July 26, 2014

Rumble in Sophia… Round 1

PNCR Biennial Congress…

 – Granger says “citizens yearn for inclusionary democracy”

By Svetlana Marshall

Amid high drama and open divisions between factions, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) opened its 18th Biennial Congress on Friday. Present Leader David Granger declared that the time has come for a government of national unity, while blaming the Government for allegedly stymieing efforts towards such.

Granger’s call comes even as a key partner in the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition, Professor Clive Thomas criticised APNU, under the leadership of Granger, for “disappointingly” failing to lead talks on an inclusionary government. (See other story on page 6)

Granger, who is facing a strong challenge for the leadership of the party, told the opening of the Congress that the PNC 50 years ago had entered Government as part of a coalition administration in December 1964, and started the transformation of colonial Guyana into modern statehood. He said the PNC led Guyana to Independence 18 months later, on May 26, 1966, under the inspirational national motto – “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”. The PNC had formed a coalition with the United Force, UF, which it jettisoned four years later.

“We were committed then to make that motto a reality. We remain committed to making Guyana One Nation.”  Granger said the PNCR today was the heir of those who fought for national independence. “We have a duty to actualise the vision of our nation’s founders by continuing their work to make Guyana One Nation. We cannot become One Nation if we are divided.”

“It was with that vision that our founder leader Forbes Burnham started talks with the People’s Progressive Party – PPP – in 1976 and resumed talks in 1984. His aim was to establish a government of national unity.” These talks were abandoned by Desmond Hoyte after Burnham’s death.

“It was with that vision that our second leader Desmond Hoyte invited members of civil society into our party and succeeded in changing our party’s name to PNC Reform. His aim was to promote national unity through shared governance. It was with that vision that our third leader Robert Corbin toiled to bring the joint opposition political parties together and forge the PNCR-One Guyana alliance. His aim was to create a coalition that would promote national unity.”

Inclusionary democracy

“It is with that vision that, today, as the fourth leader of our party, I am proud to continue the PNCR’s tradition of leadership in advancing the One Nation project and in reaffirming A Partnership for National Unity’s commitment to that objective. My mission is to lead the PNCR and APNU into the next elections and establish a government of national unity,” Granger said. Granger had spoken of a “national unity government” before elections, but abandoned this after the Opposition received a majority. This was the move criticised by Dr Thomas.

He noted that the results of the November 28, 2011 general and regional elections should have made it clear that the majority of the Guyanese people want an ‘inclusionary democracy’ in order to promote national unity. “People, increasingly, are calling on the minority People’s Progressive Party – PPP – to abandon its “winner-takes-all” attitude to governance and work with the majority to build ‘One Nation’. The people want greater inclusion, not exclusion.” The PPP has also called for “inclusionary government” since 2003, but asserted that a higher level of trust must be inculcated between the parties.

“The current ‘dispensation’ in the National Assembly requires consultation and cooperation between the legislative and executive branches of Government instead of the current convention of confrontation favoured by the PPP,” Granger asserted.

He said his party was convinced that greater national unity will bring greater national benefits including: elimination of one-party domination of the Government; enhancement of local, municipal and parliamentary democracy; enlargement of multi-ethnic space and the elimination of ethnic insecurity; expansion of economic enterprise and development; and enrichment of cultural life, national consciousness, and pride.

“The PNCR made a contract with this nation 50 years ago. We, the heirs of that tradition, have a duty to transfer the injunction of ‘inclusionary democracy’ from the dry pages of the Constitution to a living practice in every neighbourhood, every municipality, every region and into the National Assembly.” Granger did not allude to widespread calls that the PNC should “apologise” for various atrocities committed during its 28 years of rule.

Noting that the PNCR is an integral part of APNU, Granger said they would together continue to fulfil the obligation to the nation both through the legislative process in the National Assembly and in the country at large.” We shall continue to work with the major sections of society – including other political parties, trade unions, private sector, and civil society – to realise our common quest for consensus on a broad national programme to move the country forward. We shall continue to work to harness the talents of a broader constituency, to foster the conditions for social cooperation, to deepen the democratic process and to develop the economy.” Commentator Christopher Ram has recently accused the PNC of having only “paper” partners in APNU.

Talking up the theme of “One Nation”, Granger said: “if gross disparities persist between the hinterland and the coastland and between the educated and a mass of semi-literates. Dark forces – poverty, oppression and hatred – threaten to pull us apart. A united nation ought to be one in which cooperation prevails over confrontation and national integration over communal disintegration.”

He charged that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has become Guyana’s political “troglodyte”. “It seems unable or unwilling to change its political posture in order to positively influence economic change and restore the sustainability of social policies. Such a change, inevitably, must be based on recognition of the authority and autonomy of the National Assembly. There must be respectful relations between the executive and legislative branches of government and reverence for the institutions of the state. The President and the PPP/C must understand that the way out of the crisis is to promote national unity, ensure human safety and foster economic development. The PPP/C has demonstrated that, on its own, it is incapable of solving the country’s current crises.”

Granger told the Congress that the PNCR’s ‘One Nation’ approach could be the main means of combining the talents of a wider constituency and of creating the conditions for social cooperation and economic progress. He said the three-fold purpose of such a project would be to reach a broad consensus on the goals of national development, to establish a sustainable institutional architecture, and to create effective policy instruments for the achievement of our common objectives.

Relevance

“Our One Nation project shows how our policy programme, once we return to Government, will be relevant to people’s everyday experiences and expectations. Our resilient and resourceful people and communities are eager to play their part in rebuilding our country as One Nation. Our One Nation project will be the basis for major sections of society – including the Government, political Opposition, trade unions, private sector and civil society – to come together to seek agreement on a broad national programme to move our country forward.”

