February 24, 2017

Hinds did speak out against Cabinet meetings being held at Army headquarters

Dear Editor

I refer to a letter that appeared in another section of the media on November 4 written by a “Concerned Citizen” which criticised the government’s decision to hold Cabinet meetings at the GDF headquarters. The concerned citizen asked “where are the voices of Dr David Hinds and Freddy Kissoon”—an obvious inference that we have been silent on the issue.

On so many occasions I have heard that line—where was Hinds when so and so happened or why didn’t Hinds speak up when so and so was happening? The truth is that Hinds did comment on the issue to which the letter writer refers.

No single individual can be everywhere or speak on every issue. But maybe it would help if people did a little bit of research before they make some sweeping assertions. This is relatively easy to do in the age of the internet. Further, maybe editors can use the “editor’s note” a little bit more to correct some of these glaring inaccuracies which, when allowed to go unchallenged, could be interpreted by readers as the truth.

For what it is worth, the writer of that letter should be informed that I did comment on the Government’s decision to hold Cabinet meetings at the GDF headquarters in a news item on October 26 under the headline “Meeting of Cabinet at GDF HQ pilloried by Jagdeo – presidential complex undergoing urgent repairs”.

In an invited comment by Stabroek News I made the following observations.

The Government’s decision to hold Cabinet meetings at the GDF headquarters, while not politically explosive, is bad optics and not tactically sound. At the end of the day, there are political consequences for such actions. The explanation that there were security concerns seems plausible on its face, but may not be worth the political cost.

We have to believe that the Government tried very hard to find an alternative meeting place for Cabinet meetings. But I would have stayed away from the GDF headquarters for two reasons.

First, by going there, the government is playing into the hands of the opposition, which has already raised the issue of the militarisation of the government. For the PPP’s support base this linkage of the military to government has long been a sensitive issue with ethno-political overtones that the government ought to do everything in its power not to feed.

But there are also murmurs about the over-reliance on ex-military personnel among government supporters. Ours is a society in which political optics matter even among supporters and perception quickly becomes reality. We are also a society whose political culture is partly grounded in a separation of the military from the government; we don’t have a history of military coups and are not accustomed to seeing ex-military people in high political office.

Mr Granger rose to political prominence, not because of his military background, but primarily because there was and is a perception that he is a decent man who is not tainted by the old politics. I think that a section of the society expected that his closest advisors would include some of his military comrades, but he has to be careful not to veer too much in that direction. In my estimation, we are at the borderline as far as the military linkage to Government is concerned.

 

Sincerely,

David Hinds

Are our leaders running out of options to deal with the crime situation?

Dear Editor,

Serious crime continues to wreck Guyanese families daily and lawmakers seem to be out of options for addressing it. Lawmakers have not publicly acknowledged that crime has spiraled out of control, but recent announcements suggest that it has earned their attention. However, proposed interventions by the Government are likely to worsen serious crimes instead of reducing it. Also, questions about the exact nature of the proposed interventions need to be clarified.

Question 1. Do the Police know whether the murders originated from the guns of licensed firearm holders? The Police should know from simple ballistic tests whether the guns used in these killings belong to civilians. I am assuming that the Police have the tools and resources to conduct timely and accurate ballistic tests.

In fact, the ballistic tests would identify the exact owner of the firearm if it was used in a crime. These are basic tests of any murder investigation. If the Police have this information, the normal course of justice would then take its course. That is, they would be able to issue arrest warrants and then prosecute the identified firearm holders. But to date, the Police have not made any statement that suggests the majority (or the exact percentage) of serious crimes involved the use of licenced firearms.

