November 30, 2015

Suspect for court today

Dead: Melissa Skeete

Dead: Melissa Skeete

GPHC dispatcher’s murder

The man who reportedly confessed to fatally stabbing his former reputed wife Melissa Skeete, 33, last week, is expected to make his first court appearance today.

Allan Sim, 53, of Paradise, East Coast Demerara, has been charged with the murder of the ambulance dispatcher of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). The man turned himself in two days after the incident, and during interrogation he confessed to killing the woman, with whom he shared a child.

Reports have revealed that Skeete, of Lot 94 Prince William Street, Plaisance, East Coast Demerara, was seen falling out of a moving car on Carmichael Street, Georgetown, and was rushed by public spirited persons to the GHPC.

The mother of four sustained several stab wounds about her body and died while receiving treatment. The post mortem by Pathologist Dr Nehaul Singh on Wednesday revealed she had died of stab wounds to her chest.

Guyana Times understands the couple were together since 2007 but Skeete reportedly ended the relationship recently because of alleged abuse she faced at his hands. On Monday, she left work sometime after 15:00h and was seen entering the suspect’s vehicle. About 20 minutes later, a bloody Skeete was rushed back to the medical institution.

However, Sim told investigators Skeete had attacked him and so he killed her in self-defence. The man claimed that about two weeks ago, he went to the woman’s house but she ran inside and lock the doors upon seeing him.

He added that he was able to peer through the window and saw another male in house. The suspect went on to say that on Monday, he picked her up from work and informed her that he was ending the relationship.

However, Sim further claimed the woman got angry and attacked him with a surgical blade which she drew from her bag but he managed to overpower her, injuring her in the process. He noted that the injured woman then open the door and jumped out of the moving car. The man further told investigators he panicked and drove to the seawall, where he dumped the blade and clothes he was wearing.

After his arrest, investigators were seen combing the city and outlying areas for his car which they found abandoned at Vigilance, ECD, on Saturday night. This newspaper was told vehicle will be tested today for traces of blood.

Nevertheless, investigators have already received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for charges to be laid against the suspect and for him to be taken to court.

Meanwhile, this newspaper was told that before the woman left work on Monday, she informed one of her co-workers that she was going to meet her ex and even left the registration number of the man’s vehicle. Skeete had also asked for someone to call and check up on her after some time.

“They had a rocky relationship and she wanted out so she ended it but he didn’t want to let go, and he keep running behind her all the time. He even went to her house in Plaisance and broke the window. She had to move from there to get away from him, so I don’t know why she went with him in the first place,” the worker said.

According to Skeete’s colleague, they had advised Skeete to report the matter to the police but she was scared that nothing would be done.

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Granger downplays Paris COP21

President David Granger says it would be difficult for him to spend more days out of the country to represent Guyana at the crucial climate change conference in Paris. The President expressed his desire to stay home and attend to matters of “national interest”.

President David Granger

President David Granger

These sentiments are in light of concerns raised by former President Bharrat Jagdeo over President Granger’s non-attendance at the important forum where world leaders meet to develop the international agreement which will set out to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and slow the effect of climate change.

President Granger, in a media statement on Sunday explained he would have liked to go to Paris but it is “difficult to spend that amount of time out of the country right now. There are things at home that need my attention. I had to make a decision. It was a difficult decision but I do believe that it is in the national interest.” He then indicated that Guyana would be well represented at the meeting through its Governance Minister Raphael Trotman.

He therefore rapped the comments made by the Opposition Leader regarding the suitability of the Governance Minister to represent Guyana. President Granger said the former President’s comments were misplaced, unfair and unhelpful.
“Even before Mr Trotman goes to Paris, to make that type of allegation, it is very unhelpful.  Guyana has several challenges and I think the attitude or the perception by other countries that Guyana has a united front… would better serve our national interests,” the Head of State said.

Responding to questions about Jagdeo’s criticisms of the new administration’s position on climate change, the President offered to meet with the Opposition Leader and discuss the matter.

“We are an inclusive government and we are prepared to sit down and benefit from his experience.  But to stay afar off and start to attack a representative of the present government is not the behaviour we expect of a former Head of State… We are not at war with the PPP… We were the ones who held out a hand of friendship and I would welcome Mr Jagdeo sitting down and giving us the sort of brief that I feel the new government is entitled to,” he stated.

