March 26, 2015

Guyanese amputees in quest to compete in Boston Marathon

– William “The Conqueror” France tries for record of oldest man in marathon

Terry Roopnarine said that it is important that persons with disabilities have hope

Terry Roopnarine said that it is important that persons with disabilities have hope

Three men stopped traffic on Saturday as they stood in the middle of the roadway in East Coast Demerara, Guyana, clutching their crutches to balance on their three legs. These men were appealing to the public for financial assistance as it is their aim to be part of the 2015 Boston Marathon.

This newspaper had the opportunity to speak to these men while they stood on the public road of Montrose to get the attention of commuters. Surprisingly, people were very supportive, as cars stopped to donate what little they could to the men’s hopes for an experience of a lifetime.

William France, a well known amputee, who thrives on giving back and fighting against enormous odds, was found to be the man behind the effort. France said that it costs a total of Gy$1.23 million for three amputees to go to the marathon. However, what they need at this point is Gy$184,000.

France had taken part in the Boston Marathon before, the last time being eight years ago. This time, he said he has a specific purpose as it will be his last time and he wants to be the oldest man in the world to compete in the marathon. He stated that winning is not a must but it would be great to hold that record. The oldest man currently holding the record for competing in the Boston Marathon is Dick Shoe, who was 56 years old when he last competed in the marathon. France is 58 years old.

France admits that he was a bad egg. He lost his leg as a result of stealing from Hamilton Green, who was the Prime Minister at the time. He elaborated on the incident, stating that he was shot eleven times about the body but managed to survive. He however lost his leg, but says he wears it as a badge of honour, as the loss of the leg taught him a lot about life.

William France wants to go to the Boston Marathon to be the oldest man to compete in the marathon

William France wants to go to the Boston Marathon to be the oldest man to compete in the marathon

He stated that losing one’s leg or having a disability does not make one helpless, one is still human all through this. “Na because you get a disability you can’t do things”, he stated. This has been his mantra as he has continuously encouraged persons to not give up on life.

It has been 35 years since he lost his leg but he has been able to be a part of many competitions; the Boston Marathon being the most notable of them. France was also able to raise funds for several charities, at one time raising over Gy$8.43 million.

France spoke with pride when he told this publication about his family – his wife and three children.

Men on a mission

Terry Roopnarine – one of the tree men soliciting support from the public – is quite happy that France went down the road he did as he told this publication that France encouraged him a lot, lending unwavering support when he lost his leg four years ago. The 33-year-old said he lost the use of his right leg in an accident in the interior when a tree fell on him. Roopnarine said at the time of the accident, he was working as a Pork knocker and said he was quite lucky to be alive, even without a leg.

He told this publication that at first that he felt quite helpless, as he was married with a son and a daughter and there was not much he could have done for himself. However, Roopnarine said that he fell in with some other amputees and found that it was not as bad as he thought. He began to teach himself how to do things for himself and now he can even drive without help.

The amputee said that such activities help to boost one’s morale and it is better than feeling sorry for yourself. He spoke of people committing suicide because they no longer have an arm or leg and said that it is important “to have hope… put down that feeling, that thinking and everything gon be good for them.”

Roopnarine said he is looking forward to the marathon as it is an experience that does not come around every day. He said he, along with some friends have been training in the National Park, at the seawalls, and even Mocha, on the East Bank of Demerara. He stated that it is a lot of work, since the distance covers 26 miles.

However, Roopnarine stated that they still need a lot of money to be able to make the trip to the United States for the marathon.

The last of the three man team, Garvin Jeffers said that the marathon is a chance for him to show the world that amputee persons can still be part of life. He reminisced on that time when there used to be persons in wheelchairs paying basketball at the park and at sports centres in Georgetown. He said that there is “nuff thing we could do.”

Nagamootoo wants PNC rigging forgotten

 – Granger wants 99 % Region 10 votes

David Granger delivering his speech while Moses Nagamootoo and other executive pay rapt attention

David Granger delivering his speech while Moses Nagamootoo and other executive pay rapt attention

The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) coalition officially launched its 2015 elections campaign last Saturday evening in the mining town of Linden, holding firm to its slogan ‘The time is now’ and urging residents of Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice) to vote 99 per cent for them.

