Clive David, the Customs Officer who was allegedly caught on camera packing cocaine into a mail bag at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport last week, was on Wednesday remanded to prison when he appeared before City Magistrate Ann Mc Lennan.
David, of 22 Princes Street, Lodge, pleaded not guilty to the charge of possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking. He allegedly committed the crime sometime between April 9 and 11.
Police said that David was allegedly in possession of 647 grams of cocaine at the time. His lawyer, Lance Ferreira, in a passionate plea for bail, told the court that David was given the mail by a friend to post and he left it on his desk at Timehri.
Police Prosecutor Dinero Jones countered by saying that the defendant had signed a confession statement, allegedly admitting that he knew the drug was in the envelope. The Prosecutor said police are still conducting investigations.
GRA Commissioner Khurshid Sattaur told Guyana Times International that the agency’s policy is that any serious offence on or off the job that attracts the attention of the police means the culpable person is subject to summary dismissal.
“An internal investigation was immediately launched after reports surfaced across the media that 644 grams of cocaine was found in mail bound for New York on a Caribbean Airlines flight,” the release said. Sattaur said the officer’s actions are a clear breach of the organisation’s Standard Operating Procedure and that the entity will “work on putting more robust systems in place to weed out corrupt elements”.
He noted that officers fail to realise that they have a responsibility to act with integrity and protect the image of the agency. Sattaur reiterated that the GRA will not condone corrupt individuals, whether officials or taxpayers. He said the GRA will do all within its power to eradicate corruption.
U.S.-based hotel group Ramada will be spending US$7 million to rebrand the Princess Hotel and Casino at Providence, East Bank Demerara to Ramada Georgetown Princess, officials announced at a news briefing on Tuesday.
The rebranding mission has already taken effect and arose following an agreement between the Providence entity and Ramada, which is a subsidiary of the Wyndham Hotel group of New Jersey in the United States. The agreement is a work in progress in which the two have partnered on Princess’ existing hotels in Europe and the Caribbean.
President of the company Sudi Ozkan and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hamdi Karagozoglu – in collaboration with the Government of Guyana, through the Tourism Ministry – endorsed the agreement on December 19, 2013.
Hotel General Manager Cuneyt Dalcan explained that all upgrades will be in keeping with Ramada standards and will see the repositioning of the hotel in the market place. The GM added that being mindful of global warming, the hotel will also be eco-friendly by using LED technology, solar water heating systems and energy-saving systems.
He told media operatives that Ramada in 1990 joined the Wyndham Hotel group. Ramada is a large hotel chain owned and operated by Wyndham Hotel group, the largest company in the world with more than 7200 hotels in over 65 countries. It is also ranked second on Fortune Magazine’s list of most admired hotels, casinos, and resorts. Dalcan said it was with this in mind that Princess Hotel signed a contract with Ramada to use their reservation services which is expected to increase occupancy in the Princess Hotel. Princess Hotel made it clear that it has not sold any shares to Ramada and its management remains the same.
Acting Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Irfaan Ali congratulated the Princess Group for rebranding. He said it was a major investment in Guyana’s tourism sector, while acknowledging the commitment of the Princess Hotel management to improve the local tourism product. He highlighted that 75 per cent of business travellers and 65 per cent of leisure travellers prefer to stay at a branded hotel when travelling. The Minister said, over the years, the sector has been gaining traction and recognised the ability of large investments such as this to foster smaller investments. Ali stated that the Guyana Tourism Authority has been working to drive traffic to all hotels, particularly during off-peak seasons.
Princess Hotel and Casino switched hands from local investors on April 1, 2009. It comprises 191 rooms, including Presidential Suites and Executive/VIP rooms. In addition, it has indoor and outdoor food and beverage facilities, the largest hotel conference and banqueting hall on the East Bank and the largest outdoor pool in the country.
Two years ago, Princess Group invested US$2 million in its entertainment section with two state-of-the-art movie theatres, Fun City and Club NEXT.
The hotel will continue to invest with the installation of 3D digital projector movie theatres this year. Ramada believes that coupled with its growth and strategic move of continuous external marketing opportunities in the Diaspora and the support through this new brand, the partnership with Princess will strengthen the hotel’s ongoing commitment to the hospitality industry in Guyana by offering guests a strong and distinct brand.
A significant number of Caribbean nationals had been deported after committing minor infractions, including traffic violations, according to an analysis of internal U.S. Government records since President Barack Obama assumed office.
