March 27, 2017

Jagdeo slams Govt for peddling misinformation

 – says APNU/AFC deliberately inflating value of Pradoville 2 houselots

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo has proven that the disputed removal of the National Communications Network (NCN) transmitting tower did not form part of the cost of the development of the Pradoville 2 Housing Project, as he defended the prices at which the lands in the housing scheme were sold.

Jagdeo, owner of a property in the controversial housing scheme, railed against assertions that the lands were undervalued because the cost of removing the transmission mast was included in the net price.

The Opposition Leader during a recent press conference presented correspondences which predate the development of Pradoville 2, to prove that the tower was removed for the sole purpose to facilitate the Ogle International Airport (renamed the Eugene F Correia International Airport) Expansion Project, and not for the development of the housing scheme as perpetuated by others.

He slammed the coalition Administration for deliberately inflating the value of the house lots; an assertion which has been presented in the audit reports and being used by investigators even though public records verify that the tower was removed for the airport expansion initiative.

“Every time, including from the audits, the Government speaks, they convey the impression that the sole purpose of removing this mast was for the establishment of the housing scheme and they put the expenditure of removing the mast and shifting it elsewhere to the development cost of the housing scheme. This is how it’s spun all the time… this is public record. They would have this information but why do they persist,” he explained.

The issue of the tower, which was since relocated to La Parfaite Harmonie, West Bank Demerara (WBD), came up for scrutiny during the ongoing probe of the housing scheme.

The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has since arrested and detained several former prominent Government officials under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) regime, in connection to their role in the development of and/or purchase of lots in the Pradoville 2 scheme.

In fact, after meeting with SOCU officials at the Camp Road Headquarters on Wednesday, former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds told reporters that he was questioned about the transmission tower that was previously located in Sparendaam, on the East Coast of Demerara. At the time, he was Prime Minister with responsibility for the aviation sector.

Hinds had explained that talks for the removal of the transmission tower begun in 2004, some seven years before it was actually relocated to allow for the airport’s expansion. He noted that there are documents to support this.

Public Communications Consultant of the Eugene F Correia International Airport, Kit Nascimento had also confirmed on March 10 that the tower was indeed removed to facilitate the expansion project.

In a letter dated April 19, 2004, between Anthony Mekdeci, then Manager of the Ogle Airport and Rawle Edinboro, then Town & Country Planning Officer at the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), the removal of the transmitting mast was discussed.

“It is in the interest of the Airport that plans commenced to have this mast removed or reduced in height since in its present location, it penetrates the obstacle clearance limit of the new runway development and it is a hazard to aviation,” Mekdeci stated in the letter.

 

Exxon Mobil applies for Production License of Oil in Guyana

oilAmerican oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. has asked Guyana’s government for a production license to let it start pumping oil from the seabed by late 2019, though company officials have said operations are likely to start in 2020, according to an AP report.

Guyana Geology and Mines Commissioner, Newell Dennison on Wednesday confirmed the application, saying it would be the first time the small South American country has issued an oil and gas license.

Exxon Mobil said last year that exploratory wells off Guyana discovered a “world-class” reservoir that could hold up to 1.4 billion barrels of oil.

The discoveries add to a maritime rights dispute with Venezuela, which also claims the area where they are located. The UN has given both nations until year’s end to solve the dispute.

According to AP, Dennison said the company has also submitted its general production plan alongside its application for a production permit. The firm has so far drilled five wells and is currently completing work on a sixth. Only one has come up dry so far.

“I can confirm that they have applied for the permit,” said Dennison, who indicated it would allow operations by late 2019.

Exxon Mobil announced on March 1 that “Guyana startup is expected by 2020, less than five years after the initial discovery well – a rare occurrence in the industry in terms of development time.”

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman has said that government is planning to contract international firms to help it in negotiations with Exxon Mobil because the country has no expertise in this area. He did not identify any of the firms.

Guyana’s parliament is planning to update legislation to cover issues including oil production and potential spills.