The APNU won the region by a landslide in the 2011 elections, but residents have been hurt by the treatment of their Parliamentary Representative Vanessa Kissoon who was shoved to the back seat after fallout with Oscar Clarke, General Secretary of the PNCR.

Residents have also been peeved at the alleged widespread rigging at the party’s Congress last year, which returned David Granger at the helm. Thousands of supporters congregated at the Linden/Georgetown mini-bus park, decked out in the parties’ coalition colours green and yellow. The evening was marked by cultural presentations and speeches by representatives of the APNU and AFC, amidst waving and screaming supporters.

Among the delegation which headed to Linden for the official launch were Presidential Candidate David Granger and Prime Ministerial Candidate Moses Nagamootoo, other representatives, including Khemraj Ramjattan, Jaipaul Sharma, Joe Harmon, Basil Williams, Rupert Roopnaraine, Keith Scott and Cathy Hughes, among others.

The evening’s proceedings were also marked by speeches from Granger, Nagamootoo, Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon and other representatives.

The coalition, under the leadership of Granger and Nagamootoo boasted that they will secure a majority of the votes at the May 11 elections.

Meanwhile, despite his party’s recent infighting, Granger said the coalition with the AFC promises to move the country forward in unity.

He noted: “We are better together than apart…we are going to win, victory is ours…this is not a Linden rally, your Regional Chairman is hosting a national rally.”

Granger noted “this time we will get 99 per cent”, referring to the percentage of votes the coalition party expects to secure from Linden and Region 10, which is one of APNU’s strongholds. The Presidential Candidate reaffirmed his confidence in the coalition, noting that it is important for the parties to stay together at this time.

During his address, Granger said the coalition believes in education and infrastructure, making a promise to Lindeners that as long as the coalition secures victory, students will be able to access university education via distance education programmes.

Nagamootoo for his part said that it is time for change and that the country must be become united.

He accused the Government of wasting money on trying to revitalise the sugar industry, adding that the industry must be re-examined. In the process, he noted, jobs must be saved.

The Berbice River Bridge…linking communities, creating opportunities

Berbice River Bridge linking Regions 5 and 6

Berbice River Bridge linking Regions 5 and 6

Standing testimony to the years of successful progressive governance that has characterised the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Government is its investment and realisation of that very crucial infrastructure that is now providing ‘real time’ travel across the Berbice River.

Yes, it is worth repeating, although this may sound like a broken record, but that bridge across the Berbice River, one of the most successful public-private partnership ventures, has been transformative. The impacts of this infrastructure on the socio-economic livelihoods of people, not only from Berbice, but from other parts of the country as well, have been overwhelming.

Indeed, because of this infrastructure, Guyanese no longer have to worry about living in Berbice. No longer are they concerned with the fact that the ferry ride is about an hour across the river, and if that ferry broke down (which it did often) that they would have been stranded, waiting to cross for hours.

Not today, instead, many Guyanese are enjoying the freedom of taking their own vehicles, across the river and at their own time and convenience.

A view of the Berbice River Bridge from the river

A view of the Berbice River Bridge from the river

Certainly, the volume of traffic that the bridge accommodates on a daily basis can be considered epic compared to the proportion that the ferry service could have shuttled across the river.

 In line with Guyana’s rapid transformation

For years, prior to the Berbice River Bridge, commuting to and from Region Six was dependent on the slow and almost decrepit ferry. However, with Guyana’s rapid transformation, this old ferry system could not have met the demands of increasing vehicular traffic, seeking access across the river.

Efforts therefore began at charting faster and more efficient access across the river, and thus bridging of the Berbice River was quickly seen as the most logical response and one with additional benefits: improving the link between Regions Five and Six; and opening up new business opportunities for the thousands of Guyanese.

For a country that was growing economically and welcoming more foreign investment, the bridge across the Berbice River was the type of infrastructure definitely needed and in that regard the PPP/C should be lauded for transforming the vision into reality, following years of persistence by Government, the private sector and other entities.

