June 25, 2017

Archives for June 9, 2017

A different kind of care

Dr. Yvette Westford

Not only is US-based Guyanese Obstetrician/Gynecologist Dr. Yvette Westford focused on self-development, but through her practice she aims to improve the lives of women.

Dr. Yvette Westford is a board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist with a pending board certification in Laser Medicine. She specializes in Cosmetic Gynecology and Aesthetics.

Westford was raised in Guyana, but migrated to the United States after high school to attend college in New York.  She received her AAS in Physical Therapy from Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York; and her BS in Biology from Pace University in New York City. Her Doctor of Medicine was received from Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica, WI.  After completing her residency at Yale University School of Medicine Affiliate Program in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Danbury Hospital Medical Center in Danbury, CT, Westford moved to Victoria, Texas to begin her practice.

She opened her solo practice in 2011, specializing in OB-GYN care with a secondary specialty in menopause, sexual medicine and wellness.  In 2015, she opened the V Spa/V Center for Laser Cosmetic Gynecology & Aesthetics, in a shared space with her OB-GYN office, specifically to address cosmetic gynecology issues and to provide medical spa and anti-aging services for the female patient. The practice has strategically focused on patients with a combined dual approach using ideas from both gynecology and cosmetic surgery.  Services include Operative Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation and Designer Laser Vaginoplasty® (DLV®) which is the aesthetic surgical enhancement of the vulvo-vaginal structures.  Westford is the first and the only physician in the Crossroads area to have received specialized training in this area. She is an Associate of the prestigious Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute and was trained in Beverly Hills, Ca. by its founder, renowned cosmetic gynecologist, David Matlock, MD of “Dr. 90210” fame.

At her spa, which promotes health education

Westford prides herself on being able to provide a different kind of care.  As a mother and a career woman, she understands how difficult it is to achieve balance in all aspects of a woman’s life.  In a 2015 interview with victoriaadvocate.com, she shared that after a decade of working as a board-certified OB-GYN she decided to expand her busy solo practice into a place where she could offer a “uniquely feminine perspective on enhancing a woman’s image and improving sexual function”.

Notably, Westford was a distance runner, completing four marathons and numerous half marathons. She loves skiing and all ‘winter’ sports.  At a tender age, she became fascinated with airplanes. She has been a licensed private pilot since 1995.  However, since she became a mother to her three daughters, she hasn’t flown.  In her whole life, the two things she ever wanted to do were fly airplanes and become a doctor.  Most assuredly, she has accomplished both!

To learn more about Westford’s work follow her at Yvette F. Westford, MD, Facog on Facebook. (http://guyanesegirlsrock.org)

Man who fatally chopped teen girlfriend in 2015 claims “evil forces” affected him

…gets 12 years for manslaughter

A young man who fatally chopped his then teenaged girlfriend, Tenicia McAllister, in the presence of his mother and siblings has claimed that “evil forces” were at work when he committed the heinous act nearly two years ago.

This is what presiding Judge Navindra Singh was told moments before Joshua Baveghems pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for his crime.

Baveghems agreed with the State’s contention that on August 13, 2015, using a cutlass, he murdered the former Cummings Lodge Secondary School student at his Diamond, East Bank Demerara home, after accusing her of being unfaithful. State Prosecutor Tamica Clarke, in reading out the facts of the case, related that Baveghems grabbed the young lady by the hair and dragged her to the kitchen before he retrieved the cutlass and chopped her about the body.

Clarke informed the court that all of this was done in the presence of Baveghems’ mother, his brother and sister. The court also heard that in the midst of the chopping, the three family members fled and solicited the assistance of a neighbour. Some time after, Police discovered the young woman’s body lying in the grass outside Baveghems’ residence. According to the post-mortem examination, McAllister had 19 incised wounds.

The State Prosecutor noted that the accused posed a threat to several family members and stressed that one should walk away when faced with domestic violence issues.

The accused, in addressing the court, claimed that “evil forces” affected his judgment and he had no control over his actions.

“I wasn’t in the right state of mind; something take me over, I begging you for mercy,” the 21-year-old pleaded.

Justice Singh told him that his remorse seemed genuine, adding that Baveghems would have to live with the fact he killed his loved one which would affect his mind for a long time.

Baveghems now takes anger management classes, attends chapel regularly and he prays and sings, the court was previously told. He was represented by Attorney Kemo Griffith, who had told the court that “love is something we cannot understand”.

 

Our National Songs

Sr Rose Magdalene

In the grip of the desire for independence from colonial rule and a fervour for a national identity beginning perhaps from the 1940s, a proliferation of patriotic poetry flowed from the pens of a group of men and women, over the years leading up to and just after Guyana’s eventual independence, that was made into music.

Few young people are aware of a genre in the country’s musical heritage known as national or patriotic songs, excluding the national anthem; and even fewer can be said to be familiar with the songs and historical figures behind a once vibrant tradition celebrating national identity and patriotic passion.

