Archives for January 2017
President David Granger on Wednesday accepted the Letters of Credence from Jose Kinn Franco at State House, accrediting him as the new non-resident Ambassador of Bolivia to Guyana.
The President said that with the appointment of the new Ambassador, it is hoped that an even stronger relationship characterised by peace, security and prosperity can be forged between the two nations, the Ministry of the Presidency said in a release.
The Head of State, accepting the Letters of Credence, said that the two countries placed great emphasis on the importance of regional integration. This, he said, serves as a means of achieving a higher standard of living for their peoples through the sustainable use of the countries’ natural resources.
He noted that Guyana and Bolivia both adhere strongly to the international values of mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, cooperation for mutual benefit, respect for treaties and international law, and the maintenance of regional peace and security, the release added.
“Guyana and Bolivia recall that the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), gathered at the Second Summit in Havana, Cuba on January 28 and 29, 2014, declared Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace based on respect for the principles and rules of international law, including the international instruments to which Member States are a party and the Principles and Purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. Guyana is confident that as a member of various regional organisations, we will continue to collaborate with Bolivia to work for the preservation of the continent as a zone of peace,” he said.
As the country moved towards the pursuit and development of a ‘green’ economy, the President said that he too looked forward to cooperation in this area, as it was a means of tackling the ongoing climate change phenomenon.
Meanwhile, newly-accredited Ambassador Franco, in his remarks, said that the two countries have always shared cordial, friendly relations and it was his country’s hope too that the bonds could be further deepened for the mutual benefit of Guyana and Bolivia.
“It is the profound wish of our President to see the development and strengthening of relations with your country. My mission will be to seek fruitful outcomes in all areas of our relationship with due priority to fostering brotherhood among our peoples and actions in favour of development, which our peoples fervently aspire,” Ambassador Franco said through a translator. Ambassador Franco replaces Jerjes Justiniano Talavera, who began his tenure in Guyana in 2014.
…with the aim of developing a rehabilitation and reintegration model for ex-offenders
The University of Guyana (UG) will be conducting a survey in the prisons and lockups across Guyana with the aim of developing a rehabilitation and reintegration model for ex-offenders. On Wednesday, Project Manager of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme(CSSP) Clement Henry and UG Vice Chancellor (VC), Academic Engagement Dr Michael Scott signed contracts for the study.
The survey is being facilitated by the Ministry of Public Security’s CSSP.
Beginning January month end, the six-month research is expected to support the overall prison system reform. Henry cautioned the University to ensure that ethic principles are followed when conducting the survey. “The client must also be informed that all data will be kept confidential being only accepted by members of the study team,” Henry said.
The University’s VC, Dr Scott, guaranteed that every researcher is ethical in the conduct of their work. Faculty staff, from both Turkeyen and Tain campuses, includes medical personnel, legal personnel, mathematicians, criminologist and social workers are going to comprise the core team leading the survey. “The persons who’ll be engaged in this exercise are very seasoned researchers and consultants and have had experiences working with international organisations,” Dr Scott, who will have oversight responsibility for the survey, assured.
The exploratory survey will provide ground-breaking data for the research. Dr Scott said that some 30 students from the University will be trained in data collection to assist the team in conducting the survey.
The University has sought the assistance of Tres de Febrero University of Argentina with the drafting of the survey. “We recognise that our situation is quite different and so we have made our inputs into the instrument insofar as it reflects our context,” Dr Scott explained. The Argentine university has extensive experience in conducting prison surveys in the hemisphere.
The survey is part of Component Three of the CSSP, which seeks to:finance sustainable re-entry initiative by assessing rehabilitation and reintegration needs across the prison system,develop a rehabilitation and reintegration model based on the needs assessments and the outputs of the survey,develop a case management programme to support and track inmate progress and offer training to Guyana Prison Service (GPS) staff on delivering rehabilitation and reintegration services.
CSSP is a five-year programme that aims to contribute to a reduction in crime and violence in Guyana, especially in targeted communities and among youths, by increasing their human and social capacity. The specific objectives of the project are to: improve behaviours for non- violent conflict resolution in targeted communities; increase Guyana Police Force’s effectiveness in crime prevention and crime investigation nationally; and improve the Guyana Prison Service’s effectiveness in reducing offender recidivism.
The CSSP is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the government. Henry noted that US$74,200 has been allocated for the survey.
It may, or may not, have been coincidental, but at the same time the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government announced plans to mobilise and engage the “Guyanese Diaspora” to aid in the development of Guyana, India was hosting its 14th “Pravasi Bharatiya Divas” (PBD) – Overseas Indian Day. Launched in 2003, the 2017 iteration brought over 6000 delegates drawn from 64 countries to India’s IT capital, Bengaluru – which was so recently “Banglore”.