Granger told the gathering that the results of the 2011 general and regional elections opened opportunities for real political, social and economic change, noting that APNU and the Alliance For Change (AFC) together polled 175,051 votes and the PPP/C, 166,235 votes. These results, he said, gave the combined Opposition a majority of one seat in the National Assembly. “The PPP/C, rather than pursue a consensual policy of “inclusionary democracy” and cooperation with the Opposition as prescribed in the Constitution, adopted a posture of confrontation. That approach, as you know, has failed. The fact is that Guyana is in a state of crisis. The governance crisis has been aggravated by the PPP/C’s reluctance to acknowledge its minority status in the National Assembly and to join the majority in the movement towards establishing a government of national unity,” Granger charged. Granger did not acknowledge President Donald Ramotar’s innovation of the “Tripartite Talks” which he and the leader of the AFC abandoned.

He said the President’s refusal to assent to certain Bills passed by the Assembly has stuck like a bone in the throat of the Opposition. The President has asserted that the Bills are “unconstitutional” and that he could not sign such Bills. “The Minister of Finance’s management of the nation’s finances has been a major source of political contention. We shall soon settle that,” he said. He added that President Ramotar’s ‘feral blast’ against the National Assembly suggested that the President was not au fait with the concept of cooperation. “He did not seize the opportunity to encourage party members to pursue a more collaborative approach with the parliamentary majority for the good of the nation.”

The Government, on the other hand, has accused the Opposition of wanting to take over the powers of the Executive, which the PPP/C was voted into at the last elections. The Courts, which are the arbiter of the Constitution, have supported the Government’s position, by and large.

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DNA test for decomposed body

Local Pathologist, Dr Nehaul Singh (centre) arrives at the crime scene to perform the autopsy

Local Pathologist, Dr Nehaul Singh (centre) arrives at the crime scene to perform the autopsy

– autopsy inconclusive

One day after the discovery of a human skeleton at Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, suspected to be that of missing St Stanislaus College teacher Nyozi Goodman, one of her brothers failed to make a positive identification.

He told reporters at the scene on Friday that there was no flesh on the body and the only way the woman could be identified is by a bad tooth in her mouth. The woman’s remains were removed by undertakers attached to the Lyken Funeral Home.

He requested that the recently established forensic laboratory answer all their questions when it comes to proper identification of the remains, and more so, the cause of death.

Due to the state of the woman’s corpse, local Pathologist, Dr Nehaul Singh had to be taken to the scene to perform the post-mortem examination, but after more than 30 minutes of examining the remains, he declared the cause of death as inconclusive.

The skeletal remains of a woman is taken away by undertakers

The skeletal remains of a woman is taken away by undertakers

However, he reportedly found signs that the woman might have been stabbed.

Samples of the woman’s remains are expected to be sent to Brazil for further analysis. The pieces of samples were placed in brown paper bags and taken away by members of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

He said that Police retrieved an underwear and a green ladies top at the scene, suspected to be that of the woman.

A source said someone close to the woman will have to be called in to verify whether the pieces of garments belonged to her. Investigators were baffled at the condition of the remains, but noted that the body was exposed to the elements.

At the scene, investigators retreived several condoms, hence they believed that the woman was raped before the perpetrator took her life. Also, the position of the woman’s skeleton would have suggested that she might have been raped.

Re-arrested

Meanwhile, a suspect whose last known address was given as Cummings Lodge, East Coast Demerara (ECD) was re-arrested on Thursday evening following the gruesome discovery.

A Police source told Guyana Times that the suspect was arrested a few days after the woman disappeared, but was subsequently released.

Guyana Times was told that the man was held on the basis of his relationship history. “He was dating a Policewoman who went missing and was never found… At the time of the teacher’s disappearance, he was dating her… so we are working along that line,” the Police stated.

The body was found on Thursday evening about 18:45h by a passerby. As he entered the bushy, dark area, he reportedly stumbled upon the skeletal remains of the human body.

He immediately contacted the Police who rushed to the scene, cordoned off the area and launched an investigation. Persons in the area admitted that on arrival at the scene, they were greeted with a strong stench, and thought that it was some dead animal.

The 36-year-old woman was last seen on Sunday July 6, at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown, where she had accompanied her school’s basketball team to the National Schools Basketball Championships.

Goodman, of William Street, Kitty, was last seen sending off the basketball team with another teacher. At her apartment, all her personal belongings were found intact, except for her two mobile phones and iPad.

The last time she used her mobile phone was about 23:00h two Sundays ago, her sister Nestor Thompson said. This information, she said would have been received from Digicel. The telephone company also said that the sim card was either destroyed or removed from the handset.

Two weeks after her disappearance, a search party was established and searches were conducted in Le Repentir cemetery and in the Botanical Gardens, where a bag and an umbrella similar to the ones used by the woman were found.

At this time, relatives of the dead woman were sure that something terribly wrong had happened. The woman was described as a very good teacher, and someone who cared for all.

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Clive Thomas “let down by APNU”

Professor Clive Thomas

Professor Clive Thomas

… says coalition failed to lead national unity talks  

By Alexis Rodney

Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Executive member, Professor Clive Thomas has expressed disappointment with the coalition- A Partnership For National Unity inability to lead talks on a national unity government.

Thomas who is a key executive of APNU says at the time of the formation of the collation, the objective was to persuade the ruling People’s Progressive Party that a national unity government was the way to go. He said while the PPP has not latched on to this, the coalition has not been forceful enough to take this forward. “I personally had expected the APNU to spearhead the national Government talks, but the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has not joined in any discussions to take the idea forward,” Professor Thomas told Guyana Times in a recent interview. He said at its inception, the coalition’s aim was not to contest the PPP for power, but to encourage it to form a national government. “But there is a gridlock,” he said.