Guyanese welcomed this vital infrastructural input, on December 23, 2008 and soon its contribution was evident. Quickly noted, was the time it takes to get across the river by the bridge compared to the burdensome and arduous waiting time that commuters had to inevitably endure with the ferry service. Now it is possible to make at least two trips a day from the city to Berbice.

 Millions of dollars, which prior to the bridge, were lost on waiting time, are now being used by commuters and drivers to enhance production and productivity of businesses.

Also, marketing opportunities for the farming community have now opened up significantly; farmers from Black Bush Polder can now take their produce all the way to Bourda or Stabroek markets, while those from Parika can take theirs to Moleson Creek to be exported to neighbouring Suriname.

Patients in need of urgent medical attention and had to be transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) had no choice but to wait in an ambulance or a vehicle to be ferried across to West Berbice. People travelling to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) at Timehri had to literally leave their homes many hours in advance to line up at the stelling and sometimes still miss their flights.

 Robert Moore, a resident of Region Six, had many good things to say about the bridge. “You do not have to wait a long line to get over to the other shore. When we had the boat, you had a long waiting, especially if you were moving with your own transportation. I mean, if you are travelling on your own, without a vehicle it is easier for you to wait and catch the boat, but now with the bridge it is easy. You just come up with a car or bus and you just come straight across. No Hassle.”

H.M Sugrim, owner of Guyana Tractor & Equipment, spoke of the ease of travel when compared with what obtained prior to the advent of the bridge. “Compared with the ferry service, this bridge is better because I could get up at 5 am in the morning and by 7 am, done be in Georgetown, before time, on the ferry, you had to line up at the stelling for 9 pm and 6 am in the morning, and then you are crossing.”

Businessman, Shabeer Baksh noted that the infrastructure is a positive thing for the people, because access to Region Six is faster. “We all know time is money and getting across faster means that you can get things done, then go back to Georgetown if you like, comparing to the ferry it used to be a hold up…so with the Bridge is something positive…it is also a positive for the persons leaving Georgetown to go do business in Suriname.” (GINA)

Guyana’s bauxite industry firmly on its feet again – President

…New Gy$4.6B Rusal bauxite mine commissioned

President Donald Ramotar listens keenly as Chief Executive Officer of RUSAL, Vladislav Soloviev  explains the Kurubuka bauxite plant’s operations during a tour of the company’s operations.

President Donald Ramotar listens keenly as Chief Executive Officer of RUSAL, Vladislav Soloviev
explains the Kurubuka bauxite plant’s operations during a tour of the company’s operations.

President Donald Ramotar on Wednesday formally commissioned a new bauxite mine at  Kurubuka, on the Upper Berbice River, saying that the event was another success story for the People’ Progressive Party/Civic which had launched a vigorous programme for saving the bauxite industry in Guyana when it entered Government in 1992.

He made the remark during a commissioning ceremony to launch production of the new mine and processing plant which has been established by the Russian bauxite giant United Company (UC) RUSAL and its local subsidiary, Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc., (BCGI). The investment amounted to Gy$4.6B.

The commissioning took place at Kurubuka in the presence of senior government officials, including Ministers Robert Persaud, Robeson Benn and Juan Edhgill, the Russsian Ambassador, a large gathering of residents; members of the village council of neighbouring Hururu village, and staffers and senior officials of RUSAL including Mr. Vladislav Soloviov, the Chief Executive Officer of UC RUSAL who had travelled to Guyana specifically for the commissioning of the new mine.

Other speakers at the event were Minister Persaud, Mr. Soloviov and Mr. Serguey Kostiau, Managing Director of BCGI.

During a feature address to the large gathering at Kurubuka, President Ramotar said that in 1992 the government had found the bauxite industry on the brink of collapse.

“It was said then that the industry was uneconomical and that it should be closed, but the PPP/C Government said no and we commenced the process of saving the industry.”

He added: “Today, we can say that the first part of the mission of the PPP/C has been accomplished; the bauxite industry is once again on a firm footing and we are very happy for that”.

