April 27, 2017

Archives for April 20, 2017

Sugar workers register strong opposition to planned closure of East Demerara Estate

East Demerara Estate (Enmore Estate)

East Demerara Estate (Enmore Estate)

In protest at the possible closure of the Enmore sugar factory, workers attached to that East Demerara Estate on Monday marched four miles along the East Coast Demerara highway, close to the village of Enmore, in a move reportedly intended to register their strong opposition to any move to close that estate, and to highlight their plight if this intended action is carried out.

The Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU), which organised the march, said in a statement, “At this time, while the Government has not announced formally its position on closure, all indications are that the closure process has begun. For some weeks now, cane planting at the estate has been stopped, which portends that no plans are being made for crops beyond this year.”

Enmore Estate, currently the only remaining estate on the East Coast of Demerara, employs some 2,222 persons and is a major source of livelihood for people living in many rural communities on the Demerara East Coast. GAWU is therefore again calling on the Government to conduct an assessment, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to determine the social and economic consequences that would flow from the decision to close this estate.

“In replacing sugar cultivation, the Administration and the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) have identified the implementation of non-sugar ventures such as orchard crops, legumes, rice, livestock, dairy cattle, aquaculture, among other things,” the union stated. Similar ventures were to be established at the recently-closed Wales Estate, the union has said, but they are nowhere close to being fructified at this time.

“Our Union’s examination of the documentation produced by the Corporation in this regard has revealed there are more questions than answers.” The union feels that this new venture will not yield any success, and should not be pursued at this time. GAWU is of the firm view that the East Demerara Estate occupies an important place in the sugar industry, especially since it possesses the larger of the industry’s two (2) sugar packaging plants.

“It is recalled that the Corporation receives its highest return on packaged sugar. Moreover, the Estate’s mechanisation programme is far advanced, and many of its field operations can be done mechanically,” the GAWU statement outlines. The operations of the LBI Estate were, in 2016, amalgamated with those of the Enmore Estate in a move which was slated to save the cane operations, according to GuySuCo.

“Our Union stands in solidarity with the workers and residents (who would be affected by the closure) and is also strongly against the closure and sell-out of any sugar estates,” the GAWU statement read.

Government has said the Wales Estate was closed after billions of dollars were accrued in losses over the years. At high-level sugar consultations held last year between GuySuCo, the Union and the Opposition, Government had disclosed that only three estates would be kept functional.

First Lady urges teens to seek counselling, other services

First Lady Sandra Granger poses with some Grade Nine students enrolled at the Agricola Practical Instruction Centre

First Lady Sandra Granger poses with some Grade Nine students enrolled at the Agricola Practical Instruction Centre

First Lady, Sandra Granger encouraged teenage boys and girls and teenage parents to seek out the sexual health, reproductive and other services offered at the Agricola Health Centre Community Parenting Support Group, at the launch of the clinic at the Agricola Health Centre, East Bank Demerara.

The First Lady was invited to the launch because of her advocacy for education and support services for youth, especially women and girls. At the opening ceremony, she said, “I do not think we can overemphasise how important maternal child health is, especially for our teen mothers and the support that we give them.”

The First Lady spoke about the importance of health and nutrition during pregnancy and encouraged the teenagers to capitalise on the opportunity to continue their education, both during and after their pregnancies as an educated mother will better be able to meet her child’s needs.

“The second thing that I discovered, a few days ago, was the importance of early childhood development and the provision of a nurturing environment for better adults. These are scientific studies – the British Medical Association launched a series, The Lancet Series … [which] have proven that if your baby has a nurturing environment from birth to three years, as an adult, that child will be 25 times more active mentally and more productive than a child who is subject to want, who is not properly fed, who is abused and beaten,” the First Lady said.

She then urged the teenagers, who have access to the Centre, to capitalise on the opportunity to seek sound medical advice, care and counselling about sex and sexuality, which will inform them about a wide range of topics in this regard, and preclude them from engaging in risky sexual behaviours.

