May 29, 2015

Govt to forge ahead despite not having the votes

President David Granger

President David Granger

Constitutional reform


– optimistic PPP/C ‘will come around’

By Alexis Rodney

The new A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition Government will be moving ahead with its effort to ensure a reform of the 2001 Constitution.

The Government has already begun seeking to have a commission set up to oversee the process. The Administration said too that it was hopeful the now Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), would “come around” to supporting the transformation of the country’s supreme law.

President David Granger told the Guyana Times on Wednesday that under his Administration, the Constitution will come under review as there are some major areas that need to be focused on. “There is still a long list of unimplemented regulations, but after three years of the 10th Parliament, there are a lot of things for examination. Certainly, we have to examine the powers of the President. That will be reviewed, other areas dealing with governance, the implementation of local government reforms, the non- assent to bills, and several other areas have to be examined,” Granger told Guyana Times exclusively.

He said his Administration was looking to re-examine the entire Constitution, and believes that a fresh commission would have to “look at the Constitution as a whole”. Prior to it becoming Government, the then APNU and AFC Opposition parties had separately called for constitutional reform. Pressure for change also mounted after the then President Donald Ramotar had made a decision to prorogue the tenth Parliament, following a threat of the tabling of a No-Confidence Motion.

PPP/C General Secretary Clement Rohee

PPP/C General Secretary Clement Rohee

However, PPP/C General Secretary Clement Rohee had maintained that the Constitution was not something to “be tampered with, ransacked or subjected to open heart surgery, whimsically or maliciously, because of political disagreement on issues of governance or the powers of a Head of State”.

He had said that the current Constitution had benefited from a series of nationwide consultations over a three-year period beginning in 1999, during which the inputs of a wide cross-section of Guyanese people, including organised labour, religious and cultural organisations and other interested parties and groups were considered. He said too that unlike the 1980 Constitution, Guyana today boasts one of the most advanced Constitutions in the Caribbean Region.

Meanwhile, Granger detailed that with the commission in place, countrywide consultations will be held. Asked if he was confident of support this time from the PPP/C, the Head of State said “when the time comes and it is put to a vote, the PPP/C might be interested in constitutional change as well. But the first step is to establish a new constitution reform commission and conduct consultation countrywide”.

He said despite the PPP/C’s current non-cooperative stance, he was hopeful that they will come to the table and discuss. “They have done this thing before, but I am hopeful …We are accustomed to these sort of things. They’ll come around,” President Granger asserted.

But President Granger did not say whether he was in consultation with the PPP/C as to the shape and form that the commission would take. He did not say explicitly whether he intends to invite the PPP/C to elect or nominate persons to chair the commission that would be established.

In order for any changes to be made to Guyana’s Constitution, President Granger will need to have a two-thirds majority which his coalition does not enjoy at this time in the legislature. He will need to craft a plan to include the PPP/C which has 32 of the 65 seats in Parliament.

Additionally, the PPP/C has made it clear that it was not interested in making changes to the country’s Constitution to suit any political party or personal motives. The Party has also confirmed that it was not in receipt of any formal invitation to participate in any reform process at the moment.

Guyana’s Constitution is the highest governing document in the country. It officially came into effect on October 6, 1980 and underwent review subsequently, the major one being in 2001. Prior to 1980 Guyana had a different Constitution which was enacted in 1966, upon its independence from the United Kingdom. Independent Guyana’s first Constitution, a modified version of the 1961 Constitution, took effect on the first day of independence, May 26, 1966. It reaffirmed the principle that Guyana was a democratic state founded on the rule of law. On February 23, 1970, the Burnham Government proclaimed the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

This move had both economic and political ramifications. The then Government argued that the country’s many resources had been controlled by foreign capitalists and that organising the population into cooperatives would provide the best path to development. The 1970 proclamation severed Guyana’s last significant constitutional tie to Britain. The Governor General was replaced by a President.

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Digicel launches trade-in programme in Jamaica

– making smartphones accessible while protecting the environment

Digicel is making it easier and more affordable to own a smartphone with the launch of its new trade-in programme which offers customers the best value by giving them a chance to turn in their used or defective handsets and receive credit towards the purchase of a brand new one.
Recognising that customers need and want to be connected to the web, social media and each other, Digicel is introducing this programme to allow everyone to keep up with the latest telecommunications technology.

And, in line with its “Go-Green” philosophy, Digicel’s programme is demonstrating its environmental awareness. Cellphones contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants – many of these materials can and should be recycled and reused instead of being allowed to contaminate the soil, air or ground.