Professor Thomas said that although figures are showing that the country has been having good per capita growth and a good Gross Domestic Product (GDP), political bickering and gridlock have been preventing the country from achieving the growth rate that it would like to have. “I think the only way forward is more inclusive governance, and more attempts to encourage the development process from below the incorporation of all points of view and inference, status and position in the formulation of National development,” Dr Thomas said.

The University of Guyana Professor said no one party should feel it is capable enough to govern the country on its own, since it is impossible. “We would only continue to struggle against ourselves and be our own worst enemies,” he posited. Professor Thomas pointed out that achieving this goal does not mean the problems will disappear because the real concern by different forces in society is over the position that they hold. He said that will have to be resolved, although it needs a vision and foresight “for us to be able to transcend some of these and recognise that the growth and development of the economy, especially from the point of view of the working population, is not going to progress unless we bring all talents on board to try to promote the development of the country”.

Granger’s leadership

Meanwhile, regarding the leadership of the coalition, Professor Thomas said it has a responsibility to the APNU despite the criticisms brought against its leader David Granger by sections of the population. Professor Thomas said too that as far as he knows, the leader has been performing well and has not seen any evidence of the issues raised by outsiders.

What he has seen, however, are complaints of the collective leadership of all members of the coalition. According to him, no one has strikingly lay blame on any one individual, noting that it is certainly not the position of the WPA.

“We would share in the responsibility of any inaction or any lack of positive development and we will struggle within the organisation to improve on that. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t get our members telling us different things. But within the organisation, we accept the collective responsibility to the collective leadership of the coalition,” Professor Thomas said.

Observers have claimed that since taking the reins of leadership, Granger has been taking the party in the wrong direction. Concerns have also been raised that the leader has not been listening to the the views and advice of the WPA, and has not been taking the party seriously.

Numerous achievements

But Professor Thomas said since the establishment of the coalition in 2011, it has had numerous achievements. Among them, he pointed out, is the fact that the coalition was able to win 40.8 per cent of the votes at the last General Election. He considers that a remarkable achievement, especially when a comparison is made to the 30 per cent achievement of the People National Congress (PNC) prior to 2011. He said if the criticisms brought against the leader are true, then it will be up to party members to vote him out at the upcoming congress. Another success too is that the coalition was also able to establish a working relationship with the Alliance For Change (AFC), although not perfect.

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Norton says supporters disenfranchised

Former PNCR General Secretary Aubrey Norton vents his dissatisfaction during the 18th Biennial Congress

Former PNCR General Secretary Aubrey Norton vents his dissatisfaction during the 18th Biennial Congress

accuses Granger’s driver of calling one of his supporters a dog

BY SVETLANA MARSHALL

Facing a scattered audience, accusations of corruption and a demonstration at the entrance of the headquarters, the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNCR) 18th Biennial Congress commenced on Friday under the theme “PNCR for National Unity, Good Governance and Development.”

From all indications, the Congress was not all unified, as the Linden, Region 10 delegation signalled their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs of the party.

Not far from the gate, inside the compound, barricades were erected, barring Region 10 PNCR executive member Vanessa Kissoon from entering the auditorium where the 18th Biennial Congress was in full swing.

The empty chairs at Congress, even as the Linden, Region 10 supporters were awaiting entry

The empty chairs at Congress, even as the Linden, Region 10 supporters were awaiting entry

“Let us cooperate for Guyana”

Backed by more than 40 young PNCR members from the Mining Town, Kissoon sung lustily Guyana’s National Song, “Let us cooperate for Guyana, Let us cooperate for our Land, Let us resolve to fight together, See we do it right together, Can we do it? Yes, we can.” A fierce altercation between Kissoon and the PNCR General Secretary Oscar Clarke landed her on the “suspension bench”. Kissoon’s suspension has resulted in her non-accreditation for the three-day Congress at the party’s Headquarters in Sophia.

Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon in passing told Guyana Times, that he was making representation on behalf of his people to ensure that access was granted. Minutes after, the Regional Chairman led his supporters into the Congress as they hoisted their placards.

As this unfolded, PNCR Former General Secretary Aubrey Norton, who is challenging Opposition Leader David Granger for the leadership of the party, said there is a high level of indecency within the party, which must be rooted out.

As he was swarmed by journalists, Norton complained bitterly that the Opposition Leader’s driver was verbally abusive to a long-standing party member. “Mr. Granger’s driver called young Wayne Mason a dog… he said ‘you dog, get out of here’,” the main contender alleged, noting that a formal report was made to the party’s General Secretary. “If we are going to have a proper Congress, then there must be a certain amount of decency and respect for what is happening.”

He added: “I will have to take a position on what is happening in this party. I have been a member of this party since 1972, and I have never seen this kind of behaviour before.” According to Norton, if the matter is not dealt with in a fair and transparent manner, he will have cause to revise his relationship with the party. “I does stand up and fight the PPP and I will fight the indecency in here.”

According to him, Opposition Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge’s supporters had in the past suffered from similar levels of abuse. “I am not Greenidge, I will not tolerate it.”

The main opponent for the PNCR leadership said too that he was working along with the General Secretary to resolve major issues relating to membership. According to him, a number of people who are entitled to membership have been disenfranchised. “It appears as though it is only my supporters are being turned away,” he said.

It was pointed out that the PNCR members who hail from Linden are suffering the worse, as their membership has apparently been denied.

“Region 10 has serious concerns about the attempt to disenfranchise them,” Norton told the press. According to reports, there are more than 30 persons who are affected.