Question 2. What does “clamping down on the issuance of gun licenses to civilians” mean? While this seems straightforward, it is difficult to imagine how much more difficult the process of acquiring a firearm licenced can become. Currently, it takes anywhere from three to six years for the average Guyanese to get a firearm licence – based on the account of countless individuals who have been through the process. The time taken for businessmen may be shorter since they have the connections and resources to grease the system. But even businessmen who have unquestionable reasons for wanting a licenced firearm complained about the process. So exactly what does clamping down on the issuance of gun licenses to civilians mean, and exactly how this move would help stop the senseless killings and robberies remain unclear.

Question 3. Would the Government seize licensed firearms from law abiding citizens? The government signalled the possibility of revoking licensed firearms from law abiding citizens. This course of action assumes that the government knows exactly which guns are used in the killings (question one). If the Police have evidence of licensed firearm holders being involved in criminal activities, which include renting their firearms to criminals, such individuals must be prosecuted, not just have their firearms seized.

As we already established, the Police have not indicated it has evidence even suggesting licensed firearm holders are involved in criminal activities. What we know for a fact, however, is that there are incidents where licensed firearm holders managed to save their lives as well as their families’ by defending themselves.

While I do not support civilians taking the law into their own hands, pursuing such course of action without the necessary evidence is equivalent to the ‘abuse of power’ and ‘violation of citizens’ rights to life’ and ‘the right to defend themselves and their families’. Moreover, it signals to criminals that they now have a free pass to murder families.

Question 4. Why would businessmen and farmers rent their weapons to murderers? The Government’s assertion that licensed firearm owners are renting their weapons to criminals; without evidence, this is a direct accusation, ill-informed and off-base. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most of the estimated 10,000 licensed firearms belong to businessmen and farmers. Businesses have been equally targeted, as well as their families in the recent murder and robbery spree. The survival of their businesses and farmers depend on the safety and security of families and a growing economy. Exactly why businessmen and farmers would rent their licensed firearms to criminals is beyond comprehension.

It is critically important for the State to bring crime under control. However, this course of action is unlikely to bring crime under control. It is more likely to increase the number of illegal weapons into communities.

When people feel their lives are threatened and they cannot rely on the State to protect them, naturally they will be forced to defend themselves, despite the consequences. If the State allows society to reach this point – some would argue we are already at this point – the consequences on both society and the economy would be severe. The Government should re-think its approach in tackling crime to return public safety and security to families.

Sincerely,

Dhanraj Singh

Sugar industry performed well in 2015 due to hard work of the previous Govt

Dear Editor,

The Chairman of Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Board of Directors, Dr Clive Thomas, in another section of the media on Sunday spoke about how well the industry performed in 2015. The entire Government body has been making statements about how good the second crop was.

Dr Thomas mentioned that the punt dumper at Skeldon estate works very well. This is true since a lot of work was done on it.

He also mentioned that new markets have been found in Italy for Guyana’s sugar.

Well, in my view, the Chairman made an excellent case for saving the industry and to prevent its closure. To his credit, he, as head of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), did not recommend closure.

The gains made in 2015 were as a result of the work of the PPP/C government.

The old punt dumper was replaced in 2014 and commissioned in the beginning of the first crop in 2015. Indeed, GuySuCo’s projection was that the punt dumper would have averaged 275 tonnes of cane per hour. That was possible, the fact that in some days, it was lifting 280 tonnes per hour.

The highly lauded achievements of the industry during the second crop of 2015 were due to the good management of Dr Raj Singh (the immediate past CEO), who ensured that every effort was made to see the canes planted.

That, of course, is the main factor in dealing with the cane supply chain.

The poor performance in the first and anticipated poor performance in the second crop of 2016 is due to the lack of canes in the fields—a clear managerial issue. The new board should find out why not enough canes were planted. The talk about drought is just an excuse.

The Chairman also spoke about the new market in Italy. GuySuCo actually started selling sugar to Italy in 2013. In 2014, the quantity supplied was increased. It is good that GuySuCo has kept this market.

The market in the US, where we are selling ‘Enmore Crystals,’ was launched in 2014. It is good that the new board has managed to hold onto this market as well.

