January 28, 2015

Surinamese psychologist hosts mental health workshop

A Suriname-based psychologist/psychoanalyst, Professor Tobi Graafsma, hosted a one- day mental health workshop, on suicide prevention on

Participants at the mental health workshop

Participants at the mental health workshop

Monday, to educate officials from various Ministries and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on the issue.
Addressing participants at the National Library, Professor Graafsma said that suicide was a threat to persons, who feel oppressed and with a desire to change an unbearable situation,  as a result of risk factors, which may include mental disorder, personality disorder, alcohol dependence, and some illnesses, including neurological disorders, cancer, and HIV infection.
He noted that such persons would attempt suicide not specifically because they wanted to die, but they felt that it was a means to end a (mental) crisis. “In my 13 years of experience in Suriname, I have seen many persons who have attempted suicide, and when we questioned them, they do not want to die, but to end their situation,” he said
There were almost one million deaths worldwide each year, owing to suicide. In Suriname, since the year 2000, 1400 individuals have lost their lives through suicide, and almost 12,000 people attempted suicide. In addition, Professor Graafsma said that the majority of the persons who unsuccessfully attempted suicide, when questioned, said that they had attempted it before.
He reiterated that measures should be put in place to maintain contact with suicide survivors and further educate the populace on suicide threats. There is psychological treatment for survivors, including counselling; also there are many kinds of medications that are effective.
There should also be public health programmes directed at educating persons on access to health care, as well as screening of depression in schools and the giving of primary health care, which is also a major factor in helping to prevent suicide.
He said there should also be school programmes, directed at discussions on suicide and how to deal with its effects.
In 2014, several such workshops were held with the aim of reducing the suicide rates in the country.  The Health Ministry has also developed a National Mental Health Action Plan to deal with the numerous aspects of mental health.
The plan focuses on the integration of mental health into the primary health care services, and would include training for family doctors, nurses and medex in mental health management along with improving psychiatric services at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
It also touches on dealing with other aspects that include the development of a National Suicide Prevention Strategy (NSPS); a Homeless Action Plan (HAP); and a Drug Rehabilitation Programme (DRP).

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Commissioners advised against sitting during election period

The three-member Commission probing the death of Dr Walter Rodney has been advised against holding any sessions of the Inquiry during the

President Donald Ramotar and the Commissioners, Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam (left); Queen’s Counsel, Sir Richard Cheltenham and Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown

President Donald Ramotar and the Commissioners, Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam (left); Queen’s Counsel, Sir Richard Cheltenham and Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown

period of Guyana’s General and Regional Elections, its Chairman, Barbadian Queen’s Counsel, Sir Richard Cheltenham has said.
Speaking to the Guyana Times on Tuesday, Cheltenham, who serves alongside Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad-based Guyanese Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam, said his team would be heeding the advice of security personnel.
At the end of the sixth session, late last year, Cheltenham had indicated that the Commission had some reservations about operating during that period.
“The Commission itself may very well become a subject of comment on the platform,” Cheltenham said Tuesday, speaking about the political campaigns, which were already underway.
The main Opposition party, the People’s National Congress (PNC), has been making full legal representation at the Inquiry, which commenced April last year, seeking to clear its name of accusations that it was responsible for the death of Dr Rodney.  Commentators are of the opinion that the Inquiry being conducted during the campaigns may be disadvantageous for the political party.
The party, through its lawyer and Chairman, Basil Williams, had already expressed disappointment that the Commission would be resuming during a period when political parties would be involved in their election campaigns.
Williams had told the Guyana Times that the PNC had expressed concern when it received a notice that the CoI would be commencing on January 26.
“Why would you want a Commission during this time?” he had questioned, noting that the three-member Commission had already expressed reservations about proceeding during the “political atmosphere “that will prevail”.
The Working People’s Alliance (WPA), which had also been pressing for the inquiry, is also part of the coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), along with the PNC.
President Donald Ramotar, who had announced May 11 this year as the date for General and Regional Elections, when asked about the concerns raised on the issue, had said “things don’t work like that”.
“We cannot stop things because of things like that,” Ramotar told the Guyana Times, continuing that the Commission was set up long before any major political issues had arisen.
Meanwhile, Cheltenham told the publication that he will soon “determine precisely when we will have our final sitting before the elections”.
The Commission after its one-week run on January 30 will take a break before resuming on February 10. The Guyana Times was informed that the Commission will take another break before recommencing in March for another two weeks before going on break. That break will last until the June later this year, when the Commission is expected to finally come to an end.