The emblematic “Diaspora” had been formed out of their dispersal of the Jewish people subsequent to their conquest thousands of years ago, when most had been driven into slavery to Babylon and Egypt. In more modern times, the process was not much different for several other “peoples”. Between the 16th and 19th century, two sets of “diasporas” were formed when millions of Africans were snatched from their native lands by Europeans and shipped to the “New World” as slaves – Africans and Europeans of several nationalities.
Following the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, Portuguese, Indians, Chinese and some other groups were shipped as “indentured labour”. The shipments of Indians and Chinese created two new Diasporas that become very significant because of their numbers. Intellectuals from people of African descent – from the USA, the West Indies and Africa – were the first to organise their Diaspora and launched the 1st Pan-African Congress in 1900.
When the 5th Pan-African Congress was held in Manchester in 1945 at the end of WWII, the individuals who were to become leaders in the struggle for independence – such as Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana – honed a common strategy for their countries, which included a strong development component. As a matter of fact, several West Indian intellectuals, including George Padmore, repatriated themselves to the emerging independent countries in Africa, to assist in their development. Walter Rodney, who had helped craft the agenda for the 7th Pan-African Congress, had evidently decided to return to Africa after the People’s National Congress Government targeted him in 1979.
The successive governments of post-Mao China much more self-consciously mobilised its Diaspora and very successfully tapped into the skills and resources in its drive for development starting in the 1980’s. In 1989, Non-Resident Indians (NRI’s) – who were mere mostly first generation immigrants to the USA – organised the “First Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin” (GOPIO) in New York City to bring together the Indian Diaspora.
But it exposed a new problematic – the descendants of those Indians who had been “exported” in the 19th and early 20th century to European colonies, were now part of secondary diasporas and had some different concerns from the NRI’s – particularly when it came to the “development” of India. The NRI’s generally were focused on increasing their business contacts with India and within their community in the USA, while the “Girmityas” – those arising from the “agreement” of bound labour – were focused on the development of their “new” homelands, and in maintaining cultural links with India.
When the Government of India initiated the annual PBD in 2003, it attempted to accommodate both imperatives – the drive for India’s development by harnessing the skills and resources of its Diaspora and the desire for cultural contacts of the latter. With the advent of the new Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, a decision was made to host the event biennially, and to have preparatory structured meetings and discussions in New Delhi with representatives of the Diaspora on identified subject areas.
PBD 2017 demonstrated the success of this new strategy when in the course of three days, the separate day for youths, and the sessions following the plenary gathering addressed by PM Modi allowed the entire Diaspora to express themselves both to each other and to the Government of India.
For Guyana, the experience of its delegates to PBD should be tapped to facilitate its own aspirations to tap into its Diaspora.
Government is facing severe criticism over its secretive deal with a Trinidadian company for a possible takeover of the lucrative Skeldon Estate, which belongs to the State and is currently under the management of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo strongly criticised the Government for entering into this deal without any consultations with stakeholders beforehand.
“They claim that this is without prejudice to privatisation. But if you have a secret Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with someone to assess the entity, then you are already giving one person an advantage over any person who may be interested if you decide to privatise. So they are busy working these quiet deals and one day we may wake up and find that one of the prized estates in Guyana is gone to a group that knows nothing about sugar or is on middle land without any public valuation of the land, no public tendering but has acquired a deal by the Government,” he told media operatives on Wednesday.
The Skeldon Sugar Factory, which is located on the Estate, alone is worth US$200 million, so the total value of the Estate would amount to billions.
Jagdeo contended that this was one of the many actions of the Government which he considered “totally reprehensible”.
“You do not speak with the parliamentary Opposition. You know, just recently, they called us in December, after everything else and told us they want to talk to us about it, but the secret MoU was already signed, now the story is in the news,” he outlined.
Guyana Times broke the story on Tuesday that Trinidadian company D Rampersad and Company Limited (DRCL) was likely to rake in major benefits from the Guyana Government, including favourable tax incentives for the development of an integrated sugarcane processing facility at the Skeldon Sugar Estate, after the MoU was inked in December for the undertaking of a feasibility study.
The MoU was signed without full disclosure to the Guyanese public and without any public notice or public tender. The company has no experience with any agricultural enterprise, and provides engineering services to the automotive and oil industries in T&T.
Notably, however, as witness to the signing was Noel Rupie Shewjattan, the owner of Auto Fashion Store on Garnett Street, Campbellville, Georgetown. Auto Fashion Store also has no experience in the agricultural sector.
