Dear Editor,The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has recognised that several sections of the media have reported that the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) is seeking to pay workers what it deems as a bonus arising from its higher level of sugar production this year.For the thousands of sugar workers still employed by the Corporation, the news that the sugar company is considering such an idea was indeed welcome, and, at the same time, it was received with some skepticism.The bonus, as the Corporation terms it, is by no means a new initiative. In fact, the arrangement under consideration is identical to the Annual Production Incentive (API) scheme which was suspended for a few years now. The API, as GAWU shared before, dates back to colonial times, and is a form of deferred earnings premised on annual sugar production.For the workers, the fact that the Corporation has offered such an incentive is a clear indication that their collective voices and actions could not be ignored by the GuySuCo hierarchy, and possibly by the powers-that-be.As the Corporation’s release pointed out, the industry is nearing its revised 2018 production target. It is welcome news for the industry, and is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the workers, whose dedicated efforts have allowed the GuySuCo to reach where it is today.We noted, too, that the Corporation, in its release, acknowledged this reality. Moreover, the GAWU believes such performances need to be rewarded, as the Corporation seemingly recognizes as well.At this time, the Union and the GuySuCo are engaged in discussions towards finding an amicable arrangement in the interest of all parties. We sincerely hope our engagements would result in an acceptable agreement.While happy about this (bonus) development, workers remain concerned that the Corporation has yet to consider the Union’s claim for a 15 per cent rise-in-pay retroactive to January 01, 2018. As is well known, sugar workers remain the only workers in the state sector to have not gotten any pay increase since the Coalition took office three and a half years ago.At this time, the GAWU and GuySuCo have already concluded discussions on the non-wage benefits. Those engagements resulted in a few improvements being secured. Our discussions this year, the GAWU notes, have been conducted in a more amicable environment. Whether the improvement could be attributed to the change in the Corporation’s leadership or other factors we are not sure, but we are, nevertheless, pleased with the new attitude of the GuySuCo.We sincerely hope that our current and future discussions can be conducted in a similar or improved atmosphere, as this augurs well for the GAWU/GuySuCo relations. The Union has pointed out on several occasions that our now 42-year relationship with GuySuCo had reached possibly its lowest ebb in recent years, and the GAWU had expressed its commitment to resuming the generally respectful and fruitful relations in the interest of the workers, the Corporation and the industry.At this time the GAWU has put forward a counter-proposal regarding the ‘bonus’, and the Corporation has committed to examining our suggestion; and expectedly, we will meet soon. The Union, nevertheless, believes that this stop-gap measure cannot be deemed a substitute for a pay rise, which has been denied for far too long though the workers, in spite of the circumstance, continue to demonstrate their importance to the successes being recorded.Also, it is reasonable to expect that the present leadership, having recognised the value of the API incentive, would undertake the removal of the suspension, and see such a practice as good for the industry’s progress. The GAWU, at this time, looks forward to the Corporation, in a similar vein, positively considering a pay rise.Sincerely,Guyana Agriculturaland General WorkersUnion (GAWU)
Dear Editor,It was with great amusement that I read a letter in a section of the media on September 30, 2019, titled “We have to come together and pray for Guyana”. Editor, I have no issues with a person having a religion or any belief but I do have a problem when anyone suggests that the only way to make things better is to pray. I ask the author of the letter, why pray? The victims of war-torn countries offer the sincerest prayer for peace and it is never granted. The citizens of poor countries with extreme poverty offer the sincerest of prayers for something to eat at the end of the day. The child with cancer prays every day to be able to have a normal childhood and be free of cancer. The abused victim prays every day that their spouse will turn around and see the love that they – the victim – feels, the potential they – the abuser – have and the opportunity for happiness that lies ahead. The sad truth is that none of these prayers is answered until they themselves take action and take control of the life they are given.As citizens of Guyana, we need to stop praying and hoping and start taking action for a better country. We need to start holding political leaders accountable. We need to show respect for those who disagree with us and stop taking things personally. We need to start taking more interest in the laws of the country and how inadequate and antiquated many of them are. We need to take more interest with how the oil and gas companies are trying to rob us and are getting away with it and more importantly, we need to open our minds and let go of the thoughts of old. If we want to make life better for those who live in this beautiful land, we have to want change, instead of hoping for it.I understand that it may feel like an ordinary Guyanese man or woman cannot change the current status quo, but with organised groups, you can. I urge all Guyanese to be decisive for our future and for the future of the country, years after we are gone. We need to make Guyana, Guyanese.Sincerely,Amir Khan
