August 4, 2015

Roopnaraine agreed to abruptly ending Rodney CoI

Startling revelations…
– admits succumbing to PNC-dominated Cabinet pressure
BY ALEXIS RODNEY

Leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr Rupert Roopnaraine has confessed that he was a signatory to the precipitous

WPA leader and Education Minister,  Dr Rupert Roopnaraine

WPA leader and Education Minister,
Dr Rupert Roopnaraine

decision to scrap the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (CoI), but said that he is still prepared to offer his statement to Commissioners who are yet to present their findings.
By making this admission, Roopnaraine, who was appointed Senior Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Minister in the new Government, has confirmed reports that the decision of the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated Cabinet to abruptly end the life of the Commission was unanimous.
The CoI, which was established under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), to probe the circumstances which led to the death of the founding leader of the WPA, Dr Walter Anthony Rodney, came to an abrupt end last week, with lawyers representing various interests pleading for the most, two weeks, to complete the investigation.
Minister of Governance and Patrimony Raphael Trotman had told Journalists that the decision to scrap the Inquiry was a collective one made at the level of Cabinet; of which the Working People’s Alliance forms part. Questions were raised about the WPA’s 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.
Speaking to Guyana Times during an exclusive interview on Monday, Roopnaraine said “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”.

Submission of his statement
He 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”, Roopnaraine said, continuing that he will “compensate” by dispatching the statement he has prepared to the Commission, “so that they would not be deprived of my own evidence, which to the investigation will definitely rob the Commission of a comprehensive, thorough and fair outcome”.
On another note, the WPA Leader told this publication that it would have been more satisfying for the party to have the opportunity to present its case to the Commission.
“We have been represented by counsel, who has done a good job, but had the Commission gone on for one or two more sessions, complete with all the witnesses, it would have been great”.
He said “I had a statement in readiness for the Commission, expecting at some point to be called. But what I will do, I will be submitting my statement to them; although it will not allow time for a cross examination but at least they would have my statement”, Roopnaraine said.
According to the WPA Leader, his statement has been “sitting there” and ready for months, noting that nothing that has transpired in the Commission could incline him to change it.
“It remains what it was two or three months ago. I’m anticipating that I will send that statement during the course of the week”.
The Commission of inquiry met for its last two sittings  last Monday  and Tuesday, where lawyers representing various interests in the investigation made their final submissions, summarising the evidence that have been so far presented.
They too had a lot to say about Government’s decision to have the final session wrapped up in a mere two days.  Chairman of the Commission, Sir Richard Cheltenham said while Commissions of Inquiry were “creatures of the executive”, the move by the David Granger Administration will not speak well for the fairness of the final report which commissioners were expecting to present by November.
The CoI, which was convened in February 2014 by former President Donald Ramotar, has had some 66 sittings with a total of 29 witnesses giving evidence; three of whom are still to be cross-examined. The evidence of those witnesses – retired Major General Norman Mc Lean, former Police Constable Allan Gates and Holland Yearwood were said to be crucial to the investigation.  Further, the Commission was still to hear from witnesses such as former Crime Chief Cecil “Skip” Roberts, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and former People’s National Congress Leader (PNC) Robert Corbin – all of whom have been issued with Salmon letters to appear before the Commissioners.
Cheltenham said there was adverse evidence provided against many individuals who were alive, who have not been provided with an opportunity to come forward to confront that evidence and comment on it.
Meanwhile, Queens Counsel Andrew Pilgrim, the Attorney representing the interest of the widow and children of Dr Rodney had urged Commissioners to petition the new Administration to see if it could give some leverage to its decision to allow for at least two more weeks, so that the remaining pertinent witnesses could be heard.

Waiting 35 years for closure
He said the family members of the Dr Walter Rodney, the WPA co-founder, have waited some 35 years to find solace and closure. He urged the Administration to take into consideration the Salmon letters that were sent. He said there  was still time for Government to make a decision in this regard, noting that he was willing to support any entreaty the Commission would make in that  manner.
Lawyer for Donald Rodney, Dr Rodney’s brother and the only witness Keith Scotland said “history will be unkind to us”, as the Commission was very close to the end of the hearing and the premature end would only open the new Government to criticism that it had “politicised” the CoI. He said the hearing, which has taken 34 years to commence, might very well be referred to a “pappy show”.
The Commission, including its Chairman Barbadian Attorney, Queen’s Counsel, Sir Richard Cheltenham; Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidad-based Guyanese Senior Counsel SeenathJairam, was set up to investigate who or what was responsible for the massive bomb blast that caused the instant death of the WPA Co-founder on the evening of June 13, 1980.
At the time, Ramotar had said that the establishment of the Inquiry was owing to the persistent request made by Rodney’s widow, Patricia, and their three children. However, the People’s National Congress (PNC), the major partner in the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition, had maintained that the move was a political stunt taken to tarnish its reputation.