Digicel Group Chief Commercial Officer Claudio Hidalgo said: “Digicel is always looking to deliver value to our customers. With the launch of the trade-in programme, we are making it easier and more affordable for customers from all networks to own a smartphone while helping to promote environmental conservation and protection. In addition, customers who take advantage of the programme, meaning non-Digicel customers can join the Region’s biggest family on the fastest and most reliable network.”

How it works
Customers can bring in their handset to any participating Digicel store where a specialist will assess their handset. Once the handset is accepted, the dollar value of the handset will be credited towards the purchase of a new smartphone. This promotion is not limited to Digicel customers only as handsets from other networks can also be brought in for assessment.

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Cop charged for MFK boss beheading

The Police Sergeant charged in connection with the murder of prominent businessman Mohamed F Khan, popularly called MFK, made his first appearance before Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry on Thursday at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.

Leon Lindo, of 20 Belle West, Canal Number Two, West Bank Demerara, who is a member of the Guyana Police Force attached to the Tactical Services Unit for the past 23 years, was not required to plead to the indictable charge which read that between July 8 and July 10, 2014 he conspired with Lennox Wayne to kill Khan.

Lennox “Two Colours” Wayne who is the main suspect in the murder

Lennox “Two Colours” Wayne who is the main suspect in the murder

Police Prosecutor Bharat Mangru told the court that between July 8 and July 10, 2014, Khan was shot and subsequently went missing on August 21, 2014. He stated that on September 22, a headless body was discovered in Cummings Lodge and DNA testing revealed that the body belonged to the missing businessman. It was revealed that, through investigations, Lennox “Two Colours” Wayne was taken into custody. It was stated that Wayne revealed that there was a plot between himself and the defendant to kill the victim.

Defence Attorney Tanicia Daniels stated that her client was not a flight risk and has been fully cooperative throughout the investigations, citing that he came prepared for court voluntarily. She argued that her client has all intentions to defend his innocence and wanted the case to be ventilated so that he could be vindicated. The Magistrate refused bail and the man was remanded to prison. The matter will return to court on June 12 for the report.

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New Ministry to help raise profile of birth certificate

– Felix vows streamlining of GRO, immigration

The newly created Ministry of Citizenship, being headed by former Commissioner of Police Winston Felix, will be replacing the General Registry Office (GRO), President David Granger has said.

Granger has come under criticisms for the widespread changing of names of some of the Ministries, as well as the merging others. He has, however, defended his decision, stating that the name changes reflected the true functions of the Ministries and policy direction of his administration.

The General Register Office is a department of the Ministry of Home Affairs and is located at the Guyana Post Office Corporation. It operates in accordance with Chapters 44:01-Births and Deaths, and 45:01-Marriages of the laws of Guyana. Its main objectives are to maintain and secure national registers and registration forms of birth, death and marriages of the Guyanese people, and of foreigners occurring in Guyana, and to supply members of the public, extracts of entries recorded with minimum of delay upon request.

Before July 1, 1987, the registration of births and deaths were done throughout the country in the registration districts, for example, Georgetown had 11 Districts, Plaisance had 9 which included Lodge and Kitty. Speaking to the Guyana Times in an exclusive interview on Wednesday at the Ministry of the Presidency, President Granger explained that the Ministry was convened as the name suggest, to deal with the rights of the citizens with regards to birth, naturalisation and immigration.

Granger said that every citizen of the country deserves to have a birth certificate signalling their rights to the country, and it was therefore felt that emphasis should be placed on an area which represented the interests of all of the citizens. “In the Amerindian villages, you have a woman give birth, she goes back to everyday life, her child grows up, turns an adult and still don’t have a birth certificate. When the agency was under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Minister Clement Rohee, they would go only to register people in the interior locations when it’s elections time. As soon as they are finished, they leave and never go back. We do not want that,” Granger said.

Meanwhile, Felix, speaking to the Guyana Times on Monday, related that his Ministry will be looking closely at the laws and systems which are in place as it relates to the issuance of birth certificates, naturalisation, and the means by which persons are afforded the right to become a citizen of Guyana. “Well you know that there are three main ways you can become a citizen of Guyana; that is by birth, naturalisation or by descent, if one of your parents is a Guyanese. We want to ensure that the systems which govern the issuance of birth certificates are not archaic laws and we also want to create that environment which can ensure that the issued birth certificate has a certain standard of availability. That you can take it to certain places, just as an Identification Card and a Passport and it is accepted,” Felix shared with this publication.

