March 30, 2015

Scenes from the PPP/C rally at Kitty

ppp spread

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CJ to rule on challenge to two-term presidential limit May 4

Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang is expected to rule on the motion which was filed by civilian Cedric Richardson challenging the two-term presidential limit on May 4, a few days before General and Regional Elections are held in the country.

 Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Former Speaker Raphael Trotman

Former Speaker Raphael Trotman

Lead counsel for Richardson, Shaun Allicock, told the Guyana Times from all indications, the matter will be dealt with expeditiously as a decision is expected on May 4. The defendants in the case, former Speaker Raphael Trotman and Attorney General Anil Nandlall, through their legal counsels, Ashley King and Ariane McLean had respectively requested of Justice additional time to file an affidavit in answer during the last hearing of the matter on March 16.

On Monday, February 2, Richardson, 50, of Lot 4 West Ruimveldt, Georgetown, filed the motion in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the limit which was imposed on Guyanese Presidents since 2001. The Speaker of the National Assembly and the Attorney General had eight days to file a response to the motion.

In his writ, Richardson claims that Act No 17 of 2001, passed by a two-third majority of members of the National Assembly that altered Article 90 of the Constitution, “curtails and restricts the sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector to elect the person of former President (Bharrat) Jagdeo as the Executive President of Guyana”.

Richardson contends that the Act diminishes and reduces the level of democracy enjoyed by the electorate prior to the alteration and, therefore, required for its legal validity, the holding of a referendum of the people for such alteration. Guyana’s Constitution, upon passing of the Act, states that a person elected as President after the year 2000 is eligible for re-election only once. The Constitution further states that a person who acceded to the presidency after 2000 and served therein for a single occasion for not less than such a period as may be determined by the National Assembly is eligible for election as President only once.

Attorney General Nandlall has consistently maintained that the changes to the Constitution were done in accordance with the law and as such, the motion had no weight.

Hidden agenda
Days after the motion was filed, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had flayed the sponsor of it, declaring that the timing of the challenge and the identity of the plaintiff were suspicious.

The Party said: “Clearly, this new development is an attempt to throw a spanner in the works. The sponsors of the legal challenge appear to have a hidden agenda in the real sense of the term other than invoking or blocking the boogie of a “third term” for Bharrat Jagdeo.”

Jagdeo has repeatedly said that he was not interested in any constitutional position. According to the PPP/C, the interest of those behind the challenge lies in the “darkest and deepest crevices of a democracy comparable to the galleries of Hades”. The Party stated too that “Mr Bharrat Jagdeo had publicly affirmed time and again his respect for the Constitution and that he has no interest whatsoever in any so-called “third-term” Presidency”.

“It is now become obvious that Mr Jagdeo’s assertions fell on deaf ears and that his expression of disinterest in returning to the presidency notwithstanding, the modern-day Quislings working in close collaboration with the local satraps continue to generate and peddle this absolute nonsense, elevating it to useless legalistic twaddle.”

The PPP/C said since 2011, Jagdeo made clear his disinterest in this matter within the Party and beyond. “The Party wishes to state that while Mr Jagdeo remains a highly popular figure within and beyond the membership and supporters of the PPP/C, this popularity is in no way intended to be translated into a “third-term” candidature. The PPP/C is aware of the fact that while many of its members and supporters hold the former President in high esteem and would have liked to see his return to the Presidency, they are very much aware that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing in our society who seek to sow discord and to engage in deceitful and artful fandangle aimed at misleading and confusing PPP/C supporters. While the other political parties are still dithering to name their Presidential Candidate, the PPP/C has already done so.”

The PPP/C said it has confronted much subterfuge in and out of elections season. “We fought off and overcame all of them. This new subterfuge will be fought off too and consigned to the dustbin of history,” the statement ended.

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Granger making excuses – Jagdeo

‘Dirty Voters List’ claims

In the wake of claims by A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Presidential Candidate David Granger of the voters’ list being “dirty”, former President Bharrat Jagdeo asserted that the Opposition was making excuses in the event it loses the upcoming General and Regional Elections on May 11.

In justifying his suspicion, Jagdeo pointed out that Granger had many an opportunity to question the voters list, yet he waited this close to elections to raise his concerns.

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

“Clearly, every right-thinking Guyanese must be saying ‘what’s wrong with Granger?’…You’ve had so many years and so many cycles of continuous registration to challenge the integrity of the voters list. You did not do so. You have three members on the Elections Commission who represent your interest, you did not challenge through them the integrity of the list. There are claims and objections that we pursued, not once but several times, and you did not challenge the integrity of the list. Why now?” Jagdeo probed.