I wish also to point out that in recognition of the fact that the European Union (EU) had ended the Sugar Protocol, which cost the industry billions; the EU has been compensating the industry. They are giving ACP sugar-producing countries some financial assistance to cushion the ending of the Sugar Protocol. Of course, they attached certain conditions on its disbursements.

Only last week, Finance Minister Winston Jordan received a cheque from the EU for €$24.4M (G$5.4B).

This was money which the PPP/C Government had negotiated. Indeed, it was the PPP/C administration that met all the conditions for that money. It is intended to be pumped into the sugar industry.

It is hoped that the regime would give that money to GuySuCo, which could help in staving off closures.

The fact that this year’s production is down is due to many factors. The contempt shown to the workers and their unions is one of them. No discussions, no involvement, just dictation is now the new style of management. I suppose this reflects Central Government’s administrative style.

The decline in production is also due to the racial and political discrimination that is so rampant in the industry. Many managers with lifelong experience in the industry, some of the best the industry had, were fired for no credible reason. The only reasonable conclusion was racial and political discrimination.

I had, in a previous article, spoken about this and listed the names of the persons dismissed – all of whom were Indo-Guyanese.

These are things that the board should investigate. Racial discrimination will ruin the industry as it did to the whole country in an earlier PNC regime. The regime has also gone on a hiring spree of high paying persons. The decisions being taken are very poor.

Dr Clive Thomas should look again at the plan left by the last GuySuCo Board. The industry can be saved and could prosper.

Thomas is eminently qualified to so advise the regime. The problem is that it appears the Cabinet is made up of the deaf and blind when it comes to sugar.

Sincerely,

Donald Ramotar

Former President

 

The shoe is now on the other foot

Dear Editor,

The fresh outburst by the Mayor of Georgetown at the recent Statutory Meeting of Council where she criticised the Audit Office of Guyana and the Ministry of Communities, fundamentally says two things:

First, that she is not happy, comfortable or welcoming to any type of audit being carried out at City Hall, which she knows can and will reveal corruption, fraud, and improprieties which will make all other institutions in Guyana look like a kindergarten class compared to City Hall’s University of Sleaze, something that every citizen of Georgetown is well aware of.

Second, by lashing out at these two institutions, it shows the level of decadence that some institutions in our country have sunk to.

It is unimaginable that the Mayor who has no knowledge or experience in auditing could just glibly attempt to bring these two institutions into disrepute because they highlighted just a small fraction of the transgressions that are a standard at City Hall.

Recall her attempts previously to have a former Town Clerk examined and investigated by the same Audit Office of Guyana? I guess that the shoe is now on the other foot.

It is my hope and that of every decent citizen that the Audit Office of Guyana and the Ministry of Communities will not be fazed by her attacks and would not just constrain themselves of the G$300 million they gave to the Council, but rather carry out an audit of all of Council’s records for the last decade.

 

Best regards,

Jermain Johnson

 

Guyana Govt downplaying crime situation

Dear Editor,

Crime is at an all-time high in Guyana. Since the Coalition Government took office last May this scourge has taken a meteoric rise reaching epidemic proportions. However the government is downplaying this epidemic with lots of talk that this is not the case; they have even provided us with statistics to support their point but all right thinking individuals – even if you have half a brain – can testify to the fact that Guyana is reeling from this crippling effect of crime.

Hardly a day passes that you are not stunned by the news of another armed robbery, many times fatal. A home, a business, someone who has just come from the bank or an innocent person walking by with jewellery, being relieved of your cell phone—we are all at risk of being robbed.

This is the reality of what our country has become, and yet for all of this the authorities are saying “it is peace and quiet, Guyana is a lovely place.”

Crime, especially gun crime, has been the order of the day because of the following reasons: From the get go crime has been politicised by the Government of the day. While in opposition they accused the PPP/C Government of being too hard on crime and criminals while ridiculing the Government’s crime fighting plan.

