March 28, 2015

Granger uses women as “front”

Africo Selman flanked by Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker and other PPP/C officials at the Yarrowkabra meeting

Africo Selman flanked by Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker and other PPP/C officials at the Yarrowkabra meeting

– Selman says wants to keep them “barefoot and pregnant”

By Michael Younge

Former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament, Africo Selman, has accused Opposition Leader David Granger of using the hard working women within his party as a front to give the impression that the party respects women and has a plan for their overall development and upward mobility. But, she said, in reality, Granger wanted to relegate them to subservient roles.

Selman, who threw  her support behind the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) back in January after claiming she experienced the worst forms of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse with the Opposition camp, spoke at several political public meetings for the ruling party over the past few weeks.

 She addressed crowds gathered at Soesdyke, East Bank Demerara and Yarrowkabra, located on the Linden Highway telling them that the coalition and some of its male members including those at its helm were sidelining women and young ladies who have dissenting, independent views and wanted to be promoted to senior postings on the basis of meritocracy.

Selman condemned what she called the “sheer hypocrisy” and “window dressing” occurring with the PNCR and APNU as she called on Guyanese present at the PPP/C’s meetings to take a stance against the abuse, misuse and maltreatment of women in politics.

“They are saying one thing and doing another. They are using women as a front and they are ill-treating and sidelining them behind the scenes,” she said as she shared her own experiences with the crowd. “They want to just keep us ‘barefoot and pregnant’.”

 Selman further alleged that the Opposition had no real plan for women development and it was evident from its campaign that it was less concerned about women issues as it appeared more bent on the sensational stuff which would secure political mileage

Expressing gratitude each time she took the platform at the various meetings, Selman said that she was pleased to see the ruling Party actively involved in strengthening the zeal of woman and advocating their rights. She said that it was clear that the PPP/C has promoted women empowerment at every level of its structure explaining that it had space to accommodate women who wanted to make a difference in their lives and that of their community. The female politician, a youth activist herself, lauded the work done by the Government to boost the education sector and provide equitable access to education at all levels.


She spoke of the decision taken by the coalition to vote against the students’ loans provisions for those attending University explaining the overtures she made to have the Opposition move in a different direction. She also informed those gathered that she spoke out against the positions taken by APNU and the Alliance For Change (AFC) on the Amaila Falls Hydro Power Project and the Anti-Money Laundering Bill and was later victimised and abused for her stance. “There are intelligent women like Volda Lawrence within the coalition who I believe continues to be sidelined while others like Amna Ally are handpicked on the basis of favouritism and because they will dance the leaders’ tune”, Selman said.

Selman also condemned the anti-democratic nature of APNU. Speaking to the Guyana Times, she said that women had always been the backbone of the PNC – starting with Jane Phillips Gay, Shirley Field-Ridley and Winifred Gaskin and the thousands of women who carried the burden of the party. . But under Granger there has obviously been instituted a policy of sidelining women. “Granger has brought in dozens of ex-military personnel into the party apparatus and sidelined PNC stalwarts. But even in this building of his support base, he has not brought in any female ex-member of the Disciplined Forces.”

The schoolteacher whose role had been miniaturised in Parliament by Granger, offered other illustrations of Granger’s alleged anti-women proclivities: “Vanessa Kissoon is feeling the victimisation from Granger…but unlike me, she wants to continue inside the PNC. I would like to tell her that she will be destroyed, because there is no space for her unless she wants to be a lapdog for Granger,” Selman said. “She should reflect what happened to Faith Harding, who had been brought into the party by Mr [Desmond] Hoyte. She was rigged out of her chance to become a leader of the PNC. Even if she would have lost, she should have been given a fair chance. She had earned that right.”

She urged Guyanese to vote for the PPP/C who she said was a party that was willing to work long and hard for the country’s continued progress and development.

Selman is slated to speak prominently at several other PPP/C meetings and rallies in the lead up to this year’s General and Regional Elections on May 11. The University graduate, who resigned her seat as a parliamentarian with APNU before the dissolution of Parliament, had argued that she was abused by APNU Chief Whip Amna Ally on several occasions and the party leader David Granger was aware, stood by and did nothing to rescue her.

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Opposition nixes Ramkarran to head “list”

…but courts his endorsement of coalition

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran is not being considered to head the List of Representatives for the A Partnership for National Unity-Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition.

Speaking at a joint press conference Friday at the coalition’s campaign headquarters, co-Chairman of the coalition’s elections’ campaign, Raphael Trotman, told media operatives that Ramkarran will not be on the List of Representatives for the party. He noted that Ramkarran was not and had never been considered by the party to be on the list.