He further went on to state that the Ministry will be especially tasked with matters of immigration which focus on monitoring how people enter the country, the duration of their visits and to look and review applications from non-citizens for citizenship in Guyana. The newly appointed Minister, who is operating out of the Ministry of the Presidency, formerly the Office of the President, said that the Ministry will also be looking to educate the population on their rights as citizens as well as the legal processes involved in becoming naturalised. During their campaign the APNU+AFC coalition had promised remove some of the functions of the Immigration Department and hand them to civilians. This is in keeping with recommendations contained in the Disciplined Forces Commission report.

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) only last week pointed out that the establishment of several new Ministries by the Government is illegal. During a press conference held at Freedom House Executive Members highlighted that the new Government is creating new Ministries without following the proper legal procedures. Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, explained that the formation of new Ministries is illegal since monies cannot be released to those entities, which are not represented in the Appropriation Act.

“You cannot disburse monies to Ministries that don’t exist anywhere except by this new decree. There is no budget now at this point in time… only after the budget or in the budget process, you’ll be able to create a Ministry; have it reflected in the budget and the Appropriation Act; allocate funds to that Ministry and then you can disburse resources to it. You can’t create a Ministry today and take money from another Ministry and send it to this non-existence in law Ministry,” the former President outlined. Jagdeo further pointed out that the 1/12th rule that was adopted by the PPP/C while in power to fund the various Ministries after Parliament was prorogued, cannot be used to fund the new Ministries.

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Quamina Street man wanted for fraud

The Guyana Police Force on Thursday issued a wanted bulletin for 40-year-old Niaiol Paul for questioning in relation to a matter of fraud which is currently being investigated by the Police.

Paul’s last address was given as Lot 337 Quamina Street, South Cummingsburg, Georgetown, but several visits to the house proved futile. Police suspect that the man might have absconded.

Niaiol Paul

Niaiol Paul

Anyone with information that may lead to the arrest of Paul is asked to contact the Police on telephone numbers: 225-6411, 225-8196, 226-7065, 227-1149, and 911, or at the nearest Police Station.

The Police reassure that all information will be treated with strict confidence.

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GRA introduces online licence transaction checker

– public encouraged to take full advantage

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) continues to encourage taxpayers to utilise its online facilities which are geared towards providing a more efficient and convenient option for taxpayers.

In keeping with its thrust, the agency recently introduced another online facility for taxpayers, which allows them to check on the status of their licence transactions through the agency’s website.

GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur

GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur

In a release, the GRA said to access this service, the taxpayer simply visits the agency’s website, click on the Licence Transaction Checker link, enter their Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and the last six digits of the transaction number found on the lodgement slip. This allows them to log in and see the status of their transaction.

The facility also provides applicants with an email notification of their transactions status, provided that the applicant has supplied the agency with an active email address. Taxpayers can check the status of transactions for Trade and Miscellaneous Licences, Motor Vehicle, Driver’s, Hire Car, Conductor and Provisional Driver’s Licences, and updates to the Licence Transaction Checker are made every 15 minutes. Additionally, there is the Customs Declaration Checker which allows Customs house brokers and importers to check the status of their Customs Declarations Forms C72.

GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur highlighted the importance of these new facilities. “Can you imagine the benefit to the taxpayers of having these services at their disposal; they would not have to come down to this busy area any longer to find out if a document is ready or to be notified of the status of a transaction”. He further noted that the technology allows the GRA to bring its services to the taxpayer’s fingertips. “The taxpayer can literally sit at home or at the office and go online and access these services; it makes life much simpler for our taxpayers”.

This new system brings greater transparency to the process and removes the perception of preferential treatment being given to some individuals. The Licence Transaction Checker was developed by the agency’s Information Technology Division.

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Wazeed Manjoor: A proud Guyanese ambassador

He made headlines in March during the opening of a US multimillion-dollar company in Providence, East Bank Demerara and received accolades from former President Donald Ramotar, who described him as the quintessential ambassador.

Despite this, Wazeed Manjoor remains a humble taxi driver based at the country’s main port of entry – the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. What is interesting to note is that Manjoor’s professionalism and accommodating attitude enabled a significant investment in Guyana. His assistance to Alejandra Romero, a Qualfon Executive, in 2004, paved the way for a US$4 million Call Centre Campus constructed in Providence, East Coast of Demerara (ECD) which was opened on March 27, 2015. The company will employ over 3000 Guyanese.

Wazeed Manjoor

Wazeed Manjoor

“To be honest I was surprised at the recognition I received. I saw a young woman who could not access any cash because we had no ATM then. I offered to take her to her destination knowing that there was a possibility I may not have been paid. My thought was this could have been a relative of mine in another country,” Manjoor told the CJIA’s Public Relations Officer (PRO). “What I did for her is something I would do for anyone.”