Contacted on the matter, however, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder contends that there is no secret arrangement.
“There was a meeting when we met with the Opposition and the unions …to try to get them on board for the way forward for GuySuCo. At that meeting, the question of the MoU came up and it was provided to the Opposition to look at. The Opposition is well aware of it because it was given to them by the Government. So I don’t know what is the secret deal, they have the MoU,” Holder explained.
The Minister conceded that the company was currently assessing the Skeldon Estate lands to determine if it would be favourable for it to make a proposal to Government for the diversification of the estate, including the production of ethanol.
“There is no commitment on either side, (they will) come down here to take a look and if (they) want to make a suggestion to us, then fine, we’ll take a look at it…They are just coming to look, the best I can call it is a familiarisation, They will look to see what Skeldon has to see if it make sense for them to even do a feasibility study,” Holder explained.
However, the MoU seen by this newspaper outlines that the company will be conducting a feasibility study, which is proposed to commence on April 3.
DRCL is slated to benefit tremendously if its project proposal is approved by the current coalition Administration. From the size of DRCL’s operations in Trinidad, it appears doubtful it would be able to finance a project of the magnitude proposed.
According to the MoU, some expectations in the event a definitive agreement is entered into would include access to key infrastructure, favourable combination of tax incentives, and land for sugarcane cultivation and infrastructure.
The company is also set to receive reasonable approval cycles, guarantees on minimum product take-off by the Government with respect to electric power and fuel ethanol, guaranteed pricing formulae and power export provisions.
This means that while the company will convert sugar cane into ethanol and electricity from bagasse, the Government will assume the responsibility of purchasing the products at some yet undisclosed price. For ethanol to be used as fuel by motor vehicles, their engines would have to be modified. It was not disclosed if the Guyana Government or DRCL would bear the cost of the engine modification.
The integrated sugarcane processing facility will include developing an integrated sugar-to-ethanol and electric power project. While sugar will not be produced, the Skeldon factory will still have to process the sugar cane all the way to the molasses stage, but the diffuser for extracting the sugar will become redundant.
Basically, the feasibility study will examine the cultivation and harvesting of sugar cane and sugarcane processing.
It will also look at the production of fuel-grade ethanol, and the production of bulk rum for local, regional and international markets.
The feasibility study will also focus on power production from bagasse, production of high-test molasses, the construction of a liquid bulk terminal and the development of a solar power generation facility. The findings of the feasibility study will provide critical information and set the platform to make a definitive project proposal to the Government of Guyana.
The Agriculture Minister said the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) would deal with the matter if the company makes such a proposal.
The overseas-based Guyanese man who was on Saturday intercepted at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) with a large quantity of cocaine in his luggage was brought before the Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan on Tuesday.
Haslin O’Neil Thom, 46, originally of West Ruimveldt, Georgetown and currently of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty to the narcotics trafficking charge brought against him and was sentenced to spend the next three years of his life in jail.
On January 14, 2017, at the CJIA, Thom was found to be in possession of 1.5 kilogram of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
The court heard that the defendant was intercepted after the Airport’s scanner revealed suspicious objects in his luggage. The suitcase was pulled and a search was carried out. During a closer inspection of the objects, authorities discovered the illegal substance.
Thom was then taken to the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) headquarters where he admitted to having the illegal substance, which had been weighed in his presence.
The defendant, however, told the court that he was ill and in need of an expensive surgery, and that motivated him to traffic the drugs.
He also told the court that he bought the drugs from a known individual for US$4000.
“I am sorry for my actions; I am very ill and need to have a surgery done on my stomach, I am begging for leniency,” Thom pleaded.
After the defendant’s appeal, Chief Magistrate McLennan sentenced and fined the man G$4.1 million, which is the street value of the drugs.
On the day of his arrest, Thom was heading back to Brooklyn, after he spent the holidays in Guyana.
President of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), Dave Cameron was the special guest at the New York Metropolitan District Cricket Association (NYMDCA) last Wednesday (January 11). The occasion was the professional business networking session.
In the President’s remarks, Cameron noted that the visit to New York was to meet with local cricket organizers and players, as well as with city government officials to explore ways of further developing the growth and popularity of cricket in the Diaspora.
It was pointed out that securing a stadium for cricket in New York City is one of the goals of the NY Metropolitan District Cricket Association, which the WICB encourages and supports.
Cameron also highlighted that in managing the WICB as a business, there are some key priorities which includes meeting players’ needs to facilitate best performances on and off the field. “The team I am a part of now has helped the organisation to move from a deficit to having a surplus of funds,” Cameron noted.