Though the Region 10 Chairman deliberately avoided the press during the commencement of the 18th Biennial Congress, he issued a letter alleging that the party’s Constitution has been violated. Through letters and direct conversations, the Region 10 Chairman has reportedly lodged his complain at the General Secretary’s Office.

“Region 10 delegates are still to be duly accredited and members still await their membership card,” he said in a press statement issued hours before the opening ceremony.

According to Solomon on July 14, he received a letter advising him that only persons with both 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 membership would be eligible delegates at the Congress, but according to him, this contradicts Rule 15 (2) (A) which states that each group shall be entitled to send to Congress, one delegate for every 10 financial members.

“Region 10 has 11 groups and 950 members. Guided by Rule 15 (2), the region should be allotted no less than 96 delegates,” Solomon said in his quest to build his case.

Much to his surprise, the Regional Chairman was informed that there were four additional groups within Region 10. Solomon complained too that he was nominated for Leader, Chairman, Vice Chairman and Committee Member, but a letter dated July 11, did not include Vice Chairman.

Transparency issues

“Mr Granger, this party in presently under your leadership and we cannot afford to project an image the party does not practise transparency, accountability and is incapable of running a credible election and leaders are foisted on the people and not elected by people.”

In response to the allegations levied against the administration of the party, the General Secretary told Guyana Times that issues relating to accreditation will be dealt with in a fair and transparent manner.

“I deal with every question that concerns delegates to congress in a very careful and constructive manner and that’s why when anybody comes to me and tells me something is wrong, I take my time and I examine what they are saying, before I give a response.”

He confirmed that he is in receipt of a response to his objection regarding Linden. According to him, he will soon examine the response before making a decision. “I will do so before the congress, before the elections take place and I will make sure that the decisions that are made are understood by both parties.” Clarke made it clear that he will never attempt to disfranchise anyone from the voting process.

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Finance Minister’s referral to Privileges Committee a legal issue – Attorney General

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, has been referred to the Privileges Committee of the National Assembly, but the Government of Guyana said it will challenge the ruling made by Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman.

On Thursday, the Speaker ruled that a prima facie case had been made out against the Finance Minister; hence, he was referred to the Committee of Privileges over the $4.5 billion spent from the national coffers despite objections from the National Assembly.

The ruling comes in the wake of a motion submitted by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge seeking a committal of the issue to the Privileges Committee to pave the way for appropriate sanctions to be imposed. In his motion, Greenidge said although the National Assembly in April 2014 did not approve several programmes contained in the Budget, the Finance Minister on June 19 submitted Financial Paper No 1 of 2014 (Statement of Excess on the Current and Capital Estimates totalling $4,553,761,991, for the period ended June 16, 2014) seeking the House’s approval of this expenditure.

Ruling

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh

In his ruling, Trotman said Dr Singh relied on Article 218 (3b) as the legal basis for the expenditure. That Article states: “If in respect of any financial year, it is found that any moneys have been expended for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated for that purpose by the Appropriation Act or for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by that Act, a supplementary estimate, or as the case may be, a Statement of Excess showing the sums required or spent shall be laid before the Assembly by the Minister responsible for finance or any other Minister designated by the President.”

The APNU Shadow Finance Minister maintained the argument that the Finance Minister breached his parliamentary privilege and was, therefore, in contempt of Parliament by utilising money that was unauthorised, notwithstanding Article 218.

In keeping with Order 32 of the Standing Orders and Rules of the National Assembly which state that the Speaker has the authority to determine whether or not there is prima facie evidence case against a Member of the House, Trotman said the 2014 National Budget was presented and dealt with in accordance with the ruling of acting Chief Justice filed on January 29.

It was stated too that the Finance Minister adopted the Committee of Supply’s recommendations for “amendments” to the Estimates and amended the Estimates in accordance with the ruling. “This was done when he (the Finance Minister) reported to the House after the Committee of Supply’s review.”

Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman

Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman

Assent

Subsequently, the House approved the Appropriation Bill, as amended by the Finance Minister. The Speaker further pointed out that “His Excellency, the President subsequently assented to the Appropriation Bill. This then became an Act of Parliament (No 10 of 2014) giving authorisation for spending from the Consolidated Fund.”

Despite the Appropriation Bill being passed into law, Trotman said, Minister Singh proceeded to spend unauthorised funds. “The facts and circumstances of these withdrawals from the Consolidated [Fund] are clearly distinguishable from those that occurred in 2012 and 2013 for the reason being that in 2014, the National Assembly, though aggrieved by the Chief Justice’s decision of January 29, 2014, sought to comply in spirit and in letter. The cause for the accusation of “unlawful or unconstitutional” action on the part of the Assembly when it amended the budget was removed.”

In considering the facts of the matter, the Speaker said: “It is my considered opinion that the issue of the spending by the Hon Minister of Finance does raise sufficiently serious questions of privilege such that the Committee of Privileges should enquire into.”

Response

But hours after the ruling by Trotman, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall said the motion was purely a legal one. “It concerns the interpretation of several provisions of the Constitution, including Articles 217 and 218. Articles 217 essentially provides when and in what circumstances, monies can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund.”

He explained that Article 218 creates the avenue needed to withdraw monies from the Consolidated Fund outside of the limitation imposed by Article 217. According to him, Article 218 is but an exception to Article 217. “That is precisely why the wording of Article 218 succeeds the words of Article 217. These very two Articles were examined by the Honourable Chief Justice in the Budget Cut case and interpreted along the same vein that I have articulated,” the Legal Affairs Minister stressed.

Based on his argument, he opined that it is hardly a matter of “privilege” but rather one of law and constitutional interpretation. “The simple truth is, that, a Member of the House cannot act in conformity with the Constitution and at the same time, violate a privilege,” the Legal Affairs Minister said.