 Ralph Ramkarran

Ralph Ramkarran

However, Trotman said the coalition was interested in having Ramkarran on board and believed he could serve the party potently even if he was not on the list.

He expressed hopes, however, that the Former Speaker will endorse the coalition in coming weeks since he can represent the coalition well but so far he has not been formally lobbied to join.

This is the second time Ramkarran has been nixed by the Opposition for a position. When the Cummingsburg Agreement was first signed, despite being bogged down by their inability to agree on who will lead the alliance the parties overlooked Ramkarran being their consensus candidate.
Reports reaching the Guyana Times stated that Moses Nagamootoo was the one who nixed Ramkarran’s candidacy since David Granger was prepared to step aside to allow Ramkarran to lead.

Observers said that Ramkarran had been preparing himself for the post since leaving the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). Prior to Cummingsburg Accord Ramkarran had told the Guyana Times that he would seriously consider taking up the post if approached by the Opposition parties but noted that it is highly impossible for this to happen. “If asked, it is a matter that I would give some consideration to,” the former House Speaker mentioned while stating that no such proposal has been brought to him as it is being reported that the two parties have met a deadlock in deciding a presidential candidate. A coalition between the two Opposition parties was necessary in their quest to unseat the ruling PPP/C.

Political Commentator Ramon Gaskin had told this newspaper that the APNU would not want to accept a Ramkarran led-coalition because he is “an old PPP/C man”. Gaskin explained that Ramkarran was not from either APNU or AFC; as such, the parties would not want to pick such a candidate. Gaskin underscored that APNU still saw Ramkarran as a former PPP/C man just as AFC’s Presidential Candidate, Moses Nagamootoo.

He further mentioned that he does not know what Ramkarran will bring to the table since he has been out of politics for a while, adding that he does not even have a constituency to pull support from.

Major personalities
Meanwhile, according to Trotman, the parties were actively considering three major personalities from the business, legal and civil societies. He, however, refused to disclose who these personalities were. However, according to information reaching this publication, businessman Yesu Persaud has been touted to lead the list. The Representative of the List will be entrusted with important tasks such as ensuring the Cummingsburg Accord agreement between APNU and the AFC as it relates to the National Assembly and other matters are kept.

Once the List is closed, it will be submitted to the party leaders to select the right person for the critical position. The entire process needs to be completed in time for Nomination Day on April 7, because the Representative of the List is also tasked with the critical responsibility of presenting their party’s List of Candidates on Nominations Day.

Additionally, the Representative must ensure that the list is submitted in the prescribed form, ascertain that the list is accompanied by a Statutory Declaration for each candidate and for the President named in that National Top-List. The Representative must also make sure the necessary corrections are made and submitted to the Chief Elections Officer no later than the 29th day before Election Day if the List of Candidate is in any way defective.

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Manickchand educates Granger on education

Education Minister Priya Manickchand

Education Minister Priya Manickchand

…says PPP/C revolutionised sector after PNC’s destruction

By Michael Younge

Education Minister and People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Executive Priya Manickchand has educated the Presidential Candidate of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/)-led coalition about the work done by the ruling Party to revolutionise Guyana’s education sector over the last two and a half decades.

Manickchand, hitting the campaign trail on Sunday at Bush Lot, West Coast Berbice, defended the Government’s track record in the sector while rubbishing many of the arguments made by the Opposition coalition group about the state of the country’s education sector. Granger and his running mate, Moses Nagamootoo, had flown to the US and held meetings with various Diaspora groups as part of their campaign strategy ahead of the upcoming May 11 elections.

They told the overseas-based Guyanese, who would not have been au fait with the tremendous strides made in the delivery of education since the PNC years, that Guyana’s education sector was on the decline and that enough was not being done to further improve the quality of education that was being delivered at the nursery, primary and tertiary levels. Granger specifically alleged that the Government was busy spending billions of dollars on questionable large-scale and unnecessary projects at the expense of making well-thought-out investments in the education sector which could lead to the creation of an “education nation”.

He also surprisingly made several promises to reform the sector and boost it with the necessary resources to take it forward were he to be elected to the presidency. But Manickchand, speaking at the rally, wasted no time in telling the mammoth crowd that the Opposition coalition had no original plan for the country’s overall development much less the sector. She said that by the time the ruling Party came to power in 1992, the education sector was in disarray, there were few primary and secondary schools, there was a lack of critical teaching resources including books and learning aids, and the notion of equitable access to education was foreign to many.

