April 28, 2017

NY Governor announces US$112.2M funding to support transportation enhancements

cuomoGovernor Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday announced US$112.2 million in funding has been awarded to 81 projects that support bicycle and pedestrian enhancements and improve air quality across New York.

According to the Governor’s office, the funding is intended to support projects that include multi-use bicycle and pedestrian facilities, new accessible sidewalks that adhere to regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, improved access to public transportation, and enhanced roadway safety.

“This funding is critical to enhancing our infrastructure and paving the way for both pedestrian and bicycle travel,” Governor Cuomo said. “By improving roadway safety and increasing access to healthy transportation alternatives, we are providing both residents and visitors a chance to experience the state’s natural beauty like never before, while supporting a cleaner, greener New York for generations to come.”

The funding, which will provide up to 80 percent of the cost of each project, is made available through the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Selected through a competitive solicitation process, awardees presented plans that will increase options for non-vehicular transportation, reduce vehicle emissions or traffic congestion, or both. Including additional public and private funding, these projects will leverage nearly US$233 million in construction and operational enhancements that will improve air quality, promote walking and biking, expand public transportation access, and boost tourism across the state.

Senator Charles E. Schumer said, “This massive federal investment will help New York State make important upgrades for pedestrians and bicyclists and, in turn, encourage New Yorkers to travel more by bike or foot. Increased biking and walking is good for our collective hearts and lungs; it also reduces congestion and helps boost the economy. These transportation improvements demonstrate the types of important local projects that can only be accomplished with direct public investment.”

Congressman Eliot Engel said, “Across the country our infrastructure is crumbling and it requires a greater commitment from every level of government to fix this dire issue. By using these federal funds to make much needed enhancements, Governor Cuomo has ensured that New York is leading the way in reversing the trend on infrastructure deterioration.”

Indian Govt approves US$17.5m for modernisation of three hospitals in Guyana

hospitalThe Government of India has recently approved a line of credit which will see the modernisation of three primary health care institutions in Guyana.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about US$17.5 million will be provided for the improvement of Suddie Regional Hospital, the West Demerara Regional Hospital and the Bartica District Hospital.

Director of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vanessa Dickenson, noted that “the signing of this agreement will pave the way for improving and upgrading the delivery of healthcare services in Guyana”.

This line of credit was originally intended for the Specialty Hospital which the present Government decided against.

Following is the full statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

A recent line of credit approved by the Government of India will enable the modernization of three primary health care facilities in Guyana. About US$17.5 million will be provided for the improvement of Suddie Regional Hospital, the West Demerara Regional Hospital and the Bartica District Hospital.

Under the initiative, Suddie Regional Hospital will receive almost US$8 million for the construction of a new ambulatory and inpatient centre and diagnostic care facility. More than US$4.5 million will be used for the same purpose at West Demerara Regional Hospital. Furthermore, the Bartica District Hospital is expected to receive about US$3 million for the expansion of the existing building along with the construction of a number of new structures in the compound. The projects are all expected to commence later this year.

Director of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vanessa Dickenson, noted that “the signing of this agreement will pave the way for improving and upgrading the delivery of healthcare services in Guyana”.

Diplomatic relations between Guyana and India were established on May 26, 1966. Since then, the bilateral relationship has been of mutual benefit including through the provision of official development assistance from the Government of India and of political support from Guyana. The two countries are also cooperating in the areas of renewable energy technology, agriculture, health and education, among others.

Presently, ongoing projects in Guyana include the acquisition of an ocean going ferry to service Region One (Barima/Waini) as well the development of the Centre of Excellence in Information Technology on the Turkeyen campus of the University of Guyana.


Jagdeo says PPP will make changes to controversial SARA Bill once reelected

Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo

Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has made known its intention to implement several changes to the SARA Bill 2017, if the Party is reelected to office in 2020.

While noting that the Bill contained some good elements, former President Bharrat Jagdeo, who was also the General Secretary of the PPP, said his Party would remove the ambiguity about private property.

Jagdeo told a media conference on Tuesday that the Head of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Dr Clive Thomas, could not solely determine what was State property.

Further, the PPP intends to remove all the provisions that make the SARA Bill unconstitutional, Jagdeo said on Tuesday.

“So it might not be a total repeal, but making it constitutional and narrowing the definition of State property, so you don’t have a broad definition on that part,” he explained.