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Bandit escapes from Police custody

Nicholas James, the bandit who was shot Sunday night by a plainclothes Police rank when he and three of his accomplices tried to rob the Popeyes Fast Food Restaurant on Vlissengen Road, Georgetown, on Tuesday evening escaped from the Georgetown Public Hospital where he was being kept under Police guard.
A Police source at the hospital confirmed that the incident occurred around 19:00h, just hours after he had undergone surgery to remove a bullet from his body.
The source said Policemen combed the Georgetown Public Hospital compound and interior since the security guard who was on duty at the time indicated that no one fitting the prisoner’s description had passed the gates.
Many at the hospital described the incident as ‘suspicious’ since they noted that none of the patients nor staff on duty noticed when James, who was handcuffed and under Police watch, slipped out of the ward.
This publication was made to understand that the Police guard has been taken into custody to assist with investigations.
Police in a release said that investigations so far have revealed that an armed man entered Popeyes Restaurant at Vlissengen Road, and ordered customers to lie on the ground, adding that they also attacked and robbed Darryl Seruggs, a customer, of his cell phone.
The Policeman was purchasing food when James reportedly stormed into the fast food outlet.  The bandit then went to the cashier and demanded money. Gunshots were subsequently exchanged between the two and James was injured.
It is alleged that James’s accomplices, who were waiting for him outside the restaurant, escaped when they saw that he was wounded.
Investigations into both matters are ongoing.

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Bandits cart off $1M from Victoria man

Armed bandits on motorcycle on Tuesday made off with $1 million in cash after they held up a Victoria, East Coast Demerara man at a stop light.
According to the Police, the incident occurred around 12:45h. Robert Charles, 48, of Middle Walk, Victoria, was driving Canter truck GSS 1177 and had stopped at the traffic light at Sheriff and Rupert Craig Highway, when he was attacked.
Reports revealed that two men on a motorcycle rode up alongside Charles’s Canter and the pillion rider, who was armed with a handgun, discharged a round, which shattered the windscreen of the Canter. The bandit then grabbed a haversack containing the money that was lying on the passenger side of Canter.
The men then made good their escape. The Police have since launched an investigation into the matter.

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Banks DIH calls for VAT to be removed

Banks DIH Managing Director Clifford Reis

Banks DIH Managing Director Clifford Reis

By: Anastacia Clementson

Banks DIH Managing Director Clifford Reis is calling for the complete removal of the Value Added Tax (VAT) system which was implemented in 2007.

Addressing Banks DIH Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Thirst Park, Reis said the imposition of VAT by the Government of Guyana has created an unlevelled playing field within the Food Industry, contending that registered food businesses are at a disadvantage when compared to those that are unregistered.

He explained that registered fast food outlets such as Quik Serv cannot compete with the extremely low prices offered by those unregistered businesses that have no obligation to remit taxes to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). According to Reis, the entire VAT system should be removed to guarantee fair competition among food service providers in Guyana.

The beverage giant has recorded a $270 million decrease in profits for 2014. It posted a profit before tax of $3.473 billion and profit after tax of $2.265 billion when compared to the $2.538 billion recorded in 2013 after taxation.

GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur

GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur

This short fall in revenue was not only linked to the unfair competition in the Food Industry but it was also linked to crime and the series of flash floods that hit Georgetown and other flood prone-communities across the country in 2014.

