(former President C.D. B. King)The ongoing Economic Dialogue has been well covered in the local media and has, as indications suggest, raised hopes that an end to the country’s economic woes is in sight. But the hopes appear guarded in view of the worsening economic situation. President Weah has already declared that the outcome of this dialogue will be backed by strong political will; meaning, that he will strongly support the implementation of policy recommendations intended to fix the economy.But suggestions from some quarters (supporters of the President) that such commitments will be honored appear unlikely if concerns expressed by Bong County Representative Robert Womba are anything to go by. His concerns about extra-budgetary spending appears to be resonating with the public.Predicting another budget shortfall should the Legislature not become sufficiently knowledgeable of the matter and take the requisite corrective actions, the lawmaker cited several instances of extrabudgetary spending and illegal manipulation of the budget after it has been passed into law and printed in handbills.In one of the instances cited, Representative Womba drew attention to the Ministry of Youth and Sports which, according to him, spent over a million dollars, even though only US$300,000 was allotted in the 2018/2019 budget. Another example, he said, was the Ministry of Finance, which had been allotted an amount of US$51 million but which added an extra US$10 million, without proper approval, and which was unlawfully spent.The representative also pointed out that several agencies of the Executive branch of government have made huge increases in their 2019/2020 budgets respectively.Notably, these increases in the budget are being made at a time of great economic difficulties, with so many people staring hunger in the face, lack money to pay school fees and attend to other critical needs. At the same time a few individuals are seen to be virtually living it up.President Weah’s large delegation to Japan recently raised public eyebrows, given the costs which estimates placed at above one million US dollars. Just why was such an expenditure necessary may prove too difficult to explain to the Liberian people who are demanding answers.Thus, while promises made to support the outcome of the Dialogue with strong political will is welcome news, this newspaper is constrained to caution that such commitment must be demonstrated through concrete action and not just through talk. As the Daily Observer has repeatedly pointed out, when governments make pronouncements which they cannot follow through, it undermines their own credibility and fosters increased public distrust.All those extrabudgetary expenditures highlighted by the Bong County Representative are examples of how public funds are siphoned off by dishonest officials.More to that is the current “Salary Harmonization Plan,” which is currently being implemented and against which public opposition is growing by the day.And such concerns are exacerbated by the corresponding rise in consumer prices and drastically fallen real income occasioned by this scheme which, according to civil servants, is skewed and highly discriminatory, aside from the fact that it has severely dented their income and undermined their ability to meet their needs.This newspaper remains convinced that other means can be explored through which savings can be realized. However, this government needs to come to terms with the fact that it has bloated the payroll to unsustainable levels.Disclosures, for example, that the Ministry of Labor has allotted an amount of US$500,000 as money to pay consultants, drew the fire of lawmakers to the minister because, as one legislator (name withheld) told this newspaper, the money appears intended to be used to pay new entrants to the Ministry of Labor’s payroll.The minister fumbled and could barely explain to senators convincing reasons for such budgetary outlay. In similar straits also, was Finance Minister Tweah, who fumbled and fidgeted as he tried to explain variations in the payroll numbers he provided to legislators.In view of the above, President Weah’s expression of commitment and support to the implementation of the outcome of this Economic Dialogue will be measured by cuts in extrabudgetary expenditures, a halt to illegal manipulations of the budget after it has been passed into law and above all the stern measures he will take to address the scourge of corruption.But the buck will have to start from him and he can do that by becoming fully compliant with the Asset Declaration law, ensuring the compliance of his officials and dealing sternly (prosecute) with those crossing the line. Using himself as an example is the surest way to express political will in the fight against corruption because, as former President C.D.B. King noted, the “Fish begins to rot from its head”.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Jagan’s 100th birth anniversary– but says stamps will be issued only once they conform to standardsGovernment is holding out that it will issue the commemorative stamps in honour of late former President Dr. Cheddi Jagan, once the stamps adhere to equity and the national criteria for such symbols.The stamps that were prohibited from being issuedAccording to a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency, stamps are national symbols, and they “must not be used for private, partisan or political messages.”Despite the fact that the stamps were supposed to be issued on a particular date to commemorate Jagan’s anniversary and were not, the Government, in its statement, denied scrapping the issuance of the stamps.