously amiss for Dr Jeffrey to ploug on in unashamed verbal nakedness when in the very next paragraph he surprisingly concedes that:

“Secondly, the prorogation may be constitutional, but as we have seen above, the existence of a functioning parliament is essential to democracy as stated in the Commonwealth Charter.”

Obviously anyone who publicly subsumes their country’s Constitution to the dictates of external alien contingencies raises questions about their patriotism. What is not considered is the Commonwealth Charter can only have validity save and except when it is not in conflict or overrides the Guyana Constitution.

In a democracy, no one can legally sanctify contempt of court by any Opposition who in pre-meditative tossing aside of the Judiciary’s decision, specifically embarked on a trip to violate Guyana’s Constitution – the highest law of the land.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Shakespeares Hamlet) and the sources are obvious.

 

Sultan Mohamed

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GFC is only official source for forest statistics on Guyana

Dear Editor,
The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is once again compelled to respond to another recent letter by Janette Bulkan riddled with false accusations and misinformation.
GFC asserts that it is the only official source for forest statistics relevant to Guyana. This includes leases issued, production and export data amongst others. Information not sourced from GFC’s approved documents is simply misinformation and/or a futile attempt at calculated distortion of facts.

It is also important for the public, inclusive of Janette Bulkan, to note that Guyana’s forestry sector has been subjected to many thorough recent comprehensive audits over the last three years by professional independent auditors who were contracted by the Kingdom of Norway; not Guyana.

These audits focused on GFC’s management, administrative, operational and other systems and procedures amongst other areas.
The public reports of these audits show clearly that the GFC has transparent, appropriate, robust and functioning systems in place.
Specifically, these highly qualified and professional independent auditors did not find any evidence to support the farfetched and inaccurate claims being made repeatedly by Janette Bulkan about Bai Shan Lin having control over 1.45 M ha of state forest.

For clarity, the GFC restates the undisputed and well publicized fact that BSL has legal access to 627,072 ha_as shown below:
344,849 ha as State Forest Exploratory Permits (SFEP’s): (Sherwood Forests Inc, Bai Shan Lin International Forest Industry Development Co Ltd.) – an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA); a Forest Inventory (FI), and a Business Plan have to be submitted to the satisfaction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and GFC before a Timber Sales Agreement (TSA) is granted which allows for full scale harvesting in accordance with GFC guidelines is approved.
274,053 ha_as Timber Sales Agreement – Joint Venture Agreements – WAICO; Puruni Wood Products Inc; Kwebanna Wood Products; and Haimorakabra Logging Company Inc – ha_as 8,170 ha as State Forest Permissions.

GFC has made copies of this documentation publicly available. Janette Bulkan is also invited to visit the GFC to peruse same.
Janette Bulkan’s assertion that these JV’s are probably illegal is also baseless. For clarity again, GFC repeats what has been publicized numerous times:
GFC Board of Directors as part of its work plan holds regular meetings with stakeholder groups across the country.

At these meetings, one of the major stakeholder concerns was the inadequate capacity of concessionaires (mainly locals) to beneficially occupy areas and produce sufficient quantities of logs/lumber for the local construction industry, as well as for the local added value manufacturers, and for export.

The main constraints documented by these logging companies were a lack of appropriate machinery/equipment, and adequate financing.
The Concessionaires themselves proposed two short term measures to address this, namely: GFC to allow joint venture arrangements after the requisite due diligence was done, and GFC was satisfied that the JV had merit; and GFC to allow companies that lacked adequate and/or appropriate machinery to rent same from third parties in a structured and properly monitored/regulated manner.

Based on these requests by the sector; the need to improve log/lumber/added value production, and generate additional employment opportunities, and being assured by the GFC that its monitoring systems would ensure that the allowable harvest levels would not be exceeded, the GFC Board approved both requests.

GFC has since facilitated both requests in accordance with the legislation and a very transparent and organized procedure. For example, it was collaboratively agreed (stakeholders/GFC/GFC Board) that the procedure for the review of joint venture requests would be as follows:
A request to enter into a joint venture arrangement needs to be made by the company/individual that has legal access to state forest. A thorough background assessment would be done on the company that is seeking to joint venture with the one that has the legal access to the forested land.

This assessment would be used to guide the GFC in making its recommendations to the GFC Board Technical Sub-Committee The GFC Technical Sub-Committee after their review would submit a recommendation to the GFC Board of Directors.