Dr Travis Freeman, resident doctor at the Sophia Health Centre Teenage Pregnancy Support Group, echoed this view. He said that the initiative, which was first launched several years ago to address the high incidences of teenage pregnancy, was revised and relaunched nationally in October 2017 at the Sophia Health Centre.

The programme, which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Public Health, in collaboration with the Ministries of Social Protection and Education, now aims to provide more comprehensive care aimed at ensuring that young persons have access to health services. He too urged teenagers to access the services to become “educated, to learn more about your body, to learn more about your sexuality that is what this initiative is about… we want to empower our young people, we want to empower our young ladies.”

The Centre is managed by two doctors, five nurses and a clinic attendant and serves approximately 11,000 persons within the borders of Meadwobank and Providence, East Bank Demerara.

 

UG students brace for increased tuition fees

The fees’ hike, which took students completely by surprise, has already been greeted with protests

The fees’ hike, which took students completely by surprise, has already been greeted with protests

Following the decision to raise tuition fees at the University of Guyana over the next three years, the UG Student Society (UGSS) is rallying to the challenges that will be faced by students who will have to deal with the tuition fee increases.

The fees’ hike, which took students completely by surprise, has already been greeted with protests

In a phone interview with this publication, UGSS President Ron Glasgow revealed that the next three weeks would see the students’ representative body consulting and soliciting feedback from the student population on the best way forward.

He said the initial fee hike of 15 per cent would take effect in September of this year, so there was some leeway in terms of time.

UG’s Council had approved the 15 per cent increase in fees, as the first step in its move to see an overall 35 per cent tuition increase over a three-year period, at a March 30 extraordinary meeting of the Council. That meeting was picketed by students of the institution.

The meeting, which was chaired by Chancellor Eon Nigel Harris, made the decision following an examination of the University’s projected budget deficit, the pressing needs of the institution, and projected alternative income streams.

The University had stated that even with the “unavoidable adjustments”, fees at the institution would still be comparatively lower than regional counterparts.

According to UG, the Council’s decision will be applied to tuition fees for all programmes and for both continuing students and new students in the 2017-2018 academic year.

However, it said input from the UGSS was considered, leading to an incremental rollout, where continuing students would now pay an increase of 15 per cent (about G$2500 a month), and new students an increase of 18 per cent (about G$3000 a month).

The decision to raise fees has not been a popular one, with several observers raising concerns about the financial challenges many students and their families already face. When asked about the increases on Friday, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had downplayed the concerns.

The Minister said it was irrelevant what the per capita income was (the average amount of money being earned per person). He also noted that if students wanted quality education, they would have to pay for it.

Meanwhile, while the decision to increase tuition has been made, the University is still battling with its senior staff with regard to negotiations for their salary increase.

At the same meeting, the Council also authorised the UG Administration to commence negotiations with the two unions at the tertiary institution for remuneration packages based on what the University could afford.

The Council said it also received clarification from the Finance Ministry that the claim by the unions that the Government of Guyana had provided a fixed sum of money for salaries, which would amount to a 15 per cent salary increase, was inaccurate.

In this context, the UG Administration will continue to analyse the University’s budget to determine the fullest possible extent of affordability. It also was stressed that staff performance would be a key factor in determining salaries and benefits, whether monetary or non-monetary.

Several issues affecting Linden Hospital Complex

…Parliamentary Sectoral Committee hears during visit

 Dr Vindhya Persaud and the LHC CEO, Dr Farouk Riyasat in conversation at the facility

Dr Vindhya Persaud and the LHC CEO, Dr Farouk Riyasat in conversation at the facility

A visit by the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services to the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC) on Tuesday revealed several appalling issues, including drug shortages, a dysfunctional ECG machine, shortage of cutting edge needles, insufficient monitors, issues with sections of the roof, cracks in some parts of the building and the need for more dental staff.