 

NY Governor announces cashless tolling to begin on Rockaway Bridges from April 30

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday announced cashless tolling will begin on the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Bridges in Queens on April 30, a statement from the Governor’s office said.

The Governor’s Office explained that the transition to cashless tolling is a major component of the Governor’s plan to reimagine New York’s crossings for the 21st century and will reduce congestion and improve travel time at Rockaway’s major crossings ahead of the region’s summer travel season. The Rockaway resident rebate program is unaffected by the switch to cashless tolling.

“Beginning April 30, cash and metal tokens will no longer be accepted at either bridge and commuters with leftover bridge tokens are encouraged to transition to E-Z Pass and will be eligible to redeem their tokens for a refund. E-ZPass will provide the best rate for all drivers, including Rockaway residents. Electronic tokens or E-Token E-ZPass plans will also be available starting April 30, 2017”, the statement noted.

“The Rockaway Bridges are vital arteries for the Queens community and we are taking action to reduce congestion, increase safety and streamline the commute at these crossings,” Governor Cuomo said.

Open road tolling will be completed at all MTA bridges and tunnels by the end of this year. The schedule is as follows:

RFK Bridge – Summer 2017

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – Summer 2017

Throgs Neck Bridge – Fall 2017

Bronx-Whitestone Bridge – Fall 2017

The Rockaway Bridges join the Henry Hudson Bridge, Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown tunnels, where sensors and cameras suspended over the highway on structures known as “gantries” read E-ZPass tags and take license plate images, so vehicles no longer have to stop and pay the toll. Vehicles with E-ZPass tags are automatically charged, and vehicles without E-ZPass have their license plate recorded and a bill is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. E-ZPass tags should be mounted inside the vehicle’s front windshield.

Current token users may use tokens for Rockaway Bridge tolls through April 29, 2017. Leftover tokens may then be easily redeemed by visiting one of the E-ZPass New York Customer Service Center walk-in centers and completing a token redemption request, or by calling 212-360-3000, selecting option 6 and requesting a token refund kit. Resident token users will be mailed information from MTA Bridges and Tunnels with instructions on how to transition from tokens to E-ZPass. Non-resident token users can go to mta.info/e-zpass to get more information on opening an E-ZPass account.

Cashless tolling is projected to save commuters up to 21 hours of drive time every year. Additionally, it reduces emissions and significantly decreases the amount of fuel burned by drivers, who will no longer have to stop and start waiting to pay tolls. This will conserve approximately one million gallons of fuel and save $2.3 million each year.

To make it easy for drivers to pay their tolls, MTA Bridges and Tunnels has introduced a number of programs.  Customers can sign up for E-ZPass and save 30-50 percent on MTA B&T tolls at MTA.info/E-ZPass even if they do not own a car.  Drivers who receive a Tolls by Mail bill can pay it online at the Tolls by Mail website; by mail; over the phone; or in-person, and payment options include check, credit card, checking account, or cash. Customers who call **826 from a mobile phone will receive a text with a link to the Tolls by Mail website and information on how to set up a Pay Toll Now account that can be used by rental car customers.

To ensure that all users of MTA Bridges and Tunnels toll facilities pay their fair share, a series of enforcement measures are in place to tackle toll payment evasion and chronic toll scofflaws. Customers who do not pay their tolls are subject to violation fees, registration suspensions, and other enforcement actions. Late fees accrue if an initial toll bill is unpaid, and if a second notice is also ignored, violation fees of up to $100 per toll violation may be imposed.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has enacted regulation that allows suspension of the vehicle registration of motorists who fail to pay three tolls, violation fees, and other charges resulting from violations on different days, within a period of five years, and ignore toll authorities’ repeated notices, the Governor’s office said.

 

Toronto-based Guyanese doctor awarded Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal

Dr. Narendra Singh (left) receiving congratulations from Governor General David Johnston following the Meritorious Service Decoration presentation (CNW Group/Humber River Hospital)

Dr. Narendra Singh (left) receiving congratulations from Governor General David Johnston following the Meritorious Service Decoration presentation (CNW Group/Humber River Hospital)

Toronto-based Guyanese Dr Narendra Singh, Humber River Hospital’s Chief of Staff, was on  March 9, awarded Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) by Governor General of Canada, David Johnston.