The former President noted that he was of the belief that Granger has an ulterior motive for now questioning the integrity of the list.
“My feeling is that the motive is fear, fear of losing and trying as we know, in that past, the PNC (People’s National Congress) has often done, trying to make excuses for that failure…,” Jagdeo asserted.

According to Granger, the list has increased by more than 100,000 and this was alarming, given the fact that statistics have shown that the population in Guyana has been dropping over the years. “Do not take things for granted. Do not be complacent. The list has suddenly gone up by 100,000 to 567,000.
Keep your eyes open. We do not believe in that. How in three years in a country in which the population is falling, the voters’ list has gone up by a hundred thousand?” he asked.

However, analysts have justified the integrity of the list by pointing out that the population decrease can be owed to fewer persons giving birth and the list increase be owed to longer life-expectancy.

Nonetheless, Jagdeo called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to defend the list just as vigorously as it did when the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had raised concerns.

Throughout the last quarter of last year, the PPP/C had raised several concerns with respect to GECOM’s preparations for elections and the training and hiring of staff, as well as with the list of electors.

But, as pointed out by Jagdeo, GECOM had responded with vigour to the incumbent party.

“If we allow this to slide, these are dangerous grounds…,” Jagdeo warned, noting that the Opposition would definitely use this as a pre-emptive excuse for losing the elections.

GECOM Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally in responding to Granger’s comments had said there was no “dirty” list, noting too that all the while, Granger and the Opposition have been singing the praises of the Commission.

“We met over the past months and even though they had the list in their possession, they never once raised any questions or queried anything,” Surujbally contended.

Dangerous mindset
Granger had said if the coalition was voted into office on May 11, it planned to revamp the voters’ list.

But, as highlighted by Jagdeo, no Government has the authority to revamp the voters list and the fact that Granger was making such statements signalled the kind of dangerous mindset and intentions of the Opposition.

“That is how it used to be in the past … that’s no longer the case, GECOM as an independent organisation decides about the list, not APNU and AFC…,” he stated.

Concerns are raised when a politician vying to become the President of a country makes a statement like that because it implies that he is “far divorced from reality”, Jagdeo declares.

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76 single parents certified under BIT

As the nation continues to promote women empowerment, 76 single parents, from Soesdyke and neighbouring communities on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD), were honoured with certificates after completing a cake decorating and pastry course under the Labour Ministry’s Board of Industrial Training (BIT) programme.

The six-week course was conducted in collaboration with the Government of Guyana and the Soesdyke Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), and was aimed at empowering women with the necessary skills for self development and that of their families.

During a simple ceremony on Saturday at Camille’s Institute, the graduates in expressing their gratitude indicated that the programme was beneficial.
One of the beneficiaries, Dhannyie Austin said the programme has equipped her with the requisite skills and knowledge needed to create a business out of her talent.

“I feel proud, happy and excited. When I started the course, I didn’t know anything; I came here and learned everything.  Now, I am equipped with a skill and I feel proud of,” Shirley Gibbons added. Like Austin, Gibbons said she is in a better position now to start her own business.

Meanwhile, Tisheree Taylor said that this is her second certificate under the programme. While expressing gratitude to all those who made the programme possible, Taylor said that she will now be opening her own pastry shop.

In his address to the graduates, Junior Finance Minister, Bishop Juan Edghill said Government’s commitment to women empowerment is contributing to nation building.

“I believe in what we are doing as a Government to empower women because special emphasis must be placed on women…you are more than an incubator, you are persons with dignity and must be treated as such, a valuable contributor in national development and making the community better,” Minister Edghill said.

According to him, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has always included women in policy making, noting that the late Janet Jagan served as the first female President and Prime Minister of Guyana. Even as the country is preparing for General and Regional Elections, he pointed out that the Prime Ministerial Candidate is also a woman.

“In the Ministry of Human Services there is a special department dealing with women, the Women’s Affairs Bureau.  There are women leading in all sectors, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and agriculture…women have their individual responsibility, and are contributing to the development of Guyana, gone are the days when women were confined to being housewives,” Minister Edghill further noted.

He said in addition to the BIT programme, women would have also benefited significantly from the Women of Worth (WOW) programme; an initiative which resulted in more than 1000 women accessing loans to finance their business plans.

According to Minister Edghill, the BIT programme has provided an opportunity for women to receive the skills needed for them to venture into their areas of interest within the business arena.

Edghill urged the women to move forward and develop themselves, adding that they should not allow their past to define them.