Additionally, he mentioned that currently all West Indian cricketers registered with the WICB are enjoying improved salary arrangements with reasonable wages, which ensure that they can give cricket full-time attention, without the need for a second job.
Currently, compared to four years ago, where there were only 15 full-time players employed by the WICB, there are now 120, with entry-level players getting at least $30,000 (USD) per year.
The event was organised by After Networking Wednesdays (ANW) Coordinating Cohost Gerry Hopkin and Primary Cohost, Edmund Sadio. The meeting was also addressed by Cliff Roye, the president of the New York Metropolitan District Cricket Association, who expressed optimism for the future of cricket in New York.
Michael Roberts of Commonsense Strategies, who along with James Archibald, worked with the leadership of NYMDCA and Charles Simpson in planning the media and other government engagements of Cameron’s Itinerary.
Other planned events on Cameron’s three-day itinerary, included visits to various cricket playing fields, a press conference on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan with NYC officials on Thursday and a Meet & Greet reception at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall, hosted by Borough President Eric Adams, on Friday.
Several Stabroek Market Square vendors who over the weekend vacated Parliament View Mall are crying foul over a proposed day/night shift system of selling in the new area.
And it would appear that placing vendors on the respective shifts will be determined by the ‘luck of the draw’.
According to the vendors, ranks from the City Constabulary on Monday informed them of this pending shift policy. One vendor, who identified himself only as Ken, noted that they were told they would have to draw names from a bag in order to decide who would sell during the day and who would vend in the night.
“From the time Parliament View closed down, up to now they ain’t found a permanent spot for (us),” he said. “Now I come out here to get a daily bread, they telling you that you have to push your hand in a bag, (to determine) who will work night or who will work day.”
The man stated that he spent nine months in the Parliament View lot. This was until all vendors vacated the spot following the expiration of the agreement between the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and the lot owner, Hareshnarine “Chiney” Sugrim.
“But when we do come out, we ain’t getting to sell comfortably,” the visibly frustrated man expressed.
According to the man, he has grandchildren who are orphans, and a wife, who all depend on his vending activities for sustenance. He also listed other responsibilities such as rent and taxes.
“They took us off; they are supposed to find somewhere that we can sell and earn,” he lamented. “I can’t earn anything with (this system). And if they come and say that you have to pay revenue, you have to pay it. I believe that this is unfair.”
Winton Bollers, another vendor, expressed confusion over this policy. He was particularly upset over the lack of consultations.
“They want to get us on shift work. Eight of us used to be selling. I thought they would put back the eight (vendors) and the fresh people, find a place for them. It’s not happening that way. They trying to mix us up now and (I) don’t really understand what’s going on,” he said.
It is during the day that potential customers are drawn to the vendors and their stands, he noted. Bollers added that there was little to no business during the night, so the proposed shift system was not feasible. Both Bollers and Ken were adamant that in the years they have been vending, they’ve never heard of such a system.
Meanwhile, another vendor who identified himself only as Colin said that they were told to go back to where they had sold previously. However, he stated that since then it has been a “fight down”. “(Me) and my wife go through the bank to build a house and it’s very hard. How my standards were before, it gone real down. I am a 50-year-old man, It very hard.”
The man issued a plea to officials at City Hall, including the Mayor and Town Clerk, to not implement any such system as a spot to house the vendors has not even been formalised.
“We comply all the time, we clean up, then they move us; we go in (Parliament View) and try, we ain’t making it there, we come out here and start pushing until now. We need a little help from this Government that promise us a good life.”
The imbroglio between the M&CC and the vendors who once dominated Stabroek Square started last year as Guyana’s 50th Independence anniversary approached. A massive clean-up campaign was initiated and vendors were moved from the Stabroek Square to Parliament View Mall, a plot of land so named as it was opposite the Parliament Building.
Sugrim, the plot owner, granted the vendors an extension on their stay in August, until December 31, 2016. Efforts to garner a comment from the M&CC’s Public Relations Officer, Debra Lewis, were futile.
The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has initiated a study that will lead to the adoption of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA).
According to a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA), the study, which began on Monday, commenced with a presentation to wharf owners, shipping agents and customs brokers. It was held at the GRA’s Headquarters on Camp Street, Georgetown.
Delivering opening remarks, the Head of Customs and Trade Administration, Lancelot Wills informed participants that the new system would eventually result in enhanced trade, a paperless environment, implementation of international best practices and increased efficiency.
Wills explained that as the last English-speaking country in the Region to adopt the system, Guyana would be able to build on the experiences of others. The new system would be tailored to local needs and shorten the time taken to expedite goods, he added.