The Education Minister told the gathering that the government had its work cut out for it as there was also a lack of teachers and other personnel to man the sector as well as drive policy change. “Do you remember not being able to send your children to schools, there were no place to send them…no chalks…no books….that’s where we came from…no teachers…but where are we today? Eighty-five of our nursery children can go to school,” Manickchand said in an emotion- driven address.

Change for better

She said that the Government faced all of the challenges in the sector and was now satisfied that it had turned the situation around for the better. The politician said that 100 per cent of Guyanese children of primary school age can access education, explaining that the Government has managed to attain universal primary education.  Again citing the relevant statistics, the Minister said that 90 per cent of Guyanese children have access to secondary education regardless of where they live or who they are. She said that children within the education sector have access to exercise and text books while Government was trying to carry the burden of the cost. Soon after Manickchand explained that 72 per cent of the teachers were trained …“More children are passing Common Entrance and topping the Caribbean year after year,” she started again as she detailed the story of progress and accomplishment which have dominated the education sector.

Manickchand even made references to a boy who topped the country and the Region in Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Technical Vocation who was born, schooled and bred in Region Five. “He was a cane cutter’s son,” the Minister explained as she detailed the challenges faced by his parents to ensure that he gained an education by utilising all of the opportunities made available by Government in the public education system.  “We have a plan for you. We have done well, but we are not satisfied with where we are,” she said to a very supportive crowd that stood on the sidelines of the streets listening to her presentation. Manickchand spoke about the millions of dollars in assistance used to provide hot snacks, meals, uniforms, cash grants and other incentives aimed at further providing an enabling environment for children to benefit from a free quality education.

“We promise you that you will see the results increasing…You are living the development. You are living the progress. You are living the change brought about by the PPP/C and we are asking you to give us another chance to bring more change and progress to this country,” she appealed again.

Manickchand also reflected on the Opposition’s posture in Parliament and their decision to place in jeopardy the comprehensive Education Bill, which would have further transformed and catapulted the sector into the modern age,. Last year, Government expended $32.202 billion in the education sector. In 2013 and 2012, the sums of $26.094 billion and $27. 947 billion were invested in the sector to build many schools, laboratories and other facilities.

Since 1992, there has been a marked increase in the number of Guyanese students achieving top grades at the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and secondary school placement exam, and access to increased subsidies for meals, uniforms, the “Because We Care” grant and transportation for children living in remote communities. At the tertiary level, over 30,000 students have graduated from the University of Guyana post 1992, compared to 9391 pre-1992.

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AFC: “11% Indians” for PNC or “dead meat”

APNU Leader David Granger

APNU Leader David Granger

APNU/AFC Whim rally


…test for Nagamootoo, Ramjattan

A month after boldly declaring that the fledgling minority opposition party-Alliance For Change (AFC) can deliver the 11 per cent Indian votes needed by the A Partnership for National Unity to win a majority at the May 11 elections, Moses Nagamootoo will on Sunday face his strongest test yet when the coalition rolls into the heartland of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) – Whim, Corentyne for the second of its major public rallies.

AFC Leader  Khemraj Ramjattan

AFC Leader
Khemraj Ramjattan

It launched its first rally at the mining town of Linden. Hailed as the birthplace of Nagamootoo and where David Granger received his early education, Whim over the years has voted solidly for the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and Sunday would be the litmus test of Nagamootoo’s political strength and him being able to deliver the promised 11 per cent to Granger. On the strength of that promise, the AFC were able to demand 12 guaranteed seats in Parliament, three Vice Presidents and the Prime Ministership from APNU.

On the same day the ruling People’s Progressive Party will be at the Kitty Market Square, where it traditionally kicks off its public rallies. Critics of the coalition believe that the PNC led APNU/AFC coalition deliberately planned the rally at Whim when the PPP/C and some of its supporters would be in Georgetown. However, that party General Secretary, Clement Rohee has said that the PPP’s track record of progress and development will speak for itself wherever it takes its elections campaign. He said the party has been using every available tool at their disposal which includes social media, print and electronic media.

AFC Vice Chairman Moses Nagamootoo

AFC Vice Chairman Moses Nagamootoo

Back in mid February, speaking at a meeting in New Amsterdam Nagamootoo had declared that APNU will easily win 40 per cent of the votes at the upcoming elections. Historically, the PNC which forms the bulk of APNU has always been able to secure this 40 per cent from its traditional African Guyanese base.  The AFC, according to Nagamootoo could give the David Granger-led coalition the other 11 per cent it needs to clinch a majority.

