June 25, 2017

Not pleased with Fly Jamaica’s flight from Canada to Guyana

Dear Editor,

Against my knowledge of the reliability of the tried and tested Caribbean Airlines, and tempted by the prospect of enjoying non-stop flight, I utilised the services of Fly Jamaica on a one-week return trip to Canada. It proved to be a terrible decision!

As I am typing this letter, I am stuck in Canada, because Fly Jamaica cancelled its flight (OJ 257) to Guyana scheduled for 26th May. Several phone calls to a toll-free number in Georgetown and to Fly Jamaica Customer Service Office in Canada, and constant on-line checks regarding the status of OJ 257 from Canada to Guyana, have provided conflicting information as to the departure time(s) of Fly Jamaica flight.

I went to Pearson Airport twice on the advice of the FLY Jamaica personnel at toll-free 1-855-933-5952. I gave Fly Jamaica personnel my phone # in Canada. As at the time of writing this letter, I have not received any call from Fly Jamaica, nor is there any information regarding how Fly Jamaica will get me back to Guyana.

I am in the process of trying to get on to a Caribbean Airlines flight, which may cost me in excess of US$1,300.

Editor, this is not the end of my interaction with Fly Jamaica; legal action will be my next move. And I hope that other frustrated passengers of Fly Jamaica will join me in litigating for just compensation for our inconvenience and loss.

 

Thanking you.

Taajnauth

Jadunauth

 

GAWU desirous of win-win situation for sugar

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) refers to Mr Eric Phillips’s letter: “All voices of reason must step forward on GuySuCo”, which appeared in the May 29, 2017 issue of Stabroek News.

We must admit that we agree with Mr Phillips when he says GuySuCo and the sugar industry requires a win-win situation. In such circumstances, we see the industry/company being viable and sustainable, while at the same time the full complement of estates remain operable, and the masses who toil in the fields and factory being fairly rewarded and treated for their efforts and labours — for their motivation and productivity.

It is against such a background that our Union, and moreso the thousands of people linked to the sugar industry, cannot be supportive of the current plans being advocated. Through those plans, thousands and thousands stand to be gravely affected and pushed closer to impoverishment, or simply become poverty-stricken. In view of the obvious hardships that would greet the people, their resistance and opposition are natural, and should not be unexpected. Any sane, rational being would react in the same manner. Moreover, we believe this is not a situation that Mr Phillips and all right-thinking Guyanese would want for our people.

Mr Phillps also points to the Government’s support to the sugar industry. We posit, however, that the contemporary support cannot be disconnected from the support — financial and otherwise — that the industry in the past and present has and is contributing to Guyana and its people. So far, there has not been any mention of those contributions in the discussions on sugar.

Nevertheless, our Union accepts that the Government cannot support the sugar industry ad infinitum. We also must once again express our concern that, despite the substantial investment into sugar over the last two (2) years, the industry seems to be floundering and there seems to be no plausible explanation for the current state of affairs.

But in recognition of the Government’s financial constraints, we have advanced to the Administration our suggestions, which we hold will see the industry returning to a viable and sustainable footing, though we note State-support would be required for a period. Indeed, such support cannot be deemed unaffordable; and furthermore, the boost to the industry promotes a diversified and more resilient economy, which is in the interest of our people.

In our sincere view, this is a win-win situation, and we believe Mr Phillps is referring to it.

 

Yours faithfully,

Seepaul Narine

General Secretary,

Guyana

Agricultural and

General Workers

Union (GAWU)

 

Was a feasibility study carried out for the Leguan plantain chip factory?

Dear Editor,

In an article which appeared in the news media on May 23, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Business (MoB) reportedly told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly that a plantain chips factory now under construction on the island of Leguan will become operational by June 30. The factory is expected to initially employ a manager and 30 employees, none of whom have been identified for employment or are available for training and pre-trial runs before manufacturing starts in a month’s time, as was stated.

The PAC Chairman informed a team from the MoB that farmers from Leguan have been preparing their land holdings to produce plantains for the factory to keep it humming when production starts.