At the same time they viciously attacked the police for their efforts at getting the situation under control. They dogged their efforts at every turn nothing that what the police did was good enough for them. So, in effect they whittled away at anything sane where crime fighting was concerned.

This tactic was visibly evident when the last Parliament was convened, when the president went on a tirade at the PPP/C Opposition. He claims that the opposition is responsible for crimes in Guyana and that they “were killing Black youths” when they were in Government.

He even quoted stats to beef-up his position, stating that 400 young black men were murdered by the PPP/C regime.

Now, I do not know where the president got his figures from, but I am quite sure that he was playing a very dangerous race game, while building up hate in the Black community. Instead of bringing something of worth to tackle crime, here we have a president lambasting the opposition, adding salt to the wounded populace.

With nothing sensible to offer the nation the PNC-led Coalition is calling crime by a new name. Further to this issue is the president’s very friendly affiliation to criminals using the euphemistic term “petty criminals” when he released 60 of them at his inauguration and 40 more, bringing the grand total to 100 persons who in his words committed “petty crimes.”

Even when you look at it from the strategic standpoint of the judiciary coming on board with tougher sentencing for serious crimes this present government has sent the signal it would not be hard on sentencing.

Thus, they have paved the way for criminals to laugh at the justice system.What we have now is the innocuous sentencing of gun toting bandits.So, the rampage is on get a gun and terrorise the populace, kill, steal, loot and expect little, if no punishment in return. Guyana is in for the long haul.

With Christmas coming and an estimated increase in cash flow, my bleak forecast is a horrible holiday period awaiting us. I will also tell you this: we have a return of “the blackouts” which makes the nefarious activities of criminal elements even more severe.

Are things getting better?

Are we on to “the good life?

A resounding no! We are in a long night of sorrow.

I rest my case.

Neil Adams

The Govt’s new policy and doctors’ dilemma

Dear Editor,

When the PPP/C took Office in 1992, there were just over 150 doctors practicing in Guyana. Most of them were operating out of Georgetown and the other urban centres. An overwhelming number of them were in private practice, with some moonlighting in the public healthcare system. The cumulative result was a devastating paucity of medical personnel in the country as a whole, more particularly, in the public healthcare system and worst yet in the rural communities. By the time we left office in 2015, the situation was transformed. There are now nearly 1400 registered medical practitioners operating in Guyana, with almost every community, wherever located, having access to a doctor.

Historically, one of the several initiatives taken by the PPP/C to address the paucity of qualified medical personnel within the public healthcare system was to negotiate scholarship programmes for our students with friendly countries. The most successful of these programmes was the multi-year scholarship programme with Cuba. Upon the grant of these scholarships and prior to their departure to Cuba, these students were required to sign a contract with the Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Public Service, which obliged them to enter into another contract upon the successful completion of their course of study to work in the public health sector for a period of five years on certain terms and conditions contained in the said contract.

Over the years, this second contract which the newly graduated doctors have been requested to sign, pays them a Public Service salary, with a gratuity of 22.5 per cent, payable every six months. This monthly salary is currently approximately $230,000 (gross) or approximately $185,000 (net). It is obvious that this salary is grossly inadequate. Several of these scholarship doctors, with whom I have spoken, have all indicated to me that it is the gratuity upon which they heavily depend and with which they are able to purchase a vehicle on credit, utilising a duty free concession granted to them, as part of their contract of service with the Government.

It has been drawn to my attention that the final batch of these Cuban scholars numbering 79 have returned to Guyana in 2015. They completed their one year internship, as is required, several months ago but are yet to be placed in the public health system. I raised this issue with a senior medical Administrator at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) who was not even aware that these young doctors have not been placed into the system, but informed me that the responsibility to do so lies with the Ministry of Public Health.