Walter MacArthur Lawrence

Born January 1896 in Georgetown, Walter MacArthur Lawrence is arguably one of the first poets to express a patriotic enthusiasm with his poem “My Guyana, Eldorado”, which would later be put to music.  Many of his poems have entered influential book collections around the world. MacArthur Lawrence died in 1942.

Cleveland Hamilton

W.R.A. Pilgrim

Cleveland Hamilton was a busy legal practitioner who would also excel in his other love: poetry. Late 1969, a competition to select a national hymn to celebrate Guyana’s Republic status was announced that saw the selection of a poem called “Song of the Republic” to be put to music.

Submitted by a Thomas Theophilus Halley, it was the pen name for Hamilton who was concerned about political issues arising since he may have ruffled a few feathers in the then administration’s side for his outspokenness in a matter. It would take a long while after he was adjudged winner before he stepped forward to claim his place in Guyana’s history. He died Feb. 22, 1991.

Valerie Rodway

Valerie Rodway is perhaps best known for her musical composition pieces set to Vere T Daly’s, “Hymn for Guyana’s Children”; “Arise, Guyana” by J W Chinapen; Walter MacArthur Lawrence’s “O Beautiful Guyana” and “Guyana the Free”, a piece written and composed by herself and second husband James Rodway.

Valerie Rodway

Born Valerie Fraser in New Amsterdam in 1919, she showed an early interest and talent in music, which was nurtured by leading music teachers of the day, and she went on to earn the Licentiate of the Royal College of Music (LRCM). She became a music teacher and one of Guyana’s most famous composers.

Other compositions include “Water Music” (words by A J Seymour); “Kanaima”; “Kaieteur” (words by J A Lawrence); “The Weeding Gang” (words by CEJ Ramcharitar-Lalla) and “There Runs a Dream”. She also composed music for Martin Carter’s “Let Freedom Wake Him”.

Valerie Rodway died in 1970.

Sr Rose Magdalene

Sister Rose (Magdalene) D’Ornellas was a Sister of the Community of Carmelite Sisters, former Folk Research Officer in the Department of Culture, and social activist in the cultural community of Guyana.

She was born Elaine Mary D’Ornellas on Oct. 30, 1923 and joined the Carmelites in Trinidad on Jan. 10, 1946. She was assigned to the St Bernadette’s Hostel for Girls at Lamaha Street, Georgetown Guyana in 1950.

It was while she later taught both academics and music at the St Mary’s Junior School in New Amsterdam that her talent in teaching and music stood out. She founded The Marigold Choir, a children’s choir, in September 1990, which rose to gain international recognition.

Sr. Rose Magdalene’s compositions that reflect Guyanese life and nationality include, “The Berbice Ferry”, “The Golden Arrowhead”, “Children of Guyana”, “The Mango Sellers”, “In an Aeroplane”, “My Kitchen Garden” and “Out of School”.

Initially sent to be in Guyana for six months, she ended up spending almost a lifetime – some 54 years – instead. Sr Rose Magdalene died in Trinidad, where she had returned after retirement, on Apr 25, 2011.

Dave Martins

Dave Martins

Guyana-born Dave Martins of the Tradewinds fame is often synonymous with what he calls “win’ down music”, but after pleas from the late Pat Cameron to compose something on a boundary dispute in the 70s, he came up with one of the most famous patriotic songs of modern times in Guyana, “Not a Blade of Grass”, and later, after being inspired by the audience at a Guyana Night performance, wrote, “Is We Own”.

There are also several other notable writers and composers of Guyana’s national songs such as M. A. Cossou who penned “My Native Land”; George Noel: “To Serve My Country” and “Treat All Guyanese Equally”; RCG Potter: “Way Down Demerara” and “A Song of Hope”; Frank Daniels who wrote the music to Cleveland Hamilton’s “Song of the Republic”; W. Hawley-Bryant: “The Song of Guyana’s Children”; Hugh Sam: “River Song”; W.R.A. Pilgrim: “Let Us Cooperate” and “Salute to Guyana”; Jodina: “Blue-Saki” and “Citizen Man”; Hilton Hemerding: “Beautiful Guyana” and Walter E Hewick: “On The Banks of The Kako River”.

 

A story of hardship and triumph

By Isahak Basir

Isahak Basir

A tragic scenario of a second migration of more than 50 indentured Indian families, all of whom hailed from several abandoned sugar estates. This took place between the period 1860 and 1940, when they had no alternative but to migrate to the uninhabited and desolated Pomeroon River district. It was their only chance of survival, and hence abandoned all hopes of returning to India as promised by the colonial owners. Similarly, in Jamaica, the Africans made an appeal to the colonial government to have “coolies” sent back to India, since they could not survive on the Jamaican sugar plantations. Suicide mortality and hopelessness were evident and so many were sent back to India.

