October 25, 2014 By
October 25, 2014 By
The Customs and Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) established several years ago to aid the Guyana Police Force in the fight against drugs has undergone a major revamping which has seen its manpower significantly increased.
This is according to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, who made the announcement at a Post-Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the President on Friday.
Since its establishment, CANU has successfully managed to interdict hundreds of persons who were attempting to traffic drugs, especially cocaine in and out of Guyana via several routes and ports of entry.
Only recently, ranks from CANU and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) seized a semi-submersible craft in a creek off the Waini River in the North-West District.
Dr Luncheon said the security reform measure being implemented by the administration was one that is “extremely incisive where law enforcement is concerned in Guyana”.
He said the security reform measure “logically follow inter-current interventions and it recognises the many contributions made by CANU to law enforcement in Guyana. And specifically its functioning in the field of investigations, prosecutions and international collaborations in anti-narcotics trafficking”.
He also explained that the human resource capacity will be significantly increased to more than two times its current strength as the Government looks to hire additional staff for the unit.
“The current strength of the Customs and Anti-narcotics Unit will be more than doubled at the end of the implementation of the project,” Dr Luncheon said.
Pointing to the organisational structure of CANU, Dr Luncheon said the revised organisational structure will be better able to respond to the functions of investigations, prosecutions and provide aid in the international fight against the narcotics trade.
It was also noted that the revision of CANU will also deal with job specifications, job description and will see a salary structure being implemented that “ensures relativity” between the other law enforcement entities such as the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force.
In August, CANU destroyed in excess of $5 billion in cocaine and marijuana that were seized through several operations in 2013, and the first quarter of 2014.
The drugs, which totalled close to two tonnes, were set alight in the presence of media operatives, members of CANU and the Guyana Fire Service on Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown.
A total of 1970 kilograms of marijuana with a street value of $196 million and 730 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $5.2 billion, were destroyed.
The value was calculated on the basis of prices in the US and Europe, since the drugs were destined for those countries. The estimated cost per kilo for cocaine in Europe is reportedly 45,000 euro, while in the US; it is being sold at US$35,000.
Head of CANU James Singh at the destruction exercise told media operatives that the drugs were found at airports and other operations throughout the country. He also added that apart from Europe and the US, some of the drugs were destined for other parts of the Caribbean and Canada.
Singh noted that ever so often drug mules find the most innovative ways to export the illegal substance, but with the establishment of the task force by the Home Affairs Ministry, they were able to put a dent in the drug trade.
Quite recently, there have been other innovations that were used to ship the drugs out of the country. These included achar, milk powder, fruits, vegetables, mail and frozen fish, among others.
Singh said despite the limited resources, he was elated to report that local law enforcement officers have seized more drugs than other countries which have the best drug enforcement units.
The official also stated that a high number of prosecutions are also done.
CANU is not only focused on getting the bigger “fishes”, but also scouring the country for the middle men who will ultimately lead to the dealers. On this note, he stated that it is wrong to say that Guyana is a narco state.
“We are seizing them as they come in and go out… this is an indication that the Government of Guyana is supporting law enforcement officers in carrying out its mandate.”
October 25, 2014 By
– billed taxpayers for roaming charges from Guyana
Trustee David Smith has literally been “dialing it in” — more often than not in the past two years, the Ward 19 Scarborough-Centre, representative attends Board meetings by phone or not at all.
So far this year, he has attended three meetings, missed three and phoned in for two, according to Board minutes of the Canadian school available online.
In 2013, he attended seven, sent regrets for three, and phoned in for 12 — or more than half of all regular or special Board meetings that year.
In 2012, he phoned in for five of 17 meetings, but in 2011 — the first year after he was elected — phoned in for just two and only missed one of 14 in total.
When asked, via email, about his attendance record, Smith replied “as you aware, trustees position is a part-time position,” he wrote.
“As a trustee I have never violated the rules and procedures of the Board. I have met all of the necessary requirements for attendance in person,” he said.
(Under the Education Act, trustees must be “physically present” for at least three Board meetings each calendar year.)
But the candidates running against him say his absence at the boardroom table means students and parents are not getting proper representation.
“A key flaw is his attendance,” said Scott Harrison, a firefighter and former trustee who is running against Smith after losing to him in the 2010 election.