The Committee – consisting of Opposition Members of Parliament Dr Vindhya Persaud, Dr Vishwa Mahadeo, and Indranie Chandarpal as well as Minister within the Communities Ministry Valerie Patterson and others – visited all sections of the medical institution to get a first-hand look at the conditions under which patients receive care and some of the challenges faced by staff.

LHC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Farouk Riyasat and Medical Superintendent, Dr Steve Mark facilitated the tour of various wards. Over at the Hospital’s treatment bay, staff complained of a shortage of drugs and injectables, noting that patients have also complained of a lack of insulin as well as the unavailability and cost of some medications. At the pharmacy, the Chief Pharmacist pointed out that sometimes medications ordered were not received.

“Sometimes, you order and you don’t get what you order,” she told the Parliamentary Committee.

She added that the Hospital was promised an “emergency order” which was expected to be facilitated on Wednesday. According to the pharmacist, 89 types of drugs were said to be on the pharmacy’s mailing list. Of that number, 19 are critical medication. However, the chief pharmacist explained that in-house patients were the only ones who would benefit from the present supplies. It was noted by Regional Health Officer Pansy Armstrong that only about G$8 million to G$11 million in emergency drugs money was allocated annually.

Some members of the Committee agreed that it was a small amount, which may have contributed to the other hospitals in the Region being affected. At the Hospital’s laboratory, Senior Medical Technologist Melanie Sinclair stressed the need for the Microbial Department to be functional, as she noted that no cultures were being done. She said there was a room to facilitate this activity, but pointed to the absence of relevant staff. The staffer also stressed the need for microbiologists and technologists.

The CEO noted that Cuban microbiologists were expected, while others expressed an interest also in having local trained staff. According to Sinclair, the Department is more populated with medical technicians. “We have equipment, but we don’t have any person who is trained to do it…We have few technologists,” she said.

In response, Dr Mahadeo said given the level of emergency cases, more staff was needed. The need for a backup biochemical machine was also highlighted, since it was noted that only one was present. Additionally, the Committee was told of insufficient blood supplies despite blood drives at the Hospital. Presently, Sinclair said there was a demand for O positive blood in Linden. Dr Mahadeo suggested that the LHC moved towards securing a blood coordinator.

At the X- ray department, staff asked for an ECG machine. Members of the Committee also made recommendations for a CT scan machine, owing to the available space and staff. A local doctor also stressed the need for a printer and computerised system to enhance patients’ records.

Following the tour of the Hospital, Dr Persaud noted that the issue of drug shortages seemed to be chronic across the country, while indicating that there were issues which were peculiar to the LHC. She said that while some issues may not require major input, others may.

“In the areas where there were deficiencies and inadequacies like in terms of medication, equipment or any other area that was raised, it would be very good if the Parliament Office can have substantiating documentation…because at the end of the day, what we hope is that you would benefit more,” she said.

Dr Persaud said parliamentary staff would be writing to the institution soon and a draft report would be prepared. She also noted the similarities at hospitals visited. “There are certain medications that are consistently absent in the system. Diabetic and hypertensive medication in particular and those are the largest populations we have to deal with. So it’s challenging and a bit frustrating for people in the system.” Meanwhile, Dr Mahadeo said so far the LHC was the best kept of the three hospitals visited so far.

CEO Riyasat also pointed out plans to expand and include new services such as dialysis and chemotherapy services for this year, noting that currently dialysis patients are referred to Georgetown Public Hospital. (Utamu Belle)

 

Berbice man in jealous rage sets home on fire

– wife, 3 children homeless

Seenarine Cyril

Seenarine Cyril

A fire believed to be an act of arson committed by a husband in a jealous rage destroyed a house at Rose Hall Town, Berbice on Monday evening.

Five persons are now homeless, including the man’s wife and three children.

Reports are that the fisherman was seen going into the house moments before flames were seen coming from the building at Lot 232 Mangrove Street, Reef, Rose Hall Town, Berbice.