In the Pomeroon district, the scenario was different. Portuguese and African farmers, who resided in the lower Pomeroon River, recognised the hardship of the indentured families, being hunger, malaria and pneumonia illness. As such, they organised humanitarian groups to help the inexperienced farmers survive these ‘hardships’.

Two hundred and seventy-eight thousand indentured Indians were brought to Guyana to work on the sugar plantations in three counties. They were distributed according to the needs and choices of the respective plantation owners with the unconditional support of the Indian Immigration Officer located in their respective county. Other officers were paid by the white plutocracy and were known as the “CROSS by BABU”.

Several sugar plantations in Essequibo had their quotas. Such estates were Aurora, Golden Fleece, Affiance, Anna Regina, Lima, Hampton Court and Winsor Castle. They had 40 Portuguese families, and Devonshire Castle had their quota of Indian workers, all of whom were led to the logies once occupied by African workers.

Prior to 1904, when the British took over Guyana, the Dutch occupants were here (since 1620). By 1780, they began to close down some of the sugar plantations in preference of developing Berbice and Demerara plantations. Some of the Essequibo plantations that were closed down were Chandler (Better Success), Good Hope and Columbia.

On the right bank of the 27 odd miles of the Pomeroon River, they abandon their 30 cotton cultivations. The Dutch had an enclave at Somerset, where the Cotton Bailing Complex was located; a hospital at Siriki; and their European pine built ‘Fort’ at Calidonia, where the relic of a huge bronze bell is noticeable.

All the indentured Indians who came from India, who were contracted to serve five years, were supposed to return to India – this never happened. In Essequibo, the Indian Immigration Office was located at Plantation Onderneeming, occupying an old Dutch fortress as an office – where these edifices are still noticeable.

As sugar declined and contracts expired, Indian sugar workers were expelled from several estate logies to be replaced by new arrivals from India, since the immigration process began in 1848 and end in 1917. What was peculiar is that immigrants were brought from the different states of India, as such their dialects, traditions and tribal dispensations were noticeable. The expelled sugar workers experienced much difficulty in organising their return to India because of poor documentation and three months and fifteen days trip, confined in a ship hatch. The system was a calculated effort to have them remain in Guyana to swell the labour force as well as having extended families justify their settlement in Guyana.

The episode of this epoch became a calamity of the worst human depredation experienced on the Arabian Coast then, and to invoke the diminutive name of the ‘Cinderella Coast’.

The rapid closure of several sugar estates and factories resulted in mass unemployment, homelessness and suicide. Two huge mango trees at the back of Anna Regina, still visible, were the regular sites where Indians hang themselves. Five freed slave villages, inclusive of Dartmouth, Danielstown and Queenstown, which were at the forefront of agriculture production and homemade medicine, could not mitigate the needs of the displaced Indians to satisfy their basic needs requirements. Those villagers were able to sustain the community markets of Aurora, Queenstown, Lima and Hampton Court. One such unbelievable situation was a mass protest in 1872 at Plantation Devonshire Castle where, for the first time in Guyana’s history, five indentured sugar workers were murdered.

The River and Creek Land Act, which was installed by the Plutocracy to suppress free Africans from occupying land and farm so as to confine them to the estates, was also applicable to the unemployed indentured Indians. It was unimaginable today to believe how Indians lived in mud houses, houses made with wattles and coconut branches, manicole palm staves bonded up with white chalk mud, an existing deposit of alkaline mineral, found at Plantation Zorg.

At Anna Regina, the existing Governor of Guyana donated ten acres of land in Bush Lot and made available discarded wood from unusable logies to build sheds to accommodate 76 families. That area was known as ‘Settlement’.

However, the Portuguese workers, who were brought from Madeira to Guyana in 1835, began migrating to the Pomeroon River in 1837 and made the Land Act null and void. They recommended the development of Pomeroon by passing cotton production and produced coconuts and other crops to subsidise the existing Essequibo plantations, all transportation was by sea as there was no road to Charity prior to 1908.

It was during this period in 1860 that second phase of Indian migration begun leading to the Pomeroon River district. The first family that went to Pomeroon, via the Tapacooma inland tributaries, were the Tacoordeens, who settled in lower Jacklow, an area of 15 miles where the Dutch never occupied because of the low-flooding swamps.

The “News of No Man’s Land” reached Essequibo and it enticed Indian sugar workers, most of whom in “Jahgee tradition”. They organised their groups and commenced migration to their new homeland in the Pomeroon River. The ‘Jahgee’ concept was developed during their four months turmoil in a ship hatch, sailing from India to Guyana. The Jahgee tradition was an invisible cooperative that provided help to restore the stability of indentured Indians in the economic, cultural, spiritual and social dispensations.

The second group that migrated were the Baharallys, Badries, Poorans and Samaroo Gildhari, who settled near a Portuguese enclave at Charity, owned by the Guvueias and Surrounds.