Additionally, I have been informed by a representative of these doctors that the Government has signalled to them that the payment of gratuity from the contract which this batch of doctors will be requested to sign will be removed and that these doctors will be placed on the pensionable establishment of the Public Service by virtue of which they will receive a pension when they attain the age of 55.

Most, if not all, of these young doctors are vehemently opposed to this initiative and expressed a preference for a contract similar to that which their predecessors enjoyed. In short, these doctors are arguing, and I daresay quite rightly so, that they have a legitimate expectation to serve under a contract similar to that under which their predecessors served. It appears that the Government intends to request them to sign a qualitatively different contract. Rather than serve under the pensionable establishment without a gratuity, these young professionals have expressed a preference to repay the Government the sum of money spent on them and to simply migrate.

I also spoke with Cuban-trained doctors currently in the system serving under their contract and the Government has also signalled to them that their contracts will be amended to remove the payment of gratuity and to place them on the permanent establishment of the Public Service by virtue of which they will receive a pension at age 55. These doctors have also expressed their non-support for this proposed unilateral change to their contracts. They also expressed a preference to exit the public healthcare system. If the Government obstinately pursues these proposed courses of actions the consequence on the public healthcare system and the people of Guyana will be calamitous. Needless to say, litigation looms as well.

Sincerely,

Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP, Attorney-at-Law

The Public Security Minister should come up with an effective crime-fighting strategy

Dear Editor,

I was appalled to see the recent headlines that stated that the Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, was lobbying for more plastic and less cash transactions to stem crime. Editor, I dare say that this is one very revealing confession by our goodly Public Security Minister.

He is basically throwing his hands up in the air and telling the citizens of our country not to carry so much cash, because there is nothing that can be done about the criminal elements that hound their lives on a daily basis. This is like saying to your children to stop taking lunch to school because bullies usually take away their food.

I wonder if the minister ever stepped out of the comfort of his offices and observed the Guyanese people earning on their daily lives. If the majority of the population is filled with persons in Armani suits and designer outfits operating in a celebrity city, then Editor I am the first to put my foot in my mouth. But whether we choose to admit it or not, the majority of the population in Guyana are people who hustle and work hard to carry on their daily lives and the vast majority deal with cash.

Sure the Police have declared that “serious” crime is down. Whatever the world that means, there are still the lesser beings who on a daily basis, face the fear and challenges of being robbed in high daylight, face the risk of being terrorised in their homes by bandits, of having their purses snatched, of being held up in a store, and the list goes on. Are these unfamiliar stories?

We are now telling the labourers, the carpenters, the seamstresses, minibus operators, market vendors (I can go on like this for a long tune) to deal with plastic!!? And it can bring crime down by 35 per cent in this country?! Come on Mr Minister, you’ve got to do better than that! That’s worse than telling drivers to pull over and stop when the other drivers ignorantly turn on their LED’s at nights. Some of us lesser beings know how to read, and we are noting a very disturbing trend.

The minister needs to come to grips with the economic activities in our country that provide a living for our people and review his great thoughts. It is a convincing argument that less cash and more plastics can do lots towards improving the way of doing business and increase accountability, but when one resorts to that as a medium of curbing crane, it gets worrying.

In concluding, I am convinced that the minister’s confession of his inability and incompetence to address the criminal elements certainly lifted about 35 per cent of the weight off his chest, coincidentally, with the anticipated drop in crime level that he so convincingly touts if we were to go plastic. Might I suggest that an actual practical plan to deal with the criminals themselves might go a long way to discharging his duties and perhaps give him added relief.

 

Sincerely,

Khemraj Goberdhan

 

Caricom States to address “tax haven” label

Following what was deemed an “unfair and unfortunate” labelling of the Caribbean as a tax haven, a recent Conference of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) has posited that such labelling is grounded more in perception than reality.

