November 19, 2017

Archives for June 2017

Self-harm initiative to further reduce suicide prevalence – Mental Health Unit Director

Director of the Mental Health Unit Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas.

Mental Health Unit Director, Dr Util Richmond-Thomas said that owing to the alarming number of self-harm cases, the decision has been taken to launch “The National Self-Harm Surveillance” project come July.

“If we can get the majority of self-harm and depression cases treated, we can drastically reduce the suicide rate,” the Director was quoted as saying in an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA).

Self-harming cases are also known as non-suicidal self-injury. Dr Richmond-Thomas explained that in Region Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands) alone, 93 self-harm cases have already been recorded for 2017. Thirty suicide deaths were officially recorded at the West Demerara Regional Hospital for the same period.  The National Self- Harm Surveillance project will be launched initially in Regions Two, Three and Six, mainly because those regions have the highest suicide rates.

 “Self-harm is the strongest indicator of future suicide,” Dr Richmond-Thomas stated. According to the GINA release, she further explained that many persons who commit suicide would have had several incidents of self-harm in their past. “It means, therefore, that if the self-harm was being treated while it was occurring, it may not have led to suicide.”

The Programme Director, in explaining how the project would work, said all cases of self-harm must be reported to the Mental Health Unit within one week of presentation. Once reported, persons will then have to see a psychiatrist or mhGAP (mental health GAP-IG) doctor. There are over 40 mhGAP doctors locally. Each case will receive psychotherapy by a psychologist and be followed up by a social worker until they are no longer high-risk patients.

The Unit will also be implementing a self-harm screening tool, which is a questionnaire. The questionnaire will aid in the fight against suicide. The pilot screening tool is expected to be rolled out in three major hospitals in Regions Two, Three and Six soon.

“Making sure they (patients) are properly treated will just ensure that they have better quality of life,” Dr Richmond-Thomas added. She said the Unit’s drive to battle suicide was “well on its way”, with the Public Health Ministry rolling out several mental health projects.

“The National Self-Harm Surveillance follows closely on the heels of the mhGAP Intervention Guide programme, which recently saw  non-specialised doctors trained with the necessary skills and knowledge to better screen patients and provide diagnostic assessment for persons living with mental health illnesses. This programme seeks to provide efficient care at primary health-care facilities across the nation. This programme is part Guyana’s National Mental Health Action Plan 2015-2020.

 

ExxonMobil contracts Dutch company to install, operate floating base

SBM’s Chief Executive Officer, Bruno Chabas

ExxonMobil, the US-based oil giant gearing for production offshore Guyana, has handed a major contract to a Dutch based company to install and operate its floating producing and storage base for its Liza oil field in Guyana.

The company — SBM Offshore –made the official announcement on Monday saying under the contract it will construct, install, lease and operate a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Vessel (FPSO).

This follows completion of front-end engineering studies and the final investment decision on the project by ExxonMobil, according to the company.

The FPSO is said to be designed to produce up to 120,000 barrels of oil per day, will have associated gas treatment capacity of about 170 million cubic feet per day and water injection capacity of about 200,000 barrels per day.

The floating base will be moored at a depth of 1525 meters and will be able to store 1.6 million barrels of crude oil at a given time.

Making the announcement, SBM’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruno Chabas said, “We are proud that ExxonMobil awarded SBM Offshore the contracts for the Liza FPSO.”

He observed that the ExxonMobil Liza Field offshore Guyana was one of the industry’s largest oil discoveries of the past decade, and “we look forward to cooperating closely with our client and partners to make this project a success”.

According to Chabas, “this award underlines SBM Offshore’s continued focus on building on our experience, our long-term relationships and FPSO-led strategic vision.”

The decision to award the contract by ExxonMobil comes on the heels of the company being awarded its Production Licence from the Guyana Government.

The acceleration towards production offshore Guyana follows major discoveries in Guyana in May 2015 and June 2016 of “world-class resources”, possibly the largest over the last two years.

“A small team worked more than a year designing and executing a plan that had now brought us to the brink of what could be a major discovery,” ExxonMobil’s Guyana Basin Project Manager said, at the time of the Liza-1 well discovery.

SBM Offshore is a listed holding company headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands that provides floating production services to the offshore energy industry.

The company is regarded as one of the leading firms in leased floating production systems with multiple units currently in operation.

The company’s main activities are the design, supply, installation, operation and the life extension of FPSO vessels.