However, his deed was highly appreciated. Apart from an established friendship, the 59-year-old fondly called “Waja” has secured an exclusive contract with the company. Being a familiar face at CJIA since 1980, Manjoor’s first few years were challenging since “he was a new kid on the block”. But over time, his reputation has preceded him with a number of international companies seeking his services. “The secret to getting clients is quite simple – a smile. That has been my motto from the inception. Passengers may disembark an aircraft irritable. A friendly face and a good conversation can change all that,” the veteran driver explained.

A comfortable journey for his clients is also top on Manjoor’s list. He currently uses a 19-seater Pitbull equipped with maps, an assortment of tablets, bottled water and locally manufactured candies. “I ensure I replenish when the stocks go down,” he continued with a laugh. “But seriously, I take pride in what I do. It’s a service we pledged the management of the CJIA to provide at the highest level. It is a pledge I will always upkeep.”

Manjoor felt a sense of pride when then President Ramotar called him a true ambassador.  He believes that all Guyanese must play a part in the tourism/hospitality sector.

“It is a known fact that Guyanese are hospitable. We just have to keep up that momentum,” he posited.  The father of two has no immediate plans to retire, since he is blessed with good health.  “I don’t drink or smoke. I can safely say I am a very disciplined individual who takes his job seriously,” Manjoor disclosed.

As he continues to ply his trade every day, Manjoor is pleased with the progress made at CJIA, and is supportive of the CJIA expansion project. “The number of passengers that pass through the airport has increased and I personally think that a new airport will position Guyana in a positive light,” he added. For his fellow colleagues, Manjoor is of the view that being polite, considerate, mannerly, and being a good listener are the key ingredients of being a successful CJIA taxi driver. (CJIA)

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Heads of top agriculture agencies call on new Minister

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Caribbean Sub-regional Coordinator, Deep Ford; the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s (IICA) Director of Management and Regional Integration, Diego Montenego; and Barton Clarke, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute’s (CARDI) Executive Director, on Thursday paid a courtesy call to Agriculture Minister Noel Holder.

The meeting, which was held at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Regent and Vlissengen Road office, saw discussions being centred on further collaboration in agriculture. Among those were cassava, agro-processing, soil mapping and small ruminants.

Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder (centre left), flanked by FAO Sub-regional Coordinator, Deep Ford (left), and FAO’s Country Representatives

Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder (centre left), flanked by FAO Sub-regional Coordinator, Deep Ford (left), and FAO’s Country Representatives

Ford, underscoring the importance of agriculture, pledged the support of the FAO to work with the new Government in ensuring that agriculture in the region progresses. IICA’s Director of Management and Regional Integration also spoke of ways in which the institute can work closely with the Agriculture Ministry to further advance agriculture in the region. “We (IICA), recently  approved a medium/long term plan which focuses on the thematic areas where stronger focus will be placed this year….IICA has been a strong player within the Ministry of Agriculture, all with the aim of fostering regional integration,” Montenego said.

Among the areas of interest discussed were soil mappings and Disaster Risk Management (DRM). According to Montenego, the institute has recently approved a Rapid Response Mechanism programme to assist developing countries, of which Guyana also stand to benefit. Over the years, IICA has been a major player in assisting small farmer groups in Guyana.

CARDI, on the other hand, will be looking to further push agricultural research and transportation of agricultural produce, looking at cheaper alternatives by sea. According to Clarke, if Guyana is to solve the issue of cheaper transportation of agricultural produce, a more stringent plan is needed in this regard.  “We need to also push for private sector development and move beyond fresh produce…when we speak of food security we need to look at transporting of produce from one country to another,” Clark said.

Clarke also called for stronger action to be taken at the national level if countries are to achieve food security. The Agriculture Minister welcomed the interventions by the development partners, alluding to the fact that agriculture continues to play a major part in the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

In addition, the Minister added that the success of any DRM programme depends on coordination and continuous monitoring, and this is one of the areas which the IICA, FAO and CARDI is excited to be working closely with the Agriculture Ministry on. Over the years, IICA, FAO and CARDI have worked not only to boost relations with the Ministry of Agriculture but to strengthen coordination to further push agriculture in the Region.

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$6M worth of liquor stolen from GRA

– video footage implicates security guards

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) said it was peeved at the disappearance of approximately $6 million worth of foreign liquor from its Eccles Warehouse Facility, East Bank Demerara.

This discovery was made by officers of the agency’s Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) during a routine inventory exercise, which led to the immediate launching of an investigation on May 13, 2015.