Leguan is predominantly a subsistence rice-growing region with some cattle rearing undertaken here and there. It has never produced plantains or bananas in commercial quantities, and would be unable to do so in the foreseeable future because of the high cost of crop conversion and infrastructure development, particularly field layout and adequate drainage and irrigation for plantain cultivation. Further, the island has no potable water supply, an unreliable electricity supply, a network of poor roads and a rickety stelling. Therefore, no manufacturing facility for plantain chips can operate successfully unless the necessary infrastructure is in place as well as the reliable availability and timely supplies of raw materials at competitive prices to make the plant fully operational.

It is evident that a feasibility study was not carried out on this plantain chip factory on the island of Leguan as any economic and financial analyses would have indicated that the project was not viable and, therefore, not worthy of any investment. Thus, another “White Elephant” has been born in the chequered development annals of the present Administration.

Yours truly,

Charles Sohan

 

Govt should include people sovereignty issue on ‘same sex ballot’

Dear Editor,

Your newspaper reported that the Government has informed the international community of its plans to put the issue of “decriminalising buggery” (to appease the gay community) to a referendum. This is a laudatory move giving the population a voice in law making. So why doesn’t the Government want to give the voters a voice in amending the Constitution or in drafting a new constitution? Why the duplicity?

How come the Government can now afford the cost of such a referendum? This same Government said last year and again in February that it cannot afford the cost of a referendum on the judgments of the Chief Justice and the Appeal Court on the “People Sovereignty” case.  Thus, it opted to appeal the rulings.

In both rulings, the court stated the people are sovereign and any change in the Constitution must be approved by referendums and not by their representatives in Parliament. The people are supreme over the Parliament. This is not an unreasonable judicial ruling giving power to the people as superseding that of their elected representatives.

The PNC-AFC Government opted to appeal the CJ ruling, which the Appeal Court stayed in February.  Now the Government goes to the CCJ, expending tens of millions of dollars. The costs associated with both appeals are probably much more than the cost of a referendum. If the Government truly feels the Parliament, as opposed to the people, is sovereign, put it to a vote and let the people decide the issue. Incidentally, this same coalition now in government, during the 2015 campaign, said it would amend the Constitution and hold a referendum. It has now backtracked having tasted the sweetness of power – to hell with the people, they say.

The Government told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) it would hold a referendum on same-gender sex relations. Since costs for a referendum are no longer an issue for the Government, include the judgment of whether the people are sovereign on the same referendum. If the people can vote on same-sex relations, why can’t they also vote on term limits and other related constitutional issues?

 

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

KN should apologise for creating panic

Dear Editor,

The nation would recall that on May 9, 2017, a Kaieteur News headline stated, “Over 200 persons blacklisted from leaving Guyana – SOCU.” This information caused great concern, restlessness among our people and was widely believed.

The article prompted my immediate action. As a citizen and a representative of the people, I wrote to the Commissioner of Police/Chief Immigration Officer to determine the veracity of the article and to make available to the public the true information of this Administration’s position and action on blacklisting. Significantly, after approximately two weeks and no reply from the Commissioner of Police/Chief Immigration Officer I wrote to Justice Charles Ramson Snr (Rt’d), Commissioner of Information requesting the names of the 200 persons blacklisted by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).

The Commissioner of Police via the Public Relations Officer of the Guyana Police Force subsequently issued a press release some three weeks after the fact. While we welcome the public statement from the Guyana Police Force (GPF) that debunked the misinformation that emanated from Kaieteur News stating that this is nothing but a fabrication, my question is why this press release was not issued sooner, since the publication (Kaieteur News) cited SOCU as their source. The GPF press release suggested that SOCU have not blacklisted some 200 persons from leaving Guyana.

Therefore, the credibility of Kaieteur News is on the line. Is this public mischief? Was this designed to achieve a political agenda or is this the modus operandi of Kaieteur News to publish ‘fake news’? Kaieteur News is now pressed to clarify with the public their source of information or issue a public apology to the nation for providing misinformation and creating public panic.

We expect the Police Commissioner, a responsible constitutional office to be forthright with the people of Guyana. This switch and bait strategy that was employed and has proven to be ineffective; it has now been exposed and the nation can see the true nature of this particular media house as it relates to its sensational headlines and accompanying stories.

However, the Commissioner of Police has assured that the information requested by me has been dispatched to Justice Charles Ramson Snr (Rt’d), Commissioner of Information. I await Justice Ramson’s formal reply.

More significantly, we are relieved that the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens are not being trampled upon by this reported alleged illegal action by SOCU. We will continue to be on watch however as it relates to this matter, to ensure the rights of our people as enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana are protected.

Regards,

Bishop Juan

Edghill, PPP/C MP

 

What opportunities are there for Guyanese in emerging oil sector?

Dear Editor,

In a May 13 letter which appeared in the news media, Economics students of the University of Guyana requested clarification from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) as to whether a feasibility study was done for a proposed onshore facility at Crab Island in the Berbice River to determine its viability to service offshore oil fields now being developed off Guyana’s north coast. Additionally, they sought answers to several broader concerns such as to how the oil revenue will be determined and shared, training and employment of Guyanese and the purchase of goods and services locally.

Answers to many, if not all, of the questions raised by the students should have been found in the agreement made between the Government of Guyana/MNR and ExxonMobil. However, in a letter of May 14, the MNR responded to the students’ queries with vague answers and stonewalled on the request which was made to make available the terms and conditions of the agreement with the dubious excuse that the contents could not be released publicly on advice it had received. The MNR further stated that it would not make any fundamental changes to the agreement, which was made under the PPP/C Government and it would respect the terms therein, whatever they are.

The Senior Director of Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd (EEPGL) also responded to the students’ letter and cautiously stated that a critical component of the work of ExxonMobil is to engage with the public to answer questions on local content, benefits, jobs and other topics.

However, releasing confidential information on the agreement made with the Government was not one of them. Therefore, EEPGL was unable to release the terms and conditions under which it is exploring and developing the oilfields off Guyana’s north coast.

Hence, responses by the MNR and ExxonMobil suggest that the students will not get answers to their questions anytime soon as critical contents in the ‘secret’ agreement to exploit Guyana’s oilfields will remain sealed.

ExxonMobil stated that it expects to start pumping crude oil from Guyana’s oilfields by year 2020. The crude will be stored temporarily in floating containers then loaded onto tankers for world markets. The natural petroleum gas produced will be flared and/or pumped back with other materials into the oil-bearing sandstone to force trapped oil to the surface. ExxonMobil has made no commitment to building onshore facilities to refine crude oil or to liquefy gas for domestic use and/or export. Nevertheless, the MNR seemed to have ‘jumped the gun’ and paid for a feasibility study to be carried out for onshore facilities the objectives for which are yet to be disclosed.

Guyana does not have the finances nor a trained and skilled workforce to develop any facility to service the oil industry. The Government’s efforts with respect to the sugar industry, construction of the Palmyra Monument and the Kato School clearly bear this out. The APNU/AFC Government should concentrate its efforts preparing plans as to how it intends to spend its share of the oil revenue. Plans should be focused on creating jobs by developing the country’s infrastructure, improving education and training in needed skills at every level and providing good health care. The MNR has no experience in developing any aspect of an oil industry. This should be left to investors who could be attracted with good incentives such as land, a trained workforce, excellent infrastructure and the opportunity to make shared profits. Any onshore facility to service the offshore rigs should, therefore, be provided by ExxonMobil as it has the finances and know-how to build such a facility to meet their needs.

It is doubtful that in its agreement with the Government, ExxonMobil would have made commitments on local contents for its operations and secured jobs for Guyanese. The oil industry is renowned for its globe-trotting workers which no doubt will be recruited quickly as needed, since it would take years to train Guyanese for the skills required to develop the oilfields.

Initially, there may be a handful of low-paying jobs available to Guyanese, but the high-paying ones will be difficult to fill because Guyanese do not presently have the relevant skills. It seems, therefore, that the UG students will have to be onlookers for a long time to come.

Yours truly,

Charles Sohan

 

It is our duty to treat our mothers with respect

Dear Editor,

In the West, mothers govern the home; in an Indian home, it is the mother who is the controller. Mothers are the very foundation of happiness.

Last Sunday, the world celebrated another Mother’s Day, a day that is dedicated to all mothers, but it is my view that Mother’s Day is every day. As long as a mother is alive and well, she should be loved infinitely; for a mind cannot ever comprehend the affection and care of a mother, hence all mothers are seen as God on earth.

It is our duty as children to worship and adore our mothers, for this brings great victory in one’s life.

In the West, the woman is wife. In India, she is the mother. The mother is worshipped as Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of prosperity) of the house.

Every mother has a moment in her life where she remembers every detail. She remembers, for the rest of her life, the date, time and place of birth of each child she has. It is the moment when SHE gave birth to her child. At that moment, she would have made a promise to herself and her child that she would be a good mother.

A mother has many defining traits: unconditional love, support, and being a good role model. A mother has a never-ending supply of unconditional love. A child could destroy her most prized possession, but that mother would still have a smile on her face, because her child is safe.

Often, when a child gets upset, that child says and/or does hurtful things; and yet a mother forgives and forgets. A mother’s child grows and becomes an adult, and might eventually make decisions she might not agree with; but she will still love her child and be there when needed. No matter what, a mother will always have unconditional love for her child.

A child needs support in a variety of ways, and a mother is there to offer all of the support needed. Of course, a mother is there to support her child financially as best she can; she will always provide for her child to the best of her ability. A mother also provides the emotional support that her child needs; she is always there when her child may need a kiss on an injury, or simply an extra hug as they get off the bus. Without the support of a mother a child may wander through life never living up to his or her full potential.

Since children learn by example, it is important for a mother to be a good role model. A mother must show respect for her family, friends, and strangers; by showing all of them respect, she teaches her children to be respectful.

When a mother stands up for what she believes in, it gives her child strength and confidence to be an independent individual. A mother will always be responsible for her actions, and admit mistakes when she makes them. Every child needs a good role model to look up to, and a mother is just that.

Children learn what they live; so when they are exposed to unconditional love, support, and a good role model, that is who they become. A mother can see her success of being a good mother in the product of her child. A mother creates loving, supportive, and stand-up people; that is what every mother wants her child to become.

No matter how much we hurt and irritate and don’t appreciate our mothers, they still love us, no matter what. They accept us for who we are, even though we aren’t necessarily the best people we could be. A mother is someone who would jump in a fire just to make sure her child has what is needed.

A mother would run a thousand miles just to get her child what he/she wants. Once our mothers are gone, there is no shoulder left to cry on; no one to blame for our mistakes; no one to make us our favourite chocolate cake, and no one there to ask how our day was. And the only reward a mother wants at the end of the day is the simple words “I love you”.

Sincerely,

Pt Surendra Tiwari

White paper on sugar a shameless attempt to change the narrative

The ‘white paper on sugar’, as presented by Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, is a non-paper. It is another cruel and shameless attempt to change the narrative. Like the previous desperate attempts, this white paper is just as futile; the ugly narrative cannot be changed. Far from changing the narrative, the white non-paper confirms that, at the very least, APNU+AFC is maliciously downsizing SUGAR as a prelude for its CLOSURE. This is the narrative they desperately want to change, but the Guyanese people are not buying APNU+AFC’s misinformation and misdirection.

The white paper, a doomsday presentation, provides neither assurances nor plans on how three sugar estates — Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt — will stay open. In fact, reading between the lines, the definite closure of three more sugar estates in 2017, added to Wales which was closed in 2016, represent the beginning of a plan to close sugar.

David Granger, Nagamootoo, Ramjattan, Holder, Trotman, Charandass, Thomas and the whole APNU+AFC machinery, together with the hatchet team of GUYSUCO senior management and Board, must carry this shame with them forever. The scandal, fiasco and shame of SUGAR downsizing; the subsequent closure and the loss of more than 15,000 jobs; and the threat of poverty for between 50,000 and 100,000 people, will be tattooed on their foreheads forever.

More than half of the paper is filled with interesting but irrelevant historical information, with a hefty dose of inaccuracies. Production data, even if historical, is meaningful only if it is accurate.

For example: between 1976, when SUGAR was nationalised, and 1992, production averaged about 245,000 tons annually, and not 328,000 tons. This average production under the nationalised industry was significantly below the average sugar production between 1946 and 1976, when the industry was operated by Bookers. GUYSUCO’s records, Bank of Guyana’s Annual Statistics, Bureau of Statistics and National Budget data will confirm my statistics.

In fact, production in the 1980s fell to an average of about 200,000 tons; and, by 1991, had fallen closer to 100,000 tons. Production rose to an average above 250,000 tons in the 1990s, and even surpassed 300,000 tons on several instances in the 1990s, before encountering difficulties beginning in 2010. These difficulties followed the EU’s arbitrary 37% reduction of the price for sugar, the impact of climate change, and the need for accelerated mechanization — all difficult but solvable issues, but each of them but unaddressed in the paper.

Interestingly, the white paper omitted relevant information. SUGAR provided to Central Government almost G$100B in monetary worth at today’s value through the Sugar Levy imposed between 1976 and 1996. This omitted information is relevant, as it places present-day cash inputs from Central Government in a different perspective: Central Government is repaying, not subsidizing, SUGAR.

In addition, the white paper ignored the G$30B in EU Budgetary Support as compensation for the arbitrary reduction of sugar prices. This, too, is relevant information for relevant assessment of what is going on in SUGAR. Significantly, diversification of GUYSUCO’s operation was an important part of the 1980s’ SUGAR Story. This was ignored in the white paper. The omitted information does not support a narrative that APNU+AFC wants to disseminate to people.

The so-called white paper ignored the recommendation of APNU+AFC’s own CoI, and further ignored the recommendation of the IMF. While it makes reference to some aspects of the CoI Report, it conveniently ignored the more relevant information, and it simply pretended that the IMF had nothing to say about SUGAR.

The historical perspective, with its hefty portion of inaccuracies and its listing of problems, represent more than 75% of the paper. The section dealing with the future of SUGAR is skimpier than the bikinis that are just lines on almost naked women, leaving little for the imagination. In fact, there is little for us to imagine or speculate on, whether it is the skimpy bikinis or the white paper on sugar.

It is clear that SUGAR is being downsized, to begin with; and three estates will continue, but without plans in regard to making them more efficient and profitable, and ready for diversification; thus these will also be thrown aside.

Diversification has always been a much-touted plan for GUYSUCO. The white paper ignored any discussion of the disastrous 1980s’ diversification schemes. Yet, the elephant in the room is APNU+AFC’s much touted plans, adverted in various public engagements, to resuscitate some of these same failed diversification plans. Are these still being considered?

The PPP’s approach on diversification in the 1990s to 2015 was diversification of sugar-based products, as opposed to the PNC/APNU+AFC’s plans, which diversify into non-sugar areas. For example, the PPP sought to add value by reducing bulk sugar production while increasing packaged sugar – Demerara Gold and other branded packaged sugar products and bottled molasses. The white paper completely ignores the Blairmont and Enmore sugar and molasses packaging plants. These are profitable value-added sugar products for CARICOM and other markets around the world. Is it an oversight or deliberate because it does not fit the narrative for closing SUGAR?

The PPP’s diversification plan included production of ethanol to meet, first, the demand of the local market, as legislation was being prepared to mandate ethanol-based gasoline for all vehicles, with at least 10% ethanol as a requirement at all gas-stations. A prototype ethanol plant was established at Albion and showed that ethanol production was feasible and could add value to sugar.

Name and address withheld

 

New York groups condemn ‘attack’ on Hindus

Dear Editor,

The 100 Anniversary Foundation, New York and several other organisations in the greater N.Y. area join the Guyanese diaspora in condemning the Guyana government; and specifically the Ministry of Education, for facilitating visits to public schools by a self-described  American Christian Pastor to promote Christianity and denigrate Hindus and other religious faiths.

Among the signed organisations are: Holi Sammelan & Festival Committee, Arya Samaj USA, Maharishi Dayananda Gurukula , Shri Sundar Gopal Mandir, National Children Cultural Foundation, Shri Devi Mandir, New York Guyana Mission, USA-GHI Humanitarian Mission, United Muslim Youth Organisation, USA, Vigneshwar Mandir, Sai Ram Hanuman Shakti Mandir

In a release, the 100th Anniversary Foundation and above groups jointly note that they denounce the apparent crusade against Hindus in particular, and Indians in general, by the visiting American preacher.  The 100th Foundation release notes that the preacher’s sermons have been abusive to Hindu and Indian children demeaning their values and self-esteem.