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Prime Minister signs Book of Condolences for late Indian President

Vice President and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo Monday morning signed the Book of Condolences for former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. The book was opened at the Indian High Commission at Prashad Nagar, Greater Georgetown.
Dr Kalam served as the 11th President of India from July 2002 to July 2007 and was widely acclaimed as the “People’s President”.
In his message, Prime Minister Nagamootoo noted that “India has lost a great statesperson and also a great scientist”.
The Prime Minister also expressed the view that India’s departure from an unscientific approach to development was influenced by the late President.
“I recalled the example of the President as one who had brought India to a state of respect as a country that is pursuing development on the basis of a knowledge-driven economy,” he said.
Dr Kalam was born in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu on October 15, 1931 and raised there. He studied physics and aerospace engineering.  He was one of the most eminent scientists of the country and took the lead for the conduct of India’s nuclear tests in 1998.
He was awarded the coveted Indian civilian awards: Padma Bushan (1981); the Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna (1997).
He led many pioneering programmes such as the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Satellite Launch Programme and the country’s Guided Missile Programme. He also served as scientific adviser to the Prime Minister of India from July 1992 to July 1997.

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PM denies knowledge of “100%” pay hike

President David Granger

President David Granger

– fails to explain pay hike for Cabinet members, MPs

By Devina Samaroo

Prime Minister and First Vice President Moses Nagamootoo on Monday denied having any knowledge about Cabinet’s plans to dish out a 100 per cent pay hike for Government Ministers and other Members of Parliament (MPs), failing miserably in the process to justify any increase ahead of the presentation of the National Budget.

Prime Minister  Moses Nagamootoo

Prime Minister
Moses Nagamootoo

Prime Minister Nagamootoo’s pronouncement on the issue comes at a time when public outrage is growing after the Guyana Times broke a story last week which exposed a plan by the David Granger Government to approve a significant increase in the salaries and benefits of its serving Government Ministers and MPs even though it has only been in power for three months now.

When contacted by the Guyana Times about the issue, Nagamootoo was upset that this newspaper succeeded in breaking the story.

Asked for a justifiable reason for this increase, the Prime Minister feebly stated, “I think the Guyana Times needs to give an explanation to the Guyanese people why they would want to say that the PM will be paid some … increase in salary. I am not aware of 100 per cent increase…”

All efforts to get a reason as to why Government wanted to give it an increase in pay – given that on its campaign the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition spoke vigorously against the wastage of taxpayers’ monies and exuberance associated with occupying Executive Officer, proved futile as the Vice President kept avoiding the question.

“All I can tell you is that I am not getting 100 per cent increase…don’t ask me to speculate, I am not going to get 100 per cent increase…I cannot respond to you,” he said, just before referring the reporter to the Finance Minister.

Efforts to contact other key Government officials on the matter proved futile.

However, President David Granger is quoted in other sections of the media as saying that the salary increases are being done to basically differentiate between the payments received by the various levels of officials.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan confirmed that Cabinet was actively considering a salary increase for not only Ministers of Government but advisers as well as MPs.

He would not confirm nor deny the figures that have been floated in the public over the past two days.

The proposed pay hike would see Nagamootoo earning approximately $2.2 million monthly, inclusive of benefits, while the three other Vice Presidents will earn a total of $5.4 million altogether monthly. Although, the Prime Minister has since denied these figures, he has failed to mention the percentage of increase being considered.

Additionally, the 15 Ministers in the new Government would earn $1.5 million each bringing their pay package to over $22.5 million altogether monthly.

Junior Ministers are expected to pocket $1.2 million each monthly inclusive of $500,000 in benefits. This means that these 12 Ministers altogether will drain the treasury of $14.4 million.