These are either owned and operated by SBM Offshore and leased to its clients or supplied on a turnkey sale basis.

Only recently, the Guyana Parliament was updated by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, who had said the Stabroek Basin offshore Guyana, where exploration activities are currently underway, holds potentially two billion barrels of recoverable oil. He said, too, Government has drafted an Upstream and Local Content Policy in anticipation of the start of production in 2020.

Trotman was at the time piloting the Petroleum Bill 2017, which has since been sent to a Special Select Committee of the Guyana Parliament for further consultations.

Man “accidentally” shoots wife in stomach

– while clearing firearm

A housewife of Bougainvillea Park, East Bank Demerara (EBD) is nursing a single gunshot injury at the Georgetown Public Hospital after her husband’s gun “accidentally” went off. The incident occurred about 02:30h on Monday.

This newspaper understands that the 50-year-old victim and her 60-year-old husband had just returned from a function and upon entering the house, the woman went to take a shower. As she was done, she went into the bedroom and upon doing so, she heard an explosion followed by a burning sensation in her abdomen.

As she looked closer, she realised that she was bleeding profusely. She was rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital, where she was admitted.

Her husband, who is a licensed firearm holder, told detectives that he was clearing the bullets from his weapon when it accidentally went off.

He only became aware that his wife was shot when she screamed for help. He confirmed that she was shot to her abdomen and without hesitation, he rushed her to the Hospital.

Her condition is regarded as stable. The man is being questioned by Police, and his firearm has been lodged.

 

Citizens dissatisfied with Govt’s handling of oil

Dear Editor,

An opinion poll conducted earlier this month by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association to gauge public views on varied contemporary issues found a population very dissatisfied with Government’s handling of the oil contract, economy, sugar and rice industries, crime, corruption, race relations, and several other issues considered critical to national development.

The composition of the respondents (430) reflected the general demographic diversity of the population (41 per cent Indians, 31 per cent Africans, 17 per cent Mixed, 10 per cent Amerindians, one per cent others). The poll was conducted by this writer. There was a margin of error of four per cent.

The eligible voting public in the survey identified several issues of paramount importance to the nation – crime, poor governance, the economy (increasing unemployment, rising cost of living, declining business, lack of circulation of money, etc), corruption, racism, ascending use of illegal drugs, soaring taxation, growing alcoholism, and domestic abuse as among the major problems afflicting the nation.

Queried which is the most important problem, nearly every respondent said the problems are all equally important and are inter-related. They noted that each problem critically impacts on national development. When pinned down to identify the one that they feel needs urgent attention, 40 per cent said the economy, followed by 20 per cent who said racism, 18 per cent crime, and 10 per cent corruption.

Asked if they think the Government is racist, 54 per cent (mostly PPP and AFC supporters) said yes, with 40 per cent (mostly PNC supporters) saying no.

Asked if they are satisfied with the Government’s handling of the economy, 62 per cent said no, with only 30 per cent saying yes. Some 60 per cent said the country is not moving in the right direction, as compared with 31 per cent who said it is going in the right direction. Some 58 per cent of the surveyed sample feel the Government has been condoning “corruption” since it came into office two years ago. Some 72 per cent of the country feels the APNU/AFC government has been too secretive in its conduct of national affairs; 14 per cent are satisfied with the limited amount of information provided by the Government on its policies and contracts. Some 78 per cent of the population (including large numbers of APNU/AFC supporters) feel the Government should release the Exxon oil contract to the public; only 13 per cent supports the Government’s position in not divulging the details of the oil contract. And just 22 per cent are satisfied with the Government’s effort at combating crime.

Asked if they support the planned closure of several sugar estates, 60 per cent said no, with 28 per cent (primarily PNC supporters) saying yes. Almost everyone in the sugar estates feel none of the estates should be closed. Sugar workers feel the estates and GuySuCo can be profitable if properly run, and not used as a political football.

Asked if closed sugar estate lands should be given to terminated (unemployed) sugar workers for agricultural production, a significant majority (58 per cent) say yes, with 25 per cent (primarily PNC supporters) saying no, and the others saying they are not sure.

Every respondent in Wales and the greater West Demerara area said the Wales estate land should be given to sugar estate workers to rehabilitate the sugar industry, or be used for farming.

Rice farmers throughout the country express a serious concern that the Government is not helping them; and worse, has been undermining the rice industry. Asked if they agree with the view (of Government neglect of rice industry) as expressed by rice farmers, 52 per cent in the national survey said yes, in contrast with 37 per cent who said no.