Dear Editor,Yes! Yes! Yes! The triple affirmation made by the APNU/AFC MP Charrandas Persaud reverberated in Guyana and wherever Guyanese were around the globe one year ago. David Granger’s Government had fallen on a No-Confidence Motion; what has followed is a chronicle of shameless behaviour that will affect Guyana’s system of parliamentary democracy for generations to come. Granger refused to comply with the clear provision of the Constitution and remains in Office to this day; this obdurate stance has consequences that bear examination.Granger’s decision to seek clarification of various aspects of the no-confidence vote on spurious grounds such as what number constitutes a majority of the 65 member Parliament were greeted with incredulity by those with a modicum of mathematical ability. Other grounds such as the validity of the vote of a dual-citizen and whether an MP could vote against the list that placed him (Charrandas) in Parliament at least passed the credibility test.Chief Justice George refused to invalidate the NCM and the matter should have ended there. Granger insisted on an appeal and inexplicably, two of the three members of our Court of Appeal overturned the CJ’s decision that 33 votes constitute a majority and suggested that 34 votes were the required number for a majority vote in a 65 member House. The Court of Appeal decision was handed down 10 hours past the deadline for elections imposed by the Constitution.On June 18, the Caribbean Court of Justice restored the Chief Justice’s ruling and deemed the NCM validly passed. 179 days had passed since Charrandas broke ranks with APNU/AFC before the judicial system deemed it validly passed. Confidence in the Constitution and our Judiciary have been done grave damage during this past year; Guyanese pride themselves on being a literate society that upholds the rule of law as a basic tenet of governance. Many cannot countenance a usurper Executive and prefer to ignore the reality for the sake of peace. A future where feigned ignorance by the Executive results in six-month delays in interpreting provisions that “require no gloss” is a very real possible consequence.The NCM put the Guyana Elections Commission in the spotlight. GECOM used to be a temporary institution, dissolved three months after every election it was brought to life to manage. All of that changed and by virtue of the Constitution (Amendment) Act No 2 of 2000 and GECOM became a permanent body. It was GECOM that made the recommendation to the constitutional reform committee that a General and Regional Elections could be held within 90 days of notice. But in 2018/19, GECOM was itself under siege from the unconstitutional appointment of James Patterson as its Chairman by President Granger. Ignoring plain English, Granger ascribed powers onto himself to make a unilateral appointment after refusing to accept 18 names of prominent and respected Guyanese citizens whom he (Granger) deemed unfit for the office.James Patterson made many changes in the makeup of the staff of the GECOM Secretariat, which resulted in an Ethnic Relations Commission inquiry. Patterson and staff of the GECOM Secretariat did not appear before the ERC even though that body concluded that in the case of the hiring of the Deputy CEO “By all objective criteria, Mr Persaud was, on the available evidence, the most qualified candidate for appointment to the position of DCEO. By long-established practice, the candidate acquiring the highest score secured the appointment”. Using the existing process at the Commission, Chairman Patterson used his casting vote on the seven-member Commission, against Persaud’s appointment. On December 27, 2018, GECOM declared itself ready, willing and able to conduct credible elections on or before March 21, 2019, as stipulated by the Constitution. One day later, Nigel Hughes posited that 33 was not the majority of 65 and GECOM’s state of readiness deteriorated. GECOM then fell into goose-step with Granger as a period the Stabroek newspaper famously labelled as ‘temporising’ began.In June 2018, arguments in the CCJ indicated that the court would rule the unilateral appointment of Patterson as unlawful, null and void; almost simultaneously there was every indication that the NCM would be ruled validly passed. On the 12th and 18th, both judgments were delivered as expected. The most generous calculation gave a deadline for stipulated elections on September 18; however, an order was signed by James Patterson to begin a House-to-House Registration exercise (H2H) preceded his departure and on July 20, GECOM began this exercise. The Chief Registration Officer, who also serves as Chief Election Officer, explained that he was preparing for elections and conducting the verification exercise simultaneously.On July 27, one day after being labelled a temporiser for incredulously insisting he had a right to nominate as well as appoint persons for the Chair of GECOM, only weeks after a CCJ decision outlined that this was unlawful. Granger appointed Claudette Singh as Chairman of GECOM upon the submission of her name along with five others by the Leader of the Opposition in accordance with the Constitution. The retired Justice was asked to join the crab dance with mud being slung in wild fashion and faced the unenviable task of unravelling the confusion caused by the insistence on beginning H2H sixty days before elections were constitutionally due.Lawyers were like flies on honey in the courtrooms, the nation was reeling under the weight of legalese; On August 27, Chairman Singh ordered a halt to the H2H exercise saying “Cognisant of all that has transpired over the past months, GECOM has an obligation to produce a credible Official List of Electors (OLE) in the first instance and ultimately credible elections within the shortest possible time,” The action did not result in GECOM being able to hold elections on or before September 18 and on the 19th, the hammer of the international community fell heavily on Granger and his Administration.Joint StatementThe United States of America Ambassador to Guyana, HE Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch, United Kingdom High Commissioner to Guyana, HE Greg Quinn and the European Union Ambassador to Guyana, HE Ambassador Fernando Ponz Cantó’s joint statement on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) proposed elections timeframe.