According to a press release from Canada NewsWire, Hospital President & CEO Barb Collins congratulated Singh, noting “we are all proud of the amazing work Dr Singh, and many of his colleagues at Humber, do, not just in our hospital every day but beyond into the local and global communities. In Dr Singh’s case, his leadership has seen the neonatal and infant mortality in his birth country of Guyana drop dramatically, saving the lives of hundreds of babies every year.”

“I’m honoured to share this with them: this is a true team effort from people determined to make a difference for these kids. I also want to thank my colleagues at Humber River Hospital for their support and encouragement at every step,” the release quoted Singh as saying as he thanked his partners in Guyana Help the Kids.

The Toronto-based paediatrician founded Guyana Help the Kids [www. guyanahelpthekids.com] in 2009 to address neonatal and infant mortality rates in his country of birth.  He raised funds to procure essential equipment, then went on to establish a residency programme in collaboration with Canadian universities to train Guyanese paediatricians and nurses.

 

Guyanese pharma companies snubbed

…as GPHC creates “emergency” to sole source G$605M drugs from overseas firm

Country Head of ANSA McAL in Guyana, Beverly Harper

Country Head of ANSA McAL in Guyana, Beverly Harper

Another major corruption scandal appears to be in the making as the management of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) moves to sideline local companies for the procurement of emergency pharmaceuticals worth in excess of G$605 million from a Trinidadian firm, ANSA McAL.

Georgetown Public Hospital had delayed and cancelled four out of its five public tenders within the last four months, creating a situation where there is a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals, which was initially denied by the authorities, and which would have caused deaths and aggravated illnesses in patients lacking medication. One of Guyana’s leading local pharmaceutical manufacturers, the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (NEW GPC INC), is questioning the Georgetown Hospital’s decision to ignore local companies, which could have supplied the same quantity and quality of drugs at better prices.

Georgetown Hospital has delayed and cancelled four out of its five public tenders within the last four months, creating a situation where there is a massive shortage of pharmaceuticals.

Subsequently, the Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Allan Johnson, on February 28, wrote a letter to the Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham, requesting approval for the procurement of these “emergency drugs” in light of the shortage, from ANSA McAL to the tune of G$605,962,200.

This request to bypass the procurement process to sole source drugs from a foreign firm speaks loudly of some public official’s intent to sideline local companies which could have supplied the same pharmaceuticals at cheaper prices.

It raises the issue of motive and possible corruption, which is reminiscent of the earlier decision to rent a non-existent pharma warehouse.

NEW GPC noted that the transaction between Georgetown Public Hospital and AnsaMcAl, should it see fruition, would be a breach in the public procurement rules.

Cheaper prices

New NEW GPC further pointed out that it could have supplied many of the items instantaneously since there is usually inventory on hand. In the worst case scenario, NEW GPC said the delay would be less than a few days to get the products manufactured right here in Guyana.

“NEW GPC has surveyed some of the items it manufactures locally and some imported against ANSA McAL and the company’s prices are significantly cheaper. NEW GPC’s prices could be independently confirmed by reviewing recent bid submissions to the Tender Board in 2016 and 2017,” the firm stated.

Additionally, NEW GPC said it could have supplied even the items to be imported quicker by utilising its established and reliable supply chain; for instance, a Clindamycin injection, ANSA McAL’s price is 12 times NEW GPC’s. For Diclofenac tablets, it is 15 times and for Clotrimazole cream, which is made locally, as much as 23 times. For the mere 16 out of 118 items surveyed, the Georgetown Hospital would have saved over one hundred million dollars of taxpayers’ money (G$100 milion) had it purchased them from NEW GPC.