That aside, all of the Ministers will receive duty allowance, entertainment allowance, a chauffeur and annual vacation allowance which amounts to over $13.5 million.

In short, over $58 million would be expended on a monthly basis to service the payout to Ministers of Government alone.

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PPP/C whips Govt over anti-poor policies

…moves being made to give laptops to friends, cronies — PPP/C

By Kristen Macklingam

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) on Monday whipped the David Granger Administration for implementing anti-poor

PPP/C General Secretary Clement Rohee

PPP/C General Secretary Clement Rohee

policies as it rejected the notion that when it was in power there was consideration for raising the salaries of its Ministers and Presidential Advisers at the expense of taxpayers and distributing laptop computers to its friends and cronies.
PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee, during a media briefing, explained that his Party would never think about increasing monies for themselves against raising the salaries of public servants.
He emphasised that the new A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government should not be considering a raise in pay for its members since such a move would lead to repercussions that Government would be forced to face for many years.
Guyana Times was told that such talks or consideration should not be implemented under the Granger-led Administration especially because the performance of these Ministers cannot be evaluated as they have only been in office for about 10 weeks thus far.
Although Government has acknowledged that it is considering increasing salaries for its Ministers, Advisers and all Members of Parliament, there has been no official announcement about any figures which would represent these increases.
However, Rohee lashed out at the Government stating that when he was serving as Home Affairs Minister he earned $579,000 monthly and was “quite satisfied with that”. Though his allowances were minimal, he was still satisfied, he said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Joseph Harmon had told the media that the move to pay officials a better salary would assist in stamping out corruption.
Rohee on the other hand refuted this notion, citing that a person’s character determines whether or not he can execute his duty honestly and with decency.
He further noted that the said belief has never been proven to “keep hands out of the cookie jar”.
Previously when APNU and the AFC were in Opposition, they had protested the ‘enormous’ and ‘unreasonable’ salary of the PPP/C’s Government officials. Ironically, the coalition may officially announce massive salary increases for its officials.

Laptops for families, teachers
Meanwhile, the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) Project which was started under the PPP/C Administration will most likely be renamed “One Laptop Per Teacher” as the APNU/AFC Government recently announced that the laptops would no longer be given to children and their families but to teachers.
Government is expecting a batch of 10,000 laptops shortly and has stated that they would be distributed to teachers nationwide to allow for the enhancement of teaching skills and delivery in the classrooms.
The PPP/C General Secretary stated that these laptops which were ordered by the then PPP/C Administration cost US$8 million.
Already 55,000 laptops have been distributed by the former Government to children throughout the country with the aim of enhancing research and learning approaches in academia and general social studies.
It was expected that such a move would allow the achievement gaps between children of poor or working class parents and those of high-income families to be narrowed.
Rohee stated that while Government would now be implementing changes in the programme, it needed to make public its “well thought- arrangement” about the distribution process.
He added that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had stated that the PPP/C’s OLPF programme was a ‘massive fraud’.
“Yet this initiative was not highlighted for a forensic audit. Further, Harmon walked into a storeroom full of laptops suddenly and determined that 10,000 were no good. Harmon is probably the best stand up auditor to determine which laptops were good and which were bad,” the PPP/C’s General Secretary said.
“These unsubstantiated declarations and unilateral moves by the Granger Administration are deeply suspicious and convey the impression that excuses are being made to secretly hand over laptops to friends and cronies of the APNU/AFC Coalition.”
He called on the APNU/AFC Government to explain the methodology it intended to use for distribution of the laptops to teachers, schools and communities and to also explain the nature of its “community-based” theme and the socio-economic criteria to be used for selecting communities.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the establishment and funding of the Office of the Opposition Leader, Rohee stated that he was not in a position to answer this. However, he noted that he expected it to be around the same figure that the PPP/C had allotted to the then Opposition.

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Ramnarine mum on SWAT members’ safety concerns

Assistant Police Commissioner David Ramnarine

Assistant Police Commissioner David Ramnarine

– says will only speak after meeting team members

Assistant Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine has refused to address the allegations made by members of the Special Weapons and Tactic (SWAT) Unit of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) that they are being sidelined by the top brass of the organisation, and said he would only do so after he met with team members.

