September 15, 2014 By
September 14, 2014 By
… as SOCU launch commended
By Svetlana Marshall
Ahead of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary Meeting in October, Canadian High Commissioner, Dr Nicole Giles renewed calls for the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill to be approved.
But, in the absence of the required legislation, Dr Giles said the Government of Guyana ought to be applauded for initiating the Specialised Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), a non-legislative initiative being established based on the recommendations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).
“I am very pleased with the announcement that has been made, that funding has been allocated for the SOCU building,” the Canadian High Commissioner said during an exclusive interview with Guyana Times.
Last month, Government disclosed that SOCU’s Headquarters would be constructed at the cost of $63.1 million at Eve Leary. Under the stewardship of the Acting Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud, the unit will work closely with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to investigate suspected money laundering and financing of terrorism, in keeping with Guyana’s treaty obligations to CFATF.
According to the Canadian High Commissioner, this is a step in the right direction, but she maintained that the AML/CFT Bill must be passed at the level of the National Assembly to bring Guyana into total compliance with CFATF’s recommendations.
She said Canada will continue to support Guyana in this regard, positing that the Commission is more than confident that the non-legislative programmes and projects being established would add value for Guyana on meeting the recommendations that have been made by CFATF.
In addition to the Canadian High Commissioner, the British High Commissioner Andrew Ayre, former US Ambassador D Brent Hardt, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Caricom have all called for the AML/CFT Bill to be passed.
OAS General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulza offered the cooperation and support of the body through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), positing that Guyana’s draft law is fully consistent with the most recent recommendations of CICAD’s expert group on money laundering, which were, in turn, endorsed by CICAD Commissioners at their 55th Regular Session in Washington DC.
FATF, through the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) Americas Regional Review Group (ARRG), co-chaired by Darlene Boileau (Canada) and Maria Fernanda Garcia-Yrigoyen Maurtua (Peru), has been executing a targeted review of Guyana’s deficiencies with respect to the AML/CFT framework.
Before the Plenary Meeting in October, Guyana will be given an opportunity to review the draft targeted review and engage in face-to-face meeting with the ARRG.
“Once the Action Plan has been finalised, the FATF will request a written confirmation of your high-level political commitment to fully address the identified strategic deficiencies, including by implementing the Action Plan within the agreed timelines,” the international watchdog stated in a letter sent to Guyana in July, confirming that the review would have been conducted.
While the parties at the level of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee have agreed on the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill of 2013 since February, amendments to the 2009 Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act remain the biggest obstacle to moving forward.
In May, the CFATF referred Guyana to FATF after the country was further recognised as a jurisdiction with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies due to its non-compliance with the Action Plan developed with the regional body. CFATF had already sounded the alarm, calling on member countries to safeguard themselves from Guyana with the introduction of counter measures to protect their financial systems from the ongoing money laundering and terrorist financing risks. (email@example.com)
September 14, 2014 By
An alleged bandit was shot dead shortly after he reportedly robbed a shop in the Albouystown area.
Dead is 22-year-old Orlando Fredericks of Lot 84 Adelaide Street, Charlestown, Georgetown. He was reportedly gunned down shortly after robbing a shop. According to Guyana Police Force Public Relations Officer Ivelaw Whittaker, two men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, held up a man in a shop at James and Nonpariel Streets, Albouystown around 23:35h on Saturday.
The armed men, one of whom was Fredericks, allegedly snatched the man’s jewellery and escaped. But shortly after, Fredericks was found on Sussex Street, Albouystown, with a suspected gunshot wound to the abdomen. The investigation is ongoing.
During a visit to Adelaide Street, the dead man’s lone sister identified him as “Orlando Phillips” commonly known as “Bullay”. The young lady, who was reluctant to speak during the interview, told Guyana Times that her brother was last seen at home at approximately 19:30h on Saturday. “I don’t know where he was going, but all I know he left; with whom, I don’t know.”
She said hours later, her aunt broke the devastating news. “My aunt come and tell me he get shoot up. Mommy couldn’t believe she ears.” Upon receiving the shocking news, the young lady and her mother rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital, where Fredericks’ body was taken.
Questioned about the allegations levelled against her brother, the young lady said: “Girl, like me ain’t know, like I forget everything.”
Asked what type of person her brother was, she said: “Well, he was good to me; he was a good brother to me, but on the road, other people would see him as a bad person, but I know he was good to me.”