Senior representatives of international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, regulatory bodies, the European Union Commission, the OECD Global Forum, commercial banks, central banks, governments, Caricom Secretariat and the Caribbean Development Bank met in Antigua and Barbuda last week under the Chairmanship of the country’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, to address the “tax haven” label as well as seek solutions to other troubling issues such as the withdrawal of correspondent banking relations from Caribbean respondent banks and de-risking in Region.

According to Caricom, regional jurisdictions participating in the Conference resolved to launch a targeted and focused campaign aimed at eliminating this false characterisation. The Conference noted that the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, which is the global authority on this issue, does not refer to the Caribbean as a tax haven.

“Caribbean jurisdictions participating in the Conference acknowledged that some jurisdictions have been tardy in passing legislation for the common reporting standards, and this is a key criterion used by the Global Forum in assessing jurisdictions. They also agreed that harmonisation of legislation and regulation needs to be pursued.”

Furthermore, it was recognised that efficiencies can be gained from regional collaboration that bundle national operations. They highlighted the fact that the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union countries have decided to consolidate their national Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) work into one regional operation under the purview of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

Lack of enforcement

However, one of the areas of concern for the international community is the Caribbean’s perceived lack of enforcement action. It was resolved that this issue must be addressed by dedicating more resources to Financial Intelligence Units and other relevant agencies including the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) to perform their functions more effectively.

The Caribbean jurisdictions agreed that they have to prepare themselves adequately for evaluations by international agencies. This calls for them to establish Frameworks for National Risk Assessments, National Action Plans and National AML/CTF committees, as a matter of urgency to help identify the areas of weakness within their systems, including client information systems. In that regard, data systems have to be improved, and the Action Plan for Statistics approved by their Heads of Government last July should be implemented.

All these initiatives are intended to strengthen the financial reporting systems and provide greater transparency which should raise the level of comfort of correspondent banks.

The Conference agreed that Caribbean banks should also work with correspondent banks to develop pro-forma model agreements which incorporate the principles enshrined in the FATF guidance note as a basis for negotiating the provision of correspondent banking services in the future.

On the other hand, during the Conference it was outlined that the provision of correspondent banking services is a lifeline to Caribbean economies without which the Region would be excluded from the global finance and trading system with grave consequences for maintenance of financial stability, economic growth, remittance flows and poverty alleviation.

The Region would also be prevented from achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 with the result that the achievements of Caribbean countries would be reversed and future progress thwarted.

On the eve of the Conference, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Financial Stability Board (FSB) issued a document that provided guidance for Correspondent Banking Services in which it was stated that withdrawal of correspondent banking relations “is a serious concern” to them “to the extent that de-risking may drive financial transactions into non-regulated channels, reducing transparency of financial flows and creating financial exclusion, thereby increasing exposure to money laundering and terrorist financing risks.”

To this end, while the withdrawal of correspondent banking relations has grave consequences for Caribbean economies, it also poses serious threats to global financial stability and security.

The Conference welcomed the timely and valuable guidance report from the FATF and the FSB which states that “it is important for correspondent institutions to maintain an ongoing and open dialogue with the respondent institution(s), including helping them understand the correspondent’s anti-money laundering/counter financing of terrorism policy, engaging with them to improve their controls and processes.”

The guidance note argues that the process of dialogue and engagement “can help to avoid unnecessary restriction on or termination of a relationship without a thorough assessment of the risks associated with the specific customer.”

The Conference endorsed the FATF-FSB guidance note and welcomed it as a vital platform from which both correspondent and respondent banks can engage in constructive dialogue leading to a permanent solution. In this connection, the Conference called on international banks to continue their provision of correspondent banking relations while all parties implement the guidance of the FATF and the FSB.

Moreover, the Conference called on Member States of the organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union to align their individual transparency criteria in the framework of the Global Forum standards which are approved by 137 jurisdictions.