“The Government of Guyana has no intention of ‘scrapping’ or ‘scuttling’ the issuance of commemorative stamps. The Ministry of the Presidency reasserts that commemorative stamps, which are national symbols, must adhere to national criteria, and must not be used for private, partisan or political messages.”President David GrangerGovernment’s message continued: the stamps “ought to be used for national purposes. The Government has stated clearly and has iterated its decision to ensure that the stamps will be distributed within that context.”The Ministry of the Presidency (MotP) has lashed out at the Guyana Times and the Stabroek News, claiming that the newspapers’ articles “seemed aimed at stirring up strife and creating controversy.”The MotP has reiterated previous statements made that national symbols will be announced shortly for both former presidents Jagan and Arthur Chung.CJRCThis publication had reported statements from the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) which were critical of the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) for failing to deliver on its commitment to make the collection of stamps available for Dr Jagan’s birth centenary last week.In a statement on Wednesday last, the CJRC blasted Government for the deliberate attempt to disturb the activities planned on Tuesday to launch the stamps. According to CJRC, this should have been a routine transaction…rather than a politically interfered one, and it views this as a measured attempt to hinder the work of the Centre amidst the controversy over Red House.Former Attorney General Anil NandlallThe CJRC highlighted that despite being given assurance by the GPOC and Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes that the collection would be made available, the CJRC was told by the Guyana Post Office Corporation that the Office of the President should be contacted in this regard.Former Chairman of the Board of GPOC, Juan Edghill, said it is unprecedented for a client, in this instance the CJRC, to be referred to the Ministry of the Presidency for explanations or other information as it relates to this unfulfilled transaction between the Corporation and a client.“This is nothing short of a full and open display of petty, partisan politics influencing a business transaction that could be considered purely an administrative matter,” Edghill noted on Wednesday.The CJRC had also reflected this as an “action of assault” against the late President of Guyana, who made significant contributions towards the development of the nation.No authorityFormer Attorney General Anil Nandlall, one of the most resounding voices against the Government’s move, has contended that the process should not have been politicised by the Ministry of the Presidency in the first place.In a statement issued on Sunday, Nandlall stressed that GPOC is a statutory body corporate. He pointed out that, by law, it is managed by a Board of Directors and possesses its own personnel. Hence, he chalked the Ministry of the Presidency’s actions to an exhibition of authoritarianism.“(GPOC) can attract liabilities, own assets and hire its own employees. It is not a department of the Government, but an agency of the state. It must now be inexorably clear that the GPOC is not a Government department. It is not part of the Government. Therefore, its policies and activities are not to be dictated by or interfered with, by the Government. Likewise, its employees are not employees of the Government,” Nandlall stated.“They are not public servants. Therefore, they are not subject to Government’s supervision or control. It must also be unequivocally clear that any attempt by the Government, including the President, to interfere with the day-to-day activities and operations of the GPOC and its staff would be unlawful, clear executive lawlessness, and abuse of power.”Nandlall noted that it was the CJRCI that entered into a contract with the GPOC to produce and issue the stamps. He related that after a seven-month-long discussion, the CJRC paid GPOC a 50 per cent deposit.“Although it was absolutely unnecessary, I am informed that the transaction received the positive imprimatur of the subject Minister. Yet, on the day in question, the GPOC failed to deliver the stamps. They directed CJRCI to make contact with the Ministry of the Presidency. Based upon the legal authorities to which I have referred, the Ministry of the Presidency has absolutely no authority in this matter.“The Ministry of the Presidency, in a statement, essentially admitted that (it has) prohibited GPOC from issuing the stamps. Clearly, the Ministry of the Presidency has acted ultra vires and has unlawfully usurped the functional responsibility of an independent statutory body corporate. It has also exposed the GPOC to civil liabilities for breach of its contract with CJRCI.”
A thirty-six-year-old La Grange, West Bank Demerara (WBD) resident, Oswald Bijulisingh, was released on $15,000 bail last week on allegations that he threatened his neighbour, Shelly Patrick.Police say the incident occurred on April 30, 2018 at Independence Street, La Grange, where the two persons reside.Unrepresented, Bijulisingh, a poultry farmer, however denied the accusation when the charge was read to him by Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool at the Wales Magistrate’s Court.The farmer confirmed that he was previously charged, but was found not guilty of the offence. He will make his next court appearance when the matter continues on July 5, 2018.