Jagdeo said his Party would also ensure that the head of the unit was accountable to someone else, as opposed to leaving it to have him to make his own decisions.

More importantly, however, the PPP plans to re-establish the Integrity Commission and provide it with the full powers to execute its mandate effectively and efficiently.

“Those are three elements that are going to be vital if we retain the law to make sure that we have clarity on those three elements,” the former President added.

The PPP will ensure that all public officials submit their statements to the Commission, Jagdeo said, and in cases where they do not, action will be taken against them.

Jagdeo lamented the fact that the current Administration did not submit statements to the Commission, but moved swiftly to pass the SARA Bill to recover stolen property.

“So, how can you shut down the Integrity Commission and then say you want to strengthen public accountability…You know what we did? We did not …we gave them a free pass. We did not take criminal action against them, which we should have done.”

The PPP had expressed concerns about this legislation setting the stage for the creation of a parallel justice system.

It argued that the Bill would create an environment that encouraged the violation of individuals’ constitutional rights and undermine the rule of law, since it has conferred on a sole individual – the Director of SARA – who currently is Professor Clive Thomas, powers that are 10 times greater than those of the Guyana Police Force.

According to the Opposition, the Bill would create a series of new offences, the SARA Director has been vested with unparalleled powers to investigate the newly-created offences, and persons could be rid of their properties without ever being charged with a crime.

Government used its one-seat majority to pass the SARA Bill in the National Assembly last Thursday.

However, the PPP and other groups plan to file legal proceedings to disallow the setting-up of this agency.


Cops probing alleged plot to shoot President Granger

IMG_4876The Guyana Police Force has launched an investigation into an alleged assassination plot against the President of Guyana, David Granger, during one of his outreaches.

This was confirmed by State Minister, Joseph Harmon on Thursday during the Post Cabinet press briefing.

According to Harmon, the investigation has reached a stage where advice is now being sought for the police legal advisors; however he refrained from disclosing more information as to the identities of the suspect/s.

“Since this is one of these on-going investigations, I don’t think that we’re at liberty to disclose in any greater details, the nature of that investigation,” he said.

Nevertheless, he expressed full confidence in the security forces to protect the President as well as all Government officials from the misguided.

“It is important that we understand that while we have a very popular president, that people all around this country love him and embrace him, [and] and that sometimes there are some people who are misguided.”

This newspaper understands that the threats to have the President assassinated have been circulating for approximately two weeks now.


NY-based Guyanese Arya Samaj observes Foundation Day

By Vishnu Bisram

samajThe NY-based Guyanese Arya Samajists observed Foundation day last Sunday in Jamaica. It was a perfect day for an outdoor religious event. The sun was shining in all its glory with a cool soft breeze blowing across a holy site. Hundreds showed up at 94 Avenue at 150th Street for the outdoor Havan, one of the largest ritual celebrations as each family conducted their own ceremony assisted by Guru Dr Satish Prakash.

The Arya Samsj Gurukula is located there, surrounded by a diversity of small industries and the railroad.  Guyanese Samajists transformed the area with their temple and religious service. That unique location of the multi-kundhavan was transformed into a spiritual rendezvous. The constant crackling sounds generated at the industrial site on a workday was absent. There was instead an ordered chorus of Hindu mantras in praise to the Almighty.

Hundreds of men, women and children, gathered to participate in this ceremonial multi-kundhavan.  The avenue was closed by the City for several hours to allow devotees of the Gurukula and others to pay tribute to the Arya Samaj’s 142nd Foundation Anniversary observance. There were over 25 separate havankund with groups consisting on average of 8 devotees, performing the requisite traditional rituals. Swami Dayananda Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj movement on April 10, 1875 in Bombay (now Mumbai).  The weekend was chosen for the ceremony because of convenience.

Periodically, the officiating priest Vyakaranacharya Satish Prakash, the Maharishi Dayananda Gurukula’s Spiritual Leader, paused to make the program ‘personal’ by recognizing devotees who have been celebrating their birthdays, their wedding anniversaries, or those who had recently lost loved ones. Goodwill messages were delivered by representatives of various organizations.

Dr Satish Prakash issued periodic messages on morality and goodness.

Dr Satish Prakash expressed gratitude to all the participants and guests and sponsors.


Biggest Party in Sport returns to USA

cplFour Caribbean Premier League games will be played in the USA this year, as Florida’s Central Broward Regional Park has been approved by the ICC to host the T20 league’s matches. The stadium in Lauderhill, which remains the USA’s only ground to have ODI and T20I certification by the ICC, will host two matches fewer than last year’s tally of six.