“Constitutional supremacy, which is the cornerstone upon which our constitutional democracy rests, mandates that the glories of the common law, statute law, by-laws, standing orders, rules and regulations and indeed administrative polices, must bend and bow to the provisions of the Constitution.”

Jurisdiction

Minister Nandlall is of the firm belief that the Speaker fell into error in determining that there was a serious question of privilege. He maintained that the Privileges Committee is without jurisdiction to convene over the matter for a number of reasons.

Referencing the composition of the Committee, the Attorney General said its membership will comprise political parties, the majority of which have publicly stated that the Finance Minister has violated the Constitution. According to him, it is impossible for the Finance Minister to get a fair hearing at the Privileges Committee. “The persons who will sit on this Committee are simply unqualified to determine the legal issues which will arise therein.”

He said too that the issue was also sub judice, noting that it was the subject of an appeal pending before the Guyana Court of Appeal and, therefore, ought not to be the subject of any consideration either in the National Assembly as a whole or in any of its committees.

Minister Nandlall reiterated that over the next few days, Government will be considering its options.

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Norton confident of defeating Granger

David Granger

David Granger

– says party members clamouring for change

BY JOMO PAUL

Frontrunner for leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Aubrey Norton, said he is the man to beat when the party’s 18th Biennial Congress convenes today at Congress Place, Sophia Greater Geogetown.

The Congress will conclude on Sunday.

Norton maintains that he has the support of the PNCR membership and the “intellectual” capacity to effectively run the party, contending that the leadership of David Granger is wanting.

Norton will be going head to head against Granger for the post as the only two candidates for the top spot in the party. It was previously announced by PNCR General Secretary Oscar Clarke that Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon would also be vying for the position.

Aubrey Norton

Aubrey Norton

However, sources close to Solomon confirmed that he has declined nomination, purportedly with the intention of throwing support behind Norton, who also hails from the mining town.

Some concerns were recently raised over allegations of vote-fixing in the party. However, this was quickly denied by Clarke, who offered all assurances that the elections process will be transparent and will not tip in favour of a single candidate. But Norton said that while he is not worried about vote-rigging, he will be keeping a close eye on the electoral process.

He said that there are “no elections run by priests and even those run by priests you have to watch…I will be watching the electoral process and doing everything to ensure it is fair.”

Norton from the time he announced his intentions to vie for the leadership post has contended that he will be seeking to return the party to its grassroots level as opposed to Granger’s elitist leadership style.

He said on Thursday that he believes Granger would have been able to accomplish a lot more if he had a different approach to governing the affairs of the party.

When questioned by Guyana Times as to whether he believed that the party has made any significant accomplishment under the stewardship of Granger, Norton contended that “the average PNC person does not believe that, the average PNC person thinks that there is need for leadership change”, to put the party in a more formidable position going into the 2016 elections.

Norton further criticised the leadership techniques adopted by Granger, opining that had he been the leader of the party, the altercation between party member Vanessa Kissoon and General Secretary Oscar Clarke would not have spilled over into the public domain. He said that were he to be elected party leader, he would ensure that every member is afforded the opportunity to have their concerns aired and handled administratively.

“People go outside when they believe they can’t get justice within the party. As a leader of the PNCR, I would deal with everybody in a fair and honest way. Every member of the party must feel that they are a part of the party.”

Proper plan needed

According to Norton, the party in its present state lacks a proper plan that would effectively deal with its day-to-day work and make it a more socially and economically viable stakeholder in the parliamentary sphere.

He said under his leadership, he would take steps to ensure that such a plan was implemented and enforced so that the party can reap greater benefits.

In this regard, Norton pointed out that the PNCR should be able to use its assets in an effective manner so as to generate income and make the party financially sound. He criticised Granger’s leadership for not taking full advantage of the party’s assets, putting it to profit bearing use and steering the party away from a path of dependency on donations.

Under Granger’s management, the party’s resources continue to be depleted. Only recently, it was discovered that Congress Place made a decision to sell parcels of its prime lands at Sophia, Georgetown. The party allegedly owes over $77 million in rates and taxes.

But Norton opined that the political party should move ahead and operate more like a business rather than just strictly as a political party.

“Every political party should operate like a modern business and it should have a strategic plan…. It needs to take care of its assets and get involved in proper investments that can bring returns to the party so it can become viable.”

The strategic plan, Norton articulated should place major emphasis on the political, economic and social well-being of the party and its membership. He also noted the need for the party to conduct outreaches to show the electorate it cares for them.

This, he said, has been largely absent under Granger’s stewardship.

With respect to the youth arm of the PNCR, the Guyana Youth and Students Movement (GYSM), Norton explained that enough was not being done to educate and empower them.

Norton said if he wins the leadership of the party, much focus would be placed on rebuilding the GYSM, bringing it up to standard. He contended that one of his “fundamental tasks” is rebuilding the core of the youth arm.

“Within a year, the GYSM must be a strong, vibrant organisation that has a young intellectual core with nice support,” Norton said.

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Govt extols progress in human development

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh goes through a section of Guyana’s Human Development Report at the Guyana International Conference Centre on Thursday

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh goes through a section of Guyana’s Human Development Report at the Guyana International Conference Centre on Thursday

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh said on Thursday that despite the rating of Guyana’s Human Development Index (HDI) for 2014 (121st), the country still had much to celebrate, as there has been significant progress in its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs)

At the launch of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2014 Human Development Report, “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”, Dr Singh said Guyana has been most proactive in its approach to the achievement of the MDGs.

Members of the Civil Society and the Private Sector converged at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, to witness the handing over of the report to the Finance Minister by UNDP Resident Representative Chisa Mikami.

This year’s report, which has taken a “people-centred approach”, covers two concepts which are interconnected and deeply important to securing human development – reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience.