More than 200 Indians migrated to the Pomeroon, between the period of 1870 and 1940, and began the cultivation of coffee, citrus and farming of cattle. Some of six groups were the Ramcharrans, Nandalals, Gowgos, Jagmohans, Taseers, Birbals, Barakats, Rafeedeens, Seetal Sadhu, Ramlalls, Tellacks, Khandais, Ramphals, Rams, Jannies et al.

At that time, the upper Pomeroon flourished with fish and wildlife, such as tigers and venomous snakes. However, to occupy maiden forest and to use the forest to build a shed for survival was not an easy task, it was an extreme hardship to survive on what the forest and river had to offer.

The new migrant group’s survival was due to landowners of the lower Pomeroon; who visited the new farmers and saw their plight of livelihood. The lower Pomeroon farmers of African and Portuguese ethnicity invited the indentured Indians and provided them with food, shelter and land to cultivate rice by manual labour. They then returned to their ‘palm shed’ hut, well-provided for several weeks of survival.

Some of the good Samaritans of lower Pomeroon River were the Stolls, Slyutmans, Benns, Garaways, Ribeiros, Corfields, Benjamins, Silvas, Boyce and Pereiras. The Pereiras also taught Indian farm workers management skills and purchased small farm lands for many. However, with a new population, the area saw the Austins and Evans facilitating the emergence of manual sawmills (saw pits) and the making of coal to for steam boilers and other activities. In addition, an Anglican shed was built by Pastor Jacklowe in 1860, Cabacabari Church in 1872 and St Louis RC in 1896 at Siriki.

The plight of these new Indian land owners got much relief when New Road, a progressive Indian village emerged under the leadership of one Sarjn Maharag, and food production advanced. Sarjn Maharaj was six feet tall, fair in complexion and a devoted Hindu of the Brahmin caste. He visited the Pomeroon every two weeks, teaching Hinduism and supply vegetables and paddy to the new Upper Pomeroon farmers. Sarjn Maharaj also built the first Mandir at New Road and a troolie shed resting hall for stranded Indians in 1908-1920.

The traditional midwives were of African origin and performed well without any medical training, as well infant mortality was zero. By 1920, only four of the 55 sugar plantations and two factories existed. All abandon estates could not cultivate rice or other crops since the drainage system was sabotaged. Simultaneous landlordism emerged on Essequibo when several wealthy Indians purchased abandoned sugar estates that fell into ‘receivership’. New estate owners were Sahoys, Chans, Mizirs, Sankar, Reberios, Maharaj, Bacchus, Parikan, Singh, Eliza, Tedoris Benn, Santos and Doobay. These new landlords built rice factories on previous sugar factory sites and entrenched a new type of feudal control from 1908 to 1960. However, the Tapacoma project broke this vicious cycle of servitude.

For Pomeroon Indians, much relief came when the Manicuru canal was dredged in 1923. Thus, rice lands were free of cost and were occupied by the Mangras, Barakats, Badri; all of whom cultivated rice to offset hardship on the growing community. The indentured Indians developed their traditional device to grind grains and shell paddy. Unfortunately, a four feet high flood in 1934 devastated the River district followed by an epidemic, which wiped out many families. As the community grew, social facilities followed such as schools, mandirs, mosques, saw mills, medical services, and a forth nightly steamer service.

The Pomeroon River is the deepest river in Guyana without any sand banks, and has a unique history. Over the last 250, its length was reduced by ten miles due to erosion. It is one of six rivers that discharges into the Atlantic in a North West direction — the others are North East. The first set of alien occupants were expelled Jews from Brazil who sailed up the Pomeroon and occupied Calidonia in 1520 and grew sugar cane. The ancestors of Portuguese and freed Africans laid the foundation for the development of the Pomeroon river landscape. The historical work and sacrifices cannot be omitted when the history is written.

Pomeroon citizens excelled in many ways; unity in communal life, racism and discrimination were never tolerated or noticeable. All Pomeroon residents are interrelated, interdependent and interconnected. The history put together formulated our national motto: “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”.

Public Security Ministry still paying ‘corrupt’ staffers after they were sent on leave a year ago

The Public Security Ministry has for more than a year paid three members of staff their full salaries despite the fact they have not been on the job – after being suspended as a result of suspected involvement in a multimillion-dollar scandal.

Permanent Secretary Daniella McCalmon made the revelation to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which met on Monday to query findings raised by the Auditor General in 2015.

The Ministry was unable to account for in excess of G$15 million, since the payment vouchers were not handed over to the auditors.

The Permanent Secretary told the Committee that the three staffers were sent on administrative leave since March 2016 and they have not been interdicted, so payment continued since the investigations have not been completed.

The disclosure was met with disbelief by Committee Member Juan Edghill, who voiced his discontent over the fact that taxpayers’ dollars were being used to pay the staffers for doing nothing and they could in fact be already gainfully employed elsewhere.

