August 30, 2016

Is the President listening to his supporters?

Dear Editor,
Just when you think an APNU/AFC self-inflicted scandal is over, another one piles on, threatening to out-do the previous one.
Until now, I deliberately avoided commenting on the Bondgate fiasco as individuals who could be considered supporters of the ruling APNU/AFC were daily expressing their outrage in ways that, had the same comments been made by me, they would have been expected as coming from a PPP parliamentarian, and would not have had the same impact.
But the feeling of righteous indignation expressed by the likes of anticorruption advocate Anand Goolsarran; outspoken WPA executive Dr David Hinds, Kaieteur News columnists Freddy Kissoon and Peeping Tom is evident that the honeymoon is over, and Guyanese are determined more than ever, to hold the APNU/AFC Government accountable.
And so the question must be asked: Is the President listening to his supporters? Judging from his inaction on other embarrassing and controversial events that are rapidly becoming the hallmark of his leadership, it does not appear so.
As Minister of Public Health, Dr George Norton is, in my opinion, the designated ‘fall-guy‘ for the outrageous decision taken by the APNU+AFC Cabinet to rent an unfinished, uncertified pharmaceutical bond for $12.5 million (US$62,500) monthly from a known supporter/financier of the coalition Larry Singh of Linden Holding Inc.
Editor, most Americans do not earn that type of money for the entire year in the USA, and the security deposit of $25 million I’m convinced, was given to Singh to facilitate the renovation of the building he had just bought for the exact amount.
And to prove just how insensitive the Administration is to public opinion and criticism, Brian Tiwarie, owner of BK International, the man who was just gifted a whopping US$5.7M by the Granger Administration based on a claim by the Attorney General, Basil Williams that BK had filed a US$10M lawsuit against the Government which turned out to be false and misleading, and another controversial figure, Larry Singh, shared the spotlight at the opening of the 19th Biennial Delegates’ Congress of the PNCR at its Congress Place headquarters.
The mere presence of these men there would have been a nightmare for any public relations officer involved in the Administration’s damage control. Who in the Administration can be so naîve as to ignore the gravity of the BK and Bondgate scandals that shocked the entire nation by inviting these controversial businessmen to the highly publicised PNCR Congress?
Perhaps the strategy was to get the PNC hardliners at that Congress to rally around Brian Tiwarie and Larry Singh and give critical support to the Granger Administration during this crisis.
But what is evident by Singh’s presence there, is that President Granger, the Leader of the PNCR, does not hold Larry Singh responsible for putting his Administration in this scandalous predicament, for no one would have dared invite Larry Singh to the PNC Congress without Granger’s approval. And if this is so, it is likely that the President’s close advisors may even have been aware of existing conditions of the proposed pharmaceutical bond before it was discussed at Cabinet level.
Whether certain information were withheld from some members of Cabinet is no excuse, as the sheer size of money involved was big enough to raise eyebrows and initiate due diligence before any contract was signed.
Now we know that the original contract was signed for an executive building and not a pharmaceutical storage bond. Another piece of misinformation made to parliamentarians in the National Assembly.
I believe the administration took a calculated risk that turned ugly. I have a theory that could have provoked the making of this deal: With a more vigilant press and opposition, it will be difficult for government to later siphon off funds from the treasury as was done by the PNC regime under Forbes Burnham. Could it be that a percentage of the $12.5 million monthly rental finds its way in the pockets of a few unscrupulous government officials, or more likely the APNU coffers to help finance its 2020 re-election campaign? Just a thought!
Say what you want about the Guyana Times and other media houses but the independent press must be commended for courageously and objectively reporting the many blunders of the David Granger Administration since they took office.
I salute the investigative reporters who fearlessly dig deep to uncover these corrupt dealings by an Administration which was elected on the promise of being transparent and accountable to the people of Guyana, and to put an end to the “corrupted” policies and practices they accused the PPP/C of.
The Granger Administration has been plagued with making terrible choices, either through inexperience or downright disregard for accountability and the rule of law. Many have already been reported on, and there are more to come.

Harry Gill, MP

Design, construction of Hope Canal Bridge saw no input from Allsop, Carter

Dear Editor,
I have always felt that a newspaper is not the most appropriate medium for criticising the design of an engineering structure for it is usually difficult to cover adequately the salient features of engineering design without a clear explanation of the qualities relevant to the proper functioning of an engineering structure.
This is certainly the case with your article on the Hope Canal Bridge as covered in your column of Sunday, August 7, 2016. Nevertheless, I take exception to the statement in the article that ‘the review of the designs for the project include Philip Allsopp and Bert Carter’.
I wish to emphasise that neither of the two engineers mentioned had any direct connect with the bridge project. We were invited to consider the direct drainage and hydraulic conditions of the project but our terms of reference made no mention of the bridge project which was undertaken by consultants whose names were listed on a plaque attached to the bridge.
Failure of the approach span, as depicted in the photographs indicated that failure was due to ‘geotechnical properties’ of the soft clay beneath the approach span which evidently was not adequately catered for in the design of the approach slab.
This has become a regular feature of soft clay in bridge approaches and needs to be adequately addressed, but neither Philip Allsop nor Bert Carter was involved at any stage of the design or construction.