CPL officials announced the development after receiving permission from the ICC – who is the approving authority while USACA remains suspended – to host the event in Lauderhill. The 2017 edition of the tournament will be held from August 4 to September 10.

A source at the Central Broward Regional Park has told ESPNcricinfo that the CPL has reserved Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6, to play two double-headers beginning at 10am and 2pm each day. However, after the Thursday and Friday matches in 2016 struggled to break 50% capacity, with 10,000 tickets allowed for each game, there are no matches scheduled for weekdays this time around.

In contrast, the two weekend double-headers that followed on July 30 and 31 were played in front of virtual sellout crowds as an overwhelming number of out of town fans came to Lauderhill, particularly from New York and Toronto. The stadium source also told ESPNcricinfo that only four CPL teams will be coming to Florida this summer, rather than all six as was the case last year. It is as yet unknown which two teams will skip the USA leg.

The time slots for the Saturday and Sunday double-headers have also been pushed forward by two hours – the weekend matches in 2016 began at 12pm and 4pm local time – ostensibly in an effort to better capitalise on TV audiences in the Asian subcontinent where the first game would air at 7.30 pm in India and 7pm in Pakistan. This would be similar to the 10am start that the India-West Indies T20I series in Lauderhill followed.

Earlier, ESPNcricinfo had reported that CPL officials had asked Broward County Parks for two sets of week-long time frames to be blocked off in August for possible use for the tournament. The matches in 2016, played in July, were the first revenue-generating cricket to come to the ground in four years and increased interest in the India-West Indies T20I match in the following month.

Opposition ups call for AG Williams to apologise to Justice Holder

…as debate on controversial SARA Bill commences

Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams

Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams

Kicking off the debate on the controversial State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill, in the National Assembly on Thursday, was Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

However, on standing to speak, the AG faced calls by Opposition Parliamentarians for him to apologise to Justice Franklin Holder – the judge involved in Williams’ latest public debacle.

“Apologise to Holder! Apologise to Holder! were the chants from the Opposition benches.

The Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had previously suggested that Williams be removed from his post or shuffled off to another Ministry for his inappropriate remarks against a High Court Judge.

“If the President’s investigations find that he [AG] did make those comments to a judge then it’s the President that has to discipline him. The President can do so by removing him from office, by doing what they have done before -to send, to reshuffle to another ministry – maybe the Ministry of Social Cohesion,” Jagdeo had said.

Williams’ incident occurred during the ongoing trial of Carvil Duncan, who had moved to the court to block the work of a presidential tribunal that was set up to determine whether he should be removed from his post as Chairman of the Public Service Commission in light of his criminal charges.

Representing Duncan was Attorney-at-law and former Attorney General (AG), Anil Nandlall, while the current AG Williams was representing the state.

Following an exchange between the Attorney General and the High Court Judge on March 23, Justice Franklyn Holder stormed out of the courtroom without adjourning the matter before him.

The AG was quoted as having said, “I could say what I want to say and however I want to say it, I have always been like that” and “…The last Magistrate who did that to me was later found dead.”

Williams has since said among other things that his statements were taken out of context and blamed Nandlall- who had issued a statement detailing his outburst- for what happened in court.

“Nandlall was the one who caused the problem…we can’t allow Nandlall to create this problem and leave it unresolved. The Judge and I will resolve this issue,” Williams insisted.

In fact, the Attorney General defended his actions and his statements. “Everything I dealt with in that short time was to disabuse the learned Judge’s mind that his interpretation was not (so),” he stated.

Williams believed that the Judge fell prey to “transferred frustration” as a result of Nandlall’s “barracking” of nearly three hours.

Justice holder in a letter of complaint to the Chancellor (ag) however, laid blame squarely at the feet of Williams whose behaviour he said  was “insulting, disrespectful and calculated to scandalise and lower the authority of the Court in the face of the Court.”

The High Court Judge said he “took umbrage to his [Williams’] tone and what he was insinuating, which was in effect that the court was being selective in recording the evidence”.

The Judge said Williams responded by saying that the last person who told him what he should not say was a Magistrate and he was now dead.

According to Justice Holder “Mr. William’s behavior was highly contemptuous and deserving of him being cited for contempt in the face of the Court. Instead of doing so at that moment, I chose to leave the Bench.”