Mae’s Schools cultural wear fiascoThe issue involving the nine-year-old pupil of Mae’s Schools who was reportedly told he was dressed inappropriately for the institution’s May 25th Culture Day will take centre stage during the 12th Annual National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference, which is slated for July.The letter the school reportedly gave with instructions for the Culture Day observanceThis was according to NTC Chairman Joel Fredericks in a recent interview with Guyana Times.The incident has garnered much public attention in recent days, with many calling on the school to apologise but the matter recently took on a new dimension when the lad’s mother felt disrespected by the school’s response on the issue which, according to her, painted the picture that she was a liar.The NTC Chairman, who had earlier bemoaned the lack of social cohesion regarding the issue, told this newspaper that Guyanese should respect each other, noting that the country has six races with diverse cultures.This publication questioned the official on NTC’s plans to engage the Education and Social Cohesion Ministries given the public outcry that the “inappropriate” comment caused.“The Ministry of Education is already on our agenda and within that slot we will deal with it; we will raise at the highest level,” Fredericks noted.He reiterated that it would be a topic of discussion at the annual event, questioning why Indigenous persons were not being treated equally.“Yes; and I think cultural awareness in some of the institutions is needed. How some are accepted and Indigenous are not accepted, why is it? People need to ask questions,” he noted.“One month we have our celebration, but I don’t know if Mae’s was a part of that,” the NTC Chairman said.Just recently, Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock confirmed that the matter was under investigation. In fact, he expressed surprise at the incident, telling media operatives last week that it went against Government’s move to bring social cohesion and national unity among all the many ethnic groups, through various efforts.In the meantime, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) and Red Thread joined with the NTC requesting that the school apologise. At last Thursday’s picketing exercise, the mother of the traumatised pupil said she was “very dissatisfied” with the school’s response.The administration of Mae’s in a statement had said that all students were briefed on the activity, noting that no clothing that exposed them was allowed.“All children were told that plain t-shirts and tights/shorts should be worn under clothes that would otherwise expose them,” the school highlighted.The school also said that the students of the class of the child were to dress as Portuguese and said that the child turned up in Amerindian wear and was told that it may be an issue since he was exposed. His mother, the school stressed, gave him a t-shirt.“At no point was any teacher engaged on this issue either by the child or his mother. The child settled into his classes without incident. There was no crying or other discernible upset displayed by him that warranted the attention of the class teacher, head teacher, or administration of the school then or at any other time throughout the school day. The fact that this student is made the subject of national headlines is regrettable.”This description of events prompted the mother to say that she will not be sending her child back to the school in the new academic year as she was almost brought to the point of tears.“It makes me out to be a liar and I am very disappointed because exactly [what] happened to my son that is what I said and for them to come out and say that; I am very disappointed…it really took a toll on me …I thought about my son in all of this and I’m thinking, how could you?” she stressed.Michael McGarrel of the APA had noted that the statement issued by the school was a waste of time and argued that the administration should have plainly offered an apology for its actions. (Shemuel Fanfair)
A miner was on Monday slapped with a break and enter and simple larceny charge when he appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.Videsh Hansraj appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan and admitted that on September 6, 2018, while he was employed as a manual worker he broke and entered the dwelling house of Omesh Budhram and stole a quantity of gold jewellery worth $260,000.According to the facts presented to the court, the victim secured his home and went out. Upon his return at about 15:00h, the accused told him he was not feeling well and left.The victim upon inspecting the house found that his jewellery box was not in the same place he left it. Upon a closer inspection, he found that his jewellery was missing and the matter was immediately reported to the Police.The unrepresented man told the court that he was willing to reimburse his employer. However, Magistrate McLennan reprimanded and discharged the matter against the miner and placed him on a bond to keep the peace for 12 months.The matter was prosecuted by Sergeant Jillian Simmons.