“I am paying three people’s salaries every month…They could actually be doing another job looking at me and laughing,” he quipped.

PS McCalmon indicated to the Committee that an interim report from the Guyana Police Force and the Audit Office have been sent to the Public Service Commission with regard to the three employees.

According to McCalmon, it was the decision of that Commission to have the persons be sent on leave instead of being interdicted at the time.

G$100M contract

Another of the matters raised by the Committee was a contract entered into on December 31, 2015 for in excess of G$100 million.

It was found that the Ministry held onto a cheque representing the balance owed – more than G$52 million — that was never uplifted by the supplier until nine months later.

McCalmon told the Committee that the supplier would have been vacationing overseas at the time hence the money was not collected at the time.

This explanation did not go down well with the Committee members. People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) member, Nigel Dharamlall observed that while the original contract was inked on the final day of the year, at the time of the audit the Ministry was still in possession of the G$52 million cheque in breach of the laws of Guyana.

“This issue is much bigger than what is being reported to PAC at this time,” Dharamlall said, and he was informed by the Permanent Secretary that a special investigation has been launched into the transaction.

Dharamlall questioned the apparent repeated financial breaches by the Public Security Ministry and was told by Permanent Secretary McCalmon, “I will pledge the Ministry will not be in this position again and all money to be refunded will be refunded.”

The Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) dictates that all unspent or monies not disbursed at the end of each financial year must be returned to the treasury.

It was pointed out that the Ministry was deliberately looking to avoid returning money to the treasury by entering into such large-scale contracts on the final day of the year.

American company

Another of the questionable contracts entered into by the Ministry related to the supply of an industrial washer and dryer to the tune of more than G$7 million – to date the items are yet to be supplied by the American company contracted.

Committee members recommended to the PS, writing to the local American Embassy in order to seek its assistance in recovering the money or getting the equipment.

The Committee heard that the equipment was meant to ease the burden at the Georgetown prisons, but since it was never supplied the prisoners have had to resort to manually washing their attire.

The Committee heard also that there was no public tender and the Ministry instead wrote to the tender board seeking permission for the sole sourcing of the equipment.

DENIED!: Speaker rejects request for public input on fate of Guyana’s sugar industry

Speaker of the National
Assembly,
Dr Barton Scotland

The Parliamentary Committee on Economic Services has been denied the approval of the Speaker of the National Assembly to conduct public forums on the future of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the sugar industry, following the announcement by Government to downsize it.

In a letter dated June 5 and addressed to Clerk of Committees, Letta Barker, House Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland said that a public forum did not seem appropriate for the Committee to undertake.

“I, therefore, disallow the request and withhold my consent for the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Services to conduct public forums under the cover of the National Assembly,” the letter stated.

The Committee had requested since May 31, 2016 to conduct these public forums in Regions Three, Four, Five and Six on specific dates starting from June 7 to June 31, 2017. The request was made under Standing Order (95) 8 and the purpose of the public forums was to receive the views of the various stakeholders in the respective communities and prepare a report to be submitted to the National Assembly.

Commenting on the issue, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament (MP) Komal Chand told this newspaper that it was a majority decision by the Committee to have these public forums to get an understanding of what people within the industry feel about the decision to downsize.

Chand, who happens to also be the President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), said that in the past, these requests were never denied, adding that he was not clear on what authority the Speaker has exercised.

“I don’t know why the Speaker is now standing in the way to have these forums which is so important for members of the Committee to ascertain the real issues and how it is affecting people,” he said. The Opposition MP said too that members of that same Committee have been meeting with the management and staff of GuySuCo, who did a presentation. The next meeting, according to him, is scheduled for June 29, when the team will appear before the Committee.

Following the announcement by Government to close more sugar estates and reduce the annual production of sugar with an overall plan to gradually downsize the industry, there has been much debate about the need for the white paper on sugar to be debated in the National Assembly.

Chand claimed that certain procedures have not been put in place by the Government to have the policy debated, explaining that it may not be on the agenda for the next sitting, which is June 15.

However, Chand believes that the policy decision taken is of national importance and it ought to be debated by the National Assembly.

“The information contained in that white paper has significant effect on the country, the people, and, particularly, the workers in the industry…,” he added.

The GAWU official also argued that the white paper presented vague information and did not go into detail on how this matter is going to be dealt with. According to him, Government spokespersons claimed that the Administration has not configured the rollout of this new policy fully.

Meanwhile, the PPP, in a statement on Monday, said that this latest move was seen as “another attack on parliamentary democracy by the Speaker”.

“Further, we view the rejection of this request, as nothing short of an abuse of power and an undue interference with, and restriction of, the democratic right of parliamentarians to properly represent their constituents and the reciprocal constitutional rights of these constituents to receive information from and exchange views with their elected representatives,” the Party said.

It pointed out that since the constitutional creation of the Standing Committees almost two decades ago, they have enjoyed unhindered freedom to discharge their mandate, both within and without the precincts of the National Assembly, without any restriction from the Speaker.