At the last elections, the AFC under an Indian Guyanese leader Khemraj Ramjattan won 10.3 per cent of the votes mainly from the Indian dominated Region 6 votes. In 2006, the AFC had secured a similar percentage of votes but under the leadership of Raphael Trotman, most had come from the APNU African dominated constituency. Conceding that the AFC cannot compare itself with APNU in terms of its electoral strength, Nagamootoo who was hand-selected as Presidential Candidate by AFC’s Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan said electoral alliance was the way to go. Nagamootoo was deliberately selected by Ramjattan who arbitrarily jettisoned the “presidential candidate rotation principle” to select the Indian Guyanese AFC Vice Chairman Moses Nagamootoo over the Chairman Nigel Hughes.

The AFC had expressed scepticism of coalescing with APNU earlier fearing the backlash from its constituency who have not forgotten the People’s National Congress track record in government. AFC leader Ramjattan had warned that if the AFC were to coalesce with APNU, his party would become “dead meat”.

While the AFC, the APNU and Nagamootoo are confident that they will be able to attract a good turnout at Whim, there are still doubts in the minds of many that this will be possible since reports have indicated that many residents in Berbice, who would have previously seen the AFC as a middle ground between the PNC and the PPP/C to run to, have felt betrayed by AFC after its coalition with the APNU, which they still see as the PNC but under a different name. However, General Secretary of the AFC, David Patterson, speaking to the Guyana Times on Thursday related that he does not believe that the turnout at the meeting will be poor. On the contrary, he is of the strong belief that critics might be in for a surprise when the coalition conducts its meetings there.

To this end, Patterson related while some may continue to live in the view that the Whim, Corentyne area is a PPP/C stronghold, this was not true. The General Secretary said that based on the results of the previous elections, the area has a huge support base for the AFC party. He further pointed out that the Whim was the home to Nagamootoo and Granger and as such, he believes that the two will be given ‘a grand homecoming’ while noting that the time has come for celebrations. Patterson did not mention that Veerasammy Ramayya was also a resident of Whim. Ramayya however has been embroiled in making controversial “racial” statements. He has been ordered by one court to issue an apology to PPP/C MP Zulficar and to pay a $250,000 to same. Up to this time he has not done so and stands in danger of being in contempt of court.

Patterson however noted that this will be a true test of the need for change in the country and the power of the messages the coalition has been sending out over the past weeks. Asked about his message to the people of Whim will be, Patterson told the Guyana Times that he wants the people to know that “It is time. Change is coming. We will celebrate on May 12. David Granger is the new President and we have all good things in store for all.”  Observers believe that it is a test as to whether, as Ramjattan feared, the AFC has in fact become “dead meat” because of its coalition with the PNC-led APNU.

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Dismembered body of woman found at Annandale

Scores of curious onlookers gathered to get a glimpse of the corpse

Scores of curious onlookers gathered to get a glimpse of the corpse

By Bhisham Mohamed

Less than 24 hours after the discovery of a body at Turkeyen Seawall along the East Coast of Demerara, the dismembered body of a woman was discovered at Annandale Seawall on Thursday morning.

Thus far, the identity of the woman whose hands and feet along with her head were severed has not been confirmed. The discovery of the corpse minus the severed parts was made around 07:30h by persons who went to the foreshore to take a bath. Upon the discovery, the Police were summoned and the area was cordoned off. The woman was clad in a purple skirt which was pulled to her shoulder and a green bra which was intact.

The body of the woman was found lying on its abdomen, and there was no sign of the head and limbs. However, Police searched the area and found several teeth and part of the woman’s denture that was ripped from her mouth.  There were blood stains on the rocks, but investigators believed the woman was killed and then dumped at the location. It was suspected that an electrical saw was used to remove the head and limbs.

Police ranks surveil the crime scene

Police ranks surveil the crime scene

When the Guyana Times arrived at the scene, ranks of C Division were busy combing the area for clues that could lead them to the murderers. Several bags around the area were searched but nothing substantial was recovered.

About an hour later, the crime scene experts arrived on the scene, took photos and had a closer examination of the corpse. Scores of curious onlookers gathered to get a glimpse of the corpse, but none of them indicated hearing any strange sounds during the wee hours of the morning when the crime is suspected to have happened.  As the investigation of the scene continued, a head purportedly that of the woman washed ashore about three hours later. Both the headless corpse and the head were taken to a funeral home as Police continue their investigation into the gruesome murder.