The young father of a three-year-old girl lived at the Adelaide Street residence with his mother, stepfather and two siblings. Approximately, two years ago he worked at the Bank of Guyana as a guard.
September 14, 2014 By
An argument between two prisoners at the Mazaruni Prison facility, Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) has left one inmate dead and the other under protective custody.
This was confirmed by police sources at the Bartica Police Station who said too that ranks from the station have been dispatched to the prison.
Preliminary reports reaching Guyana Times indicate that two prisoners who have been identified as Teon and Akeem (only names given) were involved in an argument. During the ensuing brawl Teon was allegedly killed by Akeem. Guyana Times was told that Teon might have been stabbed to death. Investigations are ongoing
September 14, 2014 By
– denial, poor public education among the reasons
Suspected cases of the Chikungunya virus are on the increase in many communities, but there continues to be an apparent denial on the part of those running the public health sector about the extent to which the disease has pervaded the country.
This, coupled with what seems to be a less than energetic public education campaign being rolled out by the Health Ministry, and a veil of secrecy prevailing over the actual statistics of confirmed cases and their geographic areas are contributing to the spread of the virus and more complacency among residents.
The Health Ministry has conspicuously failed to keep media and other critical stakeholders abreast with the extent to which the virus has spread and its debilitating symptoms, experienced by many people as well as of the effectiveness of the systems in place to tackle the spread of the virus via its mosquito vector.
The last statistics made available showed that the country had between 62 and 76 confirmed cases of the virus, but this flies in the face of widespread reports from private doctors and others in the medical field – especially pharmacies.
No other information has been forthcoming from the Health Ministry, despite the warning of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that the Region should brace for the “full impact” of the virus and must immediately take measures to prevent further infections by engaging in frank and open public education campaigns, aimed at strengthening the resolve of Caribbean nations to deal with Chikungunya.
While Government is insisting, even at this stage, that the virus is concentrated in the East Berbice area, residents of several other villages across the country, especially on the coastal areas are claiming that they are experiencing symptoms related to the virus.
Guyana Times sought to contact the Regional Health Officers (RHOs) of the 10 administrative regions across Guyana to ascertain the prevalence of the virus in the respective regions.
In Region One – Barima-Waini – while there are no confirmed cases of the illness in the region, there are seven suspected cases.
Officials from Region Two – Pomeroon-Supenaam – said there are no reported cases of the virus in the region. According to the region’s statistics, persons have only been receiving treatment for Dengue fever, and so far, only seven persons have received treatment for this infection.
Suspected cases of Chikungunya have been reportedly sent to Georgetown to be tested. But the officials could not divulge the number of cases, although confirming that it was a sizeable number.
In Region Three – West Demerara-Essequibo Islands – Guyana Times surprisingly learnt that there were no confirmed cases there. However, the few cases that were suspected were sent for testing in Georgetown. Yet, this appears to contradict public reports and feedback obtained by this newspaper.
Several other health officials told this newspaper that their reports are in Georgetown, since samples sent there for testing had not yet returned.
Officials in Region 10 – Upper Demerara-Berbice – said they have confirmed four cases of Chikungunya, with a number of persons showing symptoms of the virus.
Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director, Dr Carissa Etienne, speaking to this publication on Friday reiterated the need for Caribbean nationals, especially Guyanese, to take all necessary steps to contain the spread of the virus.
She urged persons to seek to reduce the prevalence of the disease by sleeping under bed nets and urging controlled use of appropriate insecticides, along with widespread information, education and communication campaigns.
Executive Director CARPHA, Dr James Hospedales said while the organisation has been monitoring the virus since it came to the Caribbean some six months ago, regional governments have not been doing enough to control the mosquito that transmits it. He said even though the virus is not fatal, health officials are still concerned.
The Health Ministry in an effort to control the spread of the virus had commenced fogging exercises across the city. Similar activities are said to be ongoing in Berbice.
Health Minister, Dr Bheri Ramsaran had early last month stated that Government was doing all it could to reduce the impact and spread of the Chikungunya virus here.
September 14, 2014 By
BY MICHAEL YOUNGE
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) says it is awaiting with anticipation the “action” promised by Opposition Leader David Granger, if President Donald Ramotar does not announce the date for Local Government Elections (LGE) by Monday.
The party’s General Secretary Clement Rohee, speaking with Guyana Times during an exclusive interview on Friday, described the deadline issued by Granger as “political”, while expressing support for the President’s decision to request that Granger’s letter be further clarified given the contradictions and ambiguities therein.
