September 4, 2015

SWAT targeting Berbice gang – Top Cop

Head of the Guyana Police Force Seelall Persaud has stated that the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) Unit which has been deployed to B Division (Berbice) is targeting a specific gang and will remain in the district until it is dismantled.
He made this disclosure during an exclusive interview with Guyana Times on Tuesday. Persaud noted that the Unit was currently studying the group, which is responsible for many of the criminal activities, to devise a plan on how to dismantle it.

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud

“There is a group that we are targeting there and we believe that they’ll stay there until they have dismantled it,” the Commissioner stated. Furthermore, Persaud stated that since its deployment to the county, the SWAT Unit has aided the Berbice Police in several high-profile cases that have resulted in arrests of perpetrators and them subsequently being taken to court.

“You see arrests made in Berbice, you see people get charge for all kinds of offences. (SWAT) was not involved in all of them, but they did respond to intelligence,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum recently told this newspaper that since the deployment of the SWAT Unit, there has been a decline in crime in Berbice. He explained that there have been incidents where groups of criminal elements are armed with high powered rifles and so the SWAT Unit was dispatched with the necessary resources to aid the Berbice complement in many cases.

In addition to the SWAT Unit, several other specialised teams were also deployed to the Region to boost the security forces’ complement there. Persaud further detailed that an intelligence component and another Unit out of A Division (Georgetown- East Bank Demerara) were also sent to Berbice. The latter Unit is inclusive of senior detectives within the A Division who are lending their expertise to the local officers.

According to the Top Cop, the divisional system will continue with their operations, while the specialised Units will be working on specific missions as in the case of the SWAT team. “The divisional patrol system continues, they do their usual analysis and they deploy according to the analysis… (The units deployed) would be doing more targeted operations based on intelligence,” he revealed.

The Police Commissioner added that the Police Force has recently teamed up with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to conduct patrol exercises in the backlands and savannah areas along the Corentyne.

Recently, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan informed media operatives that Government was looking to have more patrols dispatched to those areas that were mapped as “high crime” zones. He pointed out that currently Berbice, more specifically the Corentyne area, has been identified as one such area; hence, the deployment of Special Forces to the Division.

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Govt launches Social Cohesion discussion

– President Granger announces another five-point plan

The Government on Thursday launched the National Social Cohesion Round Table discussion, where stakeholders representing various interests in Guyana will lend their voices to seeking out practical ways of pulling Guyanese, despite their various cultures, together.

Social Cohesion  Minister Amna Ally  addressing the gathering

Social Cohesion Minister Amna Ally addressing the gathering

President David Granger speaking at the event

President David Granger speaking at the event

Stakeholders including members of the diplomatic corps and representatives from several Non-Governmental Orgnisations across the country, gathered in the main auditorium of the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, as they participated in the opening session of the Social Cohesion Round Table discussion, an initiative of the recently established Social Cohesion Ministry.

Seeking to realise the motto of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”, Social Protection Minister Amna Ally said the event will be a crucial conversation among participants with the aim of bringing about a good life for all.

“The meeting today is to begin this process to promote positive values, creating a fresh approach to create a good life for all.  As a country we have to forge a national consensus on the broad objective of the country’s development”, Ally said.

She said the process to be embarked on does not subtract from the fact that there are different constituencies with diverse interests. “We should not be fearful of the obvious consequence as there are differences in every area”, she said
According to Ally, the success of the May 11 General and Regional Elections, which was entered into by a six party coalition, signifies the desire for national unity.

She said the conversations will offer Guyanese the opportunity to engage in dialogue on the kind of society we seek to build.
“What does it mean to be a Guyanese? What is the standard of “Guyanese-ness” that we are speaking?”

Speaking also at the event, President David Granger said that Guyana, with its bountiful natural resources and people, need not be poor or divided.

“Far too many Guyanese are classified as extremely poor. There can be no social cohesion in an economy characterised by huge gaps. We cannot give our people the good lives they deserve if they are constantly preoccupied with finding something to eat and somewhere to sleep, Granger said.

The Head of State laid out a five-point action plan that participants could look at as they work towards this achievement. These include doing more to eliminate extreme poverty, eradicating the worst case of inequality, and ensuring that there is greater political inclusion.

Granger noted too that while the event is aimed at bringing all Guyanese together, the idea in no way should be construed that persons should abandon their respective cultural practices.

“Diversity is an asset; it does not necessarily translate into inclusivity… we want better relations among our religions, among our races and ethnic communities. We want great trust and cooperation, we want happy families and happy households… we want in other words social cohesion in all levels of our society,” said President Granger.