“Your future is not determined by your past. The future is determined by the choices you make today. Out of this group, you might be the pastry chef at the hotels that will be built as a result of the extended runway at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) or you will be the cake decorating person for the next wedding, you must see yourself there,” Minister Edghill told the gathering.

Coordinator Rima Rohee posited that the programme has received great reviews, and has impacted many single parent women. She encouraged the graduates to take the skills back to their communities and empower other women. Recently, 50 women graduated under this programme in floral decoration.

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JAGS Aviation honours pilots, engineers

JAGS Aviation's Cessna Grand Caravan 208B EX at the Ogle International Airport

JAGS Aviation’s Cessna Grand Caravan 208B EX at the Ogle International Airport

JAGS Aviation, last Friday, honoured a group of pilots and engineers after they would have completed a comprehensive training programme.

In his address, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition Presidential Candidate, David Granger underscored the importance of the aviation sector.

“This is a big country by Caribbean standards, and it is a misfortune that most of the areas in our huge hinterland are accessed only by aircraft, this therefore means that the aviation industry is vital, and we need to ensure that  we not only have the aircraft and pilots but we have the infrastructure on the ground,” he said.

Granger said too that facilities should be put in place for emergency cases, noting that it is critical to have a safe aviation environment.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, in his address, encouraged members of the aviation group to make use of the opportunity at their disposal.

Bobby Vieira, who chaired the programme, said as the company proudly celebrates the continued growth of its fleet and expected businesses, it is proud of its decision to adopt critical aspect of the aviation sector led by safety, maintenance and customer satisfaction, hence, its slogan “Exceeding your Expectation.”

“In order to maintain a trouble free airline and to be able to hold on to the highest safety standards, one must first approach each area with urgency, commitment and a genuine sense of responsibility, therefore, a good maintenance profile will always be significant from their standpoint,” he said.

It was pointed out that in relation to international focus; JAGS Aviation has plans to move both passenger and cargo in and out of Guyana. Its immediate plans include establishing services between Guyana and Puerto Ordaz in Venezuela, as well as a weekly cargo service to Barbados for the movement of fruits and vegetables, while moving other types of cargo on the return.

Its sister company BK Air Inc; which will be launched later this year, will be joining in the promotion of Guyana’s tourism sector. This is to assist in helping the aviation offer a complete package when it comes to travelling in and out of Guyana.

Vieira also disclosed that a modern ambulance, which is owned by the BK Group, would be stationed at the Ogle International Airport.

The ambulance will operate under the guidance of the fire and rescue services at the Ogle International Airport and will be made available to all operators in the event of an emergency.

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Police hail community partnership at first Youth Expo

Some of the children interacting with the cartoon characters at the expo

Some of the children interacting with the cartoon characters at the expo

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) successfully hosted a Police-Community Partnership Youth Expo on Saturday with hundreds of youths in attendance at Thirst Park, Georgetown.

Youth groups from Albouystown, Agricola, Grove, Mocha, Soesdyke and Tiger Bay thrilled the audience with their performances. While some sang, others danced and even recited poems.

A Division Commander, Clifton Hicken, in his address, said that the GPF collaborated with a number of stakeholders to facilitate the expo.

 He also explained that the initiative was aimed fostering a good relationship between the communities involved and the law enforcement in those areas. Commander Hicken also expressed his gratitude to the major sponsors such as Digicel Guyana, Mohammed’s Enterprise, Queensway, Kissoon’s Furniture Store, Courts Guyana and the Georgetown Football Federation.

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud said that the initiative would go a far way in establishing a strong bond between the communities and the Police, adding that the expo could make way for a reduction in the crime rate of these areas.

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DHB records increased traffic in February

The Demerara Harbour Bridge

The Demerara Harbour Bridge

With the number of vehicles on Guyana’s roadways rising daily, the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) Corporation has reported an 8.7 per cent increase in the number of vehicles travelling across the bridge in the month of February.

According to a release from the Public Works Ministry, approximately 262,544 vehicles traversed the bridge last month compared to 241,606 vehicles recorded for the same period in 2014. The Ministry further stated that a recent report also revealed that for six days in February, in excess of 10,000 vehicles travelled across the bridge in the westerly direction on a daily basis. This is a milestone for the 36 year-old infrastructure.

On February 19, the highest volume of traffic was recorded with 10,818 vehicles. This was followed by 10,361 vehicles on February 24; 10,241 vehicles on February 21; 10,174 vehicles on February 2; 10,173 vehicles on February 14 and 10,117 vehicles on February 20.

Back in December 2013, the first 10,000 plus figure was recorded when approximately 10,894 vehicles travelled across the floating bridge in the westerly direction.