Just recently, small businesses operating in Georgetown complained bitterly about the drop in sales experienced over the just concluded Christmas season. They had attributed that decline to the high presence of Chinese businesses and their low price tags because of exemption from charging VAT.

National Hardware Branch Manager Ganesh Niranjam had told Guyana Times that Christmas shopping at the Water Street location had seen a massive downfall when compared to previous years.

He said Guyanese seem to be rushing to find more affordable items from the Chinese-owned stores which are at an advantage because goods are being sold with the exemption of VAT.

Other local businesses such as Ashmin’s Trading had echoed similar sentiments, contending that the increasing number of Chinese stores in the City is creating “unfair competition.”

Currently GRA is in consultation with the Chinese Association here in Guyana with the hope of devising a system that would allow for unregistered businesses to remit VAT.

In a recent interview with this newspaper, GRA Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur explained that the non-remittance of tax was among the major concerns highlighted when VAT was being promoted. The underlying issue is that if a business is not registered then it cannot include VAT in its selling price.

Sattaur explained too that many businesses even escape scot-free after filing “fictitious” claims for refund. He said while some businesses are registered to charge VAT, in most cases their accounting systems are corrupted, thereby cheating the state of millions of dollars.

The Commissioner General reiterated that the VAT system, which exists in more than 150 countries around the world, was designed for societies that have highly credible businesses.

He could not say the same for Guyana, since many businesses are cheating the system. The revenue body repays in excess of $4 billion annually to businesses, he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Trade and Investment Sub-Committee of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ramesh Dookhoo pointed out that GRA has a voluntary registration system that is open to all businesses. According to him, a business is only mandated to become registered if it generates more than $10 million a year.

The 16 per cent VAT system, which was introduced in Guyana in January 2007, is part of Government’s plan to modernise and streamline the taxation system. It was introduced on several local consumption items together with an Excise Tax (ET) on motor vehicles, petroleum, tobacco products and alcohol.

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Repairs to the Parika Stelling almost completed

Works ongoing at the Parika Stelling

Works ongoing at the Parika Stelling

About 70 per cent of the repairs at the Parika Stelling, Essequibo River have been completed.

The Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) said in a release that the Government of Guyana has expended $36 million on this project, which commenced in November 2014, as part of its allocation to the Department.

According to T&HD General Manager Marclene Merchant, cluster piles and fenders were installed at the waterside front to prevent ships from making contact with the Stelling. Additionally, maintenance works were conducted on the main carriageway at the entrance, including painting the surface and replacing beams and deck planks.

Throughout the duration of this project, passengers, and vehicles, particularly speedboats along with the Department’s ferry vessels, have had access to the Stelling. This was very challenging to accomplish. The Department is pleased that the works have been progressing at a fast pace and they are expected to be completed in another two weeks’ time.

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Colonel Lee leads GDF promotions

COS Brigadier Mark Phillips decorates newly promoted Colonel Wilbert Lee with his new badge of rank

COS Brigadier Mark Phillips decorates newly promoted Colonel Wilbert Lee with his new badge of rank

…Accountant General, Magistrate also elevated

Guyana Defence Force Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips has announced that Commander-in-Chief Donald Ramotar has approved the promotions of 83 officers and 436 ranks effective from January 1, 2015.

The Force has made history this year with the largest recorded number of officers being promoted to the rank of Colonel at the same time. Leading that list is Lieutenant Colonel Wilbert Lee, Base Commander of Base Camp Stephenson, who was promoted to the rank of Substantive Colonel. It is also the first time in the Force’s history that four female officers were promoted collectively in the senior officers’ bracket.

Lieutenant Colonels Jawahar Persaud, Cargill Kyte, Patrick West, Nazrul Hussain, Ann McLennan and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Arthur were promoted to the rank of Acting Colonel. Commander Gary Beaton, who heads the Force’s Coast Guard, will now be Acting Captain Coast Guard, the equivalent of an Acting Colonel.