Contacted on Monday, Ramnarine, who is reportedly in charge of the 25-member Unit, told the Guyana Times that he was made aware of the concerns of the team, through the press, but would not be commenting on anything until he first confirmed that it was the members indeed who raised those concerns.

On Sunday, members of the Unit told this publication that they have not been getting any responses from their chief and they feel undermined as no word has been forthcoming from any senior officer. They claimed that their lives were being threatened and that Government had failed to honour the promises made to them during the period they were undergoing training.

Asked about this, Ramnarine maintained that he would not speak on the matter until he first spoke with the “elite unit”.

The Unit, which was established in 2014, had received additional crime-fighting training to deal with serious crimes in the country, which the Police would not be able to handle competently. Members, however, claim that they did not even have a personal weapon to take care of themselves.

Since the completion of the training, the Unit has been “dormant” and only had their “big break” during a shootout with bandits on the East Bank of Demerara, on July 15. Members said since that operation, they, along with their family members have been receiving threats. They are fearful, particularly because they do not have any personal weapons to protect themselves.

“Everybody knows the SWAT team. We were in a shootout just the other day. They see our face. The guy that was shot (SWAT member), his family got threatened,” one team member, who asked not to be named, had told the Guyana Times. He related that the information was passed on to Assistant Commissioner Ramnarine and a meeting was sought with him and relevant authorities, but so far nothing has happened.

“We have been asking for the Assistant Commissioner to come see us. He or anybody in authority to come and speak to us, so we could at least know what is happening. Since we told them of these concerns, no one has come to see us, no one,” another team member told this publication.

“We have no firearm to take care of ourselves. A lot of us have our families to take care of. We at least want to know that if we go out on such an operation and something happens to us, that our families will be ok. We are not hearing anything, because no one comes to us.”

The team members said their routine, when not in operation, is to “eat, sleep, train and sit down and skin we teeth”. They said too that Government has failed to honour the promises made when the team began training in January 2014. According to the SWAT team, they were promised “proper equipment, proper vests and personal firearms to move around with”. According to them, none of these promises have been honoured, which has plunged them into further distress. Their contention is that even if the Force did not want to give them the firearm, they could at least allow them to be licensed, so that they could themselves purchase their own weapon for their safety.

“They should be paying attention to us; they chose us, although we were already Police Officers. We did not have a choice. They chose us,” another team member told the Guyana Times, continuing that “we are well-trained and are capable of using a personal firearm”.

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ExxonMobil’s rig left Guyana early June

…news broken by Venezuelan media

…to return early 2016 – ExxonMobil

As reports surfaced that US oil giant ExxonMobil has removed its oil drilling ship, the Deepwater Champion, from offshore

The Deepwater Champion now anchored in the Gulf of Mexico

The Deepwater Champion now anchored in the Gulf of Mexico

Essequibo, officials are insisting that the relentless aggression from Venezuela did not influence this decision.
Government, however, had failed to inform the Guyanese public of this development which occurred in early June. Reports in the Venezuelan media suggested that the Venezuelans understood that the drilling rig only left Guyana’s waters in the past few days. It would have been following the departure of ExxonMobil’s rig that, for instance, Venezuela confirmed the cancellation of the PetroCaribe rice deal with Guyana.
Guyana Times tried to make contact with Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman to find out why the public was not informed of this development when it had happened, but all calls made to his phone went unanswered. It was the arrival of ExxonMobil Deepwater Champion oil drilling rig/ship that had precipitated Venezuela’s latest revival of its controversy over our western border.
ExxonMobil Country Manager Jeff Simons told Guyana Times on Sunday during a telephone interview that the vessel had left Guyana’s waters since June and was now anchored in the Gulf of Mexico. He, however, quickly pointed out that this was not an unusual practice for the company.
“The vessel had completed the works it was doing on the Liza-1 well … it was always planned for the vessel to go there…we are planning for future drilling. We have collected enough information and data and we just in a planning stage right now,” he explained.
Simons stressed that the Deepwater Champion had completed its course of operation and the ongoing border controversy between Venezuela and Guyana regarding ownership of the Essequibo and the waters off its shore (where ExxonMobil is drilling) did not pressure the Company into removing the vessel.
He explained that at this stage, the company would be analysing its findings and planning for another period of drilling which should commence early in 2016.
“We are planning to return early next year or maybe sooner but we will return,” the Country Manager assured, noting that ExxonMobil is ecstatic about its discovery of hydrocarbons and oil-bearing rocks in the Stabroek Block.
In May, ExxonMobil announced its findings of more than 295 feet of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs.
Recent reports predict that this find could see Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) escalating to 12 times its current figure, which is transformational for any developing country.
Guyana’s GDP stands at around US$3.23 billion.