He praised RUSAL for being steadfast in its determination to expand its operations in Guyana despite the many challenges it had faced. He said that investments such as these made by RUSAL laid the foundations for a better life, not only for the neighbouring communities of Kwakwani and Hururu, but for all Guyanese.

He once again expressed the dream that the day will come when Guyana will be able to add value to its bauxite with the establishment of an aluminium smelter.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Robert Persaud said that the bauxite industry had been brought back from near-death by the PPP/C Government.

He noted that the Kurubuka 22 project had been in the pipeline for quite a few years and he was happy that the company had demonstrated a high level of confidence in Guyana and had invested the huge sums necessary for the mine and its related plants and equipment.

He urged RUSAL to examine other areas of expansion so that more opportunities can be created for the people of Region 10.

Soloviov praised the government for creating the right investment climate and encouragement to RUSAL to expand its operations.

He noted that RUSAL had invested over $US150M since it came to Guyana in 2004.

He said that the Kurubuka project will bring additional economic and social benefits to the immediate and surrounding communities of Hururu, Kwakwani, Aroaima, Ituni and Linden by creating direct employment opportunities as well as social benefits.

The Kurubuka 22 deposit is located immediately adjacent to the Berbice River and approximately 14.5 km from the former Aroaima’s crushing and drying facilities.

During the commissioning ceremony, the President and other senior officials were taken on a tour of the plant at Kurubuka during which they saw the operational process from the loading of the raw materials into the plant to its deposit in a barge for transport to the mouth of the Berbice River and export.

RUSAL also gave tokens of appreciation to several of its workers whose good performance, the Company said, was instrumental in the construction phase leading to the official launch of the production at the mine.

Search on for the next Miss World Guyana

Reigning Miss World Guyana Rafieya Husain

Reigning Miss World Guyana Rafieya Husain

The Miss World Guyana committee has sent out a call for eligible women to apply to be the next Miss World Guyana.

Below are some of the requirements listed on the Miss World Guyana website:

Contestants must complete the Miss World Guyana 2015 official contestant entry form and attend an interview which will be held on the day of application or at any time to be determined by the organizer, Majesty International. A copy of the contestant’s passport or certified birth certificate must be attached to the contestant form. Original documents must be presented for verification. The organizer reserves the right to reject any application that fails to satisfy the aforesaid requirements.

Contestants must be of good moral character and possess charm, poise, and personality and have beauty of face and figure.

Contestants must also have the ability to show compassion and intelligence and speak intelligently in public places.

Contestants must be persons whose background is not likely to bring into disrepute/negative controversy to the Miss World Guyana 2015 or the Miss World title.

Contestants warrant that their performances do not infringe the rights (including copyrights) or defame or embarrass any person, firm or company.

The contest is open to all single natural born female citizens of Guyana not less than 17 years of age or not more than 24 years and 364 days of age on the date of the Miss World final in the relevant year, and who usually uses the prefix “Miss” before her name. The minimum height requirement is 5 feet 5 inches tall.

Contestants eligible are those who have never been through any ceremony either valid or invalid, and whether civil, religious or tribal, which is recognized as a marriage ceremony in any part of the world and has never given birth to a child.

Contestants below 18 years of age are required to obtain their parent’s/legal guardian’s consent on the official contestant entry form.

Contestants should have no criminal records in and out of Guyana.

Closing date for applications is March 20, 2015.

For more information on the requirements of the pageant, visit http://missworldguyana.gy or Miss World Guyana on Facebook.

Find Crum-Ewing’s killers – President urges police

Persons gather outside of the Legal Affairs Ministry to protest the killing of Crum-Ewing

Persons gather outside of the Legal Affairs Ministry to protest the killing of Crum-Ewing

As the police continue to review CCTV footage from the Diamond community hoping for a breakthrough in the investigations into the execution of political activist Courtney Crum-Ewing, President Donald Ramotar has instructed the top brass of the Force to leave no stone unturned in their probe into the man’s Tuesday night murder.