“How can he represent the community if he’s never there? Things aren’t getting done in the community that should be getting done at the Board table.”
Another candidate, Christopher Copeman, even created a chart on his election website showing how Smith’s attendance has gone down over the years.
The phone has also caused other troubles for Smith, who was cited in a trustee expense audit report for international long distance and roaming charges on his Board cellphone to and from Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname.
“Some of these international long distance charges occurred during the Christmas and summer breaks,” the report noted.
Smith said he has friends and family in Guyana, but does not have a home there, and that “since most of my calls were related to TDSB business, I was told all was cleared.”
In 2013 alone, according to other documents obtained via access to information, he billed taxpayers for roaming charges and long-distance calls on a monthly basis from March to December from Guyana.
Smith was also cited for spending US$8,700 for ward newsletters using a vendor not approved by the Board, though he said the expense was approved by the Chair of the Board.
He also was found to have charged taxpayers for US$7.33 for a bottle of beer — alcohol purchases are forbidden — which he said he has since repaid.
He also claimed mileage for Board meetings he did not attend, or attended by phone, the audit report found. (Toronto Star)
October 25, 2014 By
Fire Chief of Trinidad and Tobago Nayar Rampersaud said though Caribbean firefighters are faced with numerous challenges, it is not enough that most of them are proficient in administering First Aid.
But he said more training institutions need to be built in order to continuously improve the skills of firefighters.
Aside from being good at administering First Aid, he said firemen are not properly trained, and as such, they struggle to work efficiently.
This problem, he said is noted limited to the Caribbean as it is a worldwide issue.
He added that at the beginning of every training programme, fire officers are taught how to handle cases of emergency.
The Trinidadian said too that although much attention is not being placed on the First Aid aspect of the job, it remains one of the most important and should be given due attention.
Meanwhile, Fire Chief Marlon Gentle said the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) has been working to continuously improve its services, pointing out that a training centre was recently opened in Leonora, West Bank Demerara to train firefighters.
The GFS, he said has been working hand-in-hand with fire services in the region to open another centre in Guyana to train local and Caribbean officials.
Recently, a team of firefighters, along with the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Chief arrived here to be part of the Annual Caribbean Firefighters’ Conference.
The delegation was involved in a number of activities as part of Fire Prevention Week 2014. The week came to a close with a cricket match between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
October 25, 2014 By
Hindus decked out in traditional garments on Thursday turned out in full numbers at temples across the country to attend early morning worship in observance of Diwali.
Throughout the country, women and girls were seen dressed in colourful shalwars, many of whom were carrying basins of fruits and parsad as they made their way to various temples.
The men and boys, many elegantly bedecked in kurtas, others in white long sleeve shirts and jeans, followed in groups behind.
In the temples, they performed pujas, offering their fruits and parsad to the Devine Mother Lakshmi, seeking her blessing for a happy and prosperous life.
Most of the services lasted for two hours, during which bhajans (holy songs) were song by both the women and men alike, with support of the youth groups of the mandirs.
The pandits (priests) urged their gatherings to seek to discover the inner light within them as they celebrate the Festival of Lights.
This, the congregations were told is important as it is the recipe for peaceful lives, empowering them to shun greed, hatred, haughtiness and the many vices in life.
The devotees were told to always love their neighbours, ensure unity in their families and embrace their religion, but mostly important the values and virtues it teaches.
The latter, the gatherings were informed is necessary for the sustenance of the religion of their ancestors, and the maintenance of a disciplined and enlightened approach to life.
Aside from the extolling of the virtues of Hinduism, the messages of the priests were common: they called on parents to transmit the teachings of Hinduism to their children, and make every effort to ensure that they receive a sound education.
This, the pandits conclude is the road that will enable the “Triumph of darkness over ignorance” and ensure a generation of wise, humble yet brave, progressive leaders.
At the conclusion of the worship, parcels of the blessed parsad were given out and worshippers greeted and wished each other a happy Diwali.
For many, on returning from temple, the cooking began. Seven curry and various sweetmeats were prepared, some of which were distributed to neighbours and friends.
Some families spend the day quietly, while for others, the occasion was more of a family get together.
But no matter how the day was spent, around 16:30h, preparations began for the lighting of diyas.