Acting Lieutenant Colonels Dwain Jervis, Trevor Bowman and Kenlloyd Roberts were confirmed in their rank while Majors Collin Henry, Mark Thomas, Courtney Byrne, Natasha Stanford and Lorraine Foster have been promoted to the rank of Acting Lieutenant Colonel.

COS Brigadier Mark Phillips with the newly promoted Acting Colonels from left: Paul Arthur, Nazrul Hussain, Cargill Kyte, Jawahar Persaud, Patrick West, Ann McLennan, Gary Beaton and Wilbert Lee

COS Brigadier Mark Phillips with the newly promoted Acting Colonels from left: Paul Arthur, Nazrul Hussain, Cargill Kyte, Jawahar Persaud, Patrick West, Ann McLennan, Gary Beaton and Wilbert Lee

Ten Majors have been confirmed in their rank, while Substantive Captains Tyrone Smith, Marvin Chichester, Lancelot Lynch, Christine Bradford-Porter, Lloyd Glen, Clifton Sam and Nigel Langhorne have been promoted to Acting Major. Nine Acting Captains, including one female, are now confirmed in their rank, while 14 Substantive Lieutenants have been promoted to the rank of Acting Captain with effect from January 1, 2015.

Eight Acting Lieutenants have been promoted to Substantive Lieutenants, while six Second Lieutenants have been promoted to Acting Lieutenants. In the Coast Guard, Acting Commander (CG) Orin Porter, Acting Lieutenant Commander (CG) Roger Nurse, as well as Acting Lieutenant Paul Castello, have been confirmed in their rank while Substantive Sub Lieutenants Shennel Europe, Raul Williams, Quincy Agard and Andre Kwang have been promoted to Acting Lieutenants (CG).

Five Acting Sub Lieutenants have been confirmed in their rank and Midshipman Eweart Andrews is now an Acting Sub Lieutenant.

436 ranks promoted

Meanwhile, 436 other ranks have been promoted. Of this number, 96 have been confirmed in their rank while 272 have been elevated in rank. Heading this group are Warrant Officers Class Two Marlon Daniels and Raul Rodney who have been promoted to Acting Warrant Officers Class One.

Warrant Officers Class Two Marvin Pilgrim, Sekou Mitchell, Christopher Harmon, Bryan Ferdinand, Ray Herman, Andre Worrell, Wilfred Semple, and Selwyn Douglas were confirmed in their appointment. The remaining 253 ranks were promoted through ranks ranging from Acting Warrant Officer Class Two to Acting Lance Corporal. Other promotions in the Coast Guard saw Acting Senior Petty Officer Wayne Nurse being elevated to Substantive Senior Petty Officer. Three Acting Petty Officers were confirmed in their rank while seven Substantive Leading Ratings are now Acting Petty Officers. Four Acting Leading Ratings are now confirmed in their rank. Additionally, six Substantive Able Ratings have been promoted to Acting Leading Ratings while 11 Acting Able Ratings have been confirmed in their rank. Ordinary Ratings Vinton Blair, Denwin Adams and Quincy Burton have been promoted to Substantive Able Ratings and 10 other Ordinary Ratings have been elevated to the rank of Acting Able Rating.

At a simple Badging Ceremony held Tuesday afternoon, the newly-promoted senior officers were decorated with their new badges of rank by the Chief-of-Staff, who was assisted by Colonel Administration and Quartering, Captain Coast Guard John Flores. The officers were congratulated by the other senior officers present and the recently-promoted Majors were welcomed to the corps of senior officers.

In brief remarks, Brigadier Phillips pointed out that promotion recognises all officers and other ranks for their performance, professionalism and service within and outside of the GDF. To this end, he referred to Colonels Jawahar Persaud and Ann McLennan who hold other positions outside of the GDF, but continue in service to the country. Persaud is the current Accountant General while McLennan is a sitting Magistrate. He alluded to the efforts being made by the officers towards the development of the Force and called for continued professional service to the country.