Speaking at the opening of the Police Officers’ Conference on Thursday morning, President Ramotar told senior police officers gathered that he strongly condemns the killing and wants a full investigation that should take them to wherever the evidence leads.

“I wish from this forum to out rightly condemn that action and to call on the Police Force to leave no stone unturned in finding those who perpetrated this crime and if necessary, if it exists, to find the intellectual authors of this criminal act”, the President said.

According to Mr. Ramotar, he is already concerned that some persons are seeing the execution styled killing of the 40-year-old former army officer as the “first political assassination for the season”. He said persons who may have information about the murder should make themselves and the information available to the police who continue to investigate the matter.

Crum-Ewing was shot dead while using a loud hailer on Tuesday evening to encourage residents of the Diamond community to head to the polls on May 11 and vote the current administration out of office.

He has been a fierce critic of the Donald Ramotar administration since he moved back to Guyana from Antigua in 2013.  For several weeks, he hosted a one man protest outside the office of the Attorney General calling for the Attorney General to step down from office.

The Opposition coalition APNU/AFC have strongly condemned the activist’s murder and have called for a full and thorough investigation into the incident.

“I’m convinced I made the right decision to quit APNU” – Selman

By Michael Younge

Former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Executive Africo Selman

Former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Executive Africo Selman

Former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Executive Africo Selman said she refused to be a rubberstamp parliamentarian and a young leader who was made to suffer constant verbal and emotional abuse, at the hands of the elders within her party whenever she expressed independent or dissenting views on political matters within what was supposed to be the comfort of her own party.

Selman, a trained schoolteacher, said that she chose to resign her post as a Member of Parliament (MP) for A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) within the 10th Parliament and from its major constituent party, PNCR, of which she was a member after much thought and encouragement from her friends and family who knew the hardships she faced within the two political entities.

Speaking with this publication during an exclusive interview last Thursday, Selman denied that she was either enticed or coaxed by the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to resign her post and membership within the main Opposition coalition, which recently entered into a coalition with the Alliance For Change (AFC). “Lots of things are being said about me. I want to say to everyone that I have never been offered any posting, diplomatic or otherwise. I have never been made any offers by the PPP/C and the decision that I have made to leave the APNU was made in principle almost a year ago when some things that I consider to be important for Guyana’s development – bills and budgetary measures – were voted against by my party,” she explained during the interview.

Inclusionary democracy

Selman, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Guyana (UG) in International Relations, said that she was made more “uncomfortable” in recent times as a result of the unwillingness of some of the elders within APNU and the PNCR to listen to the concerns of their youths and MPs.

She said, “When leaders make their decisions without consulting you, they are unwilling to change those decisions”, even when there are persons with strong opinions and positions that should be considered on a particular subject matter, bill or motion.

The former APNU MP admitted that she was in full support of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill (AML/CTF), the budgetary allocation of monies for the UG Student Loans Projects and other spending in relation to youths but these were axed and not supported by her party despite her expressing reservations about such a move.

“I felt this was not the way to go and I did tell them so,” she remarked.

At this point, Selman felt that she had betrayed the core reasons why she joined the coalition in the first place which was to promote equitable access to education and fight for the rights of youths.

The young politician said she became extremely worried when the practice of meeting, discussing and debating various items on the Order Paper for sittings of the National Assembly became diluted and watered down over the past year and a half moving from monthly meetings which would last a day or hours to a one-hour meeting or half an hour brief. “This, in my opinion, does not give the MPs the opportunity to make our input within the party. I am dissatisfied with that, because I believe in consultation and compromise,” she remarked as she listed the many developments that troubled her.

Chief Whip’s abuse

Selman recalled sending an email to Opposition Leader David Granger on another occasion stating her reasons why APNU should support the Anti-Money Laundering Bill in Parliament, but got the surprise response of her life an hour later. “I received a call from the Chief Whip, Amna Ally who basically lambasted me for an email with my reasons for supporting this bill. I mean she literally cursed me out. She said this is the APNU position – we are not supporting it and you have to go with that,” she said.

The 33-year-old woman said that she “felt really hurt” and “should have not been berated or abused” for expressing her views internally.