“The nation is very much aware of the public outings of other Sectoral Committees, eg the Sectoral Committee on Social Services conducts regular visits to public health institutions and other agencies which fall under their portfolio with the permission of the Speaker.”

It, therefore, begs the question, the Party stated as to why this sudden restriction was being placed upon the Economic Services Committee as it sought to discuss the sugar industry, which was so critical to the nation’s economic well-being and which represented the lifeblood of tens of thousands of people.

“The PPP also recalls the difficulties it encountered at the hands of the Speaker in getting motions debated on the floor of the National Assembly in relation to the sugar and rice industries.”

The Party is calling on the Speaker to review his decision forthwith and to grant permission to the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economic Services to meet with the Guyanese people to discuss the future of GuySuCo and the sugar industry.

“If the Speaker fails to do so, we will find it extraordinarily difficult to persuade our constituents that the chair is not grossly lacking in impartiality,” the statement said.

Government has announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services provided by GuySuCo.

 

Meaningless…

…meetings

Every business executive has some basic rules on “meetings,” and one of the first rules is to ask, “What’s this meeting about?” If you aren’t clear about the goals of the meeting, you’ll be wasting your time, and you might as well don’t show up.

We don’t know about politicians, but here it is: Prezzie’s rejected the Opposition Leader’s second list of nominees for the GECOM Chair, and now wants a meeting.

Is it your Eyewitness, or is it déjà vu? What happened after the meeting following the first rejection? Prezzie had intimated that only names of ex-judges should be submitted, but then grudgingly conceded it could be other “fit and proper” persons.

Jagdeo had wanted a meeting to clarify what the heck the President understood by “fit and proper” as it related to the constitutional criteria to fill the GECOM Chair. Barring that, Jagdeo said he’d want the matter to be decided by the CCJ. Interpretation of the constitution is, after all, solely the responsibility of the Judiciary.

Prezzie declined the meeting, but said he’d offer clarity via his Attorney General, Basil Williams. A couple of months later, Prezzie decided to meet Jagdeo, but promised only to make his position clear again. Nothing decided…just stalling for time…wasted meeting.

Most observers figured Prezzie was hoping to frustrate Jagdeo; and if no list was submitted, by provision of the Constitution, he could unilaterally appoint whomever he wanted as the Chair. The person he had earmarked, according to insiders, was ex-Justice Claudette La Bennet.

After that meeting, Basil Williams announced, via a press release, who was “fit and proper”: “His Excellency did elaborate a little more on that, and he identified the three ‘Is’, which is to say that: the person must be a person of Integrity, the person must be a person who is Independent and the person must be someone who is Impartial.” The problem was that those qualities were pretty general and were subject to wide interpretation; but Jagdeo did submit that second list — which was duly rejected, and we arrive at the request for the second meeting.

“What’s the point of this meeting?” your Eyewitness asks once again. To provide another opportunity for the state photographer to position himself so he could catch Granger looming over Jagdeo as the latter ascends the State House stairs and is forced to shake the former’s outstretched hand like a supplicant? It’s become the Chronic’s favourite pic of the two leaders.

Prezzie knows Jagdeo can’t go unilaterally to the CCJ, which only has original jurisdiction on the CSME. Initial interpretive recourse lies in the local courts.  Prezzie would be counting on the plasticity of the latter.

Jagdeo should test them, rather than waste his time with meetings.

…mumblings

It all started so promisingly when the APNU and AFC were in Opposition — especially after 2011, when they caught up with the PPP. So many things they were going to do! Procurement? No sweat…They were going to make that so tight and so transparent we’d know even the number of sweets bought to calm skittish kids getting injections!! But oh, what a tangled web they’ve woven as they bled the Treasury dry with pharma scandals; and yet, scarcely an aspirin tablet can be found!

All we get are vague mumblings! What about the details of all those contracts from which the PPP were “siphoning off” billions and billions to fill their pockets? Mumble…Mumble… They’ve had two years to check out, say, the airport expansion contract. Why not “out” the PPP? Mumble…Mumble… They couldn’t possibly be doing the same things they accused the PPP of doing, could they?

Could it be that their fire-and-brimstone vituperations were just projections of what was in their twisted psyches all along?? Bun dem!!

…revelations on Exxon contract

Who does Trotman think he’s fooling?? The days are long gone when Guyanese would accept just mumblings on what he’s given up to Exxon.

Don’t blame Exxon for driving a hard bargain. Blame the Govt for assigning Mr Clueless as our point man!

Shooting Guyana’s foot…

…with rice

Guyanese were, last week, informed by the head of the RPA in Berbice that less rice was planted this crop, because farmers were losing their shirts over the prices they were getting for paddy. That’s not surprising…and in fact the question that occupied your Eyewitness’s mind was why they’d kept planting at the old rate for so long. After the PNC-led APNU/AFC government let the lucrative Venezuelan market of US$780/tonne slip away when they slipped into office in 2015, what was left for them??