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Qualfon opens US$12M call centre

The US$6 million newly commissioned Qualfon call centre

The US$6 million newly commissioned Qualfon call centre

… on a mission to improve quality of life

Qualfon, one of the leading global business process outsourcing (BPO) providers, on Thursday opened its doors to one of the largest contact centre campuses in the world at Providence, East Bank Demerara (EBD).

President Donald Ramotar declared open the contact centre campuses in the presence of the company’s top brass which included Founder and Chairman of Qualfon, Alfonso Gonzalez; Mike Marrow, Chief Executive Officer; Scott Warner, Vice President and General Manager and Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh.

The campus which is the property of Qualfon, points to the expansion of the Mexico-based company in Guyana, which has now created thousands of jobs for young people and established Guyana as a leading outsourcing location in the Region. The US$12 million facility will serve as a campus where persons employed by the company will be trained before they begin working. Qualfon is a global provider of contact centre, back-office and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services with locations in Mexico, Phillipines, USA and Guyana.

The newly installed work stations at the Campus at Providence

The newly installed work stations at the Campus at Providence

In his address to the gathering, after extending congratulations to the company for embarking on the initiative, President Donald Ramotar related that the facility will be a definite boost to Guyana’s economy but more so, its human capital, noting that while training will be done for Qualfon, at the same time, persons will be able to build on their knowledge of information technology which will lead to the growth and development of the technology industry here and subsequently, the economy.

Ramotar, on behalf of his Administration, promised his commitment towards the industry, identifying its potential contribution to the growth of the information and technology industry here. “We all recognise the importance of developing the human capital… it goes to the very philosophy of my Government; the most important factor for development is not just all the natural resources we have… but life has shown us that the most important factor for development is the quality of people that we have,” Ramotar told the gathering which included Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ramesh Persaud.

The President while boasting that his Government will be encouraging more investors to Guyana disclosed that during his trip to India in January, where he met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, talks were held for Guyana to embark on the construction of a world class information technology centre. This centre he boasted, once completed, will have the capacity to supply the South American region with reliable internet data, something the country currently lacks.

He noted that this would significantly boost the operations of Qualfon and all other such companies, since these types of companies depend mostly on information technology to operate.

Founder and Chairman of Qualfon, Alfonso Gonzalez in brief remarks, extended his thanks to President Ramotar, Guyanese and all his employees, noting that without their hospitality, the company would not have been able to reach this milestone.

He noted that when he ventured into Guyana in 2005, it was his hope that he could change and better the lives of people and their families and he is now proud and satisfied that he has been able to do. Gonzalez noted, “it was the mission of my company to make lives better.”

Guyanese hospitality was praised as General Manager and Vice President of the company Scott Warner told the invitees that when he entered Guyana just one year ago, he immediately realised that there was something “unique” and “special” about Guyana and he was enthused that expansion is taking place.

Meanwhile, according to Qualfon’s CEO Mike Marrow, some US$6 million has already been utilised for the project while another US$6 million is expected to be spent by the time the campus is completed, before the year is out.

Qualfon expects that operations in the existing building on the campus will commence as soon as May 5, with all things going as planned, with over 100 Guyanese currently being trained at the two existing centers at Beterverwagting and Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara.

Another two-storey building with the same footprint will be constructed shortly where a total of  some 3000 seats will be installed and will provided employment for persons mostly from the East Bank corridor and outlining areas, amounting to 6000 within coming months.

The current building will house just over 1000 persons with 250 cubicles already installed and ready to be occupied. The finish campus will also include an interfaith chapel, community center and a healthcare clinic.

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APNU+AFC condemns actions by Kissoon

…says will not condone crass behaviour
Former A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament Vanessa Kissoon has denied reports that she was arrested