He said his Government is bent on keeping its promise of being the Government for all Guyanese and not just for those who voted in the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Chance’s favour.

“We will work on fair employment laws and also safety for miners in the interior. Providing jobs for the people is a matter of priority, he said noting that there remains a crisis of youth unemployment.

“It is not our intention of depriving the rich from being rich to help the poor… We must provide education for all. There must be equal access to education for all”, he said.

Meanwhile, former Commonwealth Secretary General and Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Sir Shridath Ramphal said the greatest act of social cohesion would be the establishment of a Government of national unity.

The former diplomat said he was pleased with the recent meeting between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. He said this is a step in the right direction.

The two leaders met on Tuesday, where several issues came up for discussion. A number of proposals were put forward and have been laid out for further consideration.

Ramphal said Guyana will next year celebrate its 50th Anniversary as an independent nation. As such, he urged citizens to unite, noting that it would be a significant milestone.

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Destitute in court for 9-year-old’s murder

Ryan Bobb-Semple, was arraigned with the murder of the nine-year-old Shaquan Gittens

Ryan Bobb-Semple, was arraigned with the murder of the nine-year-old Shaquan Gittens

commencement of trial dependent on Psychologist’s report

The destitute accused of murdering nine-year-old Shaquan Gittens of North Ruimveldt, Georgetown in April, made another appearance at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday.

Ryan Bobb-Semple, 23, a destitute, was early in the year remanded to prison after he was arraigned with the murder of the child. Bobb-Semple was slapped with the indictable charge which stated that between April 1 and 4, he murdered Gittens at Houston Backlands.

On Thursday, it was reported in court that the man was seen by State Psychologist, Dr Bhiro Hari on three occasions. Dr Hari requested more time as he wishes to speak to the suspect’s mother and sister to get background information on the man. The Psychologist was granted two weeks to do so and is expected to submit his report on September 22 when the matter returns to court. However, the man’s grandmother stated that she went to visit Dr Hari as she raised Bobb-Semple and was prevented from doing so. The report submitted by Dr Hari will decide whether or not the suspect is mentally fit to stand trial.

Gittens went missing on April 1, after he was last seen flying his kite in the area. His body was discovered several days later in a semi nude state floating in a canal.

The suspect was arrested after he was reportedly heard calling the child’s name in his sleep. Upon his arrest, he told investigators that he ‘stick up’ the lad on April 1, took him behind Cane View where he sexually molested him. While doing so, he reportedly strangled Gittens. After committing the act, he reportedly went to sleep, but only realised the child was dead the following morning.

He then had sex with the corpse after which he severed the male reproductive organ from the child’s body and dumped the body in the canal.

He was taken to the scene where he committed the act. There, he reportedly showed Police ranks the exact spot and told them how he committed the heinous crime. He was then escorted to the North Ruimveldt Police Outpost.

On the day Gittens disappeared, he was reportedly left in the care of his 15-year-old brother while his mother was at work. He was reportedly in the area in the morning hours flying his kite. About 12:00h, he returned home to have lunch and later left again to join his friends. That was the last time his brother saw him alive.

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Mason not trusted with pre-trial liberty

A pregnant woman exited Court 8 and 9 of the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts alone on Thursday after her boyfriend was refused bail by Magistrate Faith McGusty for a charge of receiving stolen articles.

Steve Singh, 25, a Mason of Yarrow Dam, East Ruimveldt, Georgetown, was remanded to jail after pleading not guilty to the charge Magistrate McGusty read to him.

The court heard that between August 19 and September 1, Singh received a Kayak boat worth $200,000 belonging to R&S Fishing Enterprise, knowing it to be stolen or unlawfully obtained.

The Prosecutor told the court that this is not the only charge to be laid against the accused as the Police are still wrapping up their investigation into other matters. He also argued against any consideration of bail for Singh, stating that he will not make an appearance in court for the charge against him due to the pending charges.

The Prosecutor also indicated that the accused may not be a Mason as he claims.

Singh, however, denied all these allegations against him. He told the court that he was by the river when a man asked him to assist in pulling out the boat. The defendant said the man was quite clear that he owned the boat.

Even so, Singh said that though the man was arrested like himself for removing the boat, he escaped and has not been arrested again.

Magistrate McGusty assured him that his alleged accomplice will be captured by the Police soon. But she stated that she will have to place him on remand as per the recommendation of the Prosecutor as he could not be trusted to appear for his trial.