The GFC Board then makes its recommendation as to whether to approve/disapprove the joint venture. This is in keeping with Section 16 of the Forests Act 2009. BSL has entered into approved JV’s following this process, contrary to the unmerited claims by Janette Bulkan.

With respect to in country processing and added value manufacture of forest products, it is true that Bai Shan Lin has been very tardy in meeting their obligations and GFC/GoG is urging them to accelerate this phase of operations.

But the same applies to most local and foreign companies, many of whom have been in existence for decades before the advent of Bai Shan Lin.
Nevertheless, as stated, the GFC has impressed upon Bai Shan Lin and all other foreign and local companies, the need to accelerate meeting their stated commitments re the manufacture of added value forest products.

GFC would again appeal to stakeholders, especially those who choose to discuss issues in the public media, to verify the facts before publicizing erroneous information.
GFC once again invites Janette Bulkan and any other interested person(s) to visit the GFC, and the forest/logging operations to verify that GFC and Guyana are practicing sustainable forest management on the ground, in a very transparent and collaborative manner with our direct and indirect stakeholders.
There would be no constructive output if persons continue to misuse the public media to rehash misconceptions in pursuit of agendas not helpful to the sector.

James Singh
Commissioner of Forests

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Police continuing traffic enforcement efforts

Dear Editors,
As the Guyana Police Force continues with its traffic enforcement efforts in order to maintain road safety, a number of cases have been made against motorists for breaching the traffic laws during the period January 11 to 17.

These include speeding (284), driving under the influence (20), breach of condition of Road Service Licence (44), careless driving (4), dangerous driving (11), failure to wear seat belt (31), and prohibition of the use of hand held mobile phone (19),
Unto January 20, there have been 5 road fatalities compared to 9 for the corresponding period last year.

Ivelaw Whittaker
Police Public Relations
and Press Officer

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Kurupukari-Lethem road way under rehabilitation

Dear Editor,
The general public is hereby notified that Mango Tree Bridge on the Kurupukari-Lethem road way is currently under rehabilitation.
However, a bypass is constructed to accommodate light vehicles until further notice

Ministry of Public Works

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Guyana does not have a good history in coalition politics

Dear Editor,
Now that a date for national and regional elections has been announced by President Donald Ramotar, an important Opposition political plank has been demolished, namely that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is afraid of the electorate and wanted to prolong its political life by unconstitutional means.

The announcement of May 11 as election date now paves the way for all interested political parties to try and convince the electorate why they should be given the mandate to govern.

In our post-colonial history, only three political parties had the opportunity to govern. These were the PPP/C, the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the United Force (UF), the latter as a junior coalition partner following the elections of 1964.

That coalition lasted for a mere three years until the UF was unceremoniously booted out from the coalition Government, but not before the PNC had taken full control of the state machinery, which included the Elections Commission.

Guyana does not have a good history when it comes to coalition politics. As mentioned earlier, the first coalition Government involving the PNC and the UF ended in an abysmal failure even though the coalition succeeded in the removal of the PPP from office in 1964 in what a former British Prime Minister dubbed “a fiddled constitutional arrangement”.

Earlier attempts to form a coalition Government between the PPP and the PNC during the early 1960s failed after Burnham refused to agree on parity terms in Cabinet offered by the PPP and opted instead to align himself with foreign vested interests and local reactionary elements to destabilize the PPP Government.

After the PNC rigged itself to power in successive national and regional elections, there were attempts to form a broad national front Government with an agreed programme initiated by the PPP.

This attempt once again failed after the PNC dismissed the PPP as a “minority” party even though the whole of Guyana knew differently.

The obsession with power by the PNC knew no bounds. Apart from the blatant disregard for the fundamental rights of the Guyanese people to elect a Government of their choice, the regime embarked on a reign of terror in which several Guyanese were harassed, victimized, jailed and in some cases murdered as the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry so painfully revealed.

Indeed, some of the very players who once held key and strategic positions during that repressive period are once again in the political spotlight.
Interestingly, the PNC/A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), under the leadership of former military strongman David Granger, is currently in “secret talks” with the Alliance for Change (AFC) aimed at a pre-election alliance.