APNU MP Vanessa Kissoon

APNU MP Vanessa Kissoon

after trying to disrupt a people’s Progressive Party/ Civic public meeting in Linden earlier this week.
It was alleged that Kissoon was arrested in Blueberry Hill, Wismar, Linden after disrupting the public meeting in the area. But on Thursday, the APNU MP said the claim is far from the truth. “It should be stated clearly, that I was never arrested by the Police and therefore could not have been released…The source of the information of (me) being arrested and released is not only malicious but seems driven by intent to further discredit me in the eyes of the public as someone who is only capable of a street fight for justice,” Kissoon said in a two-page statement.
Earlier this year Kissoon had virtually confronted Junior Finance Minister Juan Edghill during an event in Linden. She had to be constrained by police. And in a statement the APNU+AFC “forthrightly condemns all acts of intimidation and aggression at all political meetings.” The coalition appealed  to all its supporters and activists of all political parties to conduct themselves honourably and respectfully at all times when at political meetings or campaigning otherwise. “APNU+AFC reiterates once again that it is fully committed to a clean campaign. APNU+AFC wishes to advise that it has internally addressed reports which have been brought to its attention relating to unfortunate actions of an official. Equally APNU+AFC calls on the PPP/C to take action against persons who have been aggressive towards APNU+AFC officials and supporters at public meetings of the PPP/C.”  Further APNU+AFC calls on the PPP/C leaders to exercise good judgment in their public comments and rhetoric and refrain from race baiting, fear mongering and hateful comments which have the potential to incite persons.
“Under no circumstances will APNU+AFC condone any action which seeks to violate the constitutional rights of any Guyanese to freely exercise their right to freedom of political association,” the coalition said.
Meanwhile, according to Kissoon she is not afraid to use the constitutional measures at her disposal to protect her rights not only as a politician but a citizen. She alleges that she has been victimised by the State in her quest to represent vulnerable women within her district and country at large.
“As far as I am aware there is no law in my country preventing anyone from heckling any Government official or politician. Our right to shout or speak (heckle) at a public meeting is enshrined in the right to the freedom of speech. Unfortunately these freedoms continue to be violated in our beautiful country and more so in Linden where a vindictive Government has continued to deny us access to state media,” Kissoon who was suspended by the PNCR last year said.
In justifying her actions, Kissoon said the inability of Lindeners and by extension the people of Region 10 to utilise the state media leave them no alternative but to respond and express themselves within their communities on issues that affect them whenever the opportunity arises.
She accuses Edghill of verbally abusing her and the people of Linden. “We have no access, no opportunity for other forms of response in Linden. Mr Edghill is no gilded horse to the people of Linden and therefore the people of Linden are not in any way obliged to respectfully listen to him when he comes to address them,” she stated.
According to the MP, the right to heckle will be upheld in Region 10 in keeping with the laws of Guyana. While Kissoon has attempted to clear her name of being arrested, she disclosed that her colleague was arrested on allegations of public disturbance. “Her arrest brings to the fore concerns of the people about the widespread Police intolerance that is being encouraged as a means of violating the rights of the people of Linden.
Turning her attention to the Oscar Clarke matter, Kissoon said persons she least expected continue to use the issue as a yardstick to judge her behaviour and condemn her struggles for women’s rights.
“Further, even as I am condemned, it is noted that the visit of the coalition leaders to the world’s leading democracy (USA) was not without organised and disruptive heckling, not only outside but inside the private building rented for the event. The coalition’s supporters also counter-protested the Government organised protestors and engaged in heckling…It is noted as per report that the Leader of the Opposition had to take a back entrance to avoid the Government organised protestors, or should I say hoodlums and ghetto people.”
She said it is time that Guyanese stop demonising those who are forced to use whatever legitimate means they have at their disposal to be heard. “It is time that we stop condemning those who exercise democratic rights,” Kissoon added.

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Ram, Greenidge unmasked on Marriott’s statements

NICIL Executive Director and AHI Chairman Winston Brassington

NICIL Executive Director and AHI Chairman Winston Brassington

Intellectual dishonesty…

The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) on Wednesday blasted local commentator Christopher Ram for comments he made to the Kaieteur News alleging that the body’s Executive Director, Winston Brassington, “signed contracts for the (Marriott) hotel since in October 2011 but only had the critical feasibility study done by a Miami-based consulting firm in September 2012”.

NICIL, in a press release, said that Ram’s statement published in the Kaieteur News on Tuesday was entirely false and the newspaper was completely irresponsible for publishing it.

“It has now become the habit of Mr Ram to publish inaccurate, tasteless and often defamatory statements on his blog site with regard to Mr Brassington and the Marriott Hotel without any reference to the facts or the truth. Mr Ram’s statements are then readily published in the Kaieteur News regardless of their factual inaccuracy or departure from the truth,” the Government holding company said.

“Had Ram been less intent on character assassination and less given to propaganda, instead of professional analysis and research, he would have discovered that the first market feasibility study undertaken with regard to the building of the Marriott Hotel was conducted by the Marriott Hotel Group in 2010.Mr Ram would also have discovered that a further independent study by a highly reputed international Miami-based firm, HVS Consulting, was also conducted in 2010.”

The company said both of these feasibility studies were, therefore, presented well before Mr Brassington on behalf of the Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), for which he is the Chairman, signed the construction contracts with Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) in October 2011 for the building of the Marriott Hotel. The HVS study was subsequently updated and presented in October 2012.