Venezuela is happy
In light of the reports emanating from the Venezuelan media that the oil company decided to withdraw from its operations, Minister of Governance and Patrimony, Raphael Trotman told another section of the media that the company’s action was “not irregular”.
That media outlet reported that the removal of the drilling vessel follows an “increase in activity in the Stabroek Block where seismic vessels were conducting exploratory works to determine if there are other commercially viable oil reserves in the immediate areas”. Trotman also confirmed the seismic works currently being done in the Stabroek block in the vicinity of the Liza-1 well, which has been capped, it was reported.
According to Venezuelan media, the President of the Venezuelan Chapter of the Latin American Parliament, Ángel Rodríguez, said that the Venezuelan Government “welcomed” this decision.
In early March, the oil and gas company, one of the largest in the world, was warned by the Spanish-speaking nation to refrain from going ahead with its planned exploratory drilling activity, on a concession awarded by Guyana offshore its Essequibo Coast.
Venezuela has repeatedly laid claim to the area being explored, ignoring an 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award, which was declared as the full and final settlement of the boundary between the two South American nations. Following the discovery of oil-bearing rocks in the area, Venezuela’s aggression grew stronger.
However, ExxonMobil assured that it will not be intimidated by the country’s claims and will continue its work in Guyana’s offshore waters.
The multibillion-dollar oil exploration project, which is expected to be executed over 10 years, got underway in early March.

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Enmore businessman robbed at gunpoint in Linden

– perpetrators arrested at road block
Hours after relieving an Enmore, East Coast Demerara businessman of $1 million and a firearm during a robbery at Coomacka Mines, Linden, three men were arrested during a road block at   Nottinghamshire, Linden on Saturday.
Naresh Pooran, 43, of Lot 2 Enmore, in a phone interview with Guyana Times on Sunday morning disclosed that he operated a lumber yard at Enmore and a sawmill at Coomacka, Linden. He explained that on Saturday about 13:00h, he travelled up to Linden in order to pay his workers and as he exited his car, two men approached him enquiring about doing business.
The businessman went on to say that owing to the slowdown in business, he informed them that he was not buying wood at the time and asked them to check back with him in a month’s time.
“I see them men left and as I turn me back to walk towards my workers, I feel a cold object behind me ears,” he stated. As he turned around, he saw the same two men with one of them holding a gun to his head. The other took away his licensed pistol and demanded money.
In fear for his life, he told them that the money was in a bag, which was in his car. One of the men reportedly collected the keys to the car, opened the door, and took out the money before they made good their escape on foot. Pooran and his workers went in pursuit of the men and saw them running up the Coomacka Mines Road.
The Police were contacted and upon instruction of the commander, road blocks were erected at strategic points.
Pooran explained that during the operation, Police stopped and searched a motor car bearing registration number, HB 4064 that was occupied by three men. The businessman’s firearm and an unlicensed .38 pistol with three matching rounds were discovered.
The Police said they also found some of the money – $859,000 of the $1 million that was stolen. The three men, including the taxi driver, are in custody assisting with investigations.
Pooran praised the members of the Guyana Police Force for their quick action that led to the arrest of the three men. He noted that he has since positively identified the men as well as his firearm.
This is not the first time the businessman was robbed. He recalled in September 2010, he was shot during a robbery at his lumber yard and exactly one month later his business was again attacked and robbed.