The poll also queried respondents on other issues; those findings will be released in a subsequent report.

Sincerely,

Vishnu Bisram

 

Trotman should apologise for his despicable behaviour in Parliament

Dear Editor,

I watch the news often, but was shocked and flabbergasted when I saw the recent behaviour of Minister Raphael Trotman in Parliament. In that debate, Trotman’s behaviour towards former President Bharrat Jagdeo was very disrespectful. His tone of voice and his arrogance leaves much to be desired. He behaves as if his Coalition Government will rule forever, and he is some sort of a God, holding power forever.

Though Mr Trotman was raving and ranting like a delirious man, the Speaker of the House failed to dispense his duties by stopping him or cautioning him to tone down his voice against Mr Jagdeo. It tells me clearly that we have no discipline in Parliament, and this sets a bad example to the citizens of this nation. Mr Trotman, who happens to be a Christian, failed to conduct himself properly in Parliament. He sets a bad example of Christianity to the other honourable members of the House who are Hindus and Muslims. I believe he should be disciplined for his cantankerous and arrogant behaviour.

In Parliament they refer to each other as honourable member. The word ‘’honourable” can be defined as: bringing or worthy of honour; honest, moral, ethical, principled, righteous, right-minded; decent, respectable, estimable, virtuous, good, upstanding, upright, worthy, noble, fair, just, truthful, trustworthy, law-abiding, reliable, reputable, creditable, dependable, illustrious, distinguished, eminent, great, glorious, renowned, acclaimed, prestigious, noble, creditable, admirable, “an honourable man.”

From the definition given above, since our Parliamentarians here are calling each other ‘’honourable members’’ in their debate, I believe our erudite Attorney-at-law Mr Trotman failed to comprehend the meaning of the word honourable when I watched his despicable behaviour on national television.

 

Yours faithfully,

Rev Gideon Cecil

 

Should citizens not be worried about municipal officials wasting scarce resources?

Dear Editor,

There has quite recently been much rumpus about the Government of Guyana renting a five-bedroom house for G$500,000 per month for a junior minister, along with covering unlimited VAT, inclusive of electricity consumption.

And one can understand why, as the Government is calling on the citizens to tighten their belts, to conserve and to reuse stationery, etc. But, quite frankly, this opulence pales in comparison to the overindulgence occurring at City Hall.

How could one cry out for paying G$500,000 per month for a luxurious mansion in a swanky neighbourhood, when the Council doles out a whopping G$82,000 per month, which has now been increased to over G$90,000 per month, for a simple plastic portable toilet each?

Should citizens not be concerned about the first class travel around the world by municipal officials, who are nowhere near ministerial level? Should they not be concerned about officials having bodyguards as if they are prime ministers or presidents? Static security at their residences; chauffeurs, gardeners, personal assistants and many attendants?

Should citizens not be worried about municipal officials wasting scarce resources on pointless retreats to grand resorts; hosting pageants, hat shows and expos whilst the ordinary staff members there cannot get their vacation allowances or salaries on time?

When will a complete forensic audit of City Hall’s books be done?

Sincerely,

Mark Roopan

One dead, 2 others being treated following bee attack at Imbaimadai

The body of the late Donald McIntosh being taken to the morgue as resdients looks

Donald McIntosh is now dead, and Raymond Oselmo and Tyrone Charles are being treated for stings they received after being attacked by a swarm of Africanized bees at Imbaimadai, Region Seven, on Tuesday last.

The three miners were reportedly driving an excavator along a trail in the Imbaimadai area when they encountered a tree that blocked their path.

They used the excavator to push down the tree, but were attacked by swarms of Africanized bees that were inhabiting a hive in the tree. Panicking, McIntosh allegedly ran into the nest while his two companions ran in the opposite direction. His body was found sometime later.

It is believed that when McIntosh jumped off the excavator, his foot got stuck in “quicksand”, and this detained him long enough for the bees to concentrate their attack on him.

After getting out of the quicksand, McIntosh reportedly ran a short distance before collapsing.

His companions recalled hearing him screaming for help for more than an hour before he finally went silent, but they claim they were afraid to go to his assistance.

This was reportedly the second time that McIntosh had had an encounter with Africanized bees. His body is at the Bartica Regional Hospital awaiting a post mortem.