The release adds: “This proselytizer and his cheerleaders are seeking to infiltrate Guyana’s public school system to corrupt young minds by preaching hateful values which must be rejected by everyone of conscience. Such conduct is illegal and inappropriate and must be rejected outright by every right thinking person and most importantly by state actors (Ministry of Education, in particular). This crusade by the preacher is in direct conflict with the constitutional principle of separation of state and church.

This preacher should have never been allowed into a public school or in any public owned (state) facility to conduct his proselytizing work.  And it is most disappointing that the state has been silent on the issue.

We remind the state that it must be neutral on religion and not favour any faith. In addition, the state must be a protector of all faiths and all people.

No one should be subjected to hate filled words in a public environment, and charges should be filed against those who violated the constitution on that matter. The preacher was imposing his diabolic values on students of all religious stripes. Worse, he was attacking people who don’t conform to his minority religious value. This is prohibited by the constitution.

The principal of Central High School where the preacher was reported to have uttered the hate speech said had she been approached, she would have provided equal access to other religious preachers as well. Equal access is not the issue. Religious proselytization does not belong in a secular environment like publicly (state) owned structures.

Educators must be sensitive as to who they allow in their schools and what is being said – hate speech and attack on people and on religions must never be permitted. Our group, comprising of several religious and non-religious organisations, condemned such aberrant behaviour and call upon the government to investigate the hate speech allegation with a view to prosecution. We reiterate that public schools and state owned facilities must remain neutral in matters of religion”.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

 

Hamilton Green and his pension

Dear Editor,

Reading the recent article in the newspapers about ‘Hamilton Green on his pension’, I first discounted it as the utterances of a mentally confused octogenarian. But then when I read the feature ‘History will not be kind to Hamilton Green’, I felt the need to add my ‘two bits’.

Mr Green speaks glibly about a period of drought for himself and his family of almost 25 years, referring to the period from 1992 when he was ousted from the position of Prime Minister due to his party’s loss at the elections. What drought is he talking about? He seems to think that people are unaware of the facts.

Since becoming Mayor in 1994, Mr Green has lived a Cadillac lifestyle, one which no other mayor in the world gets, but one that is more akin to the standard of serving heads of state and government, even though the Council always claimed to be cash-strapped.

Does Mr Green consider as austere all the bodyguards and security at his residence? His gardeners, cooks, chauffeurs, handymen and large administrative staff? Does he consider jetting first class to the farthest corners of the world frequently for 21 years as drought? Does he consider being provided with all-expenses-paid vehicles just being buoyant? Surely, he could not be serious. And all of this munificence was not provided by his wife, children, and many kind friends, as he is seeking to imply; but by the poor ratepayers of Georgetown.

And then he comes to the point of persons being crudely removed from office. But we need not go far back; let us look at his recent sojourn at the Central Housing & Planning Authority, which resulted in the departure of the CEO and so many other officials from that entity.

And let us look at his days at the Council, where he got rid of two female Town Clerks, an Engineer, and so many others.

Will the President, due to his wisdom and sense of justice, give them and their spouses the ‘fair deal’ that he has given to Green and his family? If indeed his wife was made to suffer because of politics, then she should be given some recompense; but so, too, should those who suffered under Green’s hand.

Mr Green talks about his finally being given a liveable pension, but what about the thousands of other pensioners? Don’t they deserve a liveable pension also, or do they need to be loyal party hacks to even get a fraction of the nearly 2 million a month that he is getting? Will they ever get a pension at 7/8 of the current salaries of their successors in whichever position they held?

And then he goes on to sing his favourite tune — and that is to blame the PPP for all of his misfortunes. Should he not blame his party instead, for removing him from parliament in 1992 and thus disqualifying him from a parliamentary pension?

All in all, now that Mr Green is in the departure lounge, I hope he donates most of his super pension to charity, and to the families that he wronged or destroyed as a sort of reimbursement for his misdeeds.

Sincerely,

Jason Howard