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SWAT Unit feels exposed

…wants Govt to honour pledges

Members of the Special Weapons And Tactics Unit (SWAT) of the Guyana Police Force have complained of receiving threats to

The members of the local SWAT Unit were chosen based on their age, health, mindset, years of service, experience and their overall conduct

The members of the local SWAT Unit were chosen based on their age, health, mindset, years of service, experience and their overall conduct

their lives and that of their family members, and are calling on Government to honour the promises made to them during their training, so that they could at least feel secure.
A few members of the 25-member Unit on Sunday spoke with this publication, expressing fear that their lives could be at risk, following their participation in a recent operation, where a bandit was killed.
After long months of being dormant,in mid July the team  was deployed in an operation which left East Bank Demerara (EBD) resident Rolston Morrison dead. On July 15, the SWAT Unit kicked into action at Craig, EBD, along with a number of regular Police ranks, killing Morrison and rounding up seven others. During the operation one rank was shot and another bandit seriously wounded.
The gunmen – reportedly linked to the murders of businessman Ganesh Ramlall of La Jalousie West Coast Demerara (WCD) and alleged fellow gang member Travis Rudder and also to the vicious attack on Justice Nicole Pierre and her husband on the East Coast – were holed up in an apartment building in the quiet EBD community when Police received a tip that the wanted men were there.
Speaking to Guyana Times on Sunday, the SWAT members said since that operation; the first since they were trained last year, they, along with their family members have been receiving threats. They are fearful, particularly because they do not have any personal weapons to protect themselves.
“Everybody knows the SWAT team. We were in a shootout just the other day. They see our face. The guy that was shot (SWAT member), his family got threatened,” one team member, who asked not to be named, told Guyana Times. He related that the information was passed on to the Assistant Police Commissioner David Ramnarine, seeking out a meeting with him and relevant authority, but so far nothing has happened.
“We have been asking for the Assistant Commissioner to come see us. He or anybody in authority to come and speak to us, so we could at least know what is happening. Since we told them of these concerns, no one has come to see us, no one,” another team member told Guyana Times.
“We have no firearm to take care of ourselves. A lot of us have our families to take care of. We at least want to know that if we go out on such an operation and something happens to us, that our families will be ok. We are not hearing anything, because no one comes to us.”
The team members said their routine, when not in operation, is to “eat, sleep, train and sit down and skin we teeth”. They said too that Government has failed to honour the promises made, when the team began training in January 2014. According to the SWAT team, they were promised “proper equipment, proper vests and personal firearms to move around with”. According to them, none of these promises have been honoured, which plunged them into further distress. Their contention is that even if the Force does not want to give them the firearm, they could at least allow them to be licensed, so that they could themselves purchase their own weapon for their safety.
“They should be paying attention to us; they chose us, although we were already Police Officers. We did not have a choice. They chose us,” another team member told Guyana Times, continuing that “we are well trained and are capable of using a personal firearm”.
They said since their training, the Commissioner of Police has not “set foot” in the base, where they spend most of their time.
The SWAT Unit was established through collaboration between the Government of Guyana and the US-based security and justice reform consultancy firm, The Emergency Group (TEG).
In October 2013, a US$796,987 contract was signed between the then Home Affairs Ministry and US-based high-level team to train the 25-member elite unit.
The members of the local SWAT Unit were chosen based on their age, health, mindset, years of service, experience and their overall conduct. The objective behind the establishment of the Unit was to create additional crime-fighting strategies to deal with serious crimes in the country, which the Police would not be able to handle competently.

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Venezuela demands Guyana corrects gazetted maritime boundary

Border controversy

As tension continues to rise between Guyana and Venezuela over the border controversy, the neighbouring country has demanded

Maduro

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

that Guyana immediately correct the recently gazetted maritime boundary law that enacted to demarcate the country’s internal waters.
In a statement published on Venezuela’s Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs website, it was outlined that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela rejected the content of the maritime regulations that were gazetted on July 23.
“However, the regulation places the Point 1, which aims to establish the western end of the straight baseline corresponding to the mouth of the Essequibo River in Venezuelan territory under dispute under the 1966 Geneva Agreement. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has sent today, through the Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs, a note of protest to the Guyanese Government demanding immediate correction of that Point 1,” the Spanish-speaking country stated.
Guyana has long held that it was not in any dispute over territory with its western neighbour, pointing out the 1899 Arbitration Award, which Venezuela and Great Britain agreed to accept as a final settlement of the border set out the current boundary. This country has stressed that it only agreed to address Venezuela’s contentions in the 1966 Geneva Agreement.
However, in its most recent salvo, Venezuela went on to condemn what it called “recurring provocations and aggressions” by the Guyana Government which was “stoking the conflict between the brother countries”. In addition, the neighbouring country accused Guyana of legitimating “imperialist pretensions against peace within the Latin American and Caribbean Region”.
Guyana’s action to delimit its internal waters comes in the face of renewed claims by Venezuela on more than half of Guyana’s