She decried the way the other female youth MPs were treated by the Chief Whip and how other MPs were disrespected by seniors within the party. Asked why she would endure such treatment and the unwillingness to at least consider her contributions, Selman said: “I have never stood up to anyone. I have never said to her, this is not the way you should speak to me. When she was finished I would say okay, because I did not want to become a person I am not,” she responded.

Asked to expound further, Selman said: “I was always taught to respect authority. My father said “your ears do not grow past your head” as she admitted that she preferred to comply and toe the party line rather than be further victimised and disrespected.

She said that she saw what happened to her colleague Vanessa Kissoon when she stood up against the seniors and Ally. “I did not want to become a Vanessa Kissoon and be demoted to the back bench and then disrespected.”

Selman recalled complaining to both the party’s General Secretary and Leader David Granger to no avail about the excesses and disrespectful behaviour of Ally. She noted that even another MP, Renita Williams, had formally written Granger complaining about Ally’s outburst and treatment of other young female MPs.

Record, performance

She criticised Granger’s leadership, opining that he “was not doing a good job” as far as protecting the rights of young girls and parliamentarians in the PNC/APNU grouping goes. It appeared as though Granger was using Ally to effect the abuse and was playing a game when approached by the women and youths claiming not to have knowledge of the abuse whenever dissent occurred. “The records would speak for themselves. I have made my contribution. I never shied away from responsibility,” the politician said. She conceded that with her departure, APNU would lose more than one vote as she revealed the disrespect shown by some within the PNC/APNU leadership to her and the work she did for the party.

“I am convinced now that I made the right decision. I would make this decision all over again if I had the chance, but a little earlier,” she remarked.

The politician is open to joining any party or grouping that would share her vision for inclusionary democracy, education and youth development. When pressed, Selman said this included the ruling PPP. Both APNU and the AFC have been accused of undermining the potential of youth within their fold, given Granger’s elitist style of party management. There continues to be a rift between those who hold posts, aspire to hold posts, and are in line to hold posts within the Opposition camp, with infighting, accounts of victimisation and discrimination reaching alarming levels since 2010.

“Govt did not pay for my medical evacuation”

- Jagdeo slams Opposition, media for distorting the truth

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

In the wake of fresh allegations, most recently last Sunday’s Editorial in the Stabroek News, about his medical evacuation from Guyana in February 2014 being paid for by Government, former President Bharrat Jagdeo has again confirmed that his expenses were not funded by the State.

According to figures released on July 10 last year in Parliament, there were absolutely no Government payments related to a medical evacuation of the President back in February 2014, which the Opposition had claimed.

When the former President took ill, upon medical advice, he was taken to a hospital in Florida in the US to be treated and upon his recovery, returned to Guyana.

Immediately, some sections of the media speculated and then reported as fact that the arrangements were all paid for by the Government of Guyana.

The Opposition politicians also jumped on the bandwagon to suggest the funds were paid for by the Government.

Taking note of all the allegations, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) at the time pointed out that the Party has never questioned the urgency or necessity of any Opposition politician or public official travelling abroad upon the instruction of their medical advisors or caregivers.

“The PPP/C wishes to remind the Opposition that several of its members, including former Opposition Leader Robert Corbin and the late Sheila Holder, benefited from assistance from the State to seek medical attention abroad when it became necessary.

“Even to this day, the self-proclaimed independent press has never questioned the quantum of Corbin being medivaced.

“In the most recent past when former Deputy Speaker Deborah Backer was ill and flown abroad for medical attention, this Party offered nothing but best wishes and hopes of a speedy recovery,” the PPP/C said in a statement.”

The same courtesies had been extended to Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman Nigel Hughes when he fell ill in the interior.

Against the background of no payment being made by Government for Jagdeo’s expenses, the Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News obdurately refused to report the truth of the matter.

Instead, they again went on to imply that they had been covered by the State.

From the onset of the former President’s medical evacuation, the Opposition refused to even consider that the trip was not funded by the Government.

Speaking with this publication, the former President reiterated that his medical evacuation and treatment at the time of his illness did not come from Government.