It is interesting to see how these secret talks will play out, especially given the possible nomination of Moses Nagamootoo as the AFC Presidential Candidate.
Would the APNU play second fiddle to the AFC, which apart from being the new kid on the block, is lacking in seniority and mass appeal.
If past political experience is anything to go by, any coalition with the PNC is doomed to failure. It is the AFC that runs the risk of being the biggest loser since it has no real political constituency on which it can fall back in a highly likely situation of political misfortune.

This leaves the PPP/C as the only political party that has political stability and a configuration with a strong “Civic” component that has endured time.
The PPP/C formula has remained unchanged since the restoration of democracy on October 5, 1992. The PNC, by contrast has experimented with several combinations and permutations, changing from PNC to PNCR [People’s National Congress Reform] then to PNCR1G, [PNCR ONE GUYANA], which eventually morphed into APNU.
The Guyanese electorate is on the look out to see how the current engagement between the APNU and the AFC will play out.

It would take more than the magical powers of Houdini to convince the Guyanese electorate that coalition politics would fare any better this time around especially in an environment characterized by lack of trust and hegemonic tendencies on the part of the PNC.

Hydar Ally

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Support for Guyana holding elections

Dear Editor,
New York and Trinidad-based Guyanese I spoke with are very supportive of President Donald Ramotar’s announcement of a date for holding election in accordance with the Constitution to resolve the disagreement between the ruling and Opposition parties over the issue of the prorogation of Parliament.
In Trinidad, Guyanese I met last weekend expressed hope the President would call an election, but they expressed fear whether the election would be peaceful, given the behavior of opponents in earlier elections.

No one expressed any opposition to the holding of an election in New York or in Trinidad to resolve the current Parliamentary impasse, in which the combined Opposition has one seat more than the ruling party and is preventing the Government from enacting and implementing its programme.

Guyanese Americans feel the announcement of a date for the election will put an end to the idle unsubstantiated chatter about the intention of the PPP/C Government. They hope the election commission would hold another democratic election and that the parties would cooperate to produce a free and fair election.

The overseas Guyanese have been anxiously awaiting a date for the election since the President prorogued Parliament on November 10 and has not been able to re-convene Parliament because of opposition refusal to compromise over a no confidence motion.

Guyanese Americans praise the PPP/C for holding democratic elections since 1992 when the Party was catapulted into office after it was dethroned in 1964 through an electoral conspiracy hatched by the US and Britain.

The PNC, which was sponsored by the US and Britain and came to power in a coalition Government in December 1964, rigged every election thereafter denying the people the right to choose a Government.

Overseas based Guyanese have credited the PPP/C for restoration and institutionalization of democracy and the progress the country has made since 1992 rebuilding infrastructure and turning around the economy.

Most Guyanese I spoke with feel the PPP/C should have called an election ever since the Opposition cut the budget in April 2012 to get back its parliamentary majority, especially that the PNC-AFC alliance had blocked pieces of legislation to facilitate development.

A small minority feels the President should have dissolved the Assembly last November and head for elections, since the Opposition was determined to pass a No-Confidence Motion to bring down the Government.

The overseas-based Guyanese would have preferred that the President announces the election much later, so it will not impact on celebrations and the economy especially that the business community complained of having poor sales during Christmas.

But in light of Opposition demands for a date and complaints to foreign diplomats and international bodies to pressure President Ramotar to announce a date soonest, overseas-based Guyanese welcome the President’s announcement. They feel this election would be hotly contested with a close result.
Guyanese-Americans express hope and call for the political parties to take measures to ensure a free, fair, peaceful and transparent election. They also call on the parties to accept the outcome of the elections.

They feel the parties should make an agreement to accept the will of the electorate. They also welcome the announcement by the President to invite international observers from UNASUR, CARICOM, Commonwealth, OAS and the United Nations.

They feel the Carter Centre should also be invited to observe the election and that foreign troops should be invited as in past elections to guarantee a peaceful election since trouble makers (in past elections) are known to engage in violence to intimidate voters preventing them from casting ballots.

New York-based supporters of all three parties are upbeat about their electoral prospects and they hope for a clear verdict as opposed to the one in November 2011 that produced a hung assembly in which the PPP/C got 32 seats and the combined Opposition 33 seats.

The fraudulent Burnham Constitution allows the single party with the most seats to form a Government. The last Parliament has failed to enact meaningful legislation and there was a logjam over passage of bills.

The overseas Guyanese feel another hung Parliament will lead to more of the same that occurred over the last three years – Parliamentary logjam and economic stagnation. Most of those this writer spoke with say a hung Parliament has failed Guyana.