The Commander-in-Chief and Chief-of-Staff extended congratulations to all the newly-promoted officers and other ranks.

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Suspected child molester nabbed by Police

A resident of Nabaclis, East Coast Demerara (ECD) is in police custody awaiting his court day after being accused of molesting a two-year-old girl.

The man was arrested on Saturday shortly after a report was filed at the Cove and John Police Station. He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

The toddler’s father told Guyana Times that his daughter was molested while in the care of her mother who shares a house in Nabaclis with her relatives including the suspect, who happens to be her sister’s reputed husband.

The man said he got the devastating news on Saturday. In delivering the disturbing news, the mother explained that she realised something was wrong after noticing that her daughter was bleeding. When questioned, the child reportedly told her mother that her uncle had been touching her inappropriately.

The child was immediately taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) where an examination was conducted and treatment administered.

It was after the child was taken to the hospital that a report was lodged at the police station. The reputed wife of the accused will also appear in court this week on a disorderly charge. According to reports, the woman after learning of the allegation became very annoyed, saying that her spouse would “never” commit such an act. According to the child’s father, it was after the woman “created a scene” that the police took her into custody.

Meanwhile, the toddler remains a patient in GPHC’s Paediatric Ward. Doctors at the health care facility have reportedly confirmed that the child was indeed molested.

“This lil girl can’t even sleep on she back properly,” the child’s father said as tears rolled down his face. He disclosed too that one of the teachers at the day care centre reported last week that his daughter had been crying repeatedly and had also refused to eat.

According to him, it was never his intention to have his daughter live apart from him but explained that her mother was determined to move in with her relatives.

Residents of the Nabaclis have been expressing their anger and shock over the incident. One villager told this publication that the suspected child molester is antisocial and spent most of his time inside of the house, noting too that he has been without a job for some months now.

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More tributes pour in for Dr Faith Harding

Dr Faith Harding

Dr Faith Harding

More tributes continue to pour in for former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) member, the late Dr Faith Harding who passed away last Friday at a city hospital.

Her party described her as a passionate activist who held strong views on matters facing the nation.   She was a former Minister of Government in the Desmond Hoyte Administration and also a one-time contender for the Presidential Candidate slot of the PNCR.

In a statement, the PNCR said Dr Harding was a long-serving member of the PNCR and served in its highest councils. “Dr Harding’s unwavering passion and commitment to national issues saw her working tirelessly towards addressing youth and women-related issues.”

Harding was born on October 5, 1947 to proud parents Egbert and Beryl Blackmore. She was the sixth child of a very close-knit family and had three brothers and the same number of sisters.

From a very tender age, Harding displayed a love of academics and it was no surprise that she excelled academically. She attended St Ambrose and St Stephen’s Primary Schools and British Guiana Education Trust High School and was an enthusiastic learner who enjoyed English Language, English Literature, Religious Knowledge, History and reading Nancy Drew books.

Fascinated with the power of words and their meanings, at nine years old, she emphatically encouraged her friends to increase their vocabulary on a daily basis. Further intrigued by one of her aunts who wrote poems, she gained a deep love and appreciation of poetry and even participated on a radio programme, “Ovaltine and the Teenagers Choice”.

That love of reading would greatly influence the rest of her life, Dr Harding’s personal motto was “readers are leaders’, the PNCR said.

Dr Harding’s introduction to politics also came at an early age through a close bond with her uncle, the late Andrew Jackson, who was the President of the Post Office Telecommunication Workers Union. Her uncle played a very pivotal role in her life after her father died when she was only nine years old. His influence made her recognise from a tender age that she needed to ensure that she paid attention to the way she lived and behaved if she was going to make something good of herself.