Orchestrated attack

In fact, the Kaieteur News itself, on  May 13, 2012, in an article headlined “Marriott Feasibility”, quotes Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, in reporting to Parliament, “There was market feasibility study conducted by the Marriott Hotel Group and one conducted in 2010 by an independent American firm which is being updated in 2012”.

The Kaieteur News article goes on to report Minister Singh as being “willing to have a closed door presentation” of the feasibility study “made available under the condition of the utmost confidentiality and discussed with key Opposition members.” The Opposition showed no interest in the offer.

In what appears to be an orchestrated attack, NICIL said, “we now see Shadow Minister of Finance in the AFC/APNU Alliance, Mr Carl Greenidge, rather than properly informing himself, is reported in the Kaieteur News, of Wednesday, 25th March, 2015, as stating “Signing of Marriott contract before Feasibility Study done—This outrageous act of disrespect must be dealt with condignly.”

“Ram and Greenidge seem to be working closely.  Just a few days ago, Ram went to great lengths to compare the performance of Greenidge as Minister of Finance against that of Minister Singh, going to great lengths to avoid the economic depression that marked most of Greenidge’s tenure.”

In June 2010, Marriott publicly announced it would be embarking on a hotel in Guyana.  In December 2011, there was a public sod-turning event.  In February 2012, Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan asked a series of questions on the project [(Notice paper #12, (Q9, Opp9) published in Parliament on February 15, 2012].  On March 15, 2012, the Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh issued a full reply (the facts of which remain materially accurate to this day) and released a series of project-related documents including the construction contract, copies of the tax agreements covering all of the incentives for the project, and copies of the lease agreements for the land.

Misinformed and misguided

This is not the first occasion that Ram has seriously undermined his credibility by indulging himself in misinformed and misguided comments on his blog in reference to the Marriott Hotel and to Brassington, NICIL said.

On December 16 last year, Kaieteur News reported Ram wrongfully alleging on his blog that the Shanghai Construction company had benefited from a “cut price” contract compromising supervision over the quality of the construction of the hotel, when nothing could be further from the truth, the company said. “On that occasion, had Mr Ram bothered to consult the contract made public since March 2012 and inform himself on the bidding process for the contract, he would have known that the contract terms provided for completely independent supervision of the construction by an international company, M A Angeliades based in New York, and that the contract obligates the contractor to deliver to the design and construction requirements of the Marriott Hotel Group.”

Guyana Marriott General Manager Roberto Grisi, who has been with the Marriott for over 25 years, following Ram’s ill-informed comments, had reason to publicly state that the construction of the hotel, in many cases, exceeded the standards required by the Marriott. Grisi pointed out that “our brand is very important, we have over 4500 hotels with different brands in Marriot t… and the presence of Marriott in this country is very important to us.”

The press statement concluded that AHI was proud of the fact that in spite of the “typically irresponsible attempts” made by Ram and his colleagues in the Opposition, the Marriott Hotel is being completed in line with the budget, to the satisfaction of Marriott standards, and it will be open to the public on April 16, with some 230 Guyanese employees, and will be a success.

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Chile rejects Doerga’s Alesie rice shipment

Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy

…substandard quality jeopardises future of new market

A Chilean Company is claiming it received a shipment of poor quality of rice from Turhane Doerga’s “Alesie” rice and warns that this could jeopardise future shipments from Guyana as a whole. Guyana Times understands that the company, CABAGAN, Sociedad Distribuidora de Produtos opened 10 50-kg bags and found all to be contaminated. These included dead insects, stones and fungi.

On December 8, 2014 Rumzeight Rice Processors Inc shipped 71.50 Metric Tonnes (1430 bags) of ‘Guyana long grain white rice’ to Chile as per its agreement with a company there. According to the agreement of sale between the two Doerga’s firm was expected to send the commodity; “sound, loyal and merchantable. Free from live insects and bad smell.”

But this was not the case for this particular shipment, as inspections by a team in the South American state found. In a correspondence, officials noted that “we have never received a lot with such bad quality and so many problems at once.”  The customer attached several pictures featuring the ‘impediments’ they found in about 3 of the bags. The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) is mandated to ensure the quality of exported rice meets a certain standard. But this publication understands that the checks are usually ‘random’, which do not guarantee 100 per cent accuracy.

“Please pass this immediately to the supplier, the best would be to have him here for an inspection,” related the correspondence. The expectation is that the shipment is returned, or that Doerga covers the cleaning cost. An official complaint was lodged at the GRDB in Georgetown and the certifying body is expected to urge Doerga to remove all potential for recurrence or it may be forced to impose a 100 per cent sample test before exportation.