The local manufacturing giant strongly believes its quotations are being deliberately excluded or timed in such a manner to facilitate ANSA McAL. “Case in point is the Georgetown Hospital’s recent purchase of Oxytocin (Item# 114) from ANSA McAL when NEW GPC had inventory on hand and offered it at what is now confirmed at a fraction of the price. In any case, what reason could be there for an emergency purchase from ANSA McAL if NEW GPC was offering stock on hand at a better price? And what about other local suppliers?” NEW GPC questioned.

NEW GPC also noted that in recent meetings with suppliers, Georgetown Public Hospital’s senior management insisted that they will seek out the lowest price to determine tender awards.

“Choosing to do business with ANSA McAL with these exorbitant prices is contrary to that publicly stated position and it is tantamount to misleading the other bidders who were present,” NEW GPC said.

Local supplies

The company also highlighted that the Georgetown Public Hospital’s previous preference for cheapest prices created the opportunity for some importers to supply inferior products at the exclusion of locally manufactured items and this most certainly had adverse consequences on patients.

NEW GPC also noted with concern, the Georgetown Hospital’s recent removal of the 10 per cent preferential treatment for locally

 

Several mandirs participate in Chowtaal singing in Queens

By Vishnu Bisram

holiAs in Guyana, Holi or Phagwah is being celebrated in New York City among the large Guyanese community. Several groups host Chowtaal singing at their mandirs. Chowtaal is very popular around this time of the year when the spring festival of Holi is observed. Usually, from the time of Holika Dahan or the planting of Holika, it continues for 40 days leading up the Phagwah (Holi) Day.

Last Sunday, the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha(USA Praant) hosted the 3rd annual Chowtaal Samelan at the Prem Bhakti Mandir in Jamaica, Queens as part of phagwah celebrations. The program was emceed by Anil Bedasie and Deepa Seetaram who did a splendid job.

The large congregation rapturously listened to some 16 groups from various Guyanese  mandirs and cultural organizations in the New York area with each singing several chowtaals. Each group had a minimum of ten participants. Every member of the Chowtaal group sang and beat jhals (cymbals) while some beat the drum (dholak) and the dantaal. The groups assembled in two rows of singers facing each other (semi-circle), with a “dholak” drummer at one end, singing lines of Hindi text antiphonally.

Some groups comprised of mostly young devotees such as the Sanataan Dharma Mandir of NY, the KalKa Roshni Youth group and the Queens Hindu Mandir Youth group with its 11 year old female dholak player.

The congregation became part of the singing groups echoing the lyrics or verses. Many could be seen clapping and dancing or gyrating with the music.

Chowtaal was brought to the Caribbean by indentured laborers from the North India regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Much of the lyrics of the chowtaals involve loud repetitions of chants about life and or on the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It was transmitted to and institutionalized in the USA and Canada by Indo-Caribbbean immigrants. In Guyana, years ago chowtaal was sung by village or temple groups with members going from home to home and village to village.

The objective of the USA Praant is to continue this tradition by hosting the gols from the mandirs in the Tri-State area.

The USA Praant’s chairman Dave Thakoordeen, a cultural advocate, has been supporting Indian cultural activities around New York and in Guyana. Thakoordeen said the idea behind the samelan is to promote the art form and to celebrate the Indian culture.

The samelan also recognizes the work of the pioneers in introducing Indian cultural and musical art forms in the US. Thakordeen said he wants the youth to know and appreciate their culture. Chowtaal takes a lot of verses from the scriptures. So by learning and knowing chowtaal, they learn the scripture indirectly, Dave said.

 

‘SOCU’s action politically motivated’

– Jagdeo says will not be intimidated

BY DEVINA SAMAROO

Opposition Leader  Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo speaking to the media after he was released by SOCU agents

Opposition Leader
Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo speaking to the media after he was released by SOCU agents

Tension, suspense and apprehension swept across the nation as the masses followed with close interest the egregious arrest of former top Government officials by agents of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in relation to their investigation of misappropriation of State assets.

Former President and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, and former Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud were among those who were taken into custody for questioning at SOCU’s Headquarters on Camp Street on Tuesday afternoon.