The presentation was conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNTAD) Consultant, Terrence Leonard and Information Technology Specialist Fabian Joseph.
Leonard, a former St Lucian Customs Comptroller, informed of the benefits such as better risk management particularly of high-risk cargo, systems to target the ‘bad guys despite them being the minority’ and better efficiency.
He also made reference to the need for the GRA to follow its international counterparts by working smarter and not necessarily harder.
He cited one example where it takes about seven days to process and clear a shipping container. Leonard said that in many cases that time was reduced to one day. For customers, e-payments could also be used and documents processed immediately, once verified.
UNTAD IT Specialist Fabian Joseph, during his presentation, outlined how the ASYCUDA system would enable key sections of the GRA to be linked in real time, leading to better information sharing and better efficiency for processing documents.
Joseph said that linking the systems would result in a single platform thereby enabling better border management, capacity building, better management of Government finances as remitted from the GRA and, overall faster processing of imported and exported goods and services.
The GRA will also be linked with relevant ministries including the Finance, Foreign Affairs and Agriculture Ministries, and entities such as the Bank of Guyana and the Bureau of Statistics and any other which is deemed necessary to access information from the GRA.
The AYSCUDA system was created and launched in 1981 to assist countries by strengthening customs administrations. Implemented in three countries initially, the system is now used by many Caribbean, Central and South American, North American, Asian, European and Middle Eastern countries. Grenada was the last country to implement it in the Caribbean islands.
The United Nations-funded initiative is being facilitated at a minimal cost since only the purchasing of software and training of technical staff is needed. The feasibility study, which is being funded by the UN, will garner information and feedback from the Private Sector Commission, the Information Technology and legal staff of the GRA over the next week. It will conclude on January 19 with a presentation to the GRA’s top officials on a proposal to move forward with its implementation.
UNTAD was launched in 1964 to promote sustainable development and greater integration of developing economies.
Government engineers are being trained to enhance Guyana’s minimal waste management strategies and treatment through a five-day training workshop in wastewater management strategies.
The Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and the Institute for Water Education of UNESCO collaborated to host the workshop, which is funded by the Caribbean Regional Fund for wastewater management (CReW).
The workshop, which opened on Monday at the Millennium Manor Hotel, Hadfield Street, will benefit workers from GWI; Guyana Energy Agency (GEA); Central Planning and Housing Authority (CH&PA) and the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), according to a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA).
Wastewater is water that has waste materials and includes industrial liquid waste and sewage waste. The Minister with responsibility for water, Dawn Hastings-Williams, who delivered brief remarks, said for too long Guyana has been struggling with its water resource.
The Minister urged the participants to join the fight in establishing water security measures to safeguard the water and “to see how best we can utilise it and how best we can treat it in order for Guyanese to have a good supply of quality water”.
Minister Hastings-Williams urged the gathering to put systems in place to last for decades and meet the needs of future generations and weather conditions, especially climate change. She also encouraged participants to be interactive and use the training as an opportunity to better the water sector for all Guyanese, the release added.
GWI Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Richard Van West-Charles told the gathering that the training was critical since Guyana has a “big” problem with wastewater management.
The CEO explained that the main contributing factor to this was the lack of properly designed septic tanks. He added that another challenge was implementing measures to deal with wastewater management in the new towns including Mahdia, Mabaruma, Rose Hall, Corriverton and Anna Regina.
Currently, GWI is in discussions with the CH&PA to install wastewater treatment plants in new housing schemes and to replace the old distribution system in Georgetown for more effective management of waste.
GWI Director of Operations, Dwayne Shako noted that Guyana has zero treatment of wastewater; therefore, this workshop was necessary since it would establish cost-effective systems for waste water.
Shako deemed the workshop as timely and the first step towards acquiring knowledge of waste management strategies and treatment. “The knowledge part is very important, since many times we do not need to look at high-income systems that would cost us billions of dollars. The solution is right here, with minimum investment with low-cost systems we can use to help us with wastewater management,” Shako explained.
The GWI Operations Director urged the participants to use the knowledge gained and apply it practically in their respective community, town or village to better tackle the wastewater situation.
The facilitator of the workshop is UNESCO-IHE representative from Mexico, Dr Carlos Lopez Vasquez. Dr Vasquez said there was no perfect technology, but if there was an area where the land was discoursed and one wanted to treat the water for reuse, there were low-cost available technologies to do so.
He told the participants that technologies had their advantages and disadvantages, and “we only need to know what is the most applicable one for our specific needs in a specific location”.
The course will address the basic conditions to understand what’s in the water, how to remove the contaminants and how quantity and quality would define the strategy to deal with wastewater. The training will conclude on Friday.