Speaking with Guyana Times International, Sarita Sewindra, 26, said on Monday afternoon she lent a neighbour the family bicycle and about 15:30h her husband, Seenarine Cyril, 36, wanted to use the bicycle. Upon realising that the bike had been lent to a villager, the man accused his wife of lending it to her male ‘friend’.

Reports are that Cyril accused his wife of infidelity and made several threats. According to Sewindra, she became afraid and took her three children – aged four, six and seven – out of the house to her mother who lives a street away.

Neighbours related that it was while the rest of the family were away that Cyril was seen going into the house, moments before flames were seen.

Sarita Sewindra

Sarita Sewindra

One unit from the Rose Hall Fire Service, along with a unit from GuySuCo’s Albion State, responded to reports of the fire. The firefighters were able to contain the blaze, preventing it from spreading to other buildings, but not before it completely destroyed the one-flat house.

When the blaze was put out, Cyril was nowhere to be found.

The couple have been together for 10 years.  Two years ago, Sewindra joined her husband as a fish vendor at the Rose Hall Market, but operated her own business.

The woman said it was not the first attempt by her husband to burn the house down. According to her, he made attempts to do so twice in December of last year.

She also said that on six occasions, he attempted to take his life, the most recent being in February.

According to the fish vendor, Cyril recently threatened to kill her and give their three children poison to drink and then take his own life. This, she said, was reported to the Police who went to arrest him. In an attempt to avoid being arrested, the fish vendor tried to end his life.

According to the woman, last Thursday, Cyril took his identification card and other documents belonging to him and gave them to his mother. She said he also stopped giving her money from his daily sales. “He start taking his money and give it to his mother,” she explained.

Police have launched a manhunt for the suspect.

 

NY-based Guyanese Arya Samaj observes Foundation Day

By Vishnu Bisram

samajThe NY-based Guyanese Arya Samajists observed Foundation day last Sunday in Jamaica. It was a perfect day for an outdoor religious event. The sun was shining in all its glory with a cool soft breeze blowing across a holy site. Hundreds showed up at 94 Avenue at 150th Street for the outdoor Havan, one of the largest ritual celebrations as each family conducted their own ceremony assisted by Guru Dr Satish Prakash.

The Arya Samsj Gurukula is located there, surrounded by a diversity of small industries and the railroad.  Guyanese Samajists transformed the area with their temple and religious service. That unique location of the multi-kundhavan was transformed into a spiritual rendezvous. The constant crackling sounds generated at the industrial site on a workday was absent. There was instead an ordered chorus of Hindu mantras in praise to the Almighty.

Hundreds of men, women and children, gathered to participate in this ceremonial multi-kundhavan.  The avenue was closed by the City for several hours to allow devotees of the Gurukula and others to pay tribute to the Arya Samaj’s 142nd Foundation Anniversary observance. There were over 25 separate havankund with groups consisting on average of 8 devotees, performing the requisite traditional rituals. Swami Dayananda Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj movement on April 10, 1875 in Bombay (now Mumbai).  The weekend was chosen for the ceremony because of convenience.

Periodically, the officiating priest Vyakaranacharya Satish Prakash, the Maharishi Dayananda Gurukula’s Spiritual Leader, paused to make the program ‘personal’ by recognizing devotees who have been celebrating their birthdays, their wedding anniversaries, or those who had recently lost loved ones. Goodwill messages were delivered by representatives of various organizations.

Dr Satish Prakash issued periodic messages on morality and goodness.

Dr Satish Prakash expressed gratitude to all the participants and guests and sponsors.

 

Biggest Party in Sport returns to USA

cplFour Caribbean Premier League games will be played in the USA this year, as Florida’s Central Broward Regional Park has been approved by the ICC to host the T20 league’s matches. The stadium in Lauderhill, which remains the USA’s only ground to have ODI and T20I certification by the ICC, will host two matches fewer than last year’s tally of six.

CPL officials announced the development after receiving permission from the ICC – who is the approving authority while USACA remains suspended – to host the event in Lauderhill. The 2017 edition of the tournament will be held from August 4 to September 10.