Other persons, who were detained and questioned are General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board and daughter of former President Donald Ramotar, Lisaveta Ramotar; former President of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo; former Secretary to NICIL Marcia Nadir-Sharma; and the son of former Labour Minister, Dr Nanda Gopaul, Dr Ghansham Singh.

These arrests and detentions come days after Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan threatened criminal charges against former Government officials, causing many in the Opposition camp to believe the actions taken by SOCU were politically motivated by the Executive.

But Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo lashing back at the Government on Tuesday said the actions have nothing to do with fighting corruption but rather about instilling fear and intimidating those who resist policies of the coalition Administration.

SOCU had requested several officials including current parliamentarians to visit its Headquarters for questioning in relation to the Pradoville 2 case but one of their attorneys, Anil Nandlall responded by informing the Authority that interrogation can take place at the Office of the Opposition Leader, Church Street.

Arrests

SOCU officials arrived at the Opposition Leader’s Office shortly after 14:00h under directives to “arrest” Dr Luncheon, who immediately complied.

Dr Luncheon, speaking to the media as he was being escorted by the agents, repeated his unawareness of the basis of his arrest and pleaded his innocence.

At the time, Ramotar’s daughter and the former Natural Resources Minister were already at SOCU’s Headquarters. Guyana Times International understands that they voluntarily visited the office for the interviews and upon arrival, they were detained.

Ramotar’s daughter was detained for over seven hours.

Shortly after Dr Luncheon was arrested; SOCU’s Head, Sydney James and British Advisor to SOCU, Dr Sam Sittlington arrived at the Opposition Leader’s Office and requested that he head down to the headquarters for questioning.

Speaking to media operatives afterwards, Jagdeo said he was “arrested”.

“After the media left, they came over and said you are arrested. My lawyers who were there, asked and there was a hemming and hawing about the nature of the charges, nevertheless we did not resist arrest,” he explained.

Jagdeo explained that ahead of his interrogation, he asked the agents whether he is being questioned in his private capacity or his official capacity as his actions as President are immune.

“I asked if they are asking questions in my private capacity or official capacity because in doing that you are going to breach the veil of immunity that I have for official acts and that will have far reaching consequences in this country,” he stated. The Opposition Leader said he declined to answer questions posed to him in his private capacity. He disclosed that questions were relating to the audit reports’ findings on the Pradoville 2 transaction, NICIL and NCN operations.

Jagdeo anticipates that charges will be laid, given Government’s “agenda”, but assured that the charges will be challenged in the courts.

Political pressure

In analysing the situation, the Opposition Leader said he strongly believes these unprecedented actions taken by SOCU are politically motivated and meant to silence the vociferous voices against the wrongdoings of the coalition.

“I sympathise for the people who work here (SOCU) because they are under severe political pressure. Every week, the Head of the State Assets Recovery Unity, Dr Clive Thomas speaks about who they should lock up. A week ago, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, ahead of a Police investigation, talked about locking up people this week. The Attorney General put G$100 million in his budget to come after political opponents,” he outlined.

In a press briefing moments after Dr Luncheon’s “arrest” and shortly before his own, Jagdeo declared that the actions being deployed by the SOCU will go down in history as one of the greatest acts of injustices in Guyana.

“I spoke about this Government’s newest attempts to intimidate society guided by a mistaken belief that they will make the citizens more compliant and have people be fearful of criticising them and exposing their wrongdoing,” he remarked.

Jagdeo maintained his long held position that Government’s priorities are backwards as instead of focusing on developing the country, it is employing vindictive and witch-hunting strategies.

“The reason the Government is doing this is because it is failing miserably in every single area across the country. It is facing the wrath of many ordinary people, [People’s Progressive Party] PPP supporters as well as [A Partnership for National Unity] APNU supporters because it has not delivered on any of its promises, it can’t lead this country to a prosperous future. In fact, people’s welfares are declining, more and more people are protesting its actions… the country is in economic disarray and we are seeing a steady insidious move to erode our constitutional rights,” he stated.

But the Opposition Leader reaffirmed that the PPP will not be intimidated and will continue to expose and speak out against the transgressions of the government.