He noted too that the administration is focused on a holistic approach to managing and mitigating the harmful effects of climate change.

Expanding on the divergence of the government’s position from that of what he called a deficient approach to climate change under the previous administration, the Head of State said the modified policy focuses on the development of a green economy, which covers areas beyond just the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

Touting a vision of overall ecological and environmental management the President said climate change is not a money-making venture:  “It is not a device to get money from one country and simply transfer it. It is a means of transforming the economy. It is not a transfer of funds. It is a whole conceptual difference we are talking about.”

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Husband’s condition critical at Suddie Hospital

Region 2 murder/attempted suicide

By Indrawattie Natram

Twenty-seven-year-old Vishnu Narine, of Jib Village in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), continues to be in a critical condition at the Suddie Public Hospital after he slit his throat following his brutal hacking to death of his wife.

Suspect Vishnu Narine

Suspect Vishnu Narine

Dead: Malini Narine

Dead: Malini Narine

Narine, who attempted to take his life by slitting his throat after killing his wife, Malini on Saturday evening, is under Police guard at the medical institution.

According to information reaching Guyana Times, Narine had a heated argument with his 25-year-old wife during which he equipped himself with a cutlass and a knife and dealt several chops and stabs to his spouse about her body. The young woman sustained multiple injuries to her abdomen and hands.

This publication was informed that Narine was under the influence of alcohol at the time. He was earlier seen drinking in the village.

Speaking with Guyana Times, the parents of the deceased woman, Sattie and Robin Toolsie, said that Narine was very abusive to their daughter and despite them advising her to leave him, she remained in the relationship.
The grieving mother described her son-in-law as “cruel, heartless and jealous”.

“He always threaten to take her life. He never want her socialise or have company; he used to punish her and she couldn’t speak out,” the mother said.

Robin Toolsie, in whose home the couple lived, said he would usually take care of their four-year-old son.
Toolsie said on a daily basis the couple would have arguments, but by the evening they would resolve their issues. “They always tell me not to get involve in man and wife story. Vishnu like drink and he would assault her after, but she never say nothing,” the father reflected.

The bereaved Robin went on to say that Narine had once threatened his daughter that he would take her to Onderneeming Sand Pit to kill her. The man noted that it was because of this that he made the couple stay in the bottom flat of his house. When asked why Police reports were never made against the husband for the constant threats, Robin stated that he was unsure, but opined that such actions would have added to the conflict between the couple.

The parents have concluded that jealousy was the main reasons the 27-year-old gruesomely attacked his wife and then tried to take his own life.

The incident has shocked the entire region and persons are questioning why family members and/or even neighbours did not report Narine’s abusive tendencies before.

The Police are continuing their investigations. The murder weapons were recovered and taken into evidence. The deceased woman’s body is presently at the Suddie Mortuary awaiting an autopsy.

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Group petitions for extension

Walter Rodney CoI

The Justice for Walter Rodney Group is petitioning the government for an extension of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, which ended abruptly by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) government shortly after assumption to office.

Just a few days before the final report is set to be handed over, a petition for the CoI to continue for two more weeks was handed over to Governance Minister Raphael Trotman.

The petition is said to have more than 1000 signatures from allies, students and admirers of Walter Rodney in more than 50 countries, who are imploring the government to allow two more weeks for the CoI to sit to properly complete its work.
The CoI, which began in April 2014, was established to determine as far as possible; based on keen examination of the facts and circumstances before, during and after the death of Walter Rodney;  who or what was responsible for the explosion which resulted in his demise.

However, President David Granger in May 2015, signalled his intention to put an end to the CoI, contending that it is a waste of taxpayers’ monies and that it failed to gather valuable evidence about the death of Walter Rodney.

Dr Rodney was bombed to death in 1980 while sitting in a car outside of the Camp Street jail.

When the CoI came to an abrupt end, questions were raised about the Working People’s Alliance’s (WPA) real position on this move, particularly because it has for years been calling for an independent probe into the cause of death of its leader.
WPA Leader Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had told Guyana Times that he was a signatory to the precipitous decision to scrap the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, but he is still prepared to offer his statement to the commissioners who are yet to present their findings.

“It was a Cabinet decision. We don’t break ranks at Cabinet on issues like that. We took a point of view and the consensus from Cabinet is inclined to take a particular position; that is it,” he said.