Additionally, Caribbean governments, regulators and banks, participating in the Conference, committed the regional jurisdictions to redouble their efforts to achieve full compliance with the international standards set by the FATF, the FSB and the OECD Global Forum. In this respect, the sum of 4.5 million euros pledged by the European Union to CARIFORUM/CFATF was welcomed by the Conference as a means to address such deficiencies as exist. The Conference urged other countries to follow the lead of the European Union.

 

Guyana’s unique “racism”

By Ryhaan Shah

Following up on last Sunday’s column on the rise of nativism, Guyana’s rather unique “racism” also bears some investigation.
Racism is an ideology of domination based on the idea of biological and cultural superiority of one or more groups which is used to justify the treatment of others as inferior. Whole societies can be structured along racial lines or there can be, as occurred during the Burnham era, institutionalised racism where African-Guyanese were favoured by the very structure of government and society.
But Guyana does not conform to all the sociological norms of racism. Here, the “racist” term is especially reserved for Indian-Guyanese who speak from their perspective as Indians despite constitutional and human rights guarantees to their identity.
While the Indian communities are the ones that suffer racial/political attacks, in a perverse twist, they are also the ones condemned as the country’s “racists”, and the violence against them is justified by a wide swathe of society including a number of Indian-Guyanese.
The twists and turns that have led to this unique “racism” havetheir roots in Guyana’s colonial past.
The Indians who were viewed as “acceptable” were the educated professionals like the Luckhoos and Ruhomons. They had converted to Christianity and, in the process, had subsumed their Indian identity. These were the Indians who “arrived” into colonial society.
At the other end of the colonial experience were men like JB Singh and Ayube Edun of the British Guiana East Indian Association. The majority of Indians subscribed to their view that our future lay in honouring the heritage of our foreparents.
When Dr Cheddi Jagan entered politics, he might have succeeded as a champion of the working class had the PPP remained whole. However, the split with Burnham refashioned him as an ethnic leader, a role he never relished or wanted for himself.
To the socialist Jagan, the Indian professional and business class was the despised bourgeoisie. He, too, needed to recast his supporters into another image to satisfy his ambition of being a true leader of all Guyanese. To this end, the PPP generally ignored the ethnicity of their followers and the specific issues that came with it. This while Burnham fully embraced being an African leader.
Adding to “racism” in Guyana is the ideology of “oneness” with its jingoism of “love and unity” which is simple-minded enough to enjoy popular support. Within this context, Indians who value their cultural identity are viewed as “racists” for rejecting the sameness required to be “one”. Because the “all awe is one” jingle sounds nice to the ear, no one stops to consider that the message speaks to a clear disrespect for cultural and ethnic diversity just as Brexit does in the UK and Trumpism is doing in America.
It promotes the dominance of “one” over every “other” – the textbook definition of racism.
For Indians to even speak of race makes us “racist” and when the stumbling block to Guyana’s progress and development is the race divide between Indians and Africans, this becomes problematic: how do you address the problem if simply stating it makes you racist?
Many, therefore, say nothing. They embrace the ideology of “love and unity” even when, as exemplified by the Coalition Government, it is nothing but empty rhetoric. But being accepted into the lie is more rewarding than addressing the truth. It leads some Indians to self-hatred and to justify their hate, they need to accuse culturally secure Indians of “racism”.
African Guyanese’s pride in being African is never viewed as racism and they are content with this inequality which shuts out Indians from engaging in the vital discourse on race and racism. Indians who persist endure the abuse of being called “racists”.
In his quest to be a Guyanese leader, Jagan helped to create this inequality. The PPP continually placates African Guyanese in order to win them back, and often at the expense of their loyal Indian supporters.
Independent Indian Guyanese who address Indian issues are seen as political threats to the PPP and the accusation always levelled at them is that they are “racists”, an accusation that is readily picked up by African Guyanese and Indians who continue to support the idea that the only acceptable Indian Guyanese is the colonised “mimic man” who subsumes or forgoes his Indian identity.
It is time to push the reset button and get everyone on the same page where to address the race issue does not make you racist and where the mindless jingoism of “oneness” is accepted for the disregard for diversity that it is.