– PPDI, Prison Sentence Board also appointedGovernment has finally approved the appointment of a Juvenile Justice Committee, a necessary component of plans to integrate alternative sentencing and avoiding the criminalisation of youths.This announcement was made by Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who was at the time holding a post-Cabinet press briefing on Friday. According to Harmon, the Committee was approved by Cabinet after a proposal from Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan.According to the Minister, the Committee will comprise of William Boston as Chairman and 11 other members. Harmon laid out the terms of reference of the Committee, which will include ensuring that the Juvenile Justice Act is implemented.“The objectives of the Committee are to support the implementation of juvenile justice legislation, especially on issues related to the creation and accreditation of diversionary programmes and to ensure compliance to the required standards set up in the child rights convention and its supporting guidelines.”The Juvenile Justice Bill was passed last year, repealing the 1931 Juvenile Offenders Act and the Training Schools Act. An important part of the bill is that it abolishes offences like truancy and wandering.The draft bill was conceived in 2004 under the former Administration, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund. Last year, the Government had announced that it would establish juvenile courts throughout Guyana. It has been opined that having these specialised courts will ensure speedy disposal of sensitive cases.PPDIAlso being approved and gazetted was the Board of Directors of the Power Producers and Distributors Incorporated (PPDI). According to the gazetted notice, the PPDI Board will serve with effect from March 1, 2019, to February 28, 2021.Returning to head the company is Mark Bender as Chairman and Arron Fraser as Vice Chairman. In addition, its membership will include Stephen Fraser, Amanza Walton-Desir, Verlyn D E Klass, Paul Chan-A-Sue, the Permanent Secretary of the Public Infrastructure Ministry and representatives from the Parliamentary Opposition and Guyana Power and Light (GPL).GPL’s interconnected system is fed with power by the Power Producers and Distributors Inc (PPDI), which replaced Wärtsilä, a company from Finland, which for two decades maintained over a dozen engines for the utility company.PrisonAlso, the Guyana Prison Service Sentence Management Board was approved for a period of one year with effect from February 1, 2019. The Board is to be chaired by prominent educator and former University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) President Dr Melissa Ifill.Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels is also listed as a member, as well as Marielle Bristol, Sylvia Conway, Rabindra Chand, Mahendra Thakurdat, Stanley Boodie, John Fraser and Shireen Andrews as Secretary.As of January 2017, there were a total of 2043 inmates in Guyana’s five jails, although the largest one – the Camp Street Prison – was subsequently gutted in a fire. At the time, the Georgetown prison had 963 inmates, 521 of whom were on remand; Lusignan had 153, of which 32 were remanded, Mazaruni, 360, and Timehri, 130 inmates including 28 remand inmates.All of the aforementioned prisoners were male, while New Amsterdam had a male prison population of 352 and a female population of 85. 150 of those men and 31 women were on remand.When it comes to prisons, much reform is needed. In 2016, a fire raged through the Camp Street Prison and claimed the lives of 17 prisoners. Afterwards, a Commission of Inquiry, which cost the treasury some $13 million, was ordered by President David Granger.According to the report compiled by the Commissioners, a combination of being overcrowded, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement are ideal conditions for epidemics, for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent.Moreover, the CoI found that reducing numbers in prisons to manageable levels is the single most important priority for establishing safe, humane and purposeful prisons. In the wake of another fire the very next year, which gutted the wooden section of the Camp Street Prison, the need to reduce the prison population was further emphasised to the Government.
Over 100 city businesses proprietors have failed to pay taxes and according to Mayor Ubraj Narine, this results in the build-up of garbage in Georgetown.Several photos began circulating on social media on Friday morning of overflowing bins throughout the capital city which saw City Hall coming in for a massive backlash.However, at a press conference later on Friday, Mayor Narine revealed that the overflow was as a result of damages to the tyres of the lone tractor owned by the City Council.A replacement of the tyres is difficult to obtain locally, he said, which saw the garbage bins throughout Georgetown being left unattended for the past three days. Further, it is expensive to buy new tractors, the Mayor said.The Mayor then lambasted some 144 “high-end businesses” in Georgetown which have failed to pay their taxes and who owes City Hall billions.According to Narine, City Hall is willing to procure two additional tractors, however, this is difficult since the finances are unavailable.“There is only one tractor we have at this moment to remove all those skip bins and that tractor is currently down…however, we can do better but only if we get the resources from the taxpayers then we would be able to have two more tractors. There is a list with 144 business entities that due us tax and if these taxes can be paid up to the City Council we will get the additional tractors so that we will be able to do a better job…they owe us billions, these high-end businesses,” Narine revealed.The Mayor is urging the businesses to pay up monies owed, which will make the work of City Hall less strenuous, since according to Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentor, the monies for the tractor cannot be obtained from the Communities Ministry.“This is a teamwork, this is a job that the ratepayers themselves, especially those in the commercial community, has to do…we just can’t be going to the religious communities and tapping the Central Government resources to be able to get these other machineries There are allocation of funds in the subvention that we will use to buy some other machineries but there are other departments that also have needs and we have already allocated funds for those things so it is very important for the business community to play their part,” Mentor urged.Director of Solid Waste, Walter Narine, however, said efforts were being made to have the skip bins cleared.He reiterated the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s call, noting that the City Council is doing its part and as such, he implored businesses to do theirs.“These waste primarily comes from the business community and we are expending a lot of resources and time to clean up waste in the business communities. We have a business truck that traverse the business community every morning, we have street orderly that walks the street to clean up garbage, we put those bins at those locations because before those bins, you had mountains of garbage every single day in front of those businesses.”He added that the businesses which are not paying their taxes are putting tremendous pressure on the municipality’s finances.