He reminded that it was APNU’s constant cry that the entire economy was developing on drugs money.

In this regard, the former President asked why the SOCU has not yet launched any probe, made any arrest or laid any charges against drug dealers, gold smugglers or money launderers.

“Yet we have not witnessed a single action taken by SOCU against any drug dealer or money laundering of persons who have smuggled billions of dollars or gold but we have seen the arrest of Dr Luncheon by SOCU because the Government believes he got a house lot at Pradoville 2 fraudulently,” he reasoned.

Nonetheless, Jagdeo warned that those who misuse their offices now will face the consequences in the future. The reason these persons are being questioned is because they purchased property at the Sparendaam seawall area commonly known as “Pradoville 2”.

The current Administration contends the transaction is a criminal act because of the belief that it was sold below market value.

However other persons who have property in the area including former Army Chief Gary Bess and former President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr Compton Bourne have not been summoned for similar questioning.

Govt’s response

In a statement after the drama died down, Government indicated its satisfaction with the work of SOCU and dismissed suspicions that Unit was acting under its instructions.

More persons are expected to be questioned during the course of the week including former Government Ministers Priya Manickchand, Clement Rohee, Irfaan Ali and Jennifer Westford.

 

Richmond Hill community rallies support for fire victims

fire (2)Guyanese affected by Richmond Hill inferno which tore through a row of buildings in Queens, New York early Sunday morning, destroying at least eight homes and leaving dozens of people homeless, are still trying to recover from the massive tragedy.

According to New York media reports, the fire spread through the attached buildings located along Liberty Avenue and 110th Street. The displaced families and small business owners were directed to the neighbouring Tulsi Mandir, a Hindu religious center, located at 103-26 111st.

Several organisations in New York have so far launched various support mechanisms to help families regroup and get their lives back to some degree of normalcy.

“I’m very thankful for all the support that everyone has given. We had nothing left after the fire. All the victims that have been affected by this tragedy now have basic supplies thanks to our community coming together” said Domattie Singh, a tenant who lived with her mother, sister and stepfather at 110-12 Liberty Ave; one of the locations completely destroyed by the fire.

This newspaper understands that Indo-Caribbean Alliance, a Richmond Hill-based non-profit has set up an emergency relief fund for the victims. “We are here for our community in this time of tragedy. All proceed will be directed to the most affected families”, said Vedesh Persaud, Acting Executive Director of the organisation. The fund is available online at www.indocaribbean.org/donate.

“We were happy to help these victims in their time of need. We provided meals, a warm space and a drop-off location for supplies. Our doors are always open to help anyone and it will remain open”, said Pandit Lakhram Maharaj, Leader of the Tulsi Mandir.

Other organisations providing support include: Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation, Richmond Hill Economic Development Corporation and Operation Dreamcatchers.

Meanwhile, Bobbies Travel is among some of the businesses severely affected by the tragedy. The company has since relocated its offices to 110-09 Liberty Avenue (across the street from their old location).

In a brief comment to the media, a representative of Bobbies Travel said that inspite of this most recent setback, the company is very strong and resilient and would do everything in its power to ensure that its work continues smoothly. The representative added that its main aim is to continue offering top quality services to customers.

Presidential term limits unconstitutional

…Guyana’s Court of Appeal rules in split decision

carlThe Guyana Court of Appeal on Wednesday, by a 2 to 1 majority, ruled that presidential term limits is unconstitutional.

Handing down separate decisions were Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh; Chief Justice, Yonnette Cummings-Edwards and Justice B.S. Roy.

Justice B.S. Roy and Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh turned down an appeal by Attorney General Basil Williams and the Speaker of the National Assembly.Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards differed and allowed the appeal.

In her dissenting decision, she said the amendment to limit presidential terms to two is “not unconstitutional.” “The people of Guyana in whom sovereignty lies exercise their sovereignty through representatives of Parliament and Local Democratic organs,” she said.

Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh said any law that would have the effect of suppressing the right to freely elect someone of their choice would be unconstitutional. “The people are entitled, in keeping with democratic principles to freely elect their representatives,” Singh said.

The appeal had been filed against a ruling by then Chief Justice, Ian Chang in July 2015 that the constitutional amendment, Act No. 17 of 2001, which limits presidencies to two terms is invalid because such a decision requires a referendum.

The State is expected to appeal the decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Justice Chang’s ruling was appealed by then Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman and current Attorney General Basil Williams. The constitutional challenge case was led by Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson in February 2015, and sought the court’s interpretation on the National Assembly’s changes to Article 90 as it related to four restraints on the freedom of choice by citizens at national elections. As adumbrated by Justice Chang, “The purported alteration of Article 90 by Act No. 17 of 2001, in substance and effect, undoubtedly diminishes the democratic rights of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President, by excluding from Presidential candidature:

(1) Citizens of Guyana not resident in Guyana on Nomination Day

(2) Citizens of Guyana resident in Guyana on Nomination Day but who have not been continuously resident in Guyana for seven years prior to that date

(3) Citizens of Guyana by registration

(4) Citizens of Guyana who have served for two terms as President.

As such, the purported alteration by Act No 17 of 2001 purports to curtail the people’s electoral democratic choices and to offend the declaration in Article 1 that Guyana is a democratic state (in which the sovereignty resides in the people Article 9). This is precisely why, for the purpose of any alteration of Articles 1 and 9, the voice of two-thirds of the elected members of the National Assembly is not the voice of the people.”

The case, which was /led by Attorneys Emily Dodson and Shawn Allicock, on behalf of Richardson, argued that Act 17 of 2001, which was passed by a two-third majority in the National Assembly, unconstitutionally curtails and restricts his sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector to elect specific persons of their choice as President of Guyana.

Richardson had contended that the limit was unconstitutional and illegal. He sought the court’s interpretation to determine whether the amendment with referendum should not have been held, instead of the two-third majority in the National Assembly having the powers to decide to limit the number of terms.

As such, while the Constitution provides for representative democracy, such representative democracy cannot encroach on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of the referendum.

Justice Chang’s interpretation of the constitutional provision rested on a “normative” substantive republican values rather than the older, procedurally-driven Liberal view of constitutions as merely “descriptive”. While he cited two cases – the Belize case Bowen vs The Attorney General BZ 2001 SC 2, and the Indian case Kesavananda Bharativs the State of Kerala (1974) 1 SCC (Jour) 3 to support his ruling, it appears there was a refusal by his critics to deconstruct the difference between the two approaches and to accept as the Indian Supreme Court did, “while there was no implied limit to constitutional amendment, the very nature of the word “amend” meant that Parliament could not abrogate or destroy the foundation or the basic structure of the Constitution.”

In the Liberal procedurally driven perspective on constitutions, the protection of the negative freedom of the citizens, adumbrated as “fundamental rights”, against the Leviathan state, is paramount, but as stated by the theorist Jurgen Habermas, in the substantive republican view, “…the State’s raison d’etre does not lie primarily in the protection of equal private rights but in the guarantee of an inclusive opinion- and will-formation in which free and equal citizens reach an understanding on which goals and norms lie in the equal interest of all.”

It is this insistence that it is the will of the people must be untrammelled in the exercise of their positive freedom, that Justice Chang’s ruling rests.

 

President Trump congratulates Guyana on 47th Republic Day Anniversary

flagThe following letter was sent to President David Granger on behalf of the people of the United States:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the people of the United States, I congratulate you and the citizens of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana on the occasion of your Republic Day.

 As you mark 47 years as a republic, know that the United States remains as committed as ever to our close friendship and partnership on common interests such as economic development, good governance, and environmental protection.

 I would also like to acknowledge Guyana’s role as a regional leader, which has been clearly on display since you assumed the rotating chair of the Caribbean Community on January 1.

 I offer my sincere wishes to you, your family, and the Guyanese people for a beautiful Mashramani and Republic Day.

Sincerely,

Donald J. Trump