Roopnarine continued: “My own feeling was that the Cabinet felt that the time had come for it to come to an end and that enough had been invested in the Commission and that it has had sufficient time to come to its conclusion.”

Former President Donald Ramotar who established the Inquiry, has already condemned the actions of the Government explaining that, “it simply makes no sense to bring the Commission to such an abrupt end to save a few dollars when hundreds of millions have been spent already and the Commission’s report will most likely be affected by the failure of the Commission to receive evidence from important witnesses who are yet to testify and from those who have testified already and who are to complete their testimony”.

Ramotar said he was aware that persons whose names have been called by witnesses in significant ways were to be invited by the Commission to make a contribution.

“These persons would have included former leader of the PNCR, Mr Robert Corbin. Evidence from the Guyana Defence Force has been tendered before the Commission to the effect that Mr Corbin obtained from the Force over 150 machine guns. At that time, he was at the Ministry of National Mobilisation. Those guns have reached the hands of bandits. The PNCR itself may have been invited and offered an opportunity to defend itself against some very damaging allegations.”

“With the Commission now to be abruptly aborted, none of this will take place. I am therefore forced to wonder whether the decision to bring the life of the Commission to an abrupt end is one that is intended to avoid these witnesses from giving evidence and face cross-examination,” he said in a letter to the press.

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Man still to be identified

Body at Kingston seawall

Almost three days since the body of a male was discovered at the Kingston seawall, behind the Marriott Hotel, the body is yet to be identified.

Investigators at the scene just before retrieving the body

Investigators at the scene just before retrieving the body

Around 14:00h on Friday, staff at the hotel noticed the body and alerted the police. The male is of African descent and believed to be in his late 20s to early 30s. He had facial hair and was clad in a blue check shirt and underwear.

The body was picked up and transported to the Lyken Funeral Parlour, awaiting identification. Guyana Times was told someone went to the funeral home on Saturday claiming to be a relative.

However, they were informed that they need to bring the police before they can see the body. The person left and never returned, this newspaper was told.

Reports surrounding the incident remain sketchy but investigators believed the body was still fresh when it was retrieved as a blood-like substance was seen oozing form the mouth. It was believed the man had died recently so foul play was not ruled out.

Various reports were saying that a life jacket was seen some distance from the body while others commented the man may have been a vagrant.

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CJ reverses BK’s contract termination

Haags Bosch landfill controversy

Chief Justice Ian Chang on Thursday quashed a decision by the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration, relieving BK International from continuing works on the Haags Bosch landfill site, deeming it irrational and unfair.

Chief Justice Ian Chang

Chief Justice Ian Chang

Former Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker

Former Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker

Brian Tiwari

Brian Tiwari

Represented by Attorney Devindra Kissoon, BK presented its case where it maintained the then Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker and its then Permanent Secretary Collin Croal acted “unjustifiably” and “in egregious bad faith as part and parcel of practice and pattern of conduct victimizing the company.

It said the Minister and/or the Permanent Secretary abused their power, and in so doing reached a decision that no reasonable authority could have adopted, if it had taken account of all relevant considerations and had left out of account all irrelevant collateral matters.

In presenting its case to the court that construction company director Brian Tiwari, stated that the Ministry had constantly delayed and changed design instructions due to shoddy design work, expecting his company to immediately adapt to the Ministry’s “ever evolving needs, while at the same time pressuring BK to accept and process an increase of almost double the amount of waste originally contemplated at an incredibly high  standard, all against the backdrop of maliciously withholding payment for operational or construction costs from BK for years at end”.

Back in 2009 and the Government of Guyana entered into a contractual agreement to design, execute, complete, operate and maintain the Haags Bosch Landfill at a cost of some US$7,729,822.50.

However, because the project was being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the international funding Agency had some requirements that needed to be filled, but was not seeing this in the work executed by the company. After some back and forth government later relieved the company from continuing the project. That has since been on hold.

Justice Chang in his decision said: “Government and Local Development, and each of them by themselves, their respective servants, agents or otherwise, or anyone acting on their respective, whomsoever and howsoever, preventing them from terminating the Contractor doing an act in furtherance of the Decision and Termination Notice on the grounds that the Decision and Termination Notice (l) were made and issued arbitrarily, unreasonably, irrationally, unlawfully, illegally, erroneously, in bad faith and in breach of the rules of natural justice”.