He continued “however, it does not mean that Mr. Williams’ behavior should go unattended. He is not only a Senior Counsel, he is also the Attorney General and leader of the Bar. His behaviour begs the question, whether he is respectful and aware of the functions and duties that attend these offices.”

Williams when questioned as to whether he would make an apology, told media operatives “I don’t know about apology.”

Justice Holder had formally complained to the Chancellor of the Judiciary that he abruptly walked out of the courtroom last Thursday as a result of statements made by the Attorney General.


Former Secretary General to UNESCO, Carmen Jarvis dies

Guyana’s former UNESCO Secretary General, Carmen Jarvis, 91, died on Wednesday evening in the United States.

Following is a statement issued by her daughter.

Carmen Jarvis presenting a copy of her autobiography to President David Granger in October

Carmen Jarvis presenting a copy of her autobiography to President David Granger in October

It is with the deepest sadness and a full heart that Alison and I announce that our dear mother Carmen Enid Peterkin Jarvis, made her transition early last evening in Atlanta, GA. She passed peacefully in her sleep. My mother was a phenomenal woman – a tower of love and strength to her immediate and extended family and a shining example of godly womanhood. She shared herself and her God-given gifts freely with others and with her community and always exhorted others to aim for excellence in everything they undertook. As a result she leaves behind an inimitable legacy of achievement in many areas, including education, international development, Girl Guiding, civic and charitable involvement and two books. I am so happy that I was able to take her home to Guyana and to New York for the launching of her autobiography last October, because she derived so much pleasure from being able to meet and greet dear family members and long-time friends. It is hard to imagine what life will be like without having my Mum to speak to almost on a daily basis, because she was lucid until the end; but she was ready to go. Hers was a life well-lived and even while we mourn, we celebrate this fact and the substantial legacy she has left. May the angels carry her safely on their wings and may God receive his faithful servant with open arms. Rest in eternal peace, dearest Mum.

Guyanese in NY remember Cheddi and Janet Jagan

By Vishnu Bisram

Grand-daughter of Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Vrinda Jagan, speaking at the event to honour the former presidents

Grand-daughter of Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Vrinda Jagan, speaking at the event to honour the former presidents

The Guyanese American diaspora (from greater New York area) held a seminar and cultural variety programme last Sunday afternoon in tribute to the late former Presidents Cheddi  Jagan and Janet Jagan in Richmond Hill, Queens to celebrate his (Cheddi) 99th birth anniversary and to memorialize and commemorate the 20th anniversary since his death and 9th anniversary since her (Janet) death.

Glowing tributes were paid to both former Presidents in their role as freedom fighters; first against the colonial rulers and subsequently against the PNC dictatorship.

Some dozen speakers paid tribute to Dr. and Mrs. Jagan. The keynote address was delivered by former Minister of Government and Ambassador to Brazil and Canada, Mr. Harry Nawbatt.

Both Cheddi and Janet were among the founders (Ashton Chase and Jocelyn Hubbard were the others) of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) which was later transformed into the PPP (1950). Jagan served as leader of PAC founded in 1946 and PPP from 1950 till his death in March 1997.

The NY event was hosted by the Guyana Solidarity Movement (led by Rhuben Khusial) comprising of dozens of non-government organizations including splinter groups of the Association of Concerned Guyanese (PPP support group).

Some of the splinter groups supported the AFC-APNU coalition in the 2015 election because of what they claim was disrespect from the PPP leadership. The members of all of these groups expressed disappointment with the direction of the coalition government. They have called for a reformed PPP to which they commit their support in order to remove the APNU-AFC from office.

cheddiSunday’s program featured brief speeches from several prominent community activists and PPP stalwarts including from former PPP Exco members Cyril Belgrave, Prof. Chuck Mohan, ACG founding member Mel Carpen (who broke with the PPP in the 2015 election), Dr. Tara Singh, Richard Hyuen (a Chinese Jamaican) who described Dr. Jagan as his hero; Hyuen also saluted Janet who he met several times in New York. Everyone gave anecdotes and snippets of their relations with the Jagans. The program also included scintillating dances, poems, and singing. Everyone performed for free in tribute to their heroes.

Speakers noted how Dr. Jagan was raised on a sugar estate and how he was successful in school going to the US to further his studies. They described how Cheddi and Janet dedicated their lives, income, work and teachings towards national ending colonial rule and the PNC dictatorial rule. Mention was made of how the British and American Anglo axis toppled the PPP and Jagan from office in 1953 and 1964 and installing the pro-imperialist PNC in office.

Speaker after speaker spoke on the incorruptible honesty of the Jagans. They noted how they fought for the rights of the working class and the dispossessed. Some speakers lamented that the PPP has deviated from Jaganism and that the leadership had become too arrogant. The speakers urged the party leadership and the Guyanese public at large to emulate Jagan’s legacy and commitment to uplifting the lives of the poor and working class.

Speakers also urged the PPP leadership to reform the party and make it inclusive to re-attract former members (who became alienated and left because the party lost its Jaganite moorings). One speaker in particular called for the party to embrace youths and for the older generation to make way for new youthful leaders. Speakers also feel the party should be inclusive to attract supporters of other parties and that it should collaborate with other (minor) parties to stand guard against what they see as increasing authoritarianism in Guyana under the coalition regime.

The event was coordinated by Rhuben Khusial of West Coast Demerara, who also served as Chairman of the proceedings. Faiuze Alli moved a vote of thanks. The event attracted a near packed house at Royal Princess catering hall. Guests were served a full complimentary dinner and a variety of drinks.

Policies that hurt

The most recent report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after a visit here by a high-level team from that institution has once again vindicated the position of various stakeholders that the economy is in tatters and the coalition Government must act with haste if it were to lessen the impact its policy decisions, taken over the past months, would have on the masses.

The IMF, in its 2017 Concluding Statement detailing its findings on Guyana’s economic outlook, as part of its annual consultations under Article IV of the Articles of Agreement governing borrowing, noted that Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was uneven, buoyed by the new gold mines, while the non-mining sector saw a contraction.

The economic indicators are not very promising, and experts are predicting that the situation will even get worse if the necessary corrective actions are not taken immediately. So far, we have seen very little effort by the Government to stimulate growth in the economy. Instead, it has chosen to increase the burden on major sectors with a slew of tax measures and other policies that constrict their potential for growth.

The IMF statement referred to above has confirmed that the Government slavishly followed the recommendations of the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) on extending the Value Added Tax (VAT) regime to crucial sectors, without regard to the social impact on citizens. In fact, we are witnessing almost daily the implementation of certain policies that hurt businesses and increase hardship on the average citizen.

Additionally, in the last year, there have been no major announcements regarding Foreign Direct Investments in Guyana, or any major job creation initiatives. The IMF has projected real economic growth of 3.5 per cent driven by an increase in public investment and a recovery in rice production. However, as stated before, most of the major sectors are declining, including rice, which recently saw one of the major players closing its doors after being in operation for 25 years.

Additionally, the increased borrowing by the Government has been a major point of concern, particularly over the last few months. The IMF has said that the debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to reach 61 per cent of GDP by 2019 and has recommended fiscal adjustments. However, Government continues to “bank on oil money”, as local authorities have informed the IMF that once oil production starts, the debt-to-GDP ratio will decrease.

The IMF has also noted the recent “increase in exchange rate flexibility”; however, Government has failed to acknowledge that there is a problem and advance measures to address the issue.

Most importantly, on the issue of the impending closure of more sugar estates, the IMF has reiterated previous calls from various stakeholders for careful decisions to be made about the future of the industry. Considering the fact that no economic and social impact assessments were carried out, the Government is being accused of basing its decisions regarding the future of the industry purely on politics. In this regard, the IMF has warned the Government to be “mindful of the large social impact” and the need “to protect those affected” by the process of change in the industry. Everyone knows that no matter how the authorities try to spin the issue, the resulting impact on individuals and communities would be quite significant and, perhaps, it would take decades before they fully recover.

We had said before that the Government and GuySuCo’s management should have engaged in serious consultations with all stakeholders and do the necessary impact assessments before making such decisions. After all, this is people’s livelihoods that will be affected and they deserve to be fully engaged on what matters to them.

It could be recalled that in 2016, the IMF staff had urged the authorities to adopt a restructuring plan for the sector that will improve cost efficiency, productivity, and alternative revenue streams, drawing upon the reforms proposed by the Commission of Inquiry. At the time, the delegation had said that the scope and pace of reform should take into account social implications. This aspect was certainly ignored by the powers that be. We urge the Government to stop being in denial regarding the current crisis facing the country and rethink its policies in the interest of everyone.