“The United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union thank the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for devising a proposed elections timeframe for conducting General and Regional Elections.However, we deeply regret that, by surpassing September 18, the Government is currently in breach of the Constitution following its failure to adhere to the decisions of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on 18 June and its subsequent orders.This situation comes at great cost to the people of Guyana. The prevailing political uncertainty undermines Guyanese institutions, compromises economic opportunities and delays development across all areas including infrastructure, education, health, and social services. It also hinders our ability to support Guyana’s development needs.We, therefore, call upon the President to set an elections date immediately in full compliance with Guyana’s Constitution.”Guyana now had a usurper Executive, “illegal” was added to the “caretaker’ designation afforded by the CCJ. Not that Granger or his Ministers seemed to notice. Granger paid lip-service to the caretaker concept and pledged that he would abide by the constraints imposed by the designation such as restricted foreign travel by Ministers; thereafter it was ignored and Ministers have travelled freely for meetings in Washington, Spain, Dubai, and George Norton even turned up at a PanAm Sports awards in Florida last week. Unbothered became the theme for Granger and his cohorts. In the meanwhile, the quarterly reports of the Bank of Guyana and other financial data are telling a tale of their own.Capital expenditure rose over 29 per cent in the first half of 2019 as suddenly dozens of projects were deemed emergency works, this allowed the bypass of the Procurement Act and the drain on foreign reserves began to attract attention almost as much a the startling rise in the overdraft facility of the consolidated fund. After September 19 began a period that can only be described as ‘squandermania’. The reserves were outstripped by the overdraft leaving Guyana dependent on taxes to stay solvent.External debt has climbed to over 60 per cent of GDP, the highest in the post-IMF period (2006-present). Accounts of budget agencies such as Forestry, Mining, Lotto Fund have been decimated; billions spent, unaccounted for. David Granger arranged face-to-face meetings with select international oil companies in a surreptitious attempt to sell three-million barrels of oil to bolster the emptied treasury. The vigilance of the Opposition, international and local media has placed a bright light upon these unusual negotiations. A return to governance by parliamentary democracy would be most welcome by a population assaulted by a never-ending stream of financial scandals committed by the APNU/AFC.2019 let Guyanese know that constitutional rule of law is only as solid as the persons elected to govern by the provisions and principles therein. Bad actors will result in bad actions. GECOM’s Chair, Claudette Singh, is working through a plethora of issues methodically amidst much deliberate confusion and sabotage. Elections will be on March 2, 2020; three hundred and forty-seven days past due. The future of GECOM as a permanent body with a budget of billions annually and its role as keeper of the National Register of Registrants are in the balance.The elections in 2020 are not about ‘oil money, ethnicity or youth’; it is about governance for the people, by the people in accordance with the rule of laws outlined in our Constitution; or extending the life of an Administration that has turned willful ignorance into an art form. Those are the choices facing the electorate.Respectfully,Robin Singh
Public Health Minister, Dr George NortonBY UTAMU BELLEThe large number of issues affecting Kwakwani Hospital, as well as Ituni Health Centre, both in Berbice River, were highlighted when Vice Chairman of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) Alroy Adolph presented his statutory monthly report to the RDC.Alroy indicated that the problems, which range from shortage and late distribution of drugs to the absence of an X-Ray technician, among other things, are said to have a distressing impact on the smooth functioning of the health institutions.At the Kwakwani Hospital he said, the issues continue, despite a recent visit from Health Minister Dr George Norton. The Kwakwani Hospital receives its drug supplies from the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC) which is considered a ‘sister hospital’.“What we found out is that there were lots of shortage of drugs at the hospital. When there’s a shortage of drugs now and they report it to the LHC, they would send one… when that’s finished, then they would send another. We also discovered that the chest clinic and the medic working in one office and we condemned that… We also discovered that some of the beds were bad, and a few other things”, Adolph stated.He noted also that there is presently a shortage of cooks at the hospital.The issues, according to Adolph was brought to the attention of LHC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Farouk Riyasat who was instructed to put corrective systems in place, however, he noted that there has since been no improvement as recommended by the Health Minister.Meanwhile, over at the Ituni Health Centre, where Adolph disclosed he along with an RDC Councillor and leaders from Kwakwani recently visited, the situation is also similar. The health worker has complained of working without an active telephone line since last year. As such, in cases of emergency, calls would have to be made via her cell phone at her own expense! Adolph further related.“The Health Centre don’t have fans. I reported this to the Chairman… and also water. They would get water like every 4 days. It would run for half an hour, then stop, then until next four days, the members of the community reported that”, Adolph said.In response, Regional Chairman Renis Morian said the Council will write the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) Company concerning the telephone issue; however he indicated that based on talks, the Guyana Water Inc (GWI) in Linden is refuting what residents are saying about the water situation.“I’m hoping that in this new week I can have GWI go to Ituni and ascertain… the fans will be delivered to the agency next week (this week), two fans will be sent…,” Morian said.The Regional Chairman also disclosed that while the RDC is not solely responsible for health in the Region, the Regional Plan of Action had provided for a new hospital to be built in Kwakwani next year, however, until such time, steps needed to be taken to keep the people comfortable.