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UG appoints 9th Chancellor

Professor Nigel Harris

Professor Nigel Harris

The University of Guyana has announced that the former Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Nigel Harris has been appointed to serve as the ninth Chancellor of the University.

“I welcome this opportunity to work with the leaders, staff and students of the University of Guyana community, as well as with Government and other stakeholders to forge the growth and success of this institution so critical to the economic, social and cultural development of Guyana and the Caribbean,” Professor Harris said in commenting on his new appointment.

He succeeds Dr Compton Bourne who had served from 2009 to 2012.

Professor Harris has a wealth of knowledge, having graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from Howard University in 1968 and then proceeded to Yale University, where he received a Master of Philosophy Degree in Biochemistry in 1973. He also has a Medical Degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Harris had returned to the Caribbean to complete his residency in internal medicine at the University of the West Indies at Mona. He was subsequently awarded the post-graduate degree, Doctor of Medicine (DM) in 1981.

Professor Harris has held many leadership positions, including Vice-Chancellor of the University of West Indies (October 1, 2004 to April 30, 2015); President of the Association of Caribbean Universities and Research Institutes (UNICA)from 2012 to 2015, and Chairman of the Association of Commonwealth Universities for a two-year term (2011-2013). He is internationally known for his work as a Rheumatologist.

Throughout his years, Professor Harris acquired many notable awards including the Cacique Crown of Honour from Guyana in 2011 and the Martin Luther King International Award in 2010.

Also, the 11th Congressional District of the USA declared February 11, 2015, the “Eon Nigel Harris Day” in recognition of his contributions to medical research.

Chancellor Harris is married to Dr C Yvette Williams-Harris, a general internist and they have three children and five grandchildren.

Meanwhile, given his notable work worldwide, it is expected that Professor Harris will succeed in transforming the University of Guyana into one of international standard.

As Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Harris focused on programmes that enhanced contributions of the University to Caribbean Governments; strengthened services of the University to its stakeholders; broadened funding; and enhanced alumni relations and marketing.

A particular area of interest has been re-structuring the University of the West Indies presence in the 12 Caribbean countries that contribute to the University, but have no campuses.

This led to the creation of a fourth campus, designated the “Open Campus” which is designed primarily to deliver education by distance to students in all 16 contributing countries.

During his tenure the regional University’s enrolment grew from about 24,000 to in excess of 47,000 students, the facilities in the 4 campuses expanded by more than 500,000 square feet and two new countries – Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos – joined the UWI consortium.

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Uitvlugt Estate cane harvesters strike

…reject rollback in benefits


Over 500 cane harvesters attached to the Uitvlugt Estate, on the West Coast of Demerara, have downed their tools over what they called inadequate payments for working in abnormal conditions.

The workers have been on strike since Monday after management of the factory refused to offer an increase in the payments. Guyana Times was informed that when the cane harvesters turned up for work on Monday, the fields had vines and grass growing between the crops; as such, they met with management to discuss the additional payment, referred to as “extra” or “abnormal pay”, that is usually given to cane harvesters when they have to work in less than normal conditions.

Even before the formation of trade unions in the sugar industry in 1939, sugar workers have been forced to take strike action to bring these burdens against efficient production to the attention of management. Over the years, it was accepted that extra wages would be paid for such “obstacles” as “customs and practices”.

The extra money is not included in their wages but is paid separately; however, it is paid out to the harvesters at the same time they receive their wages. Various factors, including the length of time it takes to get the work done inclusive of waiting time and the quantity of work, determine the amount payable.

However, the offer put forward by management was found to be inadequate by the workers who were demanding double the amount, this newspaper was told. After management’s refusal to increase the payments, the workers took the decision not to return to work until a reasonable offer is made and an agreement is met.

The following day, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) got involved. General Secretary of the Union Seepaul Narine, met with the officials of the Estate, however no compromise was arrived at.

Guyana Times understands that management is stuck on one position while the workers are holding to another, and neither was willing to move. As such, the cane harvesters continued their strike actions on Wednesday and Thursday, and are expected to do the same today.

Meanwhile, President of GAWU Komal Chand, told this publication that another meeting is scheduled for today to have an amicable resolution of the matter. Officials from the Estate and the Union will be present along with representatives of the workers.

The initial production target set for the Uitvlugt Estate was 900 tonnes, however, the production currently stands at a mere 300 tonnes. The industrial action by the workers will set production back further than it already is.

Economist, Professor Clive Thomas had pointed out that in 2012, the unit cost per pound of sugar produced at Uitvlugt was US$0.43. This was estimated to have increased to US$0.57 the following year but at that time, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was being paid an average of some US$0.31 per pound for its sugar.