Guyana’s Human Development Report for this year shows that from a list of 187 countries, Guyana remains at 121 on the UNDP HDI, a position it has held since 2012. Sitting just below Iraq and above Vietnam, Guyana falls under the UNDP’s consideration of the way in which vulnerabilities change by taking a “lifecycle approach”.

UNDP Country Representative Chisa Mikami addresses the gathering

UNDP Country Representative Chisa Mikami addresses the gathering

Much to celebrate

Minister Singh explained that Guyana still had much to celebrate, since in its recently-issued MDGs report, the tremendous progress made towards achieving these goals was documented. “Through a national collaborative effort, the country is on course to achieving all of the MDGs,” Minister Singh said, although there have been some difficulties achieving the maternal health target. Government is working with the UNDP on what is called the MDG Acceleration Framework to aid in the achievement of the maternal health MDG. “We have achieved a number of the other MDGs, including universal primary education, gender equality, and access to potable water,” he reported.

The Finance Minister went on to compare Guyana’s continued HDI growth with other Caribbean countries’, since the UNDP began the programme in 1980, pointing out that although those countries had the advantage during the first decade in terms of human development, Guyana was still able to rise above the social and economic challenges in the decade that followed. Using the chart provided, Minister Singh explained that during the 1980-1990 period, Guyana’s average annual HDI growth was negative. He explained that during that time, the country’s HDI declined on average, 0.22 per cent. However, there was improvement between 1990 and 2006 of 1.2 per cent. Post-1990 saw Guyana improving on average every year by 1.22 per cent. During the 2000-2013 period, Guyana’s HDI improved on average 0.87 per cent every year, while other Caribbean countries struggled. Guyana grew more rapidly than the rest of the Region during that period. “But we still have room to grow given the steepness of the decline during the 1980 to 1990 period,” Minister Singh related.

“I will be the first to say that we need to work harder to be at a better place than we are,” he said, noting that this year’s report is a reflection of the Government’s policy objectives.

UNDP Resident Representative Chisa Mikami, in her presentation, said the organisation’s multidimensional poverty index shows an overall decline in deprivation. However, a large number of persons within the 91 developing countries are still marginally dimensionally poor. She noted that while people in most countries have been doing steadily better in human development with advances in technology, education and income, there is also a widespread sense of precariousness in the world.

Speaking to the progress in Guyana, Mikami explained that Guyana’s HDI value for 2013 was 0.638, which is in the medium human development category. Between 1980 and 2013, Guyana’s HDI value increased from 0.516 to 0.638, an increase of 23.6 per cent or an average annual increase of about 0.65 per cent.   She said the 2014 report reveals that overall inequality has declined slightly in most regions.

Many of the MDGs are likely to be met at the national level by 2015, Mikami said. However, success is not automatic, and the gains are not necessarily permanent. With the lead-up to the post-2015 agenda and the development of a set of sustainable development goals, this is a time of reflection for the international community and an opportunity for change and new forms of global cooperation to reduce persistent and systemic vulnerability, the UNDP Representative related.

In line with the human development paradigm, the 2014 report also pays particular attention to the disparities between and within countries. It identifies the structurally vulnerable groups of people, who are more vulnerable than others by virtue of history or their unequal treatment by the rest of the society.

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Decomposed body of woman found

The body in the clump of bushes

The body in the clump of bushes

By Jomo Paul

The body of a woman in an advanced stage of decomposition was found Thursday evening in a clump of bushes on a deserted road behind the Caribbean Community Secretariat Annexe, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.

The body was discovered at approximately 18:30h. Residents who live close to the scene recalled seeing the police entering the area around that time. It is not immediately clear who may have found the body or whether the police were acting on a tip off.

Because of the advanced stage of decomposition, the undertakers were unable to remove the body from the scene. When the Guyana Times departed the scene, the hearse had already departed and a crew of policemen were made to watch the crime scene while additional help was sought to remove the remains.

Although up to press time the body remains unidentified, it is suspected that it might be that of missing St Stanislaus Secondary School teacher Ngyozi Goodman, who went missing after a basketball game nearly three weeks ago.

Missing Teacher Nyozi Goodman

Missing Teacher Nyozi Goodman

When Guyana Times contacted the brother of Goodman, Nestor Thompson, he related that he had heard of the discovery and made attempts to contact the police. Thompson said he called the Sparendaam Police Station but ranks there declined to give him any information on the discovery.

He explained that he would he heading to the city from Linden today, and he will be going to see the body to verify whether or not it is that of his sister. He said he would be able to identify the body because his sister had red hair and a few other slight distinguishing marks.

However, he is still hoping that his sister is still alive and the body is not hers. This discovery comes exactly five days after the woman’s Digicel branded umbrella and a brown handbag were found in the Botanical Gardens. The 36-year-old St Stanislaus teacher was last seen on Sunday, June 3 at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, Carifesta Avenue, Georgetown, where she had accompanied her school’s basketball team to the National Schools Basketball Championships.

Goodman of William Street, Kitty, was last seen sending off the basketball team with another teacher. At her apartment, all her personal belongings were found intact, except for her two mobile phones and iPad.

The last time she used her mobile phone was about 23:00h two Sundays ago, her sister Nestor Thompson said. This information, she said, had been received from Digicel. The telephone company also said that the sim card was either destroyed or removed from the handset.

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Expert NPTAB panel picks NEW GPC

A part of the NEW GPC INC complex at Farm EBD

A part of the NEW GPC INC complex at Farm EBD

…in Pharma Pre-Qualification exercise

company out-points competition on transparent criteria

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon on Wednesday announced that an expert panel has selected NEW GPC INC as the only pre-qualified supplier of drugs to the health sector for the 2014-2016 period. And again he was at pains to point out that internationally-recognised (World Bank) transparent standards were used in the selection process, which was free from any government control and influence.