Second Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge

Second Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge

Atlantic waters. The neighbouring country has remained resolute in its claims that the area which was recently found to have a very rich oil reserve belongs to it, and that the United States based oil drill ship operated by ExxonMobil was operating illegally.
President Nicolás Maduro had even issued a decree to this effect, but later withdrew it after it attracted much attention and pressure from the international community. Nevertheless, the Spanish-speaking country subsequently issued another decree, which purports to set all constitutional, legal and doctrinal elements, create the zone of integral defence and establish the Armed Forces’ tasks in all maritime areas of the country due and legally established.

Internal waters
On Thursday last, Second Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge informed the National Assembly that Government has enacted the Maritime Laws in compliance with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Maritime Zones Act 2010 of Guyana.
The Maritime Zones (internal Waters and River Closing Baselines) Regulation prescribes closing lines across the mouths of the three largest navigable rivers of Guyana – the Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice Rivers. Greenidge explained that the enactment of this legislation allows Guyana to “properly” safeguard its rights over the zones of jurisdiction through baselines.
He went on to say that the baseline establishes the area where national jurisdiction was to be exercised. “Baselines constitute a fundamental aspect of the regime of zones of jurisdiction established by UNCLOS, since the breadth of the maritime zones under national jurisdiction is to be measured from the baselines. The baseline is also the line which establishes the outer limit of internal waters in which the State exercises its full sovereignty,” the Minister stated.
According to the Second Vice President, Section 7 of Maritime Zones Act of 2010 enables the drawing of the baselines to delimit the internal waters of Guyana. Furthermore, he pointed to Section 8, which provides for Guyana’s sovereignty to extend beyond its land territory to the internal waters, the seabed, the subsoil and airspace over the internal waters.
“Guyana has exclusive jurisdiction over its internal waters. Such authority encompasses complete access to and control of our resources, as well as full jurisdiction over all activities of both nationals and foreigners, and for all purposes including enforcement of its national laws and protection of the environment unless distributed by internal laws,” he remarked.
In addition, Greenidge outlined that Section 9 of the Act empowers him as the Foreign Affairs Minister to prescribe by regulation closing lines to delimit our internal waters. “It is in this regard that the Maritime Zones (Internal Waters and River Closing Baselines) Regulations of 2015 were enacted on July 23, 2015,” he stated.

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Ministers/VPs pay hike pegged at over $245M annually

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

… move mean not lean – Amerindian leaders

 

… Guyanese shocked

By Michael Younge

The 100 per cent pay hike which is being considered by the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC)coalition Government could see the country’s treasury being depleted by $245 million annually sparking shock and outrage among various stakeholders in the country, who have been told that the economy has sputtered to a halt.

The proposed pay hike would now see Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and First Vice President, earning approximately $2.2 million monthly, inclusive of benefits, while the three other Vice Presidents will earn a total of $5.4 million altogether monthly.

President David Granger

President David Granger

Additionally, the fifteen Ministers in the new Government would earn $1.5 million each bringing their pay package to over $22.5 million altogether monthly.

Junior Ministers are expected to pocket $1.2 million each monthly inclusive of $500,000 in benefits. This means that the 12 Ministers altogether will drain the treasury of $14.4 million.

That aside, all of the Ministers will receive duty allowance, entertainment allowance, a chauffeur and annual vacation allowance which amounts to over $13.5 million.

In short, over $58 million would be expended on a monthly basis to service the payout to Ministers of Government alone.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan had confirmed that Cabinet is actively considering a salary increase for not only Ministers of Government but advisors as well as Members of Parliament.

He would not confirm nor deny the figures that have been floated in the public over the past two days.

On average, an Advisor is paid close to $800,000 per month which means that annually over $9.6 million could be expended on this category of Government staff. President Granger has appointed four Advisors so far; therefore they be paid 38.4 million annually.

The salaries of Members of Parliament would see the overall cost of the figure being significantly increased monthly.

Brian Allicock

Brian Allicock

This revelation comes as a governmental volte face as President David Granger has been quoted as saying that he wants to lead a “lean” Administration and the only way to achieve this is by cutting away wastage of tax payers’ monies and stopping the exuberance associated with occupying Executive Office and trailing behind a Cadillac lifestyle.

