April 27, 2017

Democracy does exist in Guyana

Dear Editor,

Ever so often, the question as to whether Democracy, and what type, exists in Guyana does arise in letters and in the general print and electronic commentaries. Suffice it to say that there are varied views, depending upon which quarter a view emanates from. There have been descriptions ranging from “nonexistent” to “limited” and “fragile”, all attempting to describe the existence of the democratic ideology as such a process particularly relates to Guyana.

Mike Persaud, in his “Guyana is a fragile democracy says Dr. Misir”, gleefully posits that such a description is well known to be the case by Guyanese, and has concluded that democracy does not exist.

I agree with Dr Misir’s view as to the kind of democracy that exists here, but not along the lines of Persaud’s analysis, which outlines the threat of ethnic voting, the hitherto non-existence of cross-racial voting, and failure of either party to attract the others’ ethnic constituents. I interpret his views to mean that those factors are a threat to the attempts at building the democratic process here.

One must be able to appreciate Dr. Misir’s description of Guyana’s young democracy, particularly emerging from a lengthy phase of heavy authoritarian rule. It was natural that a culture of democracy had to be nurtured, and be guarded against the many known attempts to undermine its process. Therefore, given the very ethnic peculiarities that Mike Persaud has mentioned, the PPP/C administration, in their wisdom, recognized the necessity of introducing social and economic programmes that were meant to improve the quality of life for Guyanese, thereby facilitating the Guyanese people’s equal participation in the national development process. In this very critical way, a democracy is protected and allowed to grow, since it removes opportunities for derailment.

Of course, democracy does exist in Guyana; one just has to read and listen to both the private print and electronic media on national issues to observe the free and unfettered opinions/ views, many times bordering on the ridiculous, inclusive of libel and defamation.

Yours truly,

Dean Clement

The West Indies and the World Cup

Dear Editor,

Please allow me space in your letters’ columns to add my piece to the upcoming World Cup Cricket, which begins on February 19 with all matches being played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

This World Cup will undoubtedly be the battle of the giants; and when I say giants, I mean teams like India, England, South Africa, Australia and Sri Lanka. While the battle is expected to be among the teams that have been listed above, I do not rule out our very own West Indies, who could make a name for themselves.

We are fairly strong in both our bowling and batting departments, and if all the “cylinders” in the batting department fire up, we could see our boys making a name for themselves.

In the batting department, we have Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul, the Bravo brothers and Pollard, who could, at any one time, turn a game around.

Experience has shown that spinners have been doing well in the limited overs’ version of the game; and here we have Benn and Miller, who could also do well.

I hope the West Indies will come a little better this time around.

Sincerely,

Dereck Osbourne

More needs to be done about domestic/sexual violence

Dear Editor,

2011 has started very badly for women and children in Guyana. Two women have already been murdered by their male partners; another woman lies in hospital seriously injured from multiple stab wounds inflicted by her partner; an 11-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a police officer at the BV Police Station; a nine-year-old boy allegedly committed suicide; a male and a female student from one of the prestigious schools in Guyana were filmed having sex; a teacher has been charged for sexually assaulting female secondary school students; and these are only the cases that have been reported by the media. We are less than two months into a new year, and it already seems as though domestic violence, gender-based violence, and child abuse are set to continue unabated.

Police response to reports of domestic violence continues to be largely inadequate and not in keeping with the force’s own policy and procedure on domestic violence (DV). The frequent breaches of DV policy and procedure result in murder, maiming, and other life-threatening injuries, mainly to women, like Vanessa Francis. While the police force continues to fall short in fulfilling its responsibilities, we are, for example, still to see the establishment and operation of the promised and much-needed specialised domestic violence and sexual assault units. Domestic violence continues to escalate, and is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. The old mantra of lack of resources is simply not acceptable.

Help & Shelter is on record as having advocated for the offence of “wandering” to be abolished – and indeed for the entire Juvenile Offenders Act to be repealed — and Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand promised to see to this, when she first became minister. This supposed offence of “wandering” was the reason for the 11-year-old, who was allegedly raped, having been taken to and detained by police at the BV station. Had the offence been abolished, the circumstances in which the alleged rape took place would not have occurred, nor would the heinous act have occurred if there were a holding facility for children under 14.

Even with recent new legislation, the system for the protection of children continues to fail the children of Guyana. How many more murders, rapes, suicides and abuses of children do we need before adequate steps are taken to rectify this situation? Can the Human Services Ministry say what resources have been allocated in the recent national budget for the improvement and extension of essential services for the protection of children?

If the women and children of Guyana are not to be subjected to continued violence and abuse, it is essential that scarce resources be allocated to where they will do most good for prevention and protection, and that the efficiency and efficacy of their use be systematically monitored (for example, it would be interesting to learn what have been the results of the much touted faith-based training workshops, for which $15,000,000 was reportedly allocated).