The figures showed that two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involved Caribbean and other immigrants.
The study conducted by the New York Times found that 20 per cent, or about 394,000 of the cases involved immigrants convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses.
The paper said an examination of the Obama administration’s record shows how the disconnect evolved between the President’s stated goal of blunting what he called the harsh edge of immigration enforcement and the reality that has played out.
Obama came to office promising comprehensive immigration reform, but lacking sufficient support, the administration took steps it portrayed as narrowing the focus of enforcement efforts on serious criminals.
Yet the records show that the enforcement net actually grew, said the newspaper, adding that its analysis is based on Government data covering more than 3.2 million deportations over 10 years, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
According to the records, the largest increases were in deportations involving illegal immigrants, whose most serious offense was listed as a traffic violation, including driving under the influence.
“For years, the Obama administration’s spin has been that they are simply deporting so-called ‘criminal aliens’, but the numbers speak for themselves,” said National Immigration Law Centre Executive Director Marielena Hincapié.
“In truth, this administration, more than any other, has devastated immigrant communities across the country, tearing families away from loved ones, simply because they drove without a licence, or re-entered the country desperately trying to be reunited with their family members,” she added.
But Obama administration officials say the deportations are a result of a decade in which the U.S. Congress has passed tougher immigration laws, increased funding for enforcement and stymied efforts to lay out a path to legal residency for the bulk of the nation’s 11.5 million illegal immigrants. (Caribbean360)
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced the creation of the New York City Children’s Cabinet, a multi-agency initiative to bolster communication among city agencies and develop strategies for a holistic approach to a child’s safety and well-being. The plan to assemble a Children’s Cabinet came after the tragic death in January of 4-year-old Myls Dobson. It stems from the mayor’s belief that children at risk are served by multiple city agencies, and therefore the responsibility of keeping them safe and attending to their well-being should extend beyond the Administration of Children’s Services.
The New York City Children’s Cabinet will be chaired by Richard Buery, the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. The Cabinet will be composed of commissioners and directors from 20 different city agencies and mayoral offices, with subcommittees to be created at the discretion of members. The Cabinet will meet for the first time at the end of this month, and will create a schedule for regular meetings and specific outcomes.
“We are putting in place an all-hands-on-deck approach to enhance children’s overall well-being and prevent abuse, injury or death of vulnerable children and youth. We recognize that to protect our children and keep them safe, we need multi-agency, multi-sector strategies. I look forward to seeing the Children’s Cabinet deliver progress for families,” said Mayor de Blasio.
The New York City Children’s Cabinet members are:
Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)
Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO)
Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence (CIDI)
Department of Correction (DOC)
Department of Education (DOE)
Office of the First Lady of New York City (FLONYC)
Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC)
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH)
Department of Homeless Services (DHS)
Housing Authority (NYCHA)
Human Resources Administration (HRA)
Law Department, Family Court Division (Law)
Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ)
Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA)
Mayor’s Office of Operations (OPS)
Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence
Parks & Recreation Department (Parks)
Police Department (NYPD)
Department of Probation (DOP)
Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD)
The Children’s Cabinet will provide a space for leaders of multiple city agencies to identify and analyze individual and common areas of work that impact children safety and create an action plan to become child-safety focused. Specifically, the Children’s Cabinet will:
• Proactively create opportunities for early intervention and prevention
• Strengthen partnerships across agencies to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families
• Engage in collaborative problem solving and share and leverage each other’s resources
• Enhance communication between and among agencies
• Inform children’s policies and programs by utilizing linked administrative data from multiple agency systems.
• Set protocols for access to information, resolving policy conflicts, engaging in joint training and program development and coordinating service delivery.
Guyana on Thursday mourned the passing of well-respected Caribbean integrationist and United Nations Good Officer in the border controversy with Venezuela, Professor Norman Girvan.
“For Guyana, we valued the wisdom which he brought to the Good Offices Process as the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General,” said President Donald Ramotar in a statement.
Girvan, 72, died in Cuba where he had been receiving treatment for paralysis due to fall while hiking in Dominica three months ago.
Foreign Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett also praised Girvan’s work as the United Nations Secretary General’s Good Officer in finding a peaceful resolution to the border issue between the two South American countries.
The President of Guyana said Girvan’s passing was an immense loss for the Caribbean and one that we will continue to feel for quite some time. “His writing and sharp analyses spanning a myriad of issues, demonstrated always a sincerity in contributing to solutions to the challenges of the economic and social development of the wider Caribbean. His vision for the region’s integration was driven by a profound desire for the peoples of the Caribbean Community to benefit from sustained socio-economic development in a single space,” he said.
Professor Girvan was a former Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). He was also Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
After intense grilling by the combined parliamentary Opposition, the Gy$6 billion subvention for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was approved by both sides on Wednesday evening as the National Assembly commenced consideration of the Gy$220 billion 2014 Budget Estimates.
In addition, the House approved the entire Agriculture Ministry’s budget, but not before scrutinising the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA). Allocations to other agencies under the Ministry were also approved. These include the Guyana School of Agriculture, Guyana Livestock Development Authority, Guyana Rice Development Board, Guyana Marketing Corporation, and Hope Coconut Estate.
Focusing on the troubled GuySuCo, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Vice Chairman, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, opened the floor, questioning Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy about the reconstruction of the GuySuCo Board of Directors and the criteria used to appoint the new members, as he believes there needs to be “serious reforms” within the industry at all levels of management.
“We would like, really, some cast iron assurances about the industry… we want to be reassured, in relation to this Gy$6 billion subsidy, that we are presented here in the National Assembly with a credible programme for resuscitation and revitalisation of the industry,” he stated.
In response, Minister Ramsammy pointed out that the new board is currently being appointed with the aim of having it functional by July 1. He noted that there have been several recommendations for members, and President Donald Ramotar is currently engaged in talks with those persons recommended. The Minister assured the Opposition that Government was looking for persons who have the necessary knowledge and experience to resuscitate the drowning sugar industry.
On the topic of mechanisation, Ramsammy highlighted that this process will not be displacing any jobs, adding instead that the labour pool will complement the process allowing the industry to meet its 2014 target.
Alliance For Change (AFC) members also grilled the Agriculture Minister. Party Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, along with Dr Veerasammy Ramayya and Moses Nagamootoo, questioned the gravity of the failure of the Skeldon Estate and Factory. Nagamootoo explained that every time the Government goes to the National Assembly for money, it is being granted; however, that does not stop them from saying that the Opposition is killing the industry.
“What I am asking the Honourable Minister is to tell us what extent this industry is ailing and how much it owes, because we cannot be accused of committing ethnic cleansing of Indian workers, while we are supplying money to the sugar industry to help those workers. We are concerned about those workers and their welfare that is why we give the bailouts, but we don’t know how deep the trouble is,” Nagamootoo stated.
The Agriculture Minister disclosed to the House that of the Gy$6 billion allocated for sugar, Gy$1.1 billion will be directed towards mechanisation and cane production each, while Gy$2 billion will go towards factory upgrades and the remaining funds will be used to purchase equipment and improving the field infrastructure, which includes the transportation of cane from the fields to the factory.
The Minister was also questioned about the NDIA, particularly with emphasis on the acquisition of equipment, construction of sluices, and even the finances for this agency.
The main Opposition A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) has criticised the Gy$220 billion National Budget presented by Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh on Monday, saying it is bloated with expenditures while warning a “difficult debate” even as it threatens to cut sections of the estimates.
While addressing media representatives, Opposition Leader and APNU Chairman, Retired Brigadier David Granger said: “I don’t know what the budget is all about” as he registered his concerns.
Granger said several issues were not adequately addressed, for instance, the plan to computerise hinterland secondary schools. He said there are plans to “computerise these schools when the schools do not have proper infrastructure, especially electricity”.
“I have seen the widest variety of plastic buckets in my life as the children of Paramakatoi Secondary have to fetch water,” declared Granger as he explained other areas of concern in the 2014 National Budget.
He contended that the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme that was implemented which should afford indigenous people the opportunity to be trained and subsequently gain meaningful employment is merely a “social programme” in that it does not fulfil its mandate. He noted that the programme does not provide jobs and is more of an “elections gimmick” than a development venture.
Granger went on to indicate that there were some aspects of the budget that he was in support of and those included the Rural Development Plan which would see $1 billion being spent as the Government aims to promote small businesses in rural communities by increasing infrastructure in those areas and place some focus on labour-intensive activities. Granger further related that more emphasis should have been placed on riverine communities, urging that a transportation system be set up in those areas. He explained that many children miss school on a daily basis in those areas and such a system would prevent such occurrences.
When questioned on whether he was satisfied with the increase given to Old Age Pensioners, Granger responded in the negative, stating that his party was hoping to see the pension rising to $15,000.
“What might be okay for Georgetown is not okay for people in the hinterland area,” he added, promptly relating that persons in those outlying areas pay a lot more for transportation and their cost of living is considerably higher. Granger contended that the 2014 National Budget is not a “developmental budget, arguing that the city will be in the same position that “it is in right now in 2015”.
On the $6 billion subsidy for GuySuCo, Granger said: “We don’t want to throw good money at the bad.”
Meanwhile, APNU Executive Member and Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge lamented that the budget does not show any signs of growth. “Expenditure is not growth, expenditure is not development… the Government is confusing development with spending,” Greenidge said.
He went on to explain that enough careful thought was not given to the budget when it was compiled by the man of the day, Dr Ashni Singh. Greenidge noted that he heard complaints from the Public Service Union which had noted that the consultation exercise that they had embarked on with the Finance Minister was “a fruitless and meaningless exercise”.
The Shadow Finance Minister further pointed out that the Government was only thinking about itself when the budget was compiled. As it relates to the $6 billion allocation to the sugar industry, Greenidge maintained that money was not the solution to the problems faced by the sugar industry. “They are going to come for six billion now and later in the year, they are going to come back for more,” the former Finance Minister of the Desmond Hoyte Administration said.
He then chided the Finance Minister for what he said was his failure to provide background information into the projects that are to be undertaken by the Government this year. He noted that there was “no justification of the budget”. He said the National Assembly was just given an extensive list of things the Government intends to do.
He noted that while the Finance Minister spoke of accomplishments in the sectors, to the country continues be plagued by serious issues – among them: 40 per cent youth unemployment, the continued migration of skilled labour from Guyana and suicide, for which Guyana has recorded the highest rate in the Caribbean. “We are talking about spending a lot on education when the illiteracy rates are appalling,” added Greenidge.
When questioned on whether the Opposition will be cutting any aspects of the budget, Greenidge responded in the positive. He noted that the debate on the budget which is set to commence next Monday will be “difficult”. He noted too that going forward, there will be problems with the budget that his party plans to adequately address.
He added that some of the estimates are not in compliance with Article 222A of the Constitution of Guyana.
- “Opposition members were invited for consultations”
Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh said the Gy$220 billion budget should be judged on its merits even as he set the record straight on the Government’s engagements with the Opposition on the estimates.
When Minister Singh began the 2014 budget presentation to the National Assembly on Monday, members of the Alliance For Change (AFC) left the chamber, claiming that there had been no meaningful consultation before the preparation of the budget.
According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) statement, in dismissing the party’s claim, Dr Singh stated: “It is a matter of public record, we invited the Opposition parties on several occasions, and they failed to turn up. So if there is a lack of consultation, it’s because they refused to make themselves available. There were repeated invitations made and they refused to avail themselves.”
Shortly after presenting the budget to the National Assembly, Minister Singh pointed out that it contains a number of policies, programmes, initiatives and interventions, all of which are in the interest of Guyana and its people. “That must be the ultimate consideration.”
Minister Singh expressed the hope that any national budget brought to the National Assembly would be assessed on its merits. A statement from the AFC after its walkout said it was in protest against the violation of the Constitution and that the “2014 Budget is overshadowed by the ruling of the Chief Justice that the National Assembly may approve or not approve the estimates of the expenditure”.
The AFC also claimed that the budget was being presented by the Minister who disregarded decisions of the National Assembly, and restored funds that were not approved by the said Assembly.
But, the restoration of funds allocated to two state agencies, the National Communications Network (NCN) and the Government Information Agency (GINA) in 2012 and 2013, was done based on the legal advice received regarding the “preliminary ruling” of acting Chief Justice Ian Chang issued in July 2012, the GINA release stated.
It added that on January 29, 2014, the CJ issued his final ruling on the matter, stating that the Opposition has no right to cut the country’s budget estimates and can only approve or disapprove the entire budget.
Minister Singh had previously stated, however, that a similar claim of no consultations made by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) was a blatant lie and a cheap publicity stunt. This response was made to the claim by APNU Leader David Granger in the Kaieteur News of January 18, in the article titled “APNU says it’s being sidelined from Budget consultation – will force implementation of reforms if concerns not taken on board”.