In fact, Granger had exhibited uneasiness about the salaries, pension and uncapped benefits of former Presidents arguing that it was a burden to the treasury. Only two weeks ago, his Government piloted legislation to change the laws allowing for caps to be placed on a former president’s entitlements and benefits.

The new APNU/AFC Government has also terminated the services of over 2000 young Amerindians who earned a mere stipend of $30,000 per month and scores staff from the One Laptop Per Family Project (OLPF).

Amerindian shock

It has moved to scrap the previous Government’s “Because We Care” Cash Grant Programme which saw families being given $10,000 to prepare each child in the public education system for school.

Speaking during an invited comment, Region Nine Regional Chairman Brian Allicock, brother of the Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister and Vice President Sydney Allicock, expressed his disappointment over this development, especially against the backdrop that the APNU/AFC had promised to put the people first.

Aleister Charlie

Aleister Charlie

He expressed shock over the Government decision to fire the young Community Services Officer (CSO) especially given the revelations about a pay hike for Ministers.

“For me, it has been a really sad situation… I think it has gone against the promises that the present administration has made during this campaign that they were going to look after the youths. This was a grand opportunity for them. I think now, dismissing the CSOs in the country, I think it’s terrible and just to make room for those monies to go to the Ministers, I feel really, really saddened. I think they should reconsider the situation,” the Amerindian leader expressed.

Another Amerindian leader Aleister Charlie, a People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament for Region Nine posited, “Where is the plan for the young people? Those individuals who were on the CSO programme benefited, even though the pay was little, it helped them, and it helped single mothers, particularly in my region, in Region Nine. What are you going to put in place for these young people now? They are now jobless.”

Charlie reasoned that it appears as though the Government just wrote off the 2000 Amerindian youths as “collateral damage” to make way for a massive salary hike for themselves.

Douglas Casimero, former Region Nine Vice Chairman and newly elected Toshao of Aishalton said that it “is unfair to our young people, especially those who are now unemployed. I am fully disappointed and against the decision of the new Government especially in their period of campaigning, they would have focused on employment for youths and to me this is an insult to the Amerindians”.

Mother’s response

“They cancelled the “Because We Care” grant where every child, every child was getting $10,000 to help them go to school. Look how many children we have.

It’s like they taking this money away from the people and giving it to themselves. What about the promises they made to the people? How they expect people to vote back for them. They are just showing us that they are greedy politicians,” said Jasmine Headley, a mother of three from Diamond, East Bank Demerara.

PPP’s response

Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party in a statement to the media said it is appalled of recent reports quoting Finance Minister Winston Jordan as saying the Cabinet of David Granger is actively considering pay increases, in some cases more than 100 per cent for its Ministers and Vice Presidents.

The party condemned this act of excessive generosity to the satraps of the Granger Administration.

“As is establishing a bloated is not enough, the Granger Administration is now planning to rub salt in the wounds of Guyanese, by “ fixing up the boys and girls” with big pay increases”, it said Saturday.

 The PPP said, “this is the same administration which had claimed there is no money in the treasury to continue the School Uniform Voucher Programme and to give public servants a promised 20 per cent pay increase”.

It reminded that the APNU/AFC, while in opposition, had accused the PPP/C Government of excessive spending.

“Clearly, the Granger Administration is more concerned with living extravagant lifestyles and earning big bucks, while the population suffers, it is meat for the boys and bones for the rest of the nation. Every day, it is becoming clearer that vintage Burnhamism is slowly but surely returning to Guyana once again”, the party said.

Social media

On social media, Guyanese wasted no time in berating the Government for mulling a pay hike for itself of a greater magnitude than what is being offered to the public.

Trudie Daniels-Clarke said “I am hoping this is not true….I would more rather see 100 per cent increase for teachers and Police” while Rehanna A Rahaman suggested that, “Hmmm full them pocket first.. no wonder the school children 10 grand was taken away.. plus the false promises to teachers and others… Smh..”

Another facebook user, Nanda Juman said, “Omg…weren’t they making outrageous minister salaries a big campaign thing? And didn’t they say the economy cant afford to raise the salary of public servants? Whats this now?

And where are all the supporters who blindly justify everything they do and say? How will you justify this now?”

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