Moreover, the cost of production did not improve in 2014 and GuySuCo only earned US$0.21 per pound for sugar exports. This means, sugar production at the Estate was being subsidised by some US$0.22 per pound, more than what was earned from sales.

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Police charge 5 more for drunk driving

Devon Reece

Devon Reece

Clovis Hunte

Clovis Hunte

Another five men were charged and placed before the courts for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol after they were found to be above the legal limit in terms of alcohol consumption.

Rameshwar Chan of Lot 16 Rotter Dam, East Bank, Berbice, was stopped and tested with a breathalyser on July 16, while driving motor vehicle HB 7108 on Main Street, New Amsterdam.

Chand was subsequently charged and appeared at the New Amsterdam Magistrate’s Court on July 20, when he pleaded guilty and was fined $7500.

On July 24, Devon Reece, of Lot 126 Akawani Street, Campbellville, Georgetown, was also stopped and tested while driving motor vehicle PKK 7197 on Vlissengen Road, Georgetown. He too was charged and placed before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts six days later. He pleaded guilty to the DUI offence and as such, a $7500 fine was imposed on him.

Mohamed Ally

Mohamed Ally

Rameshwar Chan

Rameshwar Chan

Shalimar Smith of Lot 23 Scottsburg, Corriverton was also sentenced to pay a fine of $7500, after he was found to be above the legal limit of alcohol consumption. According to reports, he was riding motorcycle CF 4404 on the Number 79 Public Road, Berbice on July 23 when the Police conducted a breathalyser test on him. Consequently, he was charged and appeared at the Springlands Magistrate’s Court on the same day when he pleaded guilty to the DUI offence.

Additionally, Mohamed Ally of 133 Line Path, Corriverton, Berbice, was found to be above the legal limit of alcohol consumption after he was tested with a breathalyser on July 19. The man was driving motor vehicle PKK 5333 on the Number 79 Public Road, Corriverton when he stopped by the Police.

Ally was later charged and placed before the Springlands Magistrate’s Court on July 20, when he pleaded guilty and was fined $7500.

Shalimar Smith

Shalimar Smith

Finally, Clovis Hunte, of Lot 10 Grant 1806, Crabwood Creek, Corentyne, Berbice, was sentenced to pay a fine of $7500 after he pleaded guilty to a DUI offence. The charge stated that the man was riding motorcycle CF 2434 on the Crabwood Creek Public Road, when he was stopped and tested by the Police.

Hunte was subsequently found to be above the legal limit; hence, he was charged and two days later, appeared at the Springlands Magistrate’s Court.

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PPP protests Social Cohesion “sham” at Convention Centre

PPP MP Gillian Burton  Persaud

PPP MP Gillian Burton Persaud

It was high drama outside the gates of the Arthur Chung Convention Centre on Thursday when supporters of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) staged a protest, flagging the David Granger-led A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition Administration as hypocritical.

It was the first ever Social Cohesion Conference being held by the Social Cohesion Ministry.

But while the Conference, which has an objective of bringing all Guyanese together was ongoing, a small yet raucous crowd gathered outside protesting the Conference Centre, balking at Government’s hypocrisy as it continues to wantonly fire Guyanese citizens from public office.

Their chants said that for Government, “cohesion” means “victimisation”. PPP Executive and Member of Parliament Gillian Burton Persaud has accused the Government of been unfair to the Guyanese populace, particularly those who were non supportive of them during the recent elections.

PPP supporters picket the Arthur Chung Convention Centre

PPP supporters picket the Arthur Chung Convention Centre

“We in the PPP are saying that there cannot be social cohesion when there is witchhunting happening in the Public Service.  There can be no social cohesion when there is political cleansing and there can be no social cohesion when there are senior members of Government standing in the hallways of Parliament and calling racial and ethnic slurs to other Members in the Opposition.

She recalled the comments made by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo calling Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, “coolie bully”. She said there is no way the attempt at social cohesion could be realised when such things are taking place within the upper echelons of Government.  “This is not just a talk it. Many of the participants will come and go and take nothing with them, she said.

Burton continued that such events must see positive results coming out, “but how could you see positive results coming out when one side of the country remains segregated,” she asked.

“Social cohesion is about togetherness, bringing people together as one”.

The Parliamentarian said “We are calling on Government to bring their A game to the table, because if we are going to have social cohesion, you must be able to bring people together.

PPP Executive Secretary Zulfikar Mustapha said Government now practices the opposite to what it had preached during the campaign trail.  He spoke of the dismissal of the 2000 Amerindian youth and said they are now fooling the International Community that they are building social cohesion “when they are victimising people based on their race and political affiliation”.

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Psychiatric patient on remand for hijacking

– awaiting psychologist’s report

Raymond Samaroo, a 24-year-old patient of the National Psychiatric Hospital on Thursday made another appearance in Court Two of the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. Samaroo previously appeared before the court charged with stealing a car while the owner was seated in the driver’s seat. He once again on Thursday alleged that he was being abused and ill-treated in prison, which he attributed to him having a mental illness.

Samaroo, a minibus driver, of 20 Owen Street, Kitty, Georgetown, was in court to face the indictable charge which read that on Monday, August 3 at 35 Garnett Street, Campbellville, he stole one Honda CRV motorcar valued $5 million, one Samsung cellphone valued $25,000 and $30,000 cash; all to a total value of $5,055,000; property of the Virtual Complainant (VC), Rhonda Joaquin.

The court had previously heard that on the day in question, the VC was parked in front of her yard and was about to exit the vehicle when the accused rushed into the vehicle, forcing her to exit, and drove off with it. He subsequently drove through two Police road blocks, nearly injuring two officers in the process.

It was also revealed that the accused has a pending matter of a similar nature before Court Five. Samaroo was previously charged for stealing a 4-Runner in a similar manner while the driver was purchasing a meal at a Chinese restaurant. It was while he was on bail for that charge that he committed the present offence.

On his previous appearance, Attorney Clyde Forde made an application for bail stating that his client suffers from a mental disease and could not be held accountable for his actions, as he suffers from delusions and amnesia.

The Attorney had presented a certificate which declared that his client is indeed a patient of the National Psychiatric Hospital and requested that he be placed on bail so that he could receive his monthly treatment.

On Thursday, it was reported during the session that he has been receiving treatment at the National Psychiatric Hospital; however, a report was not compiled and sent to the court. The Magistrate stated that the report is necessary to decide whether or not the defendant is mentally fit for trial.

She also ordered that he be evaluated by State Psychologist, Dr Bhiro Hari and that she be in receipt of a report. She remanded him to prison until September 29.

Samaroo, once again lamented that he was in pain due to receiving beating, however, this time he blamed employees at the Psychiatric Hospital.

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National days of mourning and prayer for Dominica on heels of Tropical Storm Erika

Dominicans on Thursday began national days of mourning and prayer, in the wake of the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika a week ago.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit visiting evacuees at the Grammar School

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit visiting evacuees at the Grammar School

Government declared Thursday and today National Days of Mourning, while Saturday and Sunday will be National Days of Prayer.

All flags will be flown at half-staff on all public buildings on the first two days. The country’s President, Charles Angelo Savarin, is expected to deliver an address to the nation later today.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the aim of the four days is to “honour lives lost as well as to offer thanksgiving to the Almighty”. Dominica was devastated by the floods caused by Tropical Storm Erika’s heavy rains.

In addition to the dozens killed, bridges and roads collapsed; the country’s main airport was significantly impacted and “every piece of equipment at the airport was destroyed beyond use”, according to Skerrit; several buildings, including hotels, were either destroyed or significantly damaged during the storm’s passage.

Skerrit said it would be an “expansive” undertaking to restore the country’s infrastructure and the cost of doing so would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has ramped up the mobilisation of response teams following the declaration of the special disaster areas by the government of Dominica.

As of Monday morning, over 100 members of the Caribbean community (Caricom) Operational Support Team (COST), the Caricom Disaster and Assessment Coordination Team (CDAC) and the Regional Search and Rescue Team were on the ground working closely alongside their counterparts including CDEMA’s emergency operations specialist, Brigadier General Earl Arthurs who is leading the Caricom teams on the Ground.

Programme manager – response and recovery, Joanne Persad, stated, “Our regional response mechanism was on standby before the storm struck and we were able to have a team on the ground within 24 hours of the impact to offer technical support, guidance and advice to the Government of Dominica. With the declaration of the disaster areas and identification of response priorities from Dominica, the CDEMA system immediately moved to deploy critical communications equipment, technical and coordination support through our response teams.”

COST is assisting in providing overall coordination support in the emergency operations centre in Dominica as well as the regional effort. Members of this team at this time are from the CDEMA Coordinating Unit, and National Disaster Offices of Trinidad, Saint Lucia and Montserrat. This team is expected to be further strengthened with personnel from the British Virgin Islands Department of Disaster Management later this week. (Excerpt from Caribbean360 and Caribbean News Now)

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