On her return to Guyana after studying overseas she joined the People’s National Congress (PNC) and quickly rose through the ranks during the Hoyte era. Appointed as Minister of Public Service from 1989 to 1992, Faith led the restructuring of the Guyana Public Service and achieved significant success in decreasing inefficiencies, lowering the incidence of redundancies, and elevating overall effectiveness of all Government programmes.

She implemented standard policies for a wide variety of matters relating to public service salaries, rules and regulations, Ministry management, Government scholarships and student loans. In this multifaceted role, she worked very closely with President Desmond Hoyte and headed the negotiations with the international financial and bilateral institutions to ensure adequate financing for major public service projects including the Public Service Reform, Human Resource Development, and Scholarship Grant Aid.

Parliament

Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman also expressed condolences on the passing of Dr Harding. “As Speaker of the National Assembly, and on behalf of the entire membership of the National Assembly, and Parliament Office staff, I express heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of former Member of Parliament and Minister of Government, the illustrious Dr Faith Azalea Harding.”

Trotman said Harding joined the National Assembly in 1985 firstly as a non-elected technocrat member following on her appointment as a Minister of State within the Ministry of Planning and Development. Thereafter, she continued as an elected member in 1986 up until 2001, save and except for a short hiatus during the period July 1994-May 1996.

During her time in Government service, Dr Harding held several other ministerial portfolios, including Minister in the Office of the President. At one important period in time, from June 1987 to December 1988, Dr Harding served as Deputy Prime Minister in the Ministry of Planning and Development.

Trotman said Dr Harding was a stalwart whose contribution to Guyana’s development was beyond question. During her years of service, she established a sterling reputation for hard work, insightful thinking, and decisive decision-making, and in so doing, earned the admiration and respect of her colleagues and all Guyana. Dr Harding not only showed what women were capable of achieving in a male-dominated political sphere, she also managed to do so with a charm and grace that made her earn the title of being an outstanding Guyanese woman.

“She was well-known for her exquisite appreciation for fine things, keen sense of fashion; insistence on high standards of excellence, and an amiable personality that made the difficult things seem simple and enjoyable. She will be truly and forever missed, and may her soul rest in eternal peace and bliss.”

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Corentyne Chamber calls for reduction in taxi, bus fares

A passenger getting into a Tapir along the Corentyne Highway

A passenger getting into a Tapir along the Corentyne Highway

The Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) is calling for a reduction in minibus and hire car fares following the announcement by Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh that gasoline prices at Guyoil pump stations has been reduced by 30 per cent.

According to the Chamber, while Government seeks to improve the quality of life of citizens by reducing the price for gasoline, the impact will negligible for most Guyanese if minibus and hire car fares are not reduced.

On the back of record lows in global fuel prices, last Monday, Minister Singh announced that gasoline and diesel prices would be reduced by 30 per cent and kerosene by 42 per cent. In a release, the CCCC said this action taken by the ruling Administration should be welcome news to the Guyanese public, as it comes in the wake of a significant drop in the price for crude oil on the world market.

However, only a small number of Guyanese own motor vehicles, and as such, the CCCC believes that Government must intervene to have fares reduced for commuters.

“With the cut in fuel prices, a reduction in passenger fares for commuters would result in a win-win situation for all,” the release added. Reduced passenger fares, the Chamber said, would ease the cost of living, which is already a burden on thousands of commuters across the country. “Reduced cost of living translates into greater disposable income and increased spending power. There is greater circulation of money and the country’s economy thereby receives a shot in the arm.”

However, while the call is being made to Government, the CCCC notes that the ball is now in the court of the providers of transportation services, such as owners of minibuses, hire cars, water taxis, and trucking services. “It is hoped and, perhaps, expected that the thousands of commuters across Guyana who use the services of these transportation providers would also benefit from the cut in fuel prices through the lowering of passenger fares. After all, providers of transportation services will now be enjoying substantial savings on fuel costs,” the CCCC noted.

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