A world market price of around US$450/tonne…that’s what! And with the prices of all the inputs — pesticides, fertilisers, harvesting, ploughing and husbandry, and diesel remaining unmoved — farmers were now caught between a rock and a hard place.

The banks were the first to feel the squeeze, since the farmers just couldn’t service the loans they routinely take to tide them over from crop to crop. Loan defaults cascaded like a breeze blowing through ripe paddy fields. Bad loans had to be written off, and their bottom line turned red!

But since most farmers operate at a subsistence level, they had nowhere to turn; and for the last three crops, they’ve been holding their breaths, hoping that the market PM Nagamootoo promised them in Mexico would materialise. But like all of us, they had to exhale sometime…which seems like now. They realise Nagamootoo’s promise of G$9000/bag of paddy and the Mexican Market were all part of his usual mamaguy!

Nagamootoo now says he never promised G$9000/bag paddy, and this is a “free market,” wherein supply and demand dictate prices. Fair enough. But that’s why your Eyewitness was flummoxed to read over the weekend that the only promise Government was keeping after the closure of Wales sugar estate was to put hundreds of acres into rice!! That’s right — rice farmers, who take meticulous care of their fields to ensure average yields of 40 bags/acre, can’t survive at present prices, but Government has decided to plunge into increased rice production!!

Aren’t they going to depress prices further?? Are they trying to destroy the rice industry, just as they did with sugar?? Why else would they now compete with private rice farmers?? If anything, one would’ve thought this Government might have learnt a lesson with sugar…Centralised production just isn’t the way to go. Are they planning to repeat the PNC’s massive investment in silos, mills and all the other infrastructure necessary for rice?

Or will they purchase the ones they sold off to Alesie for a song a while back? THAT private investor abandoned rice!

But then, profits were never the raison d’etre for PNC’s policies in agri, right??

…on the environment

Donald Trump just doesn’t get it, does he? Leaders are supposed to lead, aren’t they? But all he’s concerned about is to feed his ego off the anxiety of his supporters in the sticks – who’ll blame anybody but themselves for their problems. Take the damage to the environment through excessive carbon emission. Even though companies like Exxon tried to duck the data, a government’s not like a private company — always trying to maximise shareholders’ value in the next quarterly report.

A govt has to look at the longer term. It’s not just Guyana that’ll be under water if global warming isn’t checked; so will Florida and huge swathes of NY – including Wall Street. But Trump panders to his “flat-earthers” to abandon the Paris commitments made by the Obama Administration because he’s expecting others to carry the US’ load.

Maybe they will. But countries like China and India will also steal the US’ thunder and get a headstart on the “next big thing”.

Alternative energy sources…not alternative facts!!

…at GWI

Some are wondering why Mayor Patricia Chase-Green was made Chair of GWI. Well, with the parking meters in limbo for a while, new sources of income have to be mined to placate the meter-funders from Colombia.

Their collection methods are a tad extreme!!

Vendor to spend 20 years behind bars for murdering sex worker

Forty-five-year-old Andell Forde of Rahaman’s Park, Houston, Greater Georgetown, was sentenced to 20 years for killing transgender sex worker Nephi Luther, born Noel Luther.

The father of six, who had worked as a fish vendor, appeared before Justice Navindra Singh on Tuesday at the High Court, where he pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter.

The State contended that around 01:30h on July 22, 2015, near Carmichael and Quamina Streets, Forde confronted and shot Luther who plied his trade in the area. It followed an argument which Luther had with an unsatisfied client, who was a friend of Forde. The businessman had accused the sex worker of robbing him and had left only to return later accompanied by Forde, who then shot Luther who died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

The Judge accepted the accused’s confession, stressing that there were legal grounds to accept the plea for manslaughter.  In his appeal for leniency, defence counsel Mark Conway reminded that Forde was helping a friend who was robbed. Moreover, Conway disclosed that his client was one of the men injured in the deadly Camp Street Prison fire last year, which had left 17 inmates dead.

The court heard that Forde received several burns about the body as he tried to rescue trapped inmates during the fire. Conway claimed that these ‘selfless acts’ suggested that Forde wanted to add positively to society. However, State Prosecutor Tuanna Hardy pointed out that Forde’s actions put the public at risk since others were present when he shot the now deceased man. She submitted that the sentence must reflect the crime.

In addressing the court, Forde, who did not show much emotion from the prisoner’s dock, apologised to the family of Luther. None of Luther’s family members were identified at Tuesday’s sentencing.

“I am really sorry; I was representing a friend. I lost a son; I know what it’s like,” the shooter claimed.

The Judge took into consideration all that he heard, but maintained that Forde must accept liability for what he had done. As such, Justice Singh sentenced him to 20 years, with deductions for time spent awaiting trial.  “You are well on your way to getting rehabilitated… get involved in anger management programmes,” the Judge encouraged.