Only after this pre-qualification selection, as is legally specified, was the Cabinet asked for its “no objection” which was given. The announcement comes months after government had announced it was revisiting the procurement process for pharmaceuticals and medicines following criticism -the third such activity for the past decade.

NEW GPC employees on the production line in the factory

NEW GPC employees on the production line in the factory

Rubbishes

Speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing Dr Luncheon comprehensively rubbished assertions again that government favours the NEW GPC in the process, telling reporters that the pharmaceutical company was the only one which had passed the pre qualification process for the supply of drugs for all of the public medical institutions in Guyana and as such Cabinet has given it’s no objection to the company being awarded the contracts.

This however was met with comments from several media representatives who were at the briefing who questioned the Cabinet Secretary as to whether it was a case of ‘sole sourcing’ and why other companies did not qualify in the process while asking too whether Cabinet had a role to play in making the decision. Realising the reporters confusing the diametrically opposed process of “sole sourcing” versus “competitive pre-qualification”, Luncheon explained that that it was not a matter of sole sourcing but rather, a case of which company had best satisfied the open criteria which the procurement board has in place for the selection and awarding of contracts.

“Other companies submitted their bids but when subjected to the array of analysis and the requirements to be met, only one company survived and that company was the NEW GPC …The pre qualification process sees the procurement committee publicly putting out the requests for those who are interested in qualifying or pre qualifying in any category of prequalification.

The NEW GPC Bond at Farm, East Bank Demerara

The NEW GPC Bond at Farm, East Bank Demerara

No give away

It starts out as a public activity and the respondents are then subjected to a fairly intensive array of the assessment according to an established matrix, under the supervision of the tender board.

At its conclusion, a list of those who pre qualify is submitted to Cabinet for it to grant it’s no objection or not”, Dr Luncheon explained.

The suggestion was made, by some media representatives, without any evidence, that the contract was awarded to the company based on the fact that the owner of NEW GPC, Dr. Rajnisinghi Ramroop is a close friend of former president, Bharrat Jagdeo and not on the criteria.

However, the Cabinet Secretary debunked the claims, noting that the government was not operating on a “give away” agenda but had given its no objection based on the high standards of safety which is practiced by the company especially at a time when the pharmaceutical market is being flooded with counterfeit products.

“It is imperative that we set the benchmark at a level that ensures that the safety of the Guyanese public and the safety of the drugs that are being manufactured or imported are not compromised.

Cabinet Secretary  Dr Roger Luncheon

Cabinet Secretary
Dr Roger Luncheon

Documents in place

There has to be safety in safeguarding the public’s welfare, sufficient attention must be paid and that translates itself into specific criteria that all those who aspire to qualify as suppliers, have to meet.

Safety is important. With the presence of counterfeit drugs, drug safety is important for any country which has its citizens’ interests at heart and the process eliminated those who had failed to meet those standards or criteria.

Only one company satisfied the requirements in full and it was the NEW GPC Inc which did so. So this is no give away. You have to meet the qualifications to be awarded”, Dr Luncheon asserted.

He related that if other companies wanted to be granted bids then they too must seek to fulfill the requirements which govern the process.

“The board (NPTAB) looks at warehouse and storage facilities, who you are importing from, how you manufacture; the condition of your facilities, if your documents are in place among many other things and if you do not have these in place then you cannot expect to be granted the contracts.

System utilised

You cannot be located here and have your storage bond in another country or have the drugs sitting in a container on the wharf. You need to fill all of the requirements. They have to meet those guidelines”, Dr Luncheon stressed.

Additionally, this year, the application for Pre-Qualification had explicitly spelt out the point system that was utilised in the 2011-2013 criteria.

There were 200 maximum points that could have been allocated to bidders according to how they scored on a number of questions in the categories of General Information, Financial Capacity, Infrastructure, Previous Experience, Established Linkages, Manufacturer/Distributor Information, Quality Information and Product Information.

In the interest of the integrity of the process, three unnamed experts were selected by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to select local pre-qualified suppliers, based on their ability to satisfy the publicly stated criteria.

In some press reports, it was stated that international suppliers were locked out of the process, but according to officials international firms were rolled over and bids were solicited from all Caricom nations.

In terms of giving priority to local companies that have satisfied other criteria, this is a standard procurement practice the world over once their prices are in line with those from the abovementioned multilateral agencies.

Additionally, local companies pay the blanket two per cent Stamp Tax, hire locals and pay local salaries, from which Pay as You Earn (PAYE) is deducted in addition to paying the 35 per cent Corporate Tax on profits.

There are, of course, the externalities in fostering upstream and downstream linkages, both with the local scientific community as well as other manufacturers.

In Guyana, medicines and medical supplies are procured through two mechanisms: open bidding and via bidding by pre-qualified suppliers. The latter was recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank for comprehensive country purchases so as to address the complexities and scale of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The last change in procurement was at the end of 2010, when, following the recommendation of the Auditor General, medicines and certain medical supplies began to be procured through a system of competitive bidding to produce the list of pre-qualified suppliers. This list would be compiled after an open tender process, using public tendering modelled after a WHO model. It was stated quite clearly that the list would be valid between 2011-2013.

A “Pre-qualification Questionnaire” by the National Procurement Administration and Tender Board (NPATB) spelled out the criteria necessary for compliance, even as it noted that the traditional international suppliers PAHO/WHO, the UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and IDA were automatically qualified.

Suppliers also had to be legally registered in Guyana and the Caribbean; be “principally” involved in the distribution of drugs, and be in a position to supply at least 75 per cent of the number of line items on each list. The questionnaire also requested business, manufacturing, quality and product information.