Retired Chief Executive Officer of Alesie Group Turhane Doerga and Chairman of the Rice Producers’ Action Committee (RPAC) Jinnah Rahman at Thursday’s press conference

Retired Chief Executive Officer of Alesie Group Turhane Doerga and Chairman of the Rice Producers’ Action Committee (RPAC) Jinnah Rahman at Thursday’s press conference

Meanwhile, in an invited comment, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy said he is disappointed at this development, noting that it can have serious implications for Guyanese exports to Chile, which is a newly acquired market. “I am disappointed that a man who professes to be an expert in the rice industry and who professes to have the industry at heart and further who professes to care for the rice farmers would jeopardise one of our newer markets,” he indicated. “Government has worked hard to expand rice markets beyond traditional Europe and Caribbean and the best way to sustain and expand into even more territories is to ensure that we meet all standards for quality. The export of such poor quality is a travesty and threatens one of the newer markets.”

The minister expressed hope that Doerga puts systems in place to correct this situation. He indicated that every export must reflect the kind of standard that will ensure expansion within that market. Dr Ramsammy confirmed that the GRDB would now need to inspect all of Doerga’s shipments to ensure the highest quality or exports. “I would hope that he does not see this as penalising him unnecessarily because we have to protect our markets. Whenever we believe any exporter isn’t doing enough, we will demand 100 per cent inspection,” the subject minister pointed out.

Doerga, a fierce critic of the way in which the rice industry is managed has joined the Opposition affiliated Rice Producers Action Committee (RPAC) and Essequibo Paddy Farmers Association (EPFA)  critics that recently complained of lack of export markets for the commodity. He indicated at a press conference that some 150,000 tonnes of paddy remained were still to be exported and that with another 400,000 tonnes of paddy coming in, the situation is dire. At this same press conference he vowed to support the APNU-AFC coalition and take the message to rice farmers across the country.  In the face of claims of failed markets, the Agriculture Minister had said no one could dispute the real possibility of one million tonnes of paddy, equivalent to about 650,000 tonnes of rice, in 2015. This will represent four years of successive record-breaking production in Guyana. In 2014, production was 635,238 rice or 974,000 tonnes of paddy. “These truths tell of a very successful story. But they (opposition) try to distract from this truth by saying that while the industry is successful in production, we cannot find markets. They accuse us of intervention into a private business, but on the other hand, they accuse us of not finding markets,” Dr Ramsammy observed.

According to him, Guyana in 2014 exported a record 501,208 tonnes of rice; adding new destinations and expanding existing ones. “We sell more to the Caribbean and Europe, the traditional markets. Within the European market, we have added new destinations. We continue to sustain the Venezuelan market which came into effect from 2009. In 2010, the Venezuelan market was 70% of local production. In 2014, the Venezuelan market, which maintained its volume, was only about 31% of production,” he outlined. Countries like Belize, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala have been added to the export destinations for Guyana’s rice, the minister disclosed added that “a larger market in North America, and new markets in Central America and Africa are being finalized, with a potential to exceed 600,000 tons in 2015.”

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6000 jobs on the cards as Qualfon launches new call centre today

Qualfon which prides itself as one of the leading global business process outsourcing (BPO) providers will today be opening the doors to one of the largest contact centre campuses in the world at Providence, East Bank Demerara (EBD).

According to the company, the centre which will be based at 146 Plantation Providence, EBD, will create approximately 6000 new jobs for Guyanese ranging from management positions to customer care representatives.

The Qualfon Contact Centre Campus at Providence was constructed on 10 acres of land and the first phase of construction has cost the entity approximately US$4 million. At the opening ceremony, Qualfon executives and other distinguished invitees will speak following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will signal the official opening of the campus.

Invitees will get the opportunity to interact with BPO industry analysts and get their perspectives on the Guyana market. At the ceremony, those in attendance will get a first-hand look at the campus where the basic facilities being constructed are a contact centre, an administrative building and a second operations centre. The complex will boast solar power panels and ‘green’ building materials, an indoor/outdoor cafeteria, an inter-faith chapel, an on-site waste water treatment facility, back-up generators, a water pond and landscaping and parking facilities.

Qualfon’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Marrow had previously stated that the facility would provide career opportunities and educational development, noting that ultimately, there will be an accredited university which will offer classes, career guidance and a shared library among other necessary amenities.

According to Marrow, Guyana has ranked number one on Qualfon’s successor’s list, owing to the fact that the people of Guyana are hospitable and effective with the English language. He said Qualfon’s largest market is serving customers in the US and Guyanese understands Americans.

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