The Works Ministry also reported that private motor cars (P) accounted for 51.55 per cent of the total volume of traffic while mini-buses represented 14.06 per cent and hire motor cars (H) 13.31 per cent.

In its 2014 year-end-review, General Manager Rawlston Adams, reported that the DHB had an outstanding year, recording a 5.1 per cent increase in vehicular traffic with a total of 11,555 transited in one direction in December, which is the highest number ever recorded.

Adams also stated that marine traffic saw a decline from 1279 in 2013 to 1191 in 2014, which is a 6.6 per cent decrease. Marine toll for 2014 amounted to $20,266,000 while vehicular toll amounted to $462,446,099 in 2014. In the case of other revenues, the DHB saw a total of $50,517,283 being generated in 2014, which brings the overall total amount of income generated last year to $71,095,477.

 The harbour bridge expended a total of $337,324,874 on its capital works for 2014. These works included the fabrication of three pontoons and  10 transoms, servicing of 18 pontoons, fabrication of connecting posts ( 30 pairs ), supply of sheaves and shackles (120 snatch blocks ), fabrication of 60 buoys and the  rehabilitation of one tug.

Measuring 1851 meters across, the floating bridge was declared opened on July 2, 1978 and is the main infrastructure, linking the West Bank and West Coast of Demerara to the rest of the country on the eastern bank of the river.

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FAO Council finds historic consensus on work programme and budget

FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva

FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Executive Council on Friday closed its week-long session by reaching consensus on the agency’s biennial programme of work and budget – an unprecedented move that reflects widespread appreciation for the leadership shown by Director General José Graziano da Silva since he took office in 2012.

In the past, budget negotiations have extended well beyond the Council session and were only concluded during FAO’s Conference. “For the first time FAO members reached consensus on the budget level at Council. Congratulations!” Graziano da Silva said in his closing address to what he described as a “historic” session.

“On behalf of FAO, I want to thank you for your trust in the Organisation and leadership,” he added. The budget recommended by the Council for full delivery of FAO’s programme of work for 2016-2017 amounts to US$1.0357 billion. The recommended programme of work and budget level will be presented for formal approval by all members in June at the FAO Conference, the highest governing body of the Organisation.

The Director General recognised the challenges faced by many FAO member countries and underscored their efforts made in a spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding during the Council meeting.  “I recognise the difficult global context and the little margin we had to negotiate. I want to thank all of our members for the flexibility and readiness shown to support the consensus. We needed it.”

Graziano da Silva also welcomed the Council’s support to areas of higher priority identified in order to reflect shifting global trends and challenges, such as climate change and malnutrition. “I appreciate the flexibility to adjust our programme of work to emerging challenges and  the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said referring to the new global development targets that are set to replace the Millennium Development Goals and in which agriculture and the fight against hunger are expected to feature prominently.

He also welcomed the Council’s decision to increase funding for the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) by US$6.1 million through extra-budgetary resources in 2016-17. The Council has also agreed to the setting up of a trust fund to ensure that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) receive increased support from FAO, in particular to adapt to climate change.

FAO is “more efficient and effective”

In its final report for the March 2015 session, the Council said it appreciated “the transformational changes undertaken at FAO since 2012 (which) had resulted in a more efficient and effective Organisation.” The report also underlined the “importance of continuity” in the strategic direction taken by FAO since 2012 which includes focusing the Organisation on five strategic objectives.

Another innovation introduced since Graziano da Silva’s appointment as Director General has been the establishment of partnerships with a broad set of stakeholders including the Private Sector, civil society and academic institutions – something the Council in its report said it would continue to encourage. It also said it supported FAO’s organisational restructuring proposals and emphasised the importance of consolidation of decentralisation efforts. Many of the observations contained in the Council report are in tune with the recent findings of the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) – a network of 19 donor countries –which has noted how trust in the Organisation has been strengthened and how it has sharpened focus.

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Ramotar, Granger to face off in PSC Presidential Debate

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar

Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman Ramesh Persaud confirmed that the Presidential Candidates of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Donald Ramotar, and the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), David Granger, will face each other to deliberate on their policies in front of a televised audience.

During a brief interview with the Guyana Times, Persaud disclosed that both Granger and Ramotar have expressed their interest in publicly discussing their policies ahead of the May 11 General and Regional Elections.

According to Persaud, the PSC already met with Ramotar and will be meeting with Granger today to discuss strategy and details surrounding the nature of the debate.

The PSC Chairman assured that more details will be made available in due time.

Globally, there is much excitement and anticipation surrounding presidential debates.

APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate David Granger

APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate David Granger

The topics discussed in the debates, particularly in the United States, are often the most controversial of the time, and arguably elections have been nearly decided by these debates.

The University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS) is also in the process of organising a presidential debate.

According to UGSS President Joshua Griffith, the organising committee intends to send out invitations to all the contesting political parties.

Griffith said they were planning to have presidential debates, prime ministerial candidate debates, and political youth activist debates.

The UGSS President said he was hopeful all the political parties would provide a positive reply.

He indicated that an exercise like this, especially on a student-body level, will provide for the better conveyance of knowledge of Guyanese politics by exposing the younger population to a political environment.

PSC Chairman Ramesh Persaud

PSC Chairman Ramesh Persaud

Additionally, the debate would create a forum for discussion and interaction between students and representatives of political parties.

However, observers suggest that Ramotar will not likely participate in that debate. In 2011, the UGSS had organised and executed a presidential debate, but experts had said the event was poorly managed. During that debate, Ramotar was placed in an unfair environment as the audience at the event consisted mainly of Opposition supporters who did not give him a chance to speak. His voice was drowned out by the heckling of the supporters, marring the entire event. Since then, Ramotar has repeatedly said that he was up to the challenge of debating his policies on a public platform; however, he would not take part in the debate unless it was properly organised.

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Harper to help push anti-domestic violence agenda

PPP/C Prime Ministerial Candidate Elisabeth Harper

PPP/C Prime Ministerial Candidate Elisabeth Harper

By Devina Samaroo

Prime Ministerial Candidate of the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Elisabeth Harper declared that she will personally ensure and push for a more rigorous campaign against domestic violence in Guyana, among many other pressing issues affecting various sections of society.

Harper was at the time delivering an extensive speech to thousands of supporters at the PPP/C campaign rally in Kitty on Sunday. Harper vowed to ensure that the rights of all Guyanese are represented and outlined the PPP/C’s policies for addressing, and potentially eradicating, the scourges in the Guyanese society. “Once elected, you have my personal commitment that I will continue to build on the foundation laid by the PPP/C to deal with these issues that are so close and personal to me,” she promised.

Starting with domestic violence, Harper said the PPP/C administration will embark on reviewing all the laws surrounding women to identify gaps and loopholes and consequently, address them accordingly to make certain women’s rights are strongly represented in Guyana.

Further, she said the PPP/C will establish a special crimes unit that will address issues related to domestic violence and child abuse.

Education Minister Priya Manickchand had spoken about this development before, noting that victims of abuse currently have to visit more than one establishment to relate their concerns, which, in most cases, discourage them from making a report in the first place.

“If you have one center, and it has a social worker, a nurse, the police, everything in one place, the victim will only have to relate his/her traumatising experience once, instead of visiting these difference places and saying the same thing over and over again,” she explained.

Additionally, Harper promised the party’s supporters that her administration will work towards strengthening the justice system so that victims can be represented fairly by the law.

It was previously highlighted by the Presidential Adviser on Governance and Former Home Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira that there is a low conviction rate when it comes to domestic and sexual violence cases because the problem lies in ensuring that justice is administered in a timelier manner.

Being a victim of domestic abuse herself, Harper noted that no woman should ever have to experience the feeling of being abused as it destroys her self confidence and her family.

She added that domestic violence even leads to the destruction of society.

Harper then went on to address the concerns of teenage mothers in Guyana, noting too, that her government has a plan to help them succeed in life.

“To those young women who would have had to leave school early because of becoming pregnant, you have another chance to continue your education, to develop your career and to provide for your family, you can lift your heads high. My party will ensure that there are opportunities to support you…,” she assured.

Moving on to the woes of single parents, Harper noted that the PPP/C recognizes the challenges they face and therefore will establish programmes to allow them to receive further education and training to better themselves which will ultimately reflect on their children.

She also disclosed plans to provide daycare services for those who work and seek to ensure the financial support for their children.

The Prime Ministerial Candidate also addressed the issues facing the elderly in society.

She expressed her party’s commitment in caring for the aging population and ensuring this section of society is treated with dignity and that their rights are protected.

“We will develop and enact laws for the protection of the elderly and the establishment and upgrade of retirement homes for senior citizens within the regions ensuring that caregivers are appropriately trained,” she said. Harper also noted that the PPP/C will focus on adopting programme for persons in preparation for retirement that will take into account their potential to continue to contribute to the country’s development efforts.

Harper added that the PPP/C will ensure that those who are differently-able will be provided with skills training and more opportunities for jobs.

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