Apiculturists from Kingdom Apiary have since been called in to capture the bees, and they have reportedly removed several hives, which will be harvested for honey.

Linden Stewart has said this attack underscores the need for miners to receive urgent training regarding how to operate when attacked by bees.

 

Guyana’s TIP rating jumps to Tier 1

Guyana can now boast as a country that has made headway in the fight against Trafficking in Persons (TIP), according to the newly released US State Department Trafficking in Persons 2017 Report. The report bumps Guyana from Tier 2 to Tier 1 on the TIP Index.

The upgrade means that the country has been able to implement the recommendations made in the 2016 report and satisfied the minimum requirements of the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour in mining, agriculture, forestry, domestic service and shops. The report stated that for the past five years women and children from Guyana, Brazil, The Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Venezuela are subjected to sex trafficking in mining communities in the interior and urban areas.

It also identifies that while both sex trafficking and forced labour occurs in interior mining communities, limited Government presence in those areas makes the extent of trafficking unknown. It added that corruption within the Police Force also hinders anti-trafficking efforts.

The Social Protection Ministry has been the lead agency responsible for tackling trafficking and overseeing the work of the Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU). The Government was commended on the establishment of the inter-ministerial taskforce, which in collaboration with various stakeholders coordinated several successful anti-trafficking operations. In 2016, the Government reported 19 trafficking investigations, 19 prosecutions, and two convictions; compared to 15 trafficking investigations, seven prosecutions, and one conviction in 2015, and seven investigations, four prosecutions, and one conviction in 2014.

While the report notes the accomplishments, it also identifies Government’s failure to increase protection and services for victims outside of Georgetown as well as the provision of adequate protection and shelter for child and male victims.

“The Government reported identifying 98 trafficking victims in 2016 (80 for sex trafficking and 18 for labour trafficking), compared with 56 in 2015. An NGO reported the Government referred 40 victims to shelter and psycho-social services in 2016, compared with 17 victims in 2015,” the report stated.

The Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an anti-trafficking non-governmental organisation (NGO) during the previous reporting period and committed public funding for the provision of enhanced psychosocial services to adult female trafficking victims referred by the Government. However, the Government never honoured its commitment; rather it gave G$13 million to another NGO that provided housing and counselling services to victims of gender-based violence, including an unknown number of trafficking victims, the report highlighted.

Guyana was put in the spotlight for its lack of adequate public or private shelters for male or child trafficking victims, despite the Government’s commitment, made in early 2016, to open and partially fund a shelter for male victims. Child trafficking victims are placed in nonspecialised shelters, and child victims identified in rural areas were placed in holding cells overnight without food before being transferred to the capital for shelter.

Recommendations

In order to become fully prepared to tackle TIP, several initiatives have to be taken. The report recommends the funding of specialised victim services; vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labour trafficking cases; train law enforcement, judiciary officials, and frontline responders – especially those working outside the capital – on victim identification and referral procedures and finalise the written identification procedures to better guide law enforcement officials.

It also recommends Guyana provide additional protection for victims to enable them to testify against traffickers in a way that minimizes re-traumatisation; record the number of cases reported to the trafficking hotline to promote a rapid investigative and victim assistance response; and provide training for diplomatic personnel on human trafficking.

No solid grounds for dismissing James Singh

James Singh

Permit me to register my concern and disappointment on a matter in which I am of the view that it is deemed worrying, in respect to the future political directional dimension our country is heading. This reference is specific to the unjust and unfair egregious politically motivated act of the manner in which the now former head of CANU, James Singh, was relieved of his duties – a portfolio which he held for almost a decade.

During his tenure, he executed his mandate in the highest degree of professionalism and integrity.

The Government when it was in Opposition, they never criticised the workings of CANU under Singh’s leadership; in fact, they renewed his contract for another three years after successfully bringing down one of the country’s biggest drug lords. CANU successfully executed and achieved its mandate – a notion validated by the fact that Guyana was never listed or blacklisted as one of the failed states within which it has failed in combating efforts against drug trafficking. He had a zero tolerance approach on corruption and though he is no longer at the helm of the institution, he has left a well-trained and competent team. How is such an act befitting of a man of his calibre in light of the commendable service he has given to his country? A shameless act on the part of the Government – he does not deserve this. I would like to urge the Government to reconsider this and confer upon him the dignity and respect he commands.