And at 18:00h, many residence were transformed, with a series of diyas (some artificial lights) laid out in elegant patterns, creating scenes to behold. Some homes were beautifully decorated with fairly lights.
Soon after, amid the silence, firecrackers began to go off, with scores of youth appearing in the streets.
Some were seen “spinning” (rotating) lighted steel wool on binding wires, running through the streets, while others scamper for cover to avoid getting burnt.
At most street corners, squibs were lighted in discarded milk tins, in some cases, several together, followed by laughter and a frantic race to safety.
As the night progresses, the contraband became more evident with explosions coming from every direction.
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu.
In Bengal, the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day.
In Jainism, Diwali has an added significance, the attainment of nirvana (eternal bliss) by Lord Mahavira. Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and brother Lakshman from his 14 year-long exile and the vanquishing of the demon king Ravana.
In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, India, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas.
October 25, 2014 By
By Alexis Rodney
The first week of the sixth round of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry came to an end on Friday. Still on the stand and under cross-examination was Police Crime Chief Leslie James who, from his perusal of the 1980 evidence, said that Dr Walter Rodney probably lost his life because he was too trusting of Gregory Smith.
Smith, the former Army Sergeant said to have been used by the People’s National Congress (PNC) regime of the 1980s to assassinate the world-renowned educator, was known to have been in contact with Dr Rodney for some time before his death. The Crime Chief, who was tasked with scrutinising the 1980 files of the investigation into Rodney’s death, was under cross-examination by Barbadian Queen’s Counsel and Attorney representing the interest of the Rodney Family, Andrew Pilgrim. Pilgrim was pressing to establish that while Dr Rodney could not have been reckless and caused his own death as was established by the Crime Chief during an earlier cross-examination, he was a victim of his failure to discern the true intent of his alleged assassin.
The Crime Chief had said that Dr Rodney was an intelligent man. It was suggested, however, that while he was intelligent, he may have lacked what is described as “road sense”. This was raised against the backdrop that his life was threatened on several occasions. He had even informed his wife, Patricia, that he was told at one point that a bomb would be placed in his car.
Dr Rodney had also told his wife that Smith was an “unreliable” person. This was surmised from his many dealings with the former Army Sergeant, especially as it related to keeping his appointments on time. All these things, he said, should have raised Dr Rodney’s suspicion of the late electronics expert.
The argument emanating from the cross-examination was that Dr Rodney was not all knowing and could not be aware that Smith would have double crossed him in such a manner. According to Pilgrim, based on the evidence provided by Donald, as far as the two were aware, when Donald was sent to Smith’s house to uplift the item on the evening of June 13, 1980, all they knew was that a walkie-talkie had to be uplifted.
They were at no time aware that a bomb was hidden in the device.
Meanwhile, the head of the police crime unit admitted too that the police work carried out in trying to find Gregory Smith was not “totally thorough”, based on the evidence provided.
But Commissioner Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, QC, seeking to offer some clarity based on the evidence, explained that the Police may have been working according to the availability of evidence.
She said the investigation could be divided into different periods. She said the Police first dealt with the information they had between April and June 13, 1980. There was also the availability of information between June 13 and 17, 1980 leading up to the trial of Donald Rodney, along with the information gathered from the end of the trial up until 1995, when an arrest warrant was issued for Gregory Smith, who was at that time living in French Guyana.
According to her, it was understood that the investigation was completed and the files either opened or reopened during the different periods. Based on the information at their disposal then, the Commissioner explained, the Police might have taken steps accordingly.
Attorney Pilgrim directed the Crime Chief’s attention to period one, a few days after Dr Rodney was killed. The argument was that the investigative team, headed by Senior Superintendent Ignatius McCrae, failed to launch a search for Gregory Smith. Even upon examining the coroner’s report which suggested that Dr Rodney did not handle any explosive material at the time of death.
Dr Rodney had become a controversial figure in Guyana and several countries around the world. He was known for his no-nonsense approach to the affairs affecting the working class and human beings in general.
Returning to Guyana in May 1974, after living and teaching abroad, he had come into conflict with the then ruling Government, the PNC headed by Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. That regime has been accused of assassinating the historian, who was also a founding leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).
October 25, 2014 By
Perhaps it will come as a surprise to many to learn that Diwali is not just India’s biggest festival; many nations around the world follow this festival with great pomp and show.
