September 3, 2015

Indo-Guyanese fearful of discrimination

– in wake of Govt’s dismissal of former GPL CEO Bharat Dindyal

By Kristen Macklingam

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran

In light of the A Partnership For National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government’s decision in relieving Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Bharat Dindyal, of his duties without proper notice or dialogue, concerns continue to grow as to whether this was truly a political move or an act of ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran, in his blog, “The Conversation Tree” on Saturday, stated that the manner of the dismissal of Dindyal, who is one of the best and most dedicated managers in the State system, will send “shivers down the spines” of the ethnically sensitive.

“In justifying his (Dindyal’s) dismissal, a not-too-subtle attempt was made to portray his continued employment without a written contract, even though he was continuing on the job only until a replacement could be found, as some sort of sinister plot. The incidents that led to the dismissal were reported … [another section of the media] (Friday). If the report is true, then Dindyal resisted gross and continued insubordination from his Deputy, which was supported by the Minister,” said Ramkarran.

He went on to say that the display of rage by Dindyal was not “what did him in”. “His dismissal was prompted by his resistance to the insubordination and the exposure of the political involvement. He has stood up and resisted in times past in different circumstances. This political culture in much of the Third World that infects our political system as well, embraces the type of gross political interference and insubordination which Dindyal perceived and which he protested,” the former Speaker of the House explained.

He emphasised that political interference crushed all those in its path who attempted to resist. Dindyal was notified on Friday that his engagement with GPL was concluded with effect on the said day at 16:00h.

“Dindyal is the first known victim since the elections and will not be the last unless the Government breaks with this culture. The Government should have no doubt in its mind that these acts will all add up to the growing perception by the Indian Guyanese community that discrimination against them will become a part of their lot under the APNU+AFC coalition. The Government must understand that the rise of such sentiments is not determined by constructive examination of facts and rational conclusions arising there from,” Ramkarran posited.

He added that the rise of these sentiments emerged from perceptions rooted in historical circumstances that were given expression by Guyana’s two-party system which drove and sustained the perceptions.

Growing perception

“I do not accept that there is such discrimination, but the growing perception is a negative phenomenon so early in the life of Government. It should not be dismissed, because once such perception takes hold, they are very difficult to overcome. Guyana’s politics are organised for the expression of ethnic sentiments and are driven by ethnic considerations,” Ramkarran noted.

He made reference to the period 1957-1964 when the PPP Government(s) were accused of racism, being a ‘rice’ government and the PNCR era of the 1970s and 1980s when the PNCR Governments were accused of “racial and political discrimination”.

According to Ramkarran’s blog, with the advent of the APNU/AFC Government, many Indian Guyanese have become fearful of discrimination and, in particular, fearful of the loss of promotions or job opportunities, loss of access which is vital for overcoming bureaucratic inertia or manoeuvring around ‘bottlenecks’ in the conduct of business.

“The fear is being generated by the reality of Indians losing their jobs, notwithstanding that most of those are political appointments and are expected to resign upon a change of government or are public servants who have elected to climb a political platform. While on the ground there is little substance to any charge of discrimination, there have been worrying developments. The negative phenomenon was given impetus when Clairmont Lye and Andaiye, two of the most powerful and respected voices in civil society, who do not go to press lightly, raised the issue by protesting in letters to … [another section of the media] the ethnically unbalanced and the gender deficient state boards which had been announced,” he further stated.

However, to Government’s credit, it swiftly recognised the complaint and undertook to review the appointments.

2015 Budget offers “a fresh approach to a healthy life”

BY KRISTEN MACKLINGAM

Junior Health Minister Dr Karen Cummings

Junior Health Minister Dr Karen Cummings

Junior Health Minister, Dr Karen Cummings, during her budget debate speech on Monday stated that the 2015 National Budget proffers a ‘fresh approach’ for a healthy life for all Guyanese, with the aim of having a ‘green economy’ irrespective of their political affiliation.