When Forde departed the courtroom, he had no comment for this publication, but after receiving his sentence he had begun to shed tears. Forde has already undergone two surgeries for his burn injuries and is slated to have more surgeries in the future.

 

An artistic legacy

R. G. Sharples as a young man

Richard Gui Pennington Sharples, better known as R. G. Sharples, was a man of extraordinary ability who demonstrated a wealth of talents.  Alongside his legal career, Sharples is recognised equally for his artistic legacy and his contribution to the development of a ‘local style’ in the history of fine art in Guyana.

Sharples was born in Georgetown on May 1, 1906. He was the youngest son of Mary Johanna (née Scott) and John Bradshaw Sharples, the famous architect and builder.

He began his early education at the Ursuline Convent and Queen’s College. He later studied law in London.

On his return to Guyana, he practised as a solicitor. He became Treasurer of the British Guiana Law Society in 1943. Sharples’ career as a Magistrate became inextricably linked with Guyana’s political history.

Cattle and two trees in a field at Enmore by Gui Sharples c. 1951

Sharples became president of the British Guiana Arts & Crafts Society, formed in 1931, which later became the Guyanese Art Group in 1945. He was actively involved in the main current of art in those decades. His art circle included a nucleus of talented local artists like Vivian Antrobus, Reginald Phang, E. R. Burrowes, Basil Hinds, Denis Williams and Hubert Moshett, who worked primarily in landscape and portraiture.

The art group set out to foster the appreciation of art and set goals for assisting the young upcoming generation of artists who later pursued their art studies in Europe: Aubrey Williams, Stanley Greaves, and Marjorie Broodhagen, along with Burrowes.

Sharples was also a member of the RA&CS Exhibition Committee up to 1956.

From an early age, Sharples displayed a flair for painting and continued his hobby when he returned to Guyana after law studies in England. His sheer spontaneity is expressed in his pencil sketching done in situ to produce a finished watercolour painting. This technique became his preferred medium of expression.

Buxton foreshore at sunset by Gui Sharples c. 1951
© C W McWatt

His subject matter was primarily scenery with trees and human figures. Trees became an important feature in all his watercolour landscapes – sturdy gnarled trunks crowned with feathery foliage and lithe abstract figures conveying a sense of belonging to the landscapes in which they appear.

Some of Sharples’ earliest work appeared in the “Centenary History and Handbook of British Guiana 1831-1931” by A. R. F. Webber published in 1931. The watercolour plates he produced for the book brought Sharples’ name to prominence.  The six watercolour plates vividly portray local themes and locations which are evocative of Guyana’s coastal topography – the wonderful opalescent atmosphere of the tropical landscape is captured in scenes with ordinary men and women working amidst lush green foliage and scarlet blooms; reflected light from azure skies on waterways and rivers.

Besides his watercolour painting, Sharples readily turned his creative skills to other design activities included hand-painted dresses for his wife and daughters.

 In the mid-1940s he painted the scenery on the pivoting panels of the stage wings in the auditorium at the Ursuline Convent; he also made and painted the large ‘SERVIAM’ shield (the emblem and motto of St Rose’s High School) which hung at the back of the auditorium.

Rev. Richard Lester Guilly, S.J. was appointed Catholic Bishop of Georgetown in February 1956; Sharples was asked to design a coat of arms for the newly enthroned Bishop.

In the early 1950s, Sharples won a stamp design competition. One of the chosen designs was the 72 cents stamp in a carmine and emerald illustration of the Arapaima fish. This 1954 stamp set, released on December 1, 1954 was the first British Guiana stamp to carry the profile of Queen Elizabeth II.

Although Sharples remained an amateur artist, he secured sales for his paintings at local exhibitions. In the 1950s, Alcan Aluminium of Canada put on a travelling exhibition of West Indian art and several of his watercolours were chosen for this.

In 1953, his work was exhibited at the Guyanese Art Group exhibition. In June 1957, a posthumous exhibition of his paintings was held in the RA&CS Reading Rooms in Georgetown.

The Joint Art Committee of the RA&CS (1944 – 1948), which was set up for the purpose of forming a nucleus of the British Guiana National Art Collection, purchased three of Sharples’ paintings for the Nation – “The Quarry” (1947), “Bartica Afternoon” (1946), a backyard scene in soft pastel watercolours of muted greens and browns, which are in the National Gallery, Castellani House; and “The Tamarind” (1947), housed in the Guyana National Museum, a landscape in warm russet tones in which relaxed figures rest beneath the shade of a tamarind tree.

Sharples’ untimely death on August 26, 1956 at the age of 50 was a shock to his family and friends. Besides his legal career and love of painting, he had the capacity to enjoy the good life to the full – even as the Bohemian artist. He is to be remembered for his charismatic personality and outstanding quality as a magistrate, artist and citizen. (Information by Clive W. McWatt)