They want a decisive verdict from voters giving a mandate to the winning party to engage in effective governance. Guyanese are generally gloomy about the state of their former homeland and of the economy under a hung Parliament during which time nothing constructive gets done.

They feel a clear verdict to one party will allow the Government to enact legislation to that would promote development and not be stymied by an opposition majority in Parliament.

They hope the parties will not re-engage in violence for power as happened in every election since 1957 especially when the PNC was defeated. They hope the election will result in political stability to continue with development programs.

The issues overseas Guyanese are concerned about are: regular supplies of electricity, a modern airport, corruption, anti-money laundering and rising crime.
Elections are welcomed. The parties should behave responsibly for a peaceful campaign.

Vishnu Bisram

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Kaieteur News in blatant violation of victims’ rights

Dear Editor,

I was appalled to see in the Kaieteur News newspaper a clear photo of the 18-year old male rape victim in the Old Year’s Night alleged gang rape story, taken from his hospital bed at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

This is an extremely serious violation of the rights of this young man – the survivor of an apparent vicious sexual assault.

Victims of sexual assault are in a great deal of pain and suffering, both physical and psychological. They need care, compassion, and justice, not to be made public spectacles.

Their dignity and personhood already having been violated once, all efforts should be made subsequently to ensure that they feel safe and respected, so they are able to regain their self-confidence and strength.

By publishing this teen’s photo, Kaieteur News has shown blatant disregard for all these things, and clear unconcern for this victim’s health and well-being. Placing a thin white bar over the young man’s eyes is not enough; his identity is clear.

This is despicable, sensationalist, gutter ‘journalism’, pandering to the lowest in people’s natures, and putting profits over people’s rights.

The Editor of Kaieteur News and/or whoever made the decision to publish this photo should be ashamed of themselves.

I am calling for a public apology to this young man, along with a sincere commitment to respecting victims’ rights in all future reporting of this nature.

Also disturbing is the fact that this picture was taken within GPHC. Patients are supposed to have privacy in times of illness and if any GPHC staff facilitated the taking of this photo, they also need to be disciplined.

We can all do better; do not be part of the problem. Compassion and justice at all times – this is what we all deserve.

 

S Nageer

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Freedom of expression has limitations

Dear Editor,

In Guyana it is known both nationally and internationally that the Guyanese people enjoy freedom of the press and the freedom of expression.

Yet we have an anti-Government section of the press with the ridiculous claim on the basis of some bogus conversation-recording by one of its reporters, hence its merciful pleas for the Government to provide protection.

This is absolute balderdash since such pleas are based purely on anti-Government politics and can rightly be deemed political mischief-making, which the people of Guyana know fully well and cannot be bamboozled by the circle of the anti-Government letter writers and columnists in the Opposition press that there is no press freedom and freedom of expression in Guyana.

But in their deception claims, this known circle of anti-Government letter writers and columnists need to be honest with themselves and ask, how is it my views are carried daily in the press and I am still existing?

What the Opposition press in Guyana needs to abide with is responsibility and to desist from engaging in gutter journalism to fool its readership just to boost sales. This is total unprofessionalism.

But I am appealing to the Opposition press in Guyana to absorb Pope Francis’s teaching that the freedom of expression has its limitations.

Pope Francis is a highly respected world spiritual leader, who is the divine leader of over fifteen million catholic followers.

Peter Persaud

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PPP/C in elections fever

Dear Editor,

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) welcomes the much anticipated announcement of Elections Day 2015. That date being May 11. The Party is ready and steady for these elections.

The Party’s machinery is well oiled and its members, supporters and well-wishers are in the mood. They are about to be afflicted by elections fever now that May 11 has been announced as “E” Day.

The Party will be going to these elections with a spirit of optimism and confidence.

The PPP/C will exert every effort to continue the long-standing Party tradition of achieving victory at the polls as it did since 1957 save for the period from 1968 to 1992, when the Guyanese people’s democratic right to elect a Government of their choice was stolen from them by the People’s National Congress (PNC).

The people won back that right in 1992 and Guyana was once again placed firmly on the path to social and economic progress, coupled with the upholding of the political, civil and cultural rights of all Guyanese people.

The PPP/C calls on all its members, supporters, well-wishers and indeed all Guyanese to rally behind the winning symbol of the Cup.

 

PPP/Civic

Freedom House

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