As a result, surveillance footage was reviewed and has revealed that officers of the security firm contracted to provide 24-hour security to the said warehouse were very much involved in the reprehensible act.

In light of this, the GRA has since provided copies of the recording to the management of the private security firm and has indicated to the firm that it was being held culpable.

Additionally, the matter has been reported to the Guyana Police Force (GPF) for further investigation and the subsequent institution of criminal charges.
Meanwhile, GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur has assured that the agency will spare no effort in having the perpetrators brought to justice. He noted that the agency had previously installed a Close Circuit Television (CCTV) monitoring system to safeguard against such incidents and this had significantly aided the investigation.

From all indications, this incident was orchestrated utilising the cloak of darkness in an effort to avoid detection of the activity and the identification of the perpetrators.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that no current employee of the GRA is involved in this incident. As a result, the agency is urging members of the public, including members of the press to avoid speculations at this point.

As investigations continue, additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

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Ramotar blasts arbitrary handout of national awards

Former President Donald Ramotar

Former President Donald Ramotar

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic has registered it concerns over some names of persons who were given national awards, noting that there was no proper consultation before the selection was made.

Former President Donald Ramotar told the Guyana Times on Thursday that the selection was obviously done in a hurried manner without the proper procedure undertaken, and he was disappointed that particular individuals have been selected to receive those awards.

He pointed directly to the Mayor of Georgetown, Hamilton Green, who he said has no merit for that award. Green is among three awardees, Senior Counsel Brynmor Pollard and sister Mary Noel Menezes, who have been awarded Guyana’s second highest national award; the Order of Roraima. According to the Ramotar, Green has done nothing for the country, especially the city he has been manning the past two decades.

“What grounds do you give to Hamilton Green that he must receive an award? He has not served this country, particularly the city of Georgetown,” Ramotar told Guyana Times. He said too that one look at the list reveals persons who are supporters of the People’s National Congress (PNC). According to him, many of the names are “loyalists” to the PNC and not necessarily to the country.

He said he was not sure if the process had gone through the right procedure including the involvement of the Chancellor of the Judiciary. When contacted on the issue, Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh initially asked that we “call him back”, when we did later he said he was busy.

Concerns mounted Tuesday after some 52 Guyanese were named as awardees of the country’s orders, decorations, and medals. There were concerns that the Head of State had failed to hold consultations with any group, organisation or any other body before selection. But Granger had told the Guyana Times on Wednesday that constitutionally, he is Chancellor of the Orders and that there is an Act which establishes the National Orders of Guyana.

He said several names were already recommended and passed by the special committee, dating as far back as the years under the Bharat Jagdeo-led administration. None of those persons, he said, were conferred with those awards during the leadership of Jagdeo and the most recent President Donald Ramotar.

Concerns were raised too if the constitution provides for the Head of State, could he, on his own, make selections for the awards without consultation with the Chancellor of the Judiciary. Granger had told this publication that he had added several more names to the list after it was sent to him. However, according to the Constitution of the Orders of Guyana, the President is the Chancellor of the Orders of Guyana and custodian of the insignia, ribbons and records of the orders.

The Constitution states that an advisory council is expected to submit a list of persons it thinks is worthy of receiving one of the orders. This advisory council comprises a Chairman, who’s the Chancellor of the Supreme Court of Judicature, and between five and seven other members. Up to four of these members can only be appointed after the President consults with his Prime Minister. Also pertinent is that another member of the Council must be named after “consultation” with the Opposition Leader. At present there is no opposition leader.

Among the awardees were Green, Senior Counsel Brynmor Pollard and Sister Mary Noel Menezes who have been accorded with the Order of Roraima – Guyana’s second highest national award. Green’s honour was a surprise to many, but according to Eshwar Vevakanand Persaud, Protocol Advisor in the Ministry of the Presidency, Green was honoured for his long and outstanding involvement in the struggle for independence and his role in providing public service for three generations.

Meanwhile, the Cacique Crown of Honour Award was also announced to several persons for their long, outstanding and dedicated service in the fields of politics, public service and community work. Among them are: Edith Bynoe, former Government Minister; Oscar Clarke, General Secretary of the People’s National Congress; Yvonne Harewood–Benn, former teacher and Government Minister; LLewelyn John, former Minister of Agriculture, Home Affairs and Local Government; Professor Winston McGowan; Eshwar Vevakanand Persaud, Protocol Advisor in the Ministry of the Presidency; Supriya Singh-Bodden, Founder of Guyana Foundation; Justice Donald Trotman; and Elsworth Williams, Apostle Full Gospel Fellowship.

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