However, seconds after this statement, members of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) shouted out “Bharat Dindyal” who was functioning as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) until the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government relieved him of his duties quite recently. His dismissal, which was reportedly executed in an ‘unacceptable’ manner by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, has raised many concerns among citizens, as the perception of discrimination by this Government continues to spread nationwide.

Ignoring the Opposition, as she continued her speech, Dr Cummings explained that her Government inherited a ‘plethora of problems’ from the former Administration, with regards to the health system in Guyana.

She quoted a recent report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which was published in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper which stated that Guyana has the highest suicide rate in the world.

Dr Cummings posited that the APNU/AFC Government intends to frontally approach the scourge of suicide in Guyana, as well as implement and execute targeted programmes, aimed at significantly reducing the suicide rate and eradicating the scourge.

“The 2015 Budget matches the priorities of the nation and in particular the health sector. It paves the way for a safe, cost-effective and comprehensive health care… some priorities include increasing education on how to prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible and eliminate stigma,” she said.

It was further stated that according to the Commonwealth Health online, the most common mental illness in Guyana is schizophrenia, adding that much work is needed to treat all types of mental illnesses.

“She further said that work will be done on upgrading waiting homes in Lethem and Bartica, which are soon to be made official ‘Towns’ and that the budget caters for Gy$131 million for the Maternity Unit at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Fifty beds are expected to be added to this Unit, as well as the purchasing of state-of-the-art equipment for the maternity and child care sections of the Georgetown Public Hospital.

According to Minister Cummings, primary healthcare will remain the fundamental strategic approach to realising the health agenda and the ‘over-arching’ approach to healthcare provision in Guyana.

Meanwhile, Dr Vishwa Mahadeo, Member of Parliament for the Opposition, commended the Junior Health Minister on the plans for improvement her Government would be undertaking, stating that “nearly everything said fell under the Vision 2020.”

The Vision 2020 for health was a PPP/C Government initiative.

“The budget should have been better given the state of the country in 2014 going to 2015… Let us build Guyana and we will not do this by destroying what’s working and getting rid of the experienced and qualified personnel just because the PPP employed them,” Dr Mahadeo emphasised.

He argued that while this Government is maintaining that much focus will be placed on the health sector in Guyana, it is the said Government which has prevented the construction of health centres at Mara, located in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne); Providence, East Bank Demerara; the half way home for psychiatric patients and the doctors quarters in New Amsterdam, Berbice.

“We have come a far way from days when just a couple of medications were available at Government pharmacies; we used to recycle things such as needles, gloves, syringes. While we have not reached and have a far way to go, we can only achieve improvement by building on what we have, utilising resources and experiences available. We need to put the country and health of the nation above parties and politics,” Dr Mahadeo noted.

Calls mount for No-confidence Motion against Ramjattan

…over rising crime wave

By Devina Samaroo

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan

Public Security Minister
Khemraj Ramjattan

With the crime situation spiralling out of control, calls are being mounted for the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Opposition to declare a No-Confidence Motion against Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, given his evident inability to get a grip on the crime situation in the country.

In fact, newly-appointed PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP) Cornel Damon declared in the National Assembly on Wednesday that Ramjattan needed to go since the Ministry was failing miserably to reduce or even stabilise the soaring crime rate.

“The Honourable Member has no plan to fight the surge of crime and the senseless killings of our businessmen and women and so the Honourable Minister Ramjattan must go,” Damon exclaimed.

The politician pointed out that in the 10th Parliament, it was Ramjattan who engineered calls for then Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee to go when the crime rate was 40 per cent lower than it is today.

Former President Donald Ramotar, during an interview with the Guyana Times International, also contended that the Ministry has not performed at all in the area of crime fighting, noting that the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) has yet again failed the Guyanese people.

“When they were in Opposition they claim to know everything, but they are clearly not grappling with the problem that has been created,” Ramotar stated.

He asserted that the coalition Government was to be blamed for the current situation because when it was in Opposition, it established a record of defending criminals and now that it was in Executive Office, the individuals now feel more empowered to commit felonies.

“It might be too early but what I would say is that the whole Government seems to be completely at sea, they are not handling the economy or the crime situation, they are not handling anything with any level of competence,” Ramotar asserted.

Private Sector concerned

Also, the Private Sector already expressed its concern over the crime situation and Government’s apparent lack of vigour in dealing with the matter.

Chairman of the Berbice Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCCI), Rajnauth Ramroop noted that Government seemed to be taking the situation lightly. “My assessment of their performance, I would want to say, it is not to par; the public is expecting much more… The escalation of the crime at recent has brought a lot of concern. Of course it was there all the time, but it has escalated as of lately…it’s not something that the public could tolerate,” the business expert said.

Owing to the current crime rate, many businesses are experiencing hardship. “Because of these concerns, a lot of businesses are contemplating migration. Consumers are not coming out to shop because there is a fear. Businessmen are hesitant to stock up. For that matter, I am a businessman myself and I have not travelled for the year to procure goods because the traffic is not there as it used to be, so why stock when you don’t have people coming in to buy?” he explained, contending that the Government needed to do much more.

The first call for a No-Confidence Motion was made by Associate Professor of Political Science at Nassau Community College, Dr Baytoram Ramharack, in his latest column in the Guyana Times.

Dr Ramharack said the crime situation in Guyana, particularly in Berbice, has risen to unacceptable heights and believed that a change in management of the security sector may see a change for the better.

On Friday last, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) disclosed that serious crimes erupted by a startling 10 per cent by the end of July 2015 in comparison to the same period in 2014.

Among the “serious crimes” listed by the Force are murder, robbery under arms, robbery with violence, robbery with aggravation, larceny from the person, break and enter and larceny, burglary, rape, and kidnapping.

The Force stated that a total of 94 murders were recorded at the end of July 2015 in comparison to 80 at the end of July 2014, which saw an increase of 18 per cent.  Four more murders were recorded up to August 13 taking the toll to 98 for the year thus far.

Trump’s anti-immigrant policy not good for Guyanese in the U.S.

By Vishnu Bisram

Republican Candidate, Donald Trump

Republican Candidate, Donald Trump

Republican candidate, Donald Trump is seeking his colleagues support for the party’s nomination for the 2016 Presidential election. But many Guyanese living in the US believe that Trump’s anti-immigration stance, a reversal of a few months ago, is not good for Guyanese Americans and/or other immigrants.

Trump has stated his preference for deporting all illegal immigrants in the US (over 11 million) and to restrict citizenship to legal immigrants as well as to babies born in the US to illegal immigrants.

It must be noted that all of Trump’s past wives and current wife are immigrants; yet he takes an anti-immigrant posture — a display of hypocrisy. Only a few months ago, he was pro-immigrant employing many and praising the contributions of immigrants to America’s development. He had favoured a liberal immigration policy to bring in skilled immigrants.

An anti-immigrant theme is resonating well with Republican primary election voters and Trump has been advised to run with it. Coincidentally, Frank Lutz, pollster and political analyst for the AFC for the 2006 elections, is Trump’s main advisor and pollster – the man behind the anti-immigrant theme that is playing so well with voters.

There are sixteen candidates seeking the Republican nomination, with Trump playing on the anti-immigrant theme. Trump attacks on Mexicans and Mexican immigrants also played well with voters. He began to expand his anti-immigrant theme attacking other immigrants (other nationalities) as well. However, he favours immigration of skilled people, like engineers, doctors, and computer specialists, though not to grant them citizenship.

Trump is also now advocating a denial of citizenship to babies of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally as part of an immigration plan that emphasises border security and deportation of illegals.

In an interview on national TV, he said as President he would push to end the constitutionally protected citizenship rights of children of any family living illegally inside the U.S.

Native-born children of immigrants, even those living illegally in the U.S., have been automatically considered American citizens since the adoption of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1868.

The odds of repealing the amendment’s citizenship clause would be almost impossible. The other Republican candidates do not support such a drastic anti-immigrant step. An amendment requires the votes of two-thirds of both Houses of Congress and support from three-fourths of the nation’s state legislatures. There are three other similar possibilities to amend the constitution and all are difficult to achieve.

Republicans in Congress have pushed without success to repeal the citizenship provision since 2011. Some conservative Republicans believe the citizenship provision could be changed without amending the Constitution. It is doubtful the court would agree with such an interpretation of the constitution.

Nevertheless, many feel that Trump is bad news for immigrants, and Guyanese and other immigrant Americans should consider becoming involved and supporting mainstream candidates who would advocate their interests.

Budget 2015: APNU/AFC Govt “duped” Guyana – Jagdeo

BY ALEXIS RODNEY

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo

Amid his claim that the 2015 National Budget is a copycat of the initiatives of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), former President Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday said that the new Government has deceived the Guyanese populace.

A day after the National Budget was presented in the National Assembly, the former President and soon to be Opposition Leader told a media conference that the new Administration’s plans as projected in the Gy$221 billion budget has not really addressed the real issues affecting Guyanese.

He spoke particularly of the proposed increase in salaries for public servants, which he said is nothing spectacular, and is less in comparison to what his Party, while in power, had been offering.

Jagdeo said what bothers him significantly is the timeline for payment given by Government. Finance Minister Winston Jordan had announced that effective July 1, 2015, all other public servants will receive a five per cent salary increase plus an additional Gy$5000 monthly. This, according to Jordon, will allow for a greater increase in the lower income brackets.

For example, a worker currently earning Gy$50,000 will have a monthly increase of Gy$7500, or 15 per cent; a person currently receiving a salary of Gy$100,000 would get a 10 per cent increase. Jordan said since the bulk of the public servants earns Gy$100,000 and below, these are substantial increases, more than was promised to these categories of workers. These increases are payable to workers who were employed on or before January 1, 2015.

But Jagdeo maintained that Guyanese were “duped.” “It’s only effective for six months in the year… So if you look at the 15 per cent ostensibly, people who were making Gy$50,000 are effectively getting 7.5 per cent for the year and if you look at those at Gy$100,000, they are getting five per cent for the year. If you look at the Gy$500,000, they are getting three per cent. These are even lower than what the PPP/C gave in the past. So Jordan has played a three card trick on the people”.

The Former President spoke also to the rationale behind the removal of the Gy$10,000 ‘Because We Care’ cash grant and the decision to bump up the school Uniform Voucher by a mere Gy$500. He said if that Gy$10,000 was multiplied by the 167,000 school children, it would have cost Government some Gy$1.67 billion. “So what they have done is that they have given Gy$337 million by increasing the uniform allowance and have taken back Gy$1.3 billion from the students” Jagdeo said, while he applauded the increase in pension to the over 47,000 senior citizens.

The former Head of State said he was still unclear on whether Government  was going to continue the utility subsidy for pensioners.  He said if Government goes the route of taking back the initiative which started under his Administration, he however could not see how that Gy$4000 increase in their monthly pension would be able to assist them in the payment of their water and electricity bills. According to him, the move will put the 62 per cent who benefit from water in a very “worst off position”.

Added to that, he questioned the Government’s rationale behind the tax exemptions which he said were being done in lieu of the reduction in rates of the Value Added Tax which were promised. Most of the items selected to be zero rated, Jagdeo said, were already not attracting tax. He said too that while he supported the move to offer duty-free concessions to the security sector, that does not provide a stimulant package, neither does it offer any solution to the existing issues, like the cost of living.

Jagdeo said that Jordan’s announcement that Government has some Gy$97 billion to spend for the four remaining months of the year would mean that it would have to spend at least Gy$800 million per day. He said “we will be watching for their procurement practice. Because one thing he did not say, when we left office that there was no procurement law”.

Further, he said the Party will be fiercely debating every issue raised in the budget presentation including the elections, corruption and the budget itself, which he said will give his Party latitude. He said that while the debate is generally based in economics, anything the Minister says during his presentation is up for debate.

Minister Jordan on Monday presented a whopping Gy$221 billion budget for 2015 as the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Chance Government seeks to fulfil its 20/20 vision for the development of Guyana and its people.

This sum is in comparison to the Gy$220 billion budget for the entire year of 2014.

During the coalition’s inaugural budget presentation before the National Assembly, Minister Jordan stated that the 2015 Budget will see a citizenry that is better educated, healthier, financially and physically secure, socially cohesive, and environmentally responsible.

The Finance Minister added that the vision will be realised against a backdrop of inclusionary democracy, enhanced accountability and performance improvement and macroeconomic stability.

NY-based eight-year-old girl launches book at National Library in Georgetown

Anaya Willabus presents an autographed book to a fan in the presence of other children and Education Minister Rupert Roopnaraine

Anaya Willabus presents an autographed book to a fan in the presence of other children and Education Minister Rupert Roopnaraine

An eight-year-old girl Anaya Lee Willabus on Wednesday launched her book, “The Day Mohan Found His Confidence”, at the National Library’s Conference Room in the presence of Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes and Education Minister Rupert Roopnaraine.

Willabus, who was previously recognised by the New York State Assembly Chambers as the area’s youngest published author, was inspired by her vacation in Guyana to write the book. Her book tells the story of a young boy named Mohan and the many difficulties he experiences at home and at school.

The aspiring teacher was born in Brooklyn, New York to Guyanese parents Dimple and Winston Willabus who hail from Georgetown.

On June 9, 2015, the young writer was recognised by Guyanese-born New York State Assemblywoman Roxanne Persaud, and received a proclamation recognising her work.  Willabus has been invited to over 10 different events locally and internationally for book signings and a bigger initiative, which is to promote reading and giving back. She hosted her first book signing event at the Bergen Beach Youth Organisation in Brooklyn, New York.

The eloquent young woman, in her address to the gathering, thanked everyone for the support that she has received in her journey as an author. She emphasised that focus needed to be paid to the development of literacy. “I stand before you not only to promote my book, but a greater initiative…reading and giving back. It’s important to read since reading helps in your comprehension skills and opens doors beyond your imagination,” she stressed while addressing the large gathering of children who were present at the activity. She applauded the Education Minister for “sharing her vision to promote reading”.

Minister Hughes, in her address, commended young Willabus on her achievement while encouraging other youths to utilise their ‘gifts’ of independence of thought , integrity, respect and discipline. “You must be the change you wish to see in Guyana,” she stated while urging young people to develop their ability to choose wisely while shaping their destiny. “Never doubt your ability as a young person to start to change the world…..never doubt your ability to change Guyana,” she implored in closing.

Minister Roopnaraine, in his address to the audience, spoke of the importance of literacy as well as the need for improvements in the education system in Guyana. He has launched a Commission of Inquiry into the education system in the country. He stated that there was still much to be done and as such, he urged all stakeholders involved to be fully cooperative in the process.

He also revealed that he would be making music and sports mandatory subjects in school as he believed that they play a vital part in the development of rounded individuals. He iterated that parents play a vital part in setting the foundation of their children’s education and as such they should pay keen attention in ensuring that their children read and read often.

‘Hindu School’ produces Guyana’s top CXC students

…Top student gains 20 Grade Ones

Victoria Najab of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) school is Guyana's top CXC student with 20 Grade Ones.

Victoria Najab of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) school is Guyana’s top CXC student with 20 Grade Ones.

The Ministry of Education in Guyana has released the results of the 2015 Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) which show the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN), a private school at Cornelia Ida, in Region Three, copping the four top spots and Queens College dominating the CAPE performances.

SVN had more than 10 students in the preliminary results with Victoria Najab [Top Student] receiving 20 grade ones, Vamanad Hiralall with 19 grade ones and one grade two. Two other students of the school also scored 13 grade ones and these were; Parmeshrie Ramprasad and Nashani Nandalal.

Aaliyah Rasheed of Anna Regina Secondary scored 19 Grade Ones. Joshanna Hopksinson and Ashley Anthony of Queen’s College scored 18 and 17 Grade ones, respectively.

Meanwhile, Cecil Cox of Queens College scored six Grade Ones and one Grade Three at CAPE, while Larissa Whiltshire also of Queens College scored 6 Grade ones.

Sandra Woodroffe, also of Queens College, scored 6 Grade Ones, while Shonta Noel of St Roses scored six Grade ones and one Grade Two, both at CAPE.

Vamanad Hiralall, also of SVN, is the second best performer, with 19 Grade Ones and a Grade Two.

Vamanad Hiralall, also of SVN, is the second best performer, with 19 Grade Ones and a Grade Two.

Full analysis of individual candidates’ performances is not yet available. However, we have decided to publish a list of candidates who have secured Grade Ones passes in eight or more subjects from the Caribbean Examinations Council.

In response to our request for the list of persons who have secured Grade One passes in eight or more subjects, we received a list of one hundred and seventy two (172) candidates.

Of these forty seven (47) candidates secured eleven (11) Grades Ones or more, these candidates are listed below:

Ingrid Griffith – US-based Guyanese writer and actor

By Jihan Ramroop

Ingrid Griffith

Ingrid Griffith

Ingrid Griffith, the writer and performer of “Demerara Gold” sat down with the Guyana Times International to talk about what inspires her, moves her, and drives her one-woman show.

1. What made you want to write Demerara Gold?

Caribbeans in America are very much a fabric of this society yet our stories and experiences are still pretty isolated and not fully told. There are books authored by Caribbean writers about the Caribbean experience but we don’t see movies or Plays about our experience. I played Ruth Younger in a college production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” Lorraine Hansberry’s Play about an African-American family in America, and I remember then telling myself that I should write a Play about an African-Caribbean family’s experience in America. There are other versions of the black experience in America that should be presented and be more accessible to everyone… yet our stories are not presented in the mainstream.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about the show?

DEMERARA GOLD is a one-woman show I’ve written and have been performing for the past year. It’s a coming-of-age story of a Caribbean girl whose parents get visas to go to America. The spirited 7-year old girl is left behind in Guyana to survive in her two grandmothers’ worlds. One is a recluse, the other is a religious fanatic.

Years feel like eternity and one day the growing girl taps into her wild spirit and breaks away from tradition for all to see. Soon after, the all- important visa finally arrives for her to join her parents. But in America the girl’s parents are not the people she remembers and life there is not what it was like in her dreams. It’s then and there that she realizes her battle has just begun!

3. When did you know you really wanted to do this show, and why?

I remember when I saw Anna Deavere Smith’s latest one-woman show, “Let Me Down Easy,” I was like, ‘OK Ingrid, time to jump in!’ I think after her first one-woman show, “Fires in the Mirror,” the solo-performance genre started to take off. It’s a genre that works well for me and my show. I get to show my acting range and because the set for DEMERARA GOLD is minimal — me and a chair — I can take it everywhere, and that’s exactly what I want to do.

4.When did you realize you loved to act?

It was in an acting group and I was doing a monologue. I was playing a character that was totally different from me. There was something about the character that needed to be fully drawn and raw. So, I was up there and probably for the first time wasn’t censoring or second-guessing myself. I was fully in the moment…I made specific choices and I went with them. That evening I connected to something different. It felt honest and magical.

5.What was one of the most important lessons you’ve learned so far?

The lessons I’m learning right now as I continue to perform and find audiences for DEMERARA GOLD are that I have to put the time in; there are no shortcuts; have a plan as how to move from a – f – z; have a team I can rely on, but be ready to wear all hats if need be; and keep listening to my heart!

6.If you could have any superpower, it would be…

To live for a very, very, very long time; to change but not age. I like the idea of having the ability to rejuvenate and re-appear stronger, brighter, wiser. Like a tree when the leaves are gone in the fall, then months later, they appear and the tree is vibrant and more alive.

7.Where’s the best place you’ve ever performed?

Linden, the second largest city in Guyana. It’s 64 miles outside of Georgetown, the capital, where I grew up. I had cousins who lived on a farm in Linden. I remember visiting them when I was a kid. I remember there were no street lights, the streets were unpaved… it’s still that way in some areas in Linden. Last January, I was there to perform DEMERARA GOLD for the McKenzie High School students. The space was indoors but it felt like I was outdoors. There were many doors and windows and they were wide open. The sun was shining in and it was hot! It felt pure. I thought of the Greek Theater.

8.What’s a regular day like for you?

Well, it varies. These days I get up at 5:30 a.m.. If I’m not working with clients (I am a freelance fitness trainer) from 6:30 a.m.-11 a.m., I’m writing. By late morning I’ll stop and do some reading, meditating or listen to the radio… or a little of all three. I’ll then go running or do some other kind of exercise for about an hour and a half or so. I like working out! Then I come home, shower, eat and take a nap (it’s nice to take a nap in the afternoons). If it weren’t summer, I’d be teaching in the afternoons (I’m also an adjunct professor).

By mid afternoon, I’m up answering emails, making calls, reaching out to people about the show and running errands. In the evening I meet up with my significant other for dinner or to go to a movie or a Play. Or, to go wandering or biking in the park. I turn in fairly early… by 10-11 p.m., I’m in bed. Of course, when I’m performing DEMERARA GOLD, my day is focused mainly on my work as the actor. I usually workout, meditate, get to the space early for a run through and prepare some more.

9. What advice would you give to people who are aspiring to be actors?

Study and work on your craft. I really believe in doing the work and having a strong acting foundation. Acting is a difficult business to break into and maintain. It’s very hard to

keep going when no one is hiring you to act. It’s very hard to get an acting job and another and another. So, get involved with an acting group(s) that meets regularly. Find a way to keep acting. Work on different characters, stretch yourself… so when you get that call, you’ll be ready.

10. What advice would you give to people who are aspiring to be writers?

The thing about writing is that it takes time and space. Writing is about rewriting what you’ve already rewritten (someone else said that, not me). And it’s absolutely true. Get into a

routine… write everyday, find a time of the day that works for you. Everything you write doesn’t have to be perfect or isn’t final. You don’t have to necessarily know where you’re going.

Control your expectations. Like acting, your job is to keep doing it… and enjoy the process. And yes, it feels much better when you’ve found inspiration. But if there’s none to be found, press on.

The next performance of “Demerara Gold” will be on Sunday, August 16 at 6 p.m., in the Tremont Terrace Moravian Church on 1621 Pilgrim Avenue in the Bronx. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at DemGoldAug16.eventbrite.com. For more information about the show, please visit demeraragoldtheshow.com.

Govt to increase travelling “per diem” allowances for officials

By Michael Younge

Government is currently taking steps to increase the per diem and other benefits for its officials, Ministers and other members of the administration by an average of some 60 per cent whenever decisions are made to travel abroad for state business.

Sources close to the Finance Ministry on Wednesday told this newspaper that after becoming dissatisfied with what was offered by the State under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) as allowances for travel aboard, the new Government decided to make changes that would see its members experiencing higher levels of comfort while on official state business at the expense of the public coffers.

This newspaper was informed that Finance Minister Winston Jordan is actively considering a proposal to increase the per diem offered to Ministers, political advisers and other state officials after the tabling of the 2015 National Budget. These increases in per diem allowances for overseas spending are in addition to the massive salary increases that the Government has already conceded are under “consideration”.

This newspaper also learnt on Wednesday that Minister Jordan was also considering putting in place a US$3000 “contingency allowance” for Government Ministers and Advisers. This amount would be spent at the discretion of the official who would determine what the “contingency” was. Under the PPP/C, there was no such allowance and the only monies made available to the Government Ministers were the US$25 out-of-pocket allowance at the expense of the treasury.

Ever since the change of administration, several officials, including President David Granger, have gone on numerous trips abroad under the rubric of doing “State business” without sometimes properly informing the public and other stakeholders.

Also, Ministers have been claiming that the trips that they have embarked on to attend political party meetings have been sponsored in full by the private individuals without disclosing the identity or quantum of the funds received.

Government has also denied funding these trips abroad from State funds unless it is for official State business.

Currently, Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes and State Minister Joseph Harmon are abroad and have been participating in what have been considered political meetings in the US.

Governance Minister Raphael Trotman, speaking at this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, confirmed that the trip of the two Ministers were sponsored in part by Government but failed to say who else contributed.

When contacted, former Junior Finance Minister Bishop Juan Edghill expressed shock at the development explaining that under the past Government no attempt was made to increase the per diem allowance and other allowances significantly.

Pressure mounts over massive pay hike for Ministers/ VPs

– but govt maintains increases will not be implemented  “at this time”

By Devina Samaroo

 Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman

Amid widespread public outrage over the proposed pay hike for Government Ministers and other officials, Government on Wednesday stonewalled questions from the media about the particulars of the pay hike and while insisting that there would be no drastic or 100 per cent increase, Government refused to offer specific alternative numbers.

Government also remains mum on how soon this increase will be implemented; indicating only that it will not take place “at this present time”.

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman, speaking during a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday, noted that it was imperative that Government establish a concrete pay grade system which can differentiate the different levels of authority in Government. He ignored the possibility that a salary differential could have been achieved by moving the scales downward, in view of the stagnant economy. The expenditures could also see the various Government officials getting an attractive increase in the per diem for travel and contingencies.

“Government is of the view that there has to be differentiation between Vice Presidents, Minister and what we have termed Senior Ministers and Junior Ministers. None of these were catered for between the last 20 years. As a matter of law, there will have to be adjustments,” said Trotman, who was once the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Trotman explained that Professor Harold Lutchman, who was selected to be the Representative of the List of Candidates for the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition, is now in charge of reviewing the pay structure for all public servants and this process will also capture the pay rate differentiation Government intends to establish among the high-level officials.

This entire process, Trotman anticipates, will conclude in a “few months”. “He is reviewing everything, salaries of parliamentarians, regional Councillors and salaries to public servants,” the Minister emphasised.

Last week, this newspaper broke the story that Government is actively considering a pay hike for Cabinet members and parliamentarians after only occupying Executive officer for some three months.  This revelation sparked a resounding outcry from the public.

The increase in being considered at a time when Government fired hundreds of public servants, putting them on the breadline, on the basis that it cannot afford to waste taxpayers’ monies on employees who are not doing anything of substance.

Some of those “callously” fired include 2000 Community Service Officers (CSOs) who assisted Amerindian Village Councils in its daily activities and over 50 staff who were employed under the One Laptop Per Family Project (OLFP).

Making matters worse, Government had quashed the ‘Because We Care’ Gy$10,000 cash grant initiative which benefited children in Guyana and was gladly accepted, particularly by the poorer sections of society.

Various leaders have argued that it appears as if the APNU/AFC Administration is taking money out of the hands of the ordinary people to “full their own pockets”.