Yours faithfully,

Help & Shelter

PMTCT programme very effective in Guyana

Dear Editor,

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 370,000 children under the age of 15 have been newly-infected with HIV in 2009 through mother-to-child transmission. HIV/AIDS transmission from mother-to-child pre- and post-partum is, however, at a relatively stable rate in Guyana.

In 2001, the National Aids Programme Secretariat and the Maternal Child Health Department of the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with UNICEF and PAHO, launched the Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme in Guyana with only eight clinics at three hospital sites in Regions Four and Six. Within a short space of time, Guyana’s PMTCT programme had in excess of 100 sites in eight regions; and, to date, the programme has 156 sites nationwide.

Today, efforts made to decrease and ultimately prevent the spread of HIV are still of national priority. The PMTCT programme is aimed at preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child during pregnancy. It is one of the most successful HIV programmes in Guyana.

Through this programme, pregnant women receive counselling and are given antiretroviral drugs (ARD) to reduce the risk of them passing on the virus to their unborn children. The drug Zidovudine, a universally acknowledged HIV treatment that blocks the reverse transcriptase enzyme and changes HIV’s genetic material into DNA, is provided free of charge without discrimination to all HIV patents. This drug is also critical in stopping the transfer of the virus during breastfeeding, a process for which the ministry has stringent guidelines that must be followed.

Postpartum detection and treatment of new-born babies, which was not available in Guyana in 2001, is today standard practise at all HIV clinics. Newborn babies can now be tested via DNA testing at birth; and if HIV positive, are immediately administered liquid formulations of the ARV treatment.

The Health Ministry’s dream of giving every child the opportunity of living an HIV-free life through PMTCT interventions fully incorporates safe motherhood and childcare initiatives. While the success of the PMTCT is not a topic usually discussed, the programme continues with 97 per cent of women having access to antenatal services.

Yours faithfully,

Rachael Bakker

An effort to misrepresent the facts on the OLPF project

Dear Editor,

It is interesting to note that a particular newspaper is in overdrive to misrepresent perhaps one of the most innovative government initiatives in this part of the world – the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) project. This outlet’s anti-government agenda stymies its vision preventing it like some politicians from seeing the impact this project will have on the lives of Guyanese. It continues to play up the procurement aspects of the project, failing to realise as has been mentioned over and over that transparency is a hallmark of this PPPC Government.

It has vindictively set out to question every laptop or computer purchased by the Office of the President, giving its readers the impression that it falls under the OLPF. It is one thing to be investigative; it’s another to concoct stories to boost sales.

This newspaper like its friends in the Opposition cannot find fault with this dynamic initiative so it resorts to nitpicking.

I will end with a few questions for this newspaper: If this government is not transparent why then are the IMF, World Bank, IDB and other international donors and lending agencies still doing business here? Why are they still supporting the government’s initiatives across the board? Why have they not packed up and left, in face of this ” perceived” lack of accountability and transparency?

 Yours truly,

Tharamwattie Ramdehol

Hydropower is the way to go

Dear Editor,

Fluctuating oil prices, political instability and social unrest in some of the major oil producing countries in the world are some of the factors which favour the switch to hydropower in countries where this kind of facility is available. Guyana therefore becomes the ideal location for hydropower with all its waterfalls that caresses the country’s interior.

Because we are dependent on petroleum products for our energy supplies, Guyana becomes susceptible to prices on the world market.

When this happens, we as a nation must turn to alternative means of power which means diversification.

And to say the least, we have the resources in our many waterfalls to actively embark on a diversification programme to meet our energy needs – and in excess, too.

Harnessing our hydroelectric resources will make a big difference in the lives of all the people of this country, and in order to deliver to the people and stand to its promises, the government should exploit every avenue at its disposal to hasten the process of capping our hydro resources.

Over the years, President Bharrat Jagdeo had spoken about a hydroelectric project for Guyana to offset the shocks of rising oil prices on the local economy. The president and all the other players involved must focus their energies and deliver on the promises the government has made to the people to make this country a better place for all.

Up to last year, the country’s fuel import bill stood at about US$350 million. This is unacceptable, and while the government might be looking into matters like these, they need to do more for the development of renewable energy sources which is greatly needed to increase energy security and maintain macroeconomic stability.

The Amaila Falls hydropower project is expected to be built on the Kuribrong River and has the capacity to provide over 140 megawatts of electricity. When this project is realised, it will lead to further development of the forestry sector and the country as a whole.

It is welcome news that the regional authorities have seen the wisdom of having hydropower, and already a local engineering company has commenced work on reactivating the Tumatumari hydroelectric station in Region Eight ( Potaro/ Siparuni) as part of a wider plan for industrial development in the region.

The Tumatumari hydroelectric power station was established in 1953, but after near to 30 years in service to the people, it closed operations in the early 1980s.

Guyana has great potential for the production and delivery of hydropower and we as a growing nation ought to explore all opportunities that might be available for the harnessing of these resources.

In this area, joint venture projects, even with neighbouring countries, should not be ruled out. Once it is done with our people’s welfare in mind and the country’s economic gains at heart, it should be supported by all and sundry. 

Yours truly,

M Khan

Improving relations with India is a step in the right direction

Dear Editor,

A nation’s proper healthcare system is a prerequisite for any future development. But try as they may, many nations fall short of realising this very important prerequisite for advancing and developing their societies as a whole.

Coming out of the colonial era, some Third World countries lack even certain basic facilities which are important for the promotion of a healthy nation. As a result of the absence of these healthcare facilities, especially in some countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, communities are threatened even with the simplest of water and airborne diseases.

Mindful of the people’s health, the current administration has been making frequent interventions in the health sector, in efforts to ensure appropriate measures are put in place to safe-guard the nation’s health.

In order to further enhance the delivery of proper healthcare to the people of this country, President Bharrat Jagdeo has, over the weekend, left the country for India to discuss, among other things, the establishment of an India-manned specialty hospital. This in any language is a step in the right direction, which will go a long way in beefing up our delivery of healthcare.

Guyana has already received a ‘soft loan’ from India to undertake the initiative, which is part of a wider vision to transform local healthcare. And addressing residents of Dazzel Housing Scheme Saturday last, President Jadgeo said, “We have a lot of general practitioners now, but we need a lot of specialists and specialty hospitals. Rather than having to send our people across the Caribbean and pay a fortune, you can do it right here cheaper” (Referring to heart surgeries).

It is to be noted that India has become acclaimed in the area of heart surgery, and now citizens from the United States are going to that country for heart surgeries.

Respectfully,

Sohan Singh

Education officials should monitor teachers’ behaviours in all schools

Dear Editor,

I always believe that the schools are a home away from home for our children; they are supposed to be safe places. However, some schools have recently been used to carry out certain activities that are harmful to our children.

Whenever I hear about the misdeeds of teachers, such as has happened at Fort Wellington Secondary School and at Saraswat Primary School, I get upset; because teachers are expected to be the students’ role models, but in the two cases mentioned above, they turned out to be their alleged abusers. These culprits are giving all teachers a bad name and diminishing the reputation of all schools. I know that there are a lot of good teachers and that they do not deserve to be categorised in the same group as the ones that I mentioned above.

I believe the schools should be monitored by officials, to ensure that the teachers are carrying out their functions effectively and are not involved in any hideous acts. Maybe the fear of being watched can help curb their negative thinking. Some schools in Georgetown are visited frequently by education officials, so the teachers are hardly in trouble. Perhaps if the Ministry of Education were to embark on monitoring efforts in the other schools, it would help to reduce cases of misdemeanour.

However, the monitoring should be done in such a way that it should not distract or hinder the students from their school work and teachers from their effective teaching. I believe everyone is aware of the attention given to the schools where the sexual assault cases took place. I hope that every effort will be made by the relevant organisations in this country to ensure that our children are not abused in any way, since this could affect them for the rest of their lives.

Yours truly,

Andrew Stuart

Business sector has confidence in economy

Dear Editor,

Just under one week after the country’s budget had been presented, the giant manufacturing company Banks/DIH Limited announced a massive Gy$3.2B investment scheme which will further accelerate growth in the company.

We welcome the announcement, which was made by the company’s managing director and chairman, Mr Clifford Reis, while addressing the 55th annual general meeting of the entity. Banks/DIH, now a billion-dollar company, was born from a merger between Banks Breweries and D’Aguiar Bros (DIH) Ltd in 1969 with a share capital of Gy$4,140,000.

We recognize that the company has since grown from strength to strength. The three principal business functions of the company are the production of beverages, food products and restaurant operations. The company also has banking services, following the acqui-

sition of 51 per cent shares in Citizen’s Bank.

It is heartening to note that the company will, this year, embark on projects which include the purchase and installation of a new soft drink plant. Other projects to be tackled this year include the upgrading and automation of the brewery, which runs to the tune of some Gy$95 million, and the acquisition of additional vehicles, which costs another Gy$154 million.

Further, the carbon dioxide generating plant will be replaced at a cost of Gy$98 million, while there will also be the installation of a new Electronic Bottle Inspector and Checkmat System for the beer bottling plant.

The money for these capital works will come from the company’s cash reserves, with some borrowing from financial institutions, a clear indication that the company is in a financially healthy and stable condition.

Based on its performance over the years, Banks DIH Limited has been contributing steadily to the country’s economy; and the current economic indicators of the company are pointing to increased growth, which favours the country’s development.

It is remarkable to note that, despite this being an election year, the company is still embarking on capital works of this magnitude. It goes to show that, come what may, the company’s interest is to deliver improved and marketable end products to customers.

It is clear that, like so many other business entities in Guyana, Banks DIH Limited has demonstrated its confidence in the country’s economy.

Regards

SM Lall

Bharrat Jagdeo’s outstanding legacy

Dear Editor,

President Bharrat Jagdeo’s legacy as a highly successful leader is assured. It is rather unfortunate that a newspaper chose to carry a one-sided assessment of this great man’s tenure as president. The article used a flurry of negative terms and did not provide concrete evidence to support its claims. Furthermore, it ignored the fundamental parameters that are universally used to assess a leader’s legacy.

Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased significantly under Jagdeo’s leadership. GDP is a leading indicator of change in a country’s economic development. According to the World Bank, our GDP increased from US$713 million in 2000 to US$1.2 billion in 2008. This is a 62 % increase under Mr Jagdeo’s presidency. In the same period, it must be noted, no other Caribbean country came close to matching our growth in GDP. Despite the worldwide recession in 2008 and 2009, Jagdeo’s leadership resulted in Guyana achieving a GDP of approximately US$1 billion in 2009, whilst the economy of many developed countries, including the United States and parts of Europe, stagnated. The editorial in the aforementioned national newspaper ignored GDP altogether.

Guyana’s infrastructure has increased by leaps and bounds. TheTakutu Bridge now serves to link Guyana with the booming Brazil. The Berbice River Bridge has also benefited thousands of people from all over the country. These developments could have only become a reality through President Jagdeo’s vision and hard work.

The modern cricket stadium at Providence is yet another manifestation of President Jagdeo’s legacy. Had it not been for his selfless and relentless efforts at securing a new stadium, and with help from the Indian government, Guyana may not have had further opportunity to host any international cricket. The Providence Stadium has ensured that Guyana will continue to host international cricket and other events of importance to national development. This is substantial and tangible evidence of President Jagdeo’s legacy.

When natural disaster in the form of major flooding hit Guyana in 2005, President Jadgeo’s outstanding ability to effectively manage crises was aptly demonstrated when he and his government did all that was necessary for Guyanese to recover from the disaster and return to living normal lives.

Health care has improved significantly under his watch. This is evidenced by infrastructural developments, capacity building and training of health care professionals, improved access to healthcare by all Guyanese, and the introduction of new health care services. Specifically, infrastructural developments are noticeable at the Georgetown Public Hospital, at the new healthcare facility at Port Mourant, at the new New Amsterdam Hospital, and at the Diamond Diagnostic Center. These are highly identifiable landmarks of progress that were achieved under President Jagdeo’s leadership.

His Low Carbon Development Strategy elevated him to international stardom. It is a masterstroke and one of great vision, earning him the Champion of the Earth award. This strategy will provide Guyana with returns in many ways. Guyana is expected to benefit from the sum of US$250 million as compensation from Norway for this initiative. This is a cornerstone of President Jagdeo’s legacy and one of which all Guyanese should be very proud.

His roles and contributions at the World Bank and IMF are now well documented. No Third World leader has ever simultaneously held the chairmanship of the board of governors of both the World Bank and the IMF. Leadership demonstrated here gives credence to President Jagdeo’s legacy.

Under his leadership, Guyana continued to benefit from write-offs of national debts incurred in the 1970s and 1980s. Guyana’s creditworthiness has increased immensely since 1992. Under President Jagdeo’s leadership our indigenous people are now being given equal recognition and opportunities as other Guyanese. Amerindians are increasingly being afforded opportunity to elevate themselves and their children.

President Jagdeo’s vision of giving 90,000 laptop computers to the less fortunate children took the first step in becoming reality when 100 laptops were distributed recently at the official launch of the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) Programme. Dr Cheddi Jagan had a vision that education was the backbone of our society, resulting in the creation of the University of Guyana. President Jagdeo subscribed to this vision, and has taken it one step further. Guyana’s children will have an opportunity to make a quantum leap into the 21st century. Future generations will no doubt rejoice when their dreams are materialized because of these initiatives.

President Jagdeo’s legacy is outstanding and is worthy of commendation. It is important that he writes his memoirs and shares his experiences, challenges and successes for future generations. His stints at the World Bank and IMF, his challenges during the Great Flood of 2005, the story behind his LCDS initiatives, his vision to enhance the Amerindian communities, and his thoughts behind re-establishing the Buxton Connection are events we can all learn from. His outstanding legacy will be indelibly etched in the minds of all Guyanese, and will be one we will all be proud of. Thank you for your sterling service, President Jagdeo.

Sincerely,

Vijay Kumar