The veterinary staff of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) will be in Georgetown today to take blood samples from horses to test for Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA), also known as swamp fever.In a social media post, the Agriculture Ministry said the disease was caused by a virus and was transmitted by blood-sucking insects.Further, the Ministry informed, “The horses from which samples will be taken will also be dewormed and given vitamins at no cost to the owner as part of this exercise.”The exercise will commence at 07:00h in central Georgetown and will wind down at 15:00h in Sophia, Greater Georgetown.Officials at the GLDA told Guyana Times that owners of horses had no reason to panic as there was no outbreak of the disease. It was explained that the project is part of the organisation’s animal health work programme for this year.Similar exercises were conducted from Turkeyen to Good Hope on the East Coast of Demerara and from Brickery to Ruimveldt on the East Bank of Demerara on June 18 and 20, respectively.EIA, or swamp fever, is also called horse malaria. The virus attacks the red blood cells of horses causing anaemia, weakness, and even death.Research shows that there is no cure for the disease, and horses are required to be tested regularly.Once a horse is infected, the virus remains in the animal’s body for the rest of its life.A few warning signs of the disease may include slight to high fever for a few days, weakness, weight loss, depression, and even disorientation.Persons with enquiries can contact the GLDA on 220-6556 or 220-6557 for more information.The sudden testing for these animals come at a time when the Trinidad and Tobago Government recently took a stance to ban all poultry items from Guyana after expressing concerns over duck viral hepatitis.A memo dated May 31, 2019, and signed by the twin-island republic’s Senior Veterinary Officer informed the Customs and Excise Division of the ban.The Agriculture Ministry had announced that the GLDA’s hatchery was closed owing to the unusual death of ducklings.“There is an increased mortality rate of ducklings being hatched at our facility; additionally, we were also informed by some farmers that a similar occurrence was taking place on a number of farms throughout the various regions,” the statement said.It was later mentioned that the Muscovy breed was under threat, especially those two to three weeks old. This precipitated surveillance and monitoring exercise targeting the animals. At that time, the deaths were labelled as an “unusual occurrence”.
A suicide symposium aimed at educating a mass of teens on factors leading to suicidal tendencies and suicide prevention was hosted by the Guyana Learning Institute (GLI) on Saturday.Some of the participants at the symposium hosted by the Guyana Learning InstituteDozens of youths and young adults turned up at the Guyana Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) building, Kingston, Georgetown, where the one-day session was hosted. Facilitators of the symposium included former Programme Manager of the National Aids Programme Secretariat (NAPS) Dr Shanti Singh and current students of the tertiary institution.Speaking more about the symposium, Principal of the GLI Ganga Persaud briefly explained that the programme was planned and executed as part of a footprint project for the 12th batch of students at the institution. On that note, he underscored that the event was aimed at educating and fostering cohesion among teenagers in suicide prevention.In addition, Dr Shanti Singh briefly elaborated on the areas that would be covered in her presentation at the symposium during a quick interview with this publication, some of these included: factors that lead to suicide and ways of addressing and preventing suicide as well as those who are affected.“My task is to work with them so that there can be increased knowledge and understanding of factors that lead to suicide…there are some of the myths that you need to be very much aware of and be able to dispel. I think importantly, that it’s some of the myths that we don’t recognise and we take things for granted,” Dr Singh posited.During a highly interactive session, the participants at the symposium were urged as teenagers to take their roles seriously in helping to prevent the widespread social issue, as they were involved in both group and individual presentations focusing on their views on suicide as teenagers.The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) conducted a study in 2017, which found that the leading cause of death was suicide among persons between the ages of 15 to 24 years old, while most of the victims are male.
Convicted: Sonia KingConvicted child killer Sonia King, through her attorney Mark Conway, has filed an appeal with Guyana’s Appellate Court to reduce a 20-year prison sentence, which was recentlyDeceased: Emmanuel Kingimposed by Justice Navindra Singh, after she admitted to the lesser count of manslaughter.King’s appeal is being filed on the grounds that Justice Singh had failed to recognise the convicted killer’s psychological condition – which should have been considered as a mitigating factor at the time the offence was committed and further that the sentence imposed was of a severe nature.The mother of two had pleaded guilty to killing her eight-year-old son while he was asleep on February 21, 2016. Justice Singh, who had heard the matter on July 18, sentenced the woman to serve 20 years for the crime.Reports are that King initially claimed that the child fell from a guava tree during the afternoon of February 21 after which he retired to bed. At about 22:00h, the mother had claimed that she went to check on the child but found him in a motionless state.He was taken to the West Demerara Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. However, she later confessed that she killed the child because of frustration, saying that she took a bed sheet and choked the child to death while he was sleeping.After the incident, King reportedly confessed to her husband to killing the child. She was arrested after confessing to investigators.