PPP/C has a good track record of transparency and accountability

Dear Editor,

Since the PPP/C demitted office, the present regime has conducted several forensic audits, using firms and individuals that have expressed political opposition to the PPP/C, even hostility.

Despite the fact that these auditors have found no evidence of corruption, the media continues to spread disinformation.

The Stabroek News’ editorial of September 26, 2016, in its first paragraph said that under the PPP/C government “…there was a heavy veil drawn across the huge procurement sector.” This statement is untrue and completely unfounded.

We need to first reflect on what the PPP/C inherited when it assumed office in 1992.

The PNC, which now leads the APNU/AFC regime, had no tendering process. Contracts for projects, goods and services were given to their cronies and party financiers.

The PPP/C administration not only changed that system, they introduced an open bidding process and implemented systems to establish and enforce transparency. These included inviting members of the media and representatives of the tenderers to the opening of the bids.

The media, therefore, clearly played a role in this process and yet the Stabroek News’ editorial speaks about a “heavy veil,” which shows either ignorance or anti-PPP/C bias and an intention to revise history.

The PPP/C was the first government in the entire region, and probably still is, whose Cabinet gave up its right to award contracts and only kept a “no objection” for contracts valued at more than G$15 million.

It was the PPP/Civic that not only suggested the establishment of a Public Procurement Commission (PPC), but also passed the necessary legislation for its establishment.

Why it was not passed is the question that has been frequently asked and answered many times. Yet some sections of the media continue to ignore the explanation given and continue to repeat the half-truths and lies of the APNU/AFC.

It was not put in place because of the intransigence of the then PNC/APNU/AFC opposition.

At the level of the Public Accounts Committee, the then Opposition attempted to take over by trying to appoint the majority of members of the PPC. They even proposed, unofficially, that they appoint the chairperson. They wanted to control the PPC.

In 2011, when the combined opposition got a one seat majority in Parliament, they became more belligerent. They wanted to appoint all members and to remove the Cabinet’s no-objection’s role.

The APNU/AFC were doing their utmost to bring the country to a halt. This was evident in their actions when the first Budget of the 10th Parliament was presented to Parliament. The APNU/AFC cut important developmental projects from that first budget. They also cut subsequent budgets.

Moreover, they opposed the Amaila Falls Hydro Power Project, the Marriott Hotel, the Specialty Hospital, the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, etc. These are but a few important projects designed to advance the social and economic development of our country.

Despite all of this negative position of the APNU/AFC in opposition, the PPP/C was ready to establish the PPC.

However, after clearly seeing the intentions of the Opposition, the PPP/C proposed the establishment of the PPC, but that Cabinet retains the right to give its “no objection.”

The Opposition even refused to make this concession. Clearly, the establishment of the Commission in such circumstances would have brought the country to a standstill. That was not an option.

It is apposite to note that the two parties now in government have adopted the same formula to establish the Commission that they rejected while in opposition.

Moreover, the reason that the PPC is not yet operational is because the regime is trying to subvert it. They claimed that they are recruiting the staff for the PPC.

Staff recruitment is a function of the Commission itself and not the government. Clearly, they want to saddle the PPC with a PNC support staff. Through this mechanism, they hope to tighten their grip on the PPC.

The abovementioned editorial is high in praise of the regime establishing a Bid Protest Committee, (BPC). Implicit in the article is that under the PPP/C Government this did not exist and that no appeal was tolerated. That is not true.

Under the PPP/C, a Bid Review Committee was set up to examine complaints and appeals whenever they were made. This comprised technical persons from the Ministry of Finance and the ministry/agency concerned.

True, it was not a permanent committee, but established as the need arose. This Bid Review Committee is just another “job for the boys/girls” scam.

Donald Ramotar

Former President