Information presented in the case state that despite the fact that BK had not only complied with the Ministry’s demands and constructed and operated the Landfill Site without any failure whatsoever, and invested more than five years and millions of dollars of its own money into the project, with the reasonable and legitimate expectation that it would reap the benefit of its hard work until the end of the contract in 2019 at agreed revised contractual rates, and that the Ministry would act in good faith, the evidence showed that the Ministry has conjured up a scheme to terminate the parties’ contract and victimise BK on frivolous and baseless grounds, all with the improper motive of operating the Landfill Site itself or by another third party.
The Ministry responded by stating that the remedy of judicial review was inappropriate, and instead BK should have sued for breach of contract.

Chief Justice Chang dismissed the Ministry’s arguments, found that the remedy of judicial review was appropriate, given the fact the State entered its contract with BK “in the exercise of the State’s common law power to contract”, that “the general public had a direct interest in the project” given “the level of public expenditure… the importance of the project to public health and welfare.”

Chief Justice Chang went on to find, “that the failure of the respondents to take into consideration such relevant factors rendered its decision to terminate as irrational in public law sense since, in the circumstances, no public authority could reasonably fail to consider its own breaches of the provisions of the contract in making a decision whether to terminate its contract with BK.”

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Two injured in Coverden accident

Three days after two persons lost their lives following an accident at Coverden, East Bank Demerara, two more were injured on Sunday in another accident at Coverden when their vehicle literally flew off the road.

The accident occurred just after 13:30h at a bushy area. The car was extensively damaged.

The damaged car being towed away from the scene

The damaged car being towed away from the scene

While the identities of the two young men remain unknown, Guyana Times understands one of the injured men is an Indian doctor, working in Guyana.

According to reports reaching this newspaper, the young men were heading south along the East Bank and as they went around the first turn after Coverden sign, they lost control of the vehicle.

The car swerved off the road, over a narrow drain, hit down a young tree then coming to a halt some 15 metres away. The men were pinned in the vehicle. However, passersby stopped and assisted them. They were taken to the Diamond Diagnostic Centre.

One of the young men, in his mid-20s, was having trouble breathing at the hospital.

Meanwhile the other occupant who appears to be in his early 30s sustained minor injuries about his body.

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Dutch team presents recommendations on local drainage

– final report slated for year-end

Guyana’s drainage system could become more efficient, as the Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) team presented its findings to Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson after days of analysing the country’s drainage system.

The Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) team, along with Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson; Major General (retired) Joe Singh, head of the task force Government has established to address the flood situation in Guyana and other officials

The Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) team, along with Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson; Major General (retired) Joe Singh, head of the task force Government has established to address the flood situation in Guyana and other officials

The presentation was held at the Agriculture Ministry’s boardroom in the presence of Minister Patterson and Agriculture Minister Noel Holder.

The recommendations by team leader Rob Steijn included the need for an upgrade of Guyana’s drainage at the technical and managerial levels.

“If you don’t manage it properly, the system will fail and if your water system fails, your country will fail,” Steijn stressed.
He further emphasised that Guyana’s water system needed to be crucially addressed, while opining that the Government’s predictability on water issues must be improved. Additionally, he noted that short-term improvements, such as small-scale dredging, were possible. Steijn concluded by presenting his team’s preliminary recommendations. The seven recommendations were to upgrade modelling capability, increase flood resilience of people and businesses, upgrade dredging capabilities and improve flow efficiency, develop long-term plans, develop and test a pilot project, develop and apply a lifecycle approach for the drainage assets, and data management through digitisation.

Steijn was not totally despondent about Guyana’s drainage situation as he mentioned that there were good aspects of it, but it needed improving. He added that the four days the team spent in Guyana were not enough to fully study the drainage system, but the findings could help aid in development.  His team will return to the Netherlands where they will further analyse the findings to make a final presentation year-end.

During remarks following the presentation by the DRR Team, Minister Patterson said the observations made were “very informative”. He also said he was impressed that in just a few days, the team had managed to make spot-on assessments of Guyana’s situation.

“We don’t see it as a critique; it’s all a learning process,” he said.  Minister Patterson stressed the importance of the report being more than just another report.

The three-member DRR team arrived in Guyana on Sunday last and conducted analyses throughout the country. It comprised Steijn (the leader); Social Scientist Judith Klostermann and Civil Engineer Fokke Westebring.