There were several local and Caribbean suppliers that applied, including the International Pharmaceutical Agency, but only two local companies were able to be added to the five international suppliers. These were the NEW GPC and MediPharm.

Even though there were strident criticisms of the results of the Pre-Qualification process, no one has been able to dispute then Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy’s contention that “Guyana has successfully procured items through pre-qualification and other methods at 20 to 30 per cent less than the International Average Reference prices”. These average prices are established on publicly available WHO Guidelines on “Country Pharmaceutical Pricing Policies”.

This feature of the process that compares prices to the International Average Reference yardstick is strenuously ignored by local critics. Some of these critics harp on the need for “cheap” or “cheaper” drugs, not understanding that if prices are significantly at variance from the WHO prices, something is amiss. More than likely, these drugs are expired or made from inferior formulations or are not packaged properly.

In line with the expiration of the 2011-2013 Pre-qualified List, towards the end of 2013, there was an advertisement soliciting suppliers for 2014- 2016, from Guyana and members of Caricom to be pre-qualified and be added to the list of international suppliers that once again were defined as being compliant.

What this meant was that the NEW GPC had to once again stand in line and be evaluated along with other local and Caricom companies. These included: Trinidadian companies ANSA McAL and Western Scientific Company as well as locally-based Telcom Solutions (Guyana) Inc, Meditron Scientific Sales, International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) and Global Healthcare Supplies Inc.

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Solomon drops out of PNCR leadership race

Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon

Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon

…but seeks position of Chairman

BY UTAMU BELLE

Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon has dropped out of the race for leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) his key backers in Linden have confirmed on Wednesday.

Solomon earlier in the day had issued a statement thanking persons for nominating him and outlining vaguely his vision for the party.

However, sources close to him said he will run for the position of Chairman of the party. Solomon and former General Secretary Aubrey Norton were nominated to challenge Granger for the post as leader. Norton draws strong support from the Region 10 constituency.

Prominent representatives of the PNCR Region 10 party office on Wednesday told Guyana Times that Solomon will no longer be among the contenders challenging Granger at this weekend’s 18th Biennial Congress.

They noted however, that while the Region 10 Chairman declined the offer to be a front-runner at the Congress, he will still be contesting for the position of Party Chairman, along with Basil Williams as was previously announced. The Congress is slated to be held from Friday, July 25 to Sunday, July 27 at Congress Place, Sophia.

PNCR General Secretary Oscar Clarke had previously announced that Granger, Norton and Solomon had accepted the nominations. However, the party representatives on Wednesday stated that the disclosure of the refusal to contest was made by Solomon himself, during a party meeting, attended by approximately 60 persons in Linden on the said morning.

“This is official; the Chairman is not contesting for the leadership of the party. It is only Mr Norton and the party leader (David Granger). That should have been known ever since because he disclosed it and the General Secretary (Oscar Clarke) should have already announced it. The Chairman is contesting for Party Chairman, but not leadership of the party, he’s not contending that,” a member attached to the party stated on Wednesday.

Not done

PNCR member Maurice Butters said a Committee was expected to be established by the party, to examine the front-runners of the Congress, but according to information received, such was not done.

“The party, based on the Constitution, should establish a Credential Committee, which will go through the list of delegates and nominees, and then they make such a pronouncement, but I heard that that was not the case, the Committee did not meet,” he stated.

Butters said the Region 10 PNCR members will meet again today where members will make their positions known in relation to the upcoming Congress.

“But it is a fact; Chairman (Sharma Solomon) is not interested in the leadership of the party. He did disclose that at the meeting this morning (Wednesday),”he said.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Solomon in a statement had said he was humbled by the confidence reposed in him to be nominated for positions of Leader, Chairman, Vice Chairman and Committee Member. “The Central Executive is a leadership arm of party and as part of this leadership, it would be a humbling experience to serve people at a larger scale,” the Region 10 Chairman said.

He noted that leaders evolve from many different areas and becoming a national figure is one of strategic positioning or transformation. “The people’s hope is that as a member of the party leadership, I will be in a position to influence decision-making that will see the party optimise its potential. I hope to fulfil their vision, regarding building and uniting the party and to provide leadership that will bring about growth and consolidation of party resources to effectively address and respond to the political challenges and dynamics of this era: crime, injustice, joblessness, corruption and youth hopelessness. I hope to put the history of the party in its proper perspective, for there are lots to be proud of and lots of achievements that have been either distorted or denied.”

Chances good

On his chances of being elected, Solomon said these were good. “Very good. From feedback, people are ripe for change, both in the party and outside of the party. The PNCR is a party that is alive and in constant motion. We have to sometimes take cues from public opinion. I believe from the support I have, the feedback and encouragement, I represent the change that the party needs. The reality is though, that my chances for being elected are not only hinged on the will of the people but the circumstances under which these are expressed. I would encourage all who support change to safeguard their democracy within the party the same as we seek to safeguard it nationally and as other parties in other nations do also. The PNCR is the only party where such democracy exists and we must constantly safeguard it.”

He said he will lead by example, noting that he has this quality to offer, “because when we call for nationally, we must be prepared to commit to it within the party. I see myself being able to do this as I have been doing based on my record. My record speaks for itself, integrity and keeping promises to the people, communicating with them and respect for diverse views”.

Solomon acknowledged that the PNCR is losing this direction and focus where the Constitution is being violated and individual rights denied. “At the national level, we see so much violations we condemn them. Our party must not now after setting such examples and with such internal democracy undermine the very pillar upon which it advocates for change in society. We cannot embrace what we condemn. I am prepared to offer leadership (better representation) consistent with the Constitution, individual rights and fairness as the party moves forward.”

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