About two decades ago, a couple from Nagpur visiting Singapore during Diwali holidays were very surprised to find the Singapore airport decorated with marigold flowers, roses, diyas and rangolis!
Not just Indians, every foreigner landing there was greeted with a cheery “Happy Diwali” and offered mithai.
Diwali is also celebrated outside of India mainly in Guyana, Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Africa, Australia and the US, among the Hindus across the world.
Guyana, formerly known as British Guiana, is located on the northeast coast of South America. Guyana is 82,978 square miles in area and has a population of about 770, 000. Hindus constitute 33 per cent of Guyana’s total population.
The Co-operative Republic of Guyana, South America celebrates Diwali according to the Hindu Solar calendar. The day of the festival is declared as a national holiday in the official calendar of Guyana. The tradition of celebrating the festival is believed to have been brought to Guyana in the year 1853 by the first indentured people from India.
The name Indonesia came from two Greek words: “Indos” meaning Indian and “Nesos” meaning islands. The majority of population follows Islam and Hindus constituent just about two per cent of Indonesia’s total population.
However, the Indonesian island of Bali is famous for celebrating the festival of Diwali, as a majority of the population there is that of Indians. It is one of the most revered festivals of the locals. The celebration and rituals of the festival is mostly similar to that celebrated by their counterparts in India.
Fascinating in its diversity, Malaysia has many mesmerising charms and attractions. With a population of about 20 million, comprising of a harmonious multi-ethnic mix of Malays, Malaysia promises a colourful potpourri of cultural traditions.
The Hindu community of Malaysia constitutes about eight per cent of its total population .The community celebrates Diwali as a symbol of triumph of good over evil. It is interesting that Malay Indians celebrate Diwali as the South Indians of India do. The Malaysian people call Diwali as Hari Diwali. This festival is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar.
The south Indian traditional of oil bath precedes the festivities. The celebration includes visits to temples and prayers at household altars.
Small lamps made from clay and filled with coconut oil and wicks are a common sight to signify the victory of Lord Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, over the demon king Ravana.(Nagpur Today)
October 24, 2014 By
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) will host workshops geared at strengthening the Caribbean’s ability to prepare and respond to outbreak situations such as the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
From November 17-21, CARPHA, in collaboration with the Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis (CHA) unit of the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), will provide two training workshops on infectious substances shipping training and bio-safety practices for the clinical laboratory, at its Port of Spain, Trinidad headquarters.
Laboratory professionals from across the Caribbean who complete the world health organisation shipping infectious substances course will be certified to prepare shipments of laboratory samples.
Successful participants will be certified for a period of two years to handle and package Category A infectious substances, such as samples from suspected cases of Ebola virus disease.
CARPHA will also train personnel in bio-safety measures, practiced in the laboratory, which include infection control, proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and waste management measures.
It is expected that laboratory technicians actively involved in the packaging of laboratory samples, for the purpose of international transport, will in turn provide similar training to other colleagues at institutional and country level.
Both the shipping and bio-safety courses are in accordance with WHO guidance on regulations for the transport of infectious substances 2013-2014 and WHO Biorisk Management Programme respectively.
October 24, 2014 By
President Donald Ramotar on Friday met with top officials from several sectors including, security, aviation and medical officials to discuss Guyana’s preparedness for any possible Ebola cases. The meeting is one of several scheduled to keep all officials apprised of the latest developments, and possible constraints that may arise in addressing concerns across the sectors in dealing with any possible cases.
The meeting held at the Office of the President was also advised about facilities that have been prepared, and are being prepared for the quarantining of suspected victims of Ebola.
The Health Ministry has begun training more than 1,600 persons to deal with any suspected cases of the disease. Health care facilities are also being prepared to handle suspected cases, along with the procurement of protective gear and medical supplies. In case of the latter, international support from agencies such as the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) it is anticipated would provide the necessary support on a case by case basis, to boost the capabilities of Caribbean member states as needed to respond to suspected cases.
About 5,000 people have already died from the disease, with close to 9,000 other cases being reported according to the WHO.
Guyana has instituted travel restrictions for persons from West African nations stricken by the disease. Several Caribbean nations have also instituted similar travel restrictions; these include St Vincent, St Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis.
October 24, 2014 By