Granger details Coalition plans if successful at polls

By Gomatie Gangadin

Presidential Candidate David Granger with his wife Sandra and Prime Ministerial Candidate Moses Nagamootoo with his wife Sita at the launch on Wednesday

Presidential Candidate David Granger with his wife Sandra and Prime Ministerial Candidate Moses Nagamootoo with his wife Sita at the launch on Wednesday

The newly formed A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU-AFC) coalition had its official elections campaign launch on Wednesday at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown.

Presidential Candidate, Opposition Leader Brigadier David Granger told the gathering the country was suffering from severe “unhappiness” and this must be addressed since it would lead to social crises.

The Presidential hopeful told the crowded room of supporters and media operatives that the state of unhappiness in the country was seen in the number of suicides recorded every year.

“The People’s Progressive Party/Civic has dragged us to the very pit of the human development index.

“The record rates of arson, armed robbery, murders, suicides, road fatalities, illiteracy, and unemployment, trafficking in persons and trafficking in narcotics have made our country a pariah state in this hemisphere,” Granger told the gathering.

He noted that it was out of this situation that the coalition was formed, as the time has come for the change that the country so needed, adding that it has the potential to change the landscape of several of the country’s systems including those in the health, education and social services sectors.

“The APNU-AFC coalition is the boldest step taken in six decades to replace political hostility with unity, confrontation with cooperation, dictatorship with democracy. The coalition has chosen hope over despair and faith over fear.

“The coalition will give Guyanese an education system that will produce citizens of quality who will be happy, employment opportunities, a security policy that protects our citizens and our territory,” he said.

Granger stated that the APNU-AFC would ensure a “real Government of national unity and democratic renewal” if it wins the elections.

He added that the formation of the partnership between the two parties was not to be mistaken for the fulfilment of the self-interest of any one person, but rather it was an agreement born out of the need for the country to reach its potential, noting that a government of national unity would serve all Guyanese across the country.

“We assure you today that the Cummingsburg Accord is not a crass, short-term, office-sharing bargain. It is a visionary initiative, it’s actually a public covenant between the combined majority and the people to create a just society, a stable political environment with a prosperous economy,” the Opposition Leader said.

Prime Ministerial candidate of the coalition Moses Nagamootoo, in alluding to his biblical namesake, declared May 11, the date for General and Regional Elections in Guyana as the day of deliverance for the country proclaiming that the country has experienced enough at the hands of the incumbent party.

“As we prepare to take office, we note how utterly depraved this Government has become by shamelessly misusing public funds. Our alliance has said it is enough!

“There will be and must be a stop to this madness! A new day must come and it will come, in the words of Martin Carter, ‘inevitably and inexorably’. May 11 is deliverance day!” he declared.

Nagamootoo also issued a call to all Guyanese to turn up at the polling stations on Election Day and to cast their votes without hesitation.

According to Nagamootoo, there is nothing to fear in giving the coalition a vote since it will be making a giant step towards national reconciliation, national unity and a better living standard. He told the gathering that “we shall defeat the monster of racism”.

Both men expressed confidence that the people of Guyana will vote for change.

Race politics

However, many observers have been particularly vocal over the last few weeks with respect to the race-based politics of the APNU-AFC coalition, and are calling on both parties to move away from the established fundamentals and scour for new ground.

Many persons have noticeably taken to social media to express frustration at this method, calling for a change in the modus operandi.

One event that kept taking centre stage in the online discussions and is still being referenced is the APNU rally at Square of the Revolution. It was noted that the AFC took a decision to send only Afro-Guyanese to mount APNU’s platform.

Additionally, the AFC refused to join the APNU protests which followed the rally.

Despite these concerns being ventilated on social media, the AFC was adamant that this was not the case.

Exxon begins drilling for oil in Guyana’s Basin

By Alexis Rodney

 

President Donald Ramotar, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud and ExxonMobil’s Country Manager Jeff Simon during a tour of the company’s head office at New Market Street, Georgetown

President Donald Ramotar, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud and ExxonMobil’s Country Manager Jeff Simon during a tour of the company’s head office at New Market Street, Georgetown

United States-based oil company ExxonMobil’s oil exploration ship, the Deep Water Champion is in position in the Stabroek Block off Guyana’s Essequibo Coast and will commence its US$200 million exploration project today (Thursday), Country Manager Jeff Simons has said.