“We are waiting to see what will unfold with the passing of the political deadline… we would also like to see what kind of international and national mobilisation would take place”, the General Secretary reiterated.
Rohee maintained that the party is still studying the letter and has noted the threats issued to the President. He said that soon, the media would be furnished with a stern response from the party which has always stood up against any form of intimidation and thuggery.
The General Secretary nonetheless recommitted the PPP/C to local democracy and the staging of Local Government Elections.
Rohee’s comments come on the heels of threats issued by Granger to President Ramotar that should he fail to issue the commencement order for LGEs and announce a date, that the APNU would resort to local and international action.
Another senior party member has strongly condemned the tone of Granger’s letter, which he said was aimed at scoring cheap political points, as the Opposition Leader is fully aware of the reasons why Government has not called the elections.
He said that the PPP/C is always ready and able to mobilise mass support if the political environment requires such. “You can’t threaten the President of Guyana and expect him to cooperate with you. You can’t issue him an ultimatum and expect him to move swiftly to avoid political sanction. This is ridiculous. Granger is playing tricks and is seeking to undermine the AFC by creating opportunities to get away from the no-confidence motion,” the party’s General Secretary said.
United States Charge d’Affairs Bryan Hunt, when asked by Guyana Times on Thursday as to whether Granger had discussed his resort of national and international action against the current Administration if a date for Local Government polls is not announced by Monday, he responded in the negative.
“The Honourable Leader of the Opposition did not send me copies of the letter that he sent to the President. I honestly don’t know anything more than you about the contents,” he said.
He denied having any meetings with Granger before or after the letter was sent to President Ramotar.
“I have not had any discussions with the leader of the Opposition about this letter on the purported demands he made to the Government”, Hunt said.
No other member of the diplomatic community confirmed support for Granger’s letter or knowledge about his threat to take “action” if the President does not yield to his demand.
September 14, 2014 By
– Foreign Affairs Minister bemoans Western diplomatic pressure
Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has rejected the call made by foreign envoys here for the Government of Guyana to condemn Russia’s actions against the Ukraine.
Guyana Times attempted to contact Minister Rodrigues-Birkett but all efforts were unsuccessful. However, on social media, the Minister said that she noted the comments attributed to the foreign envoys here, which were surprisingly made via a public press conference where they expressed the positions of their respective governments on the crisis in the Ukraine.
“The conduct of diplomacy is ever changing, especially with the advancement of technology. Yet it is somewhat unusual for Ambassadors and High Commissioners that are based in Guyana to make a demarche on the host Government through a media conference, especially when there is easy access to the relevant authorities,” Minister Rodrigues-Birkett said through social media.
She explained that the envoys chose that forum, despite knowing what position the Donald Ramotar Administration already took on the matter.
The Foreign Affairs Minister advised that seven other Caricom countries, like Guyana, abstained, as well as six UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] countries, while two others voted against the United Nations (UN) Resolution on Crimea.
She said that this speaks to the complexity of the matter, which cannot be strictly compared, and or confused, with the territorial situations of other countries, given the history and geopolitical tenants among other considerations.
“Guyana calls on Russia and the Ukraine to exercise restraint and responsibility, to desist from any act that can lead to heightened tensions and to work to solve differences through dialogue,” Minister Rodrigues-Birkett said, reiterating Government’s position.
The Minister further noted that the call on Guyana regarding the Ukraine comes “after the world witnessed the disproportionate bombings by Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1700 Palestinians, with more than 70 per cent being civilians and the displacement of thousands of others”.
Despite that being so, Rodrigues-Birkett pointed out that the Government has previously expressed concern about the situation in Europe.
“Let me reiterate certain relevant sections of what was already communicated in the media on the Government’s position on this matter. As a small state, Guyana is obliged to insist on respect by all states for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law as a guarantor of international peace and security and as a bulwark against external threats.
It is a matter of concern that the application of these principles by powerful actors in the international community is often marked by unevenness, inconsistency and double standards,” the Minister said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister contended that Guyana has long upheld the principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the prohibition against the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and against intervention in the domestic affairs of states.
“We also respect the right of people to self-determination and stress the need for a consistent and principled approach to its application. Guyana calls on Russia and Ukraine to exercise restraint and responsibility, to desist from any act that can lead to a heightening of tensions, and to work to solve their differences through dialogue” Rodrigues-Birkett said.