– says Govt should use audits to set an exampleBy Alexis RodneyPolitical commentator Dr David Hinds has said while he agreed with President David Granger that it might be difficult to persecute every person found culpable in the reports of the recently concluded State Audits,President David GrangerDr David HindsGovernment should go after some instances of corruption to send a very stern message.Speaking with Guyana Times in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Hinds, an executive of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), one of the partners in the coalition Government, said there have to be some cases of “blatant corruption”, carried out by some former Government officials, and the new Administration should use some of these instances to hint that it was totally against corruption.“Having gotten the results of the audits, I agree with the President that you should not jump at everything, because not every malpractice is corruption, but I think that from the best of my knowledge, there are some instances of blatant corruption. I think the President has to go after the instances of blatant corruption,” Hinds told Guyana Times.He said it would be a good move; however, before Government “jumps before the courts”, the audits should be carefully studied. “You have to get a set of fresh eyes and legal people to look at it. But I refuse to believe [based on] what I have read in the newspapers that there are not two or three or four instances of blatant corruption that should be brought before the courts.”According to Hinds, should Government fail in this regard, it will send a message to those from the previous Administration who remain, to continue down this path, thus, driving a continuous process of undetectable corruption.“We live in the type of society, if you do not do it, there are still others who are in office from the old regime, because the top officers may have gone, but the people at the second, and third level of Government are still there and so, if they can see that these things can be uncovered and people can get away, then that give them the incentive to continue.”Hinds said for him, it is not about punishing the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and their officials, it is simply putting a brake on blatant corruption and setting an example for future Governments.President Granger late last week said that while Government has received the reports of the so far completed State Audits, it may find it challenging to persecute persons who have been found culpable.He insisted that the main objective behind audits and the reports was to ensure that no improper or corrupt practices recur. He said too that he was not willing to use the audits and the reports as tools for “witch hunting”.The President had previously said the audits were being used as “guides for corrective action to ensure that there is no reoccurrence”.Hinds expressed the view that the State Audits were an absolute necessity, since there had been an “abuse of State resources throughout our post-independence”.“It did not start with the previous PPP, it started before. But I think it escalated under the PPP and we have to put a stop to that, because, if it escalated under the PPP, the logic is that if nothing is done, it will continue with this audit. So I think the audit was very important.”Meanwhile, Hinds, speaking on Government’s decision to use independent auditors, as against officials of the State Audit Department, said he totally supported the use of independent officials.“I think if you were to use State Auditors to audit the State, whether it was the past or present Government, it is the same Government. I don’t think that the State should be asking State Auditors to audit it. So I do agree with the move to have an independent audit,” he explained.Hinds said it was understandable that persons have had some qualms about the independent auditors; however, he was quite sure that an excellent job was done.“I know some people have questioned whether the auditors themselves were independent as many of the auditors, some of them were associated with the Opposition. That is the difficulty with politics in Guyana. But professionals need to be given a chance to do their professional work…To the best of my knowledge, I think they have done a professional job.”He continued there were always going to be subjectivity and one has to make allowances for that. “I still do think that the independent auditors would give more nuances and a more dispassionate review of the audits as against the State Auditors.”Hinds said in all of this, it would be a good thing if Government could be a little clearer about what was being done about official corruption. He said while the audits were fine, Government still needed to be clear about where the lines should be drawn.“There is not really a clear line drawn. There are still vestiges of the old order still in place that should not be there,” Hinds told Guyana Times.