There were absolutely no solid grounds and basis for such a decision. The Public Security Minister cited that it was all part of a restructuring programme developed to strengthen the institution – stemming from some vaguely cited recommendations. This is blatantly appalling against the background that, the Government expended over G$50 million in three months on a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the affairs of the Guyana Sugar Corporation.

Arising from the findings and recommendations therein, the Government saw it best to pursue a path contrary to the recommendations of the CoI despite expending millions of taxpayers’ money to have it done. Thus, given the current policies and adversities the country is now facing with the downsizing of the industry – closure of sugar estates – it must be mentioned that those were not the recommendations put forward by the CoI. The question is why then, did the Government waste in excess of G$50 million? And if it didn’t see it fit to implement those recommendations – why are they implementing a vaguely referenced recommendation? By whom were these recommendations made and what added value will it bring to the entity?

It would appear that these are all carefully crafted plans by the Government of the day which are in keeping with their own hidden political agenda and pursuits. What could be their agenda, we must ask ourselves as patriotic citizens and seek to derive plausible answers. I must commend James Singh for the way in which he received this politically unscrupulous act against him, very calmly, quietly and professionally. It demonstrates the level of his maturity and wisdom.

The Public Security Minister attempted to polish the uncouth act by stating he hopes to re-engage him at some point. I can bet my bottom dollar, those words are weightless and meaningless. It is just a failed attempt at a cover up statement.

 

Indigenous Lands

Even as President David Granger attempted to defuse the outrage of the Indigenous Peoples to his arbitrary decision to link their land rights in Guyana to land titling issues faced by African Guyanese, the lawyer who was hired to play leading technical role in drafting the 2006 Amerindian Act has now thrown a monkey wrench into a possible consensus by declaring that “Indigenous Peoples” is a controversial and very divisive concept, and land claims made on that basis are somehow undermined.

She claims the UN has debated the use of the term for over two decades without coming to a single accepted definition. That might very well be in terms of dealing with grey areas, but in Guyana, whether they are called “Amerindian” or “First Peoples”, there can be no doubt that they fall under the preliminary definition of “Indigenous peoples” proposed in 1972 by Mr José R. Martínez-Cobo, Special Rapporteur on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations:

“Indigenous communities, peoples, and nations are those that, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories and their ethnic identity as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.”

In Guyana, even President Granger, when he suggested the Joint Land Commission, acknowledged that Indigenous Peoples had occupied their lands from “time immemorial”, and held it as “sacred”.

Back in 1965, Amerindian MP Stephen Campbell attended the Independence Conference in London along with Burnham and the PNC, and ensured the official Agreement for the Independence of Guyana, (Annex C) required the independent government provide legal ownership or rights of occupancy for Amerindians over: “areas and reservations, or parts thereof, where any tribe or community of Amerindians is now ordinarily resident or settled; and other legal rights, such as the rights of passage in respect of any other lands they now by tradition or custom de facto enjoy freedoms and permissions corresponding to rights of that nature. In this context, it is intended that legal ownership shall comprise all rights normally attaching to such ownership.”

Most Guyanese would now baulk at the ridiculous claim of Columbus “discovering” the “New World”, and so entering the ranks of humanity upon contact with Europeans. But they do not follow through with the equally ridiculous corollary of Europeans going on to assume “sovereignty” over the lands occupied by the Indigenous Peoples living there.  At the time of Columbus’s unfortunate voyage, the fledgling International Law postulated, on natural-law grounds, that its concept such as “sovereignty” was based on reason, and applied to all peoples, be they European or not. This was explicitly stated, for instance, in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which launched the modern state system.

But, during the period of empire-building, all sorts of “legal” reasons, doctrines and norms were conjured up to justify their violent land grab. We now have a distinction between “civilised” and “non-civilised” states in the shift to what was dubbed “positivist” International Law, wherein concepts such as “sovereignty” apply only to the “civilised family of nations”. Fine distinctions are now made in the manner in which territories are acquired, such as ‘conquest’ and ‘cession by treaty’.

But even under positivist-based International Law, the Dutch’s “full and free ownership” of land and their British successors (“possessors de facto of the soil” and of “usufructuary rights”) acknowledged the right of the Indigenous Peoples to their land. Ms Janki and others of like mind might be worried that new, rights-based modern norms of justice — led by the judiciary in Australia and South Africa, for instance — are evolving to amend the inequities imposed by the positivistic stance of European jurisprudence.

More land for Indigenous Peoples?