Yours truly,
Philip Allsopp

Reasons for differences in dates on Hindu calendar

Dear Editor,
I think the Hindu public needs to be informed of the reasons for the differences in dates on the Hindu calendar. Specifically, why all the dates on Dharmic Sabha’s calendar are exactly one day after the dates on the calendars of all other Hindu organisations?
At a meeting held at Dharmic Sabha Kendra on Monday 22 August, 2016, and attended by Pandits of Viraat Sabha, Pandits’ Sabha of Region 3, Pandits’ Council and Gandhi Youth, the matter was discussed.
In its explanation on the system and methods used in arriving at its Dates, Dharmic Sabha revealed that it has been using the time given in the Panchang (Hindu Astrological Chart) as the ‘Starting’ Time. The Pandits of all other organisations present vehemently disagreed; they asserted that the Time is the ‘Ending’ Time, and not the Starting Time.
It should be mentioned that this is supposed to be public knowledge, known especially by all students of Astrology. Also, the Astrological Charts, in their guidelines, mention that all times are given as the ‘Ending’ Time.
The use of these times as the starting position of each Lunar Day (Tithi) has resulted in all Dharmic Sabha’s dates being one day later than the dates on the Charts, and as well the calendars of the other organisations.
Thus, when the Full Moon ended at 5:26 am on 18 August, Dharmic Sabha treated it as having started then, thereby celebrating Raksha Bandhan one day after. Again, Ashtami (8th lunar day), according to the Panchangas, started on the 24 August and ended at 10:40 am on the 25th.
Dharmic Sabha is using 10:40 am on 25th as the starting time of Ashtami, thus celebrating Janam Ashtami on the 25th.
Similarly, for Diwali. Amaavasya (Diwali) ends at 1:37 pm on the 30th of October. Dharmic Sabha is treating 1:37 pm on the 30th as the starting time of Diwali. So their date for Diwali is the 30th instead of the 29th.
This is a fatal error which has resulted in all their dates occurring one day later. It should be mentioned that Dharmic Sabha’s dates do not agree with those in the Panchangas.

Yours truly,
Pt R Balbadar
Sanskrit and Vaidic
Theology Dip

Valuable PR

Dear Editor,
The continuing and increasing incidence of Human Resource Management (HRM) practitioners including at the bottom of their Vacancy Advertisements statements like “only short listed applicants will be acknowledged” or words to that effect risk undermining the very purpose of advertising vacancies.
The prime objective of public announcements of vacancies is to attract the widest possible pool of potentially suitable candidates from among whom to make a competitive choice.
Carefully worded Ads (‘market-oriented’ as opposed to some which merely copy extracts from the Job Description/Specification) will reduce the chances of too many ‘unsuitable’ applicants and by the same token increase the chances of a wide, competitive field from which effective selection can be made.
The Ad is an invitation to a select group of people as described therein; if this invitation projects an ‘exclusivity’, the criteria for which only those who do the shortlisting are privy, then the chances increase that many potentially competent people might not apply because they prefer to avoid the ‘insult’ of being rejected without even knowing if their application was received. And the organisation risks unwittingly rejecting a good candidate.
The formal acknowledgement of applications is at least courteous and valuable Public Relations (PR). It used to be done routinely in my early days as an HRM practitioner when the labour and material costs of doing so was relatively higher than in these days of cheap, easy electronic communication.
There is no doubt in my mind that organisations lose much more than they gain by refusing to acknowledge applications and then adding insult to injury by advertising their discourtesy in not doing so. Nevertheless, I am prepared to be proven wrong if HRM colleagues who indulge in this malpractice can publicise their rationale for not acknowledging applications.