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GTT awaiting Govt’s approval for increased spectrum

Years of waiting seem to be finally winding down as the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Limited (GTT) is closer to being awarded a spectrum upgrade that will see its customers getting faster mobile data speed.

Over the years, the company has applied for an upgrade in its allocation for spectrum and is awaiting permission from Government. However, Chief Executive Officer Justin Nedd is optimistic it would not be long before this dream is realised.

Speaking with the media on Saturday, the CEO explained that he cannot say how soon this will happen since it is not in GTT’s control; nevertheless the company is doing its best to push for increased spectrum: “We are preparing for spectrum,” he stated.

Nedd outlined that the telephone company has already embarked on preparations and is currently talking to vendors about prices of the equipment as well as looking at the procurement process to see how fast the equipment can be installed and tested so that customers can get 3G and 4G services as soon as possible.

According to Nedd, the company intends to keep its promises to GTT customers, that is, making the company easy to do business with, and moving with alacrity to get things done. On this note, he pointed out that next year would be an exciting one for the phone company and its customers.

“I would assume that once the government gives us spectrum next year, or even this year, we will be able to roll out next-generation services, 3G, 4G services, which would really enable the customers to do more,” he stated.

Moreover, the phone company head expressed confidence that government and the NFMU will grant permission for GTT to have increased spectrum.

“I know the government is very keen on liberalising the sector and granting spectrum so that we can free the customers from slow 2G experience because all we need to get next generation services is spectrum,” he noted.

Last month, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson had disclosed that the Telecommunications Bill, which is aimed at liberalising the sector to make it more competitive, is expected to be tabled in Parliament before yearend. At the time, the Bill was before Cabinet for review.

However, when asked whether the telephone company has had a look at the latest draft in the legislation, the CEO opted not to comment, saying GTT has been in negotiations with government on liberalising the sector.

The Telecommunications Bill seeks to create a competitive regime in the telecommunications sector. It provides for an open, liberalised and competitive sector that will be attractive to new market entrants and investors, while preserving the activities of the current participants.

By creating this competitive environment for telecommunications, the Bill is expected to result in greater choice, better quality of service and lower prices for consumers. The Bill also specifically addresses the expansion of telecommunication networks and services into unserved and under-served areas, through the institution of a new universal access/universal service programme, in an effort to further national, regional, social and economic development.

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Georgetown Ferry Stelling falling apart

Hundreds of residents of Region Three, who use the Georgetown/Vreed-en-Hoop water taxis were significantly inconvenienced during the morning rush-hour last week as a section of the stairway at Georgetown Stelling collapsed.
This newspaper was told persons barely escaped serious injuries as they made their way up the stairway of the stelling, which collapsed. stelling

Eyewitness account stated that as one commuter was struggling to mount the stairway, she slipped, almost falling into the river.

Commuters are peeved about the deplorable conditions of the stelling and are calling on Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson to renovate the facilities before any major mishap.

Guyana Times visited the Stelling to get a firsthand look at conditions. It was observed that the stairway from boat to  stelling was in a deteriorating condition and there are no rails on either side of the stairway.

Speaking with Guyana Times a commuter said: “I’m scared, you never know what could happen based on how out there look,” referring to the stairway, adding that, “you know how many people fall already, that thing could fall apart any day and I don’t want to be there when that happens”.

Yet another commuter, who identified himself as ‘Ravi’ complained about the stairway, stating that it needs to be repaired: “Look at how many boards missing here (pointing to the upperparts of the stairway) and look at the condition of the ones still here, the minister who is responsible for looking after this stelling needs to get this stairway fixed, these boards must be replaced”.

Last March repairs were made to the rails of the stelling; these repairs were made in light of an incident where a section of the structure collapsed in September of 2014. No major repairs have been made since then.

According to the operators, on a daily basis they pay a landing fee to Transport and Harbours Department, which is supposed to be used to develop the facility but no development has been made, thus the facility continues to deteriorate.

The operators also spoke of mishaps they have personally witnessed where many passengers barely escaped serious injuries as they continue to fall every so often.

They are, again, like the many times in the past, appealing to the Transport and Harbours Department, and the Minister to act quickly to rehabilitate the facilities.

This newspaper made several efforts to contact Minister Patterson but those efforts when unanswered.

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