On Wednesday, British High Commissioner to Guyana Andrew Ayre; Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr Nicole Giles and United States Embassy Charge d’Affaires Bryan Hunt hosted a joint press conference and called for Guyana to issue a statement in condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
However, the Western envoys pointed out that, while they would have engaged the Government on the issue, whatever talks were held between the parties were being treated as a matter of strict confidentiality.
A similar call for Guyana to back sanctions against Russia was made in April this year by the US Embassy.
September 13, 2014 By
By Jomo Paul
The Central Housing and Planning Authority on Friday pulled off another successful One Stop Shop at the National Stadium, which saw some 500 plus house lots being made available to citizens in a $1.2 billion housing scheme aback the National Stadium.
It was noted that $60 million alone went into providing Providence Phase 3 with electricity. Housing Minister Irfaan Ali, who gave brief remarks at the event, noted that the price that persons were paying for the house lots which is between $1.5 million and $2 million, was heavily subsidised, contending that the original price was almost three times that amount.
Ali pointed out that already major development has been taking place in the scheme, noting not only the availability of electricity but also the asphalt roads in the community.
He also pointed out that the Government has intentions of running a major roadway from Ogle on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) to Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD) through the housing development. This would give residents more entrance and exit options.
Further, he pointed out the area is well poised to become a major commercial district, complete with malls, Banks, and a University that is already under construction. With that in mind, it was noted that the house lots in the area would appreciate greatly and their value would “skyrocket”.
However Ali warned the would-be house lot owners of the dangers of attempting to sell or lease the house lots, an act which is deemed illegal. He said that though persons will be approached and offered huge sums of monies for their house lots, they should not take it.
“From the time people know that you’re the owner of a house lot in that vicinity, they are going to offer you a lot of money for the land. This will be illegal and you will not be entitled to another piece of land. Don’t be lured into any offer that would seem rewarding now,” Minister Ali said.
When Guyana Times arrived at the event, persons were seen lining up cordially to sign up and collect numbers. The persons at the One Stop Shop would have been notified by the Ministry of the availability of house lots in the area and were invited to the event. These persons would have made applications for land at the Central Housing and Planning Authority from as far back as 2010.
This newspaper spoke to several of the persons there who all expressed joy at the opportunity to own their own land in the area.
One man who gave his name as Terrence went to the event with his wife and youngest son. Terrence explained to Guyana Times that he was elated to have the opportunity to “finally” own a plot of land and begin construction of his own home for his family.
He said: “I am really excited, I can’t wait to start building. If I could have started building today, I would have started; I just can’t wait to get the process over with.”
When asked whether he had visited the area the man responded in the negative, but said from the reviews he has heard thus far from persons who would have taken the time to visit, he is “certain it won’t disappoint… we love the area”.
A woman who has visited the scheme explained that she was blown away by what she saw. “They have proper roads and I saw lantern posts, so that means electricity and the drainage, everything is just there; is just for me to go and build now. I am really, really happy that I received what I wanted; it is a very nice area,” she said.
She further explained that she had applied a long while ago and to have the opportunity presented to her was a “blessing”. She too contended that she would soon commencing building, adding that she was looking forward to the area becoming a major district in the coming years.
September 13, 2014 By
A 49-year-old man was burnt to death in his house that went up in flames at Number Three Village, West Coast Berbice on Thursday around 22:30h.
The burnt remains of Fazim Ally-Asgar were discovered among the debris of his home early Friday morning. The cause of the fire is unknown. According to the dead man’s son, Azam Ally, his father lived alone in the one-bedroom house.
He related that he last saw him on Thursday afternoon and he looked well. “I see he the day before and we talk little bit and he say he ah go home and then later he would go by one ah we family house, but like he stay home,” the son related.
Ally tearfully said he only learnt about the incident Friday morning. The dead man’s brother Ramzan suffered burns to his body as he attempted to save his brother from the blazing fire. He stated that when he got to the house, it was engulfed and the door had a padlock on it, so gaining entry was difficult. Ramzan added that he heard noises coming from inside the house, but had to retreat as the flames got intense.
Ally-Asgar worked as a labourer and was also a patient of the New Amsterdam Psychiatric Hospital. Neighbours recalled hearing loud noises around 22:30h and upon checking, noticed the man’s house on fire.
According to one neighbour, they quickly formed a bucket brigade but their efforts were in vain, since the fire was too intense. They noted that the Fire Service was informed, but arrived when the house was completely destroyed. Ally-Asgar leaves to mourn his three children.
September 13, 2014 By