Yours truly,
Nowrang Persaud

Jagdeo will be the second Guyanese to address Eric Williams Memorial Lecture

Dear Editor,
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, now Opposition Leader, will be the guest speaker next month at Eric Williams Memorial Lecture. Jagdeo will be the second Guyanese to address the prestigious forum. The first was Professor Ivelaw Griffith who is now the Head of the University of Guyana.
The topic, of the September 30 lecture at Florida University in Miami, is The Caribbean and American Power: The Donald Trumph Ascendency. Jagdeo will join distinguished academics and worldknown personalities who spoke at the Forum including former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who delivered the inauguration speech in 1998, the former President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, one of America’s premier black historians John Hope Franklin, Civil Rights Activist Angela Davis, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, PJ Patterson.
Last year’s speaker was St Vincent and the Grenadines Head of Government Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
Dr Eric Williams was the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and one of the leading advocates against colonialism. He was the author of several books including “Columbus to Castro”. Jagdeo has held several high level government positions, ranging from Minister of Finance to President of Guyana from 1999 to 2011.
He also holds a number of global leadership position in the area of sustainable development, green growth and climate change. In 2008 he was named Times Magazine’s “Hero of the Environment” and in 2010, the United Nations declared him to be one of its “Champions of the Earth Awardees”.
In the financial area, Jagdeo has served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the IMF and World Bank Group (2005-2006)
The Eric Williams Memorial Lecture was the brain child of Erica Williams Connel, daughter of the late Trinidadian leader.

Yours truly,
Oscar Ramjeet

The APNU/AFC regime is antidemocratic

Dear Editor,
In an earlier article, we had posited that the nature of the present APNU/AFC regime is one of bureaucratic capitalist elite. It was noted that such a regime uses the state apparatus to enrich itself. This is a throwback to the PNC days in power from 1964 to 1992.
During this period, the PNC practised similar methods. Super salaries and allowances, coupled with huge corruption scandals like Global Agri, Greenland Crop and others were the order of the day. Eventually, their greed became so great that under the guise of building socialism, the regime “nationalised” 80 per cent of the country’s economy.
They did that to further enrich themselves and to control the livelihood of the vast majority of people in the country. This allowed them to lord it over the people. One had to join the PNC to get a job and when the economy deteriorated, they had to join the PNC for basic items, including toilet paper.
They even practiced forced labour at Hope Estate. They forced public servants and employees of public corporations to give free labour on weekends.
The PNC regime used those same workers and the army to break strikes, which they branded as political.
Such a regime, by nature, suppresses criticism. They do not like transparency and accountability. Those methods of management go against their intentions. They want to run the state as if it was their private property, not caring about the welfare of the people.
In a word, by its nature, such a regime is considered to be anti-democratic.
Of course, defenders of this regime would argue that that was a long time ago and much has changed. Some would even say that it is impossible for them to return to such practices. It is true that a lot has changed. What has not changed is the nature of the regime. That is the constant.
It means that they would continue their practice in these new conditions. They work systematically to undermine the democratic gains we have made since 1992 and eventually will take us back to a dictatorship – a la PNC.
It is apposite to recall that the PNC took from 1964 to 1973 to complete their strangle on power and to really earn the title as a dictatorship. This shows that the establishment of a dictatorship by the bureaucratic clan is a process.
An examination of this PNC-led APNU/AFC regime would show that the contours of such a regime are already distinguishable. This trend is bound to continue.
Already, we see that the Parliament is being undermined. Many complaints are being made by the Opposition on how the Speaker is conducting the business of the Assembly. He is not using his authority to facilitate deliberation and debates. Instead his conduct puts him as a partisan operator mainly concerned with defending and protecting government MPs.
Already questions begging to be answered are piling up in the National Assembly.
Since the regime took power we have noticed the trend – settling of cases, including tax cases. These settlements have cost the economy billions of dollars. The BK International case is one such disturbing matter. This matter did not even reach the court, but settlement of more than a billion dollars was done.
In all of these cases, one is hard pressed not to believe that some persons may be getting kickbacks.
This is after they have given themselves huge increases in salaries and allowances. This is after they have given their friends super salaries in many public entities. They have also overloaded the system with advisors.

The drug bond fiasco is the latest case to show that they are setting up companies to do business with the Government. Minister Norton, in the case of the bond fiasco, is just the fall guy. This stench goes high up in the administration.
Many established contractors are already complaining that they are not getting jobs, they have become sub-contractors to persons who were given projects but have no equipment.
Already, we have seen the disregard for the tender process and the use of sole sourcing. This is the beginning of the undermining of transparency and accountability.
The most worrying factor of this Granger regime is the process of militarisation of the State. Some glimpses of these actions are of great concern.
The taking over of the Walter Roth Museum to house the growing bureaucracy is a case in point. Reports have it that army personnel just turned up and told the staff that they will have to move, to start packing.
This is an ominous sign of things to come. While we may have some dismissals, as we have seen at GWI, this situation will not get better, it will further deteriorate. This is because of the nature of the regime.
The democratic forces in our society must come out and oppose this trend, tomorrow may be too late.

Donald Ramotar,
Former President

KA Juman-Yassin was only person on UG council in 1982 who voted against my dismissal

Dear Editor,

On Wednesday March 3, 1982, the University of Guyana Council terminated my appointment as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies. One man voted against my dismissal, KA Juman-Yassin. This Guyanese was courageous. Thank you, Juman-Yassin. You are an inspiