April 20, 2014

U.S. deports numerous Caribbean nationals for minor offences – report

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)


NY Mayor announces ‘Children’s Cabinet’ to improve child safety

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

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.

Professor Girvan’s passing is an immense loss to the Caribbean – President Ramotar

Professor Norman Girvan

Professor Norman Girvan

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).

National Assembly approves Gy$6B for sugar industry

Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy addressing those gathered outside of the National Assembly to lobby for parliamentary approval of the Gy$6B subvention budgeted for the sugar industry

Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy addressing those gathered outside of the National Assembly to lobby for parliamentary approval of the Gy$6B subvention budgeted for the sugar industry

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.

New board

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.

Difficult debate ahead: Opposition threatens to cut estimates

Opposition Leader and APNU Chairman, Retired Brigadier David Granger

Opposition Leader and APNU Chairman, Retired Brigadier David Granger

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.

Social programme

APNU Executive Member and Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge

APNU Executive Member and Shadow
Finance Minister Carl Greenidge

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.


2014 Budget should be judged based on merit – Dr Singh

- “Opposition members were invited for consultations”

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh

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.

Stony silence

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”.


PPP/C could win majority if Jagdeo heads elections slate

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

Former President
Bharrat Jagdeo

- Opposition poll finds

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo would be the most formidable candidate that the Opposition parties, A Party for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC), could face in any upcoming general elections.

This was revealed in a poll conducted by the combined Opposition earlier this month, according to highly placed sources in the party.

Evidently worried that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) would call snap elections in the trail of their controversial stance on a host of issues, the combined Opposition rushed through their polling exercise even as their leaders fanned out on outreaches in PPP/C strongholds.

At the memorial service for PPP’s founder Dr Cheddi Jagan at Babu John, in Berbice around the same time, General Secretary of the PPP/C Clement Rohee had suggested that the elections route might be the only way to break the present “political logjam”. President Donald Ramotar had also alluded to this possibility.

President Donald Ramotar

President Donald Ramotar

The Opposition parties have been taking identical positions on issues such as cutting the budget, even though the courts have ruled this is illegal, voting against the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT) Amendment Bill, and closing down the sugar industries (on which they later tried to backtrack).

On the other hand, they have been pushing for Local Government Elections. Their poll confirms their suspicions that they would fare very badly at General Elections if they were held now, and they would perform marginally better at Local Government Elections.

Showing broadly similar results to the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll conducted several weeks before theirs, and which they attempted to discredit, the combined Opposition poll showed that in head-to-head contests, the PPP/C would obtain an absolute majority of 51 per cent if Jagdeo were to head the party’s ticket.

PNCR Leader David Granger

PNCR Leader David Granger

If Ramotar were the candidate, the PPP/C would still emerge victorious in securing the Presidency/Executive with 45 per cent of the votes. In the first instance, APNU would secure 37 per cent of the votes and the AFC four per cent, while in the second; their support would rise marginally to 38 per cent and AFC, to five per cent.

In both instances, APNU’s presidential candidate identified on the poll was present Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), David Granger. The opposition source that provided Guyana Times International with the polling data, said that the Granger faction of the PNCR absolutely refused to place Carl Greenidge as a possible candidate.

The two have been locked in a bitter battle for the control of the PNCR. In Local Government Elections, the combined Opposition poll shows that they would perform much more credibly.

One political analyst, who was contacted to scrutinise the data, said that the Jagdeo factor would appear to pull more of the PPP/C’s traditional voters out from their apathy, which was exhibited at the last elections, in any new elections. It is also possible that the Opposition’s quibbling at the arrangements to treat the former President’s recent illness backfired by stimulating some “sympathy” votes.

PNCR Member Carl Greenidge

PNCR Member Carl Greenidge

The analyst speculated that the Opposition might have floated the name of Jagdeo as a candidate, even though he has indicated he would not be seeking a third term, to discern whether the support for a Ramotar candidacy was “soft”. The results show that this was not significantly so.

In light of their findings, the analyst predicted that the Opposition will continue to push for Local Government Elections. Those findings by the combined Opposition poll, concluded the analyst, exposed the baseness of the orchestrated campaign by the Opposition parties and their operatives in the media to vilify Jagdeo and to deny the sterling role he played in returning economic stability and security for citizens in Guyana.

Missing Guyanese granny found dead in NY cemetery

Shirley Caesar

Shirley Caesar

The lifeless body of 62-year-old Guyanese Shirley Caesar was found on Wednesday afternoon in a New York cemetery, exactly one week after she was reported missing.

The elderly woman who has been living in Brooklyn, New York for the past 10 years was last seen alive when she left her Brooklyn apartment last Wednesday to visit a commercial bank in Queens, New York and a tax office to file her taxes. When she did not return home on the same day and could not be contacted, her brother and other relatives became worried and alerted law enforcement authorities.

Caesar lived in New York with her young son and a brother. Her other four children live in Guyana. Relatives were given the news of the woman’s death early on Wednesday evening. A post-mortem examination is expected to be conducted on Thursday to assist the investigators with her cause of death.

Relatives say that police investigators believe that the woman may have been robbed and murdered and her body dumped in the cemetery. Investigators are expected to probe surveillance video at the bank she left home to visit to ascertain whether she ever made it to the bank.

Family members say that they knew something was wrong when the woman did not return home last Wednesday. They said it was never like her to stay out of the house and to miss a church service on a Sunday morning.

Guyana’s land offer to help push regional food security still on – Ramotar

President Donald Ramotar speaking at a press conference after the 25th CARICOM Heads Inter-sessional meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines

President Donald Ramotar speaking at a press conference after the 25th CARICOM Heads Inter-sessional meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines

Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar has maintained that the country’s position in the call for political, entrepreneurial, and popular will to achieve food security in the Caribbean Region still stands.

This was made clear by the President during the closing press conference after the 25th CARICOM Heads Inter-Sessional Meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines in which Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of the host country, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves; Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart and Secretary General of CARICOM Ambassador Irwin LaRocque participated.

Guyana has been described as the potential food basket of the Caribbean, and former President Bharrat Jagdeo who held responsibility for regional agriculture had made an open offer to all CARICOM countries to take advantage of Guyana’s bountiful agricultural resources. Agriculture remains one of the pillars of development in Guyana and the country has about 3.3 million hectares of available agricultural lands. About 500,000 hectares is being used for rice, sugar and cash crop cultivation.

President Ramotar stated that, “the offer is still on the table.” He described the new Santa Fe project in Region Nine as a large investment by Barbados, in which rice is being planted on a large scale. He added also that the Trinidad and Tobago Government has been showing more and more interest in that regard and indicating that they will take up the offer in order to go into agricultural products.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two countries whereby land will be made available to investors and farmers for agriculture development

The Head of State also outlined Guyana’s plans for looking at new investments for big crops in the southern part of the country, and for building new schemes.

Gov’t welcomes CARICOM Statement on Anti-money Laundering Legislation

In a recent press release, the Government of Guyana says it welcomes the statement made by CARICOM Heads of Government following their recent meeting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation before the Parliament. In the Statement, the regional body stressed the negative impact which the failure by Guyana to enact the Bill would have on its national economy and the consequential implications for the wider region.

The CARICOM statement recognises the grave perils that loom before Guyana and the Caribbean should the CFATF recommendations not be enacted and should Guyana find itself blacklisted as a consequence. In doing so, the statement has vindicated the concerns expressed by the Government of Guyana over the past year, and the call by Government and by the multitude of other national stakeholders for the National Assembly to proceed with passage of the Bill submitted by Government in response to the CFATF recommendations.

The release added; “The call by CARICOM for enactment of the legislation is a welcome one.  It is the hope of the Government of Guyana therefore that the Opposition Parliamentary Parties will heed the call of our regional partners and allow Guyana to proceed with the Bill with the required urgency, and not procrastinate any further thereby placing the country and the Region in jeopardy”.