The company is locked in what could be a possible showdown with Venezuelan authorities who have warned it not to proceed with the drilling, which was sanctioned by the Guyana Government.

Venezuela has repeatedly laid claim to the area to be explored, ignoring an 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award, which was declared as the full and final settlement of the boundary between the two South American nations. With Venezuela’s obdurate insistence on its position, Guyana is considering judicial settlement of the boundary.

Following Venezuela’s warning to the oil company, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, dispatched a diplomatic note to her Venezuelan counterpart, warning against any action to prevent the oil rig from carrying out its work in an area off the Stabroek Block known as Liza.

Her note was in response to Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez Gomez, saying to ExxonMobil:  “The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela wishes to express its strongest protest against this serious situation and, accordingly, I take this opportunity to request the cessation of such activities as they will not be acknowledged or accepted under any such circumstances, since this will constitute, moreover, a hostile violation of the Venezuela territorial space,” Gomez told Simon in her letter.

She also cautioned that Venezuela would not recognise any law or contractual obligations by third states, agencies, international financial institutions or private corporations that engages “Guyana over the sovereignty or existing resources on the seafront of the Essequibo”.

Gomez also expressed concerns that the drilling of oil at such depths could cause untold environmental damage.

“The drilling in the mentioned sea area involves a major impact on the environment, given that the intervention in such significant depths could cause unacceptable environmental disturbances, which are prohibited by our legal framework and international agreements on environmental protection,” the Venezuela Foreign Minister stated. “Guyana has no valid land titles on the territory of Essequibo, including the seafront, which entitles such country to carry out projects of this magnitude.”

Guyana has asked Venezuela to desist from taking any actions that would stymie this country’s development.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has requested that the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela desist from taking any actions that could only result in the stymieing of the development of Guyana and its people and that would be in contravention of international law,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Meanwhile, President Donald Ramotar, along with Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud visited the ExxonMobil’s head office located on New Market Street on Wednesday, where they were given a tour of the facility and briefed on the scope of its operations by the company’s Country Manager.

According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) release, ExxonMobil, the largest public traded international company in the world, is an industry giant that has the leading inventory of oil and gas projects, and the world’s largest refiner of petroleum products. It has a long history of using science and innovation to find safer and cleaner ways of bringing energy to the world.

The total area allotted to Exxon for exploration (the Liza Area of the Stabroek Block) covers 26, 806 square kilometres. The company intends to drill at a depth of 1750 metres.

According to GINA, President Ramotar, who was impressed with the size of the company’s operations, described the exploratory staging area as a “small village”, noting that it ought to take a lot of effort to manage and execute all logistics. “I’m quite impressed with what is taking place, and looking forward to going out myself,” the President noted.

Additionally, Minister Persaud urged the company to ensure that the activities envisioned are within the specified timeframe. Persaud also stated that “all Government agencies are fully mobilised for an efficient and effective exploration”.

The project is expected to be executed over a 10-year period divided into three sections including two phases in each section which lasts for one to two years. The scope of operations include a drillship, with approximately 200 crew and contractors; helicopter support, with two from Ogle including a utility and a Search and Rescue at all times; four support vessels and two shore bases running from Georgetown and Trinidad, and a waste treatment facility at the John Fernandes Site at Houston, Greater Georgetown.

Guyana has been receiving sustained international attention from huge companies, especially in the oil sector.

The US Geological Survey said in 2000 that the Guyana-Suriname Basin has the second largest unexplored oil potential in the world after Greenland. Guyana first struck oil in the 1980s in the Takutu Basin, and there is much optimism that oil will be found in commercial quantities.

ExxonMobil will now join other investors such as CGX Energy, Repsol, Anadarko Guyana Co, and Gas and Nabi Oil and Gas in exploring oil in Guyana’s offshore Atlantic basin.