A source at the Central Broward Regional Park has told ESPNcricinfo that the CPL has reserved Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6, to play two double-headers beginning at 10am and 2pm each day. However, after the Thursday and Friday matches in 2016 struggled to break 50% capacity, with 10,000 tickets allowed for each game, there are no matches scheduled for weekdays this time around.

In contrast, the two weekend double-headers that followed on July 30 and 31 were played in front of virtual sellout crowds as an overwhelming number of out of town fans came to Lauderhill, particularly from New York and Toronto. The stadium source also told ESPNcricinfo that only four CPL teams will be coming to Florida this summer, rather than all six as was the case last year. It is as yet unknown which two teams will skip the USA leg.

The time slots for the Saturday and Sunday double-headers have also been pushed forward by two hours – the weekend matches in 2016 began at 12pm and 4pm local time – ostensibly in an effort to better capitalise on TV audiences in the Asian subcontinent where the first game would air at 7.30 pm in India and 7pm in Pakistan. This would be similar to the 10am start that the India-West Indies T20I series in Lauderhill followed.

Earlier, ESPNcricinfo had reported that CPL officials had asked Broward County Parks for two sets of week-long time frames to be blocked off in August for possible use for the tournament. The matches in 2016, played in July, were the first revenue-generating cricket to come to the ground in four years and increased interest in the India-West Indies T20I match in the following month.

Guyana bauxite review report to be completed by May

Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman

Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman

The review of the bauxite industry, which was commissioned last year in observance of its centennial, is set to end soon.

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, during a recent outreach in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), said the report on the review was expected to be completed before the end of May.

“We are currently reviewing the industry to see where our reserves are and the future of the industry,” the Minister said. The review also “includes a decision as to whether or not we should have another alumina plant in the country”.

Minister Trotman said the review was being conducted by Lance Carberry and Sylvester Carmichael, two veterans within the industry. The Government is already considering fuelling the alumina plant with the natural gas that has been found, along with oil, in the Stabroek Block offshore Essequibo.

Guyana celebrated 100 years of bauxite mining in October 2016. There are two bauxite-producing companies in Guyana, Bosai and Rusal.  The decreased world demand for the mineral prompted the Government to carry out the review of the industry.  According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) report, the review is also a manifesto promise of the Administration. It will help to determine the future plans for the industry.

Enmore NDC threatens legal action if seized computers not returned

The Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) office at Enmore, East Coast Demerara

The Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) office at Enmore, East Coast Demerara

Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall, who has been detained by the Enmore Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), wrote the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) on Tuesday requesting that the agency return several computer systems that were confiscated last week.

It was reported that on Thursday last, a group of agents attached to SARU went down to the Enmore NDC and took away 15 desktop computers and eight backup power packs without informing officials there.

However, when contacted that evening, SARU Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Major (Rtd) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer explained to Guyana Times International that his agency had merely gone to render assistance to the E-Governance Department, which went to retrieve the computer systems after it was informed by SARU that the NDC wanted to “get rid” of them.

“We got information that these computers were there and that they were not in use and that some people on the NDC were about to get rid of them…We simply alerted E-Governance who asked for us to accompany them, so some people went from my unit with E-Governance, collect the computers and give them to E-Governance, who has them,” the SARU Head stated.

However, Enmore NDC Vice Chairman Iqbal Dawud in a subsequent statement the following day denied that there was any “such plot”, adding that “nothing clandestine or unlawful was intended”.

He went on to explain that the computers, which were the property of the NDC, were outdated and most of them were malfunctioning; as such, a decision was taken by the Council to have the computers sold, if possible, and replaced with a new complement of systems so that the community can continue to benefit from their use.

“This decision was made at a public statutory meeting of the NDC and recorded in the minutes. Therefore, there was nothing sinister, secretive or illegal about it as has been suggested by the Government,” Dawud had pointed out.

To this end, the NDC retained Attorney Nandlall to act on its behalf in the matter. Nandlall outlined in the legal letter addressed to SARU’s CEO that the actions of the SARU officers were “unlawful”.

“I have noted that in the press you have admitted knowledge of and responsibility for this operation and, therefore, I afflict you with knowledge of the current location of these equipment. I am to inform you that the aforesaid actions of your subordinates are not only authoritarian but are unlawful, illegal, and unconstitutional and amount to misfeasance in public office,” the Attorney said in the letter.

In the circumstances, Nandlall warned that legal action would be taken if SARU failed to return the computer systems to the NDC.

“I hereby demand that you return the aforementioned equipment to my client at the location from which they were taken, within seven days from the date hereof; if you fail to do so, my client will be advised to institute legal proceedings against the State and possibly, private criminal charges against each of the officers who were part of the aforementioned unlawful and criminal exercise,” the lawyer detailed in the letter to the SARU Head.

Furthermore, Nandlall reminded Heath-Retemyer in the letter of his (Nandlall’s) constant public condemnation of the pretention by SARU officers to be law enforcement officers of the State, pretending to exercise law enforcement powers. This continued masquerade, he said, is utterly unlawful.

 

Opposition says willing to participate in discussion on replacement for Carter Formula

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

In wake of suggestions that the Carter Formula has outlived its usefulness, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said he was willing to participate in meaningful discussions to develop a replacement.

A former Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of Jamaica compiled a report on the need for Guyana to redraft and modernise its electoral laws.

In that report, he argued that the Carter Formula was outdated and there was need for a new process.

Prompted for his views on such a contention, Jagdeo told reporters that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was open to partaking in discussions to bring about reforms.

Jagdeo added that any such changes would require constitutional reform, but given Government’s approach, such a process seemed far from becoming a reality.

“In this climate, it seems very difficult to predict that we will have those any time before the next elections,” Jagdeo observed.

Carter Formula

Guyana’s 1980 Constitution was amended to incorporate the Carter Formula, which was proposed by the Carter Centre, for the fair selection of the Chairman and Commissioners of GECOM.

The Formula outlined that the Opposition Leader submit a list of six nominees for the President’s consideration for the post of GECOM Chair.

The qualifications of the Chairman were also expanded to include “any other fit and proper person” in addition to ‘Judge-type’ individuals.

After the 1992 elections, this temporary amendment to the Constitution lapsed. However, for the Local Government Elections in 1994, the Constitution was then again temporarily amended, incorporating the Carter Formula for the purposes of the Local Government Elections, with one addendum: the list of names must not be “unacceptable” to the President.

The amended Carter Formula was used again in the 1997 elections, with the Constitution again being amended in 1995, capturing the Formula.

During the 1999-2001 constitutional reform process, the Carter Formula was eventually incorporated permanently into Article 161 of the Constitution by Act Number Two of 2000.

Change

The report, titled “Final Report on Redrafting and Modernising the Electoral Laws of Guyana”, said the erosion of confidence in GECOM is in part due to the failure of the Carter-Price Formula to enable decisions to be taken on a timely basis and with a measure of consensus.

The report proposed the adaptation of an independent Electoral Management Body (EMB), which would fix all the issues which the Carter-Price Formula fails to address.

The report said that the EMB approach avoided party nominees as Commissioners, and instead used a participatory format that entailed three levels of screening before the names of independent individuals were submitted to the President for formal appointment.

Constitutional reform

Although the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) campaigned vociferously on the need for constitutional reform, it has seemingly lost interest in this process. At least, this is according to former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran, who penned his views in his weekly blog, “The Conversation Tree”.

The coalition had committed to the establishment of a Constitution Reform Committee with a mandate to complete consultations, draft amendments and present same to the National Assembly for approval within nine months. So far, Government has appointed a committee headed by Attorney and former AFC Chairman Nigel Hughes to examine the process for constitutional reform. While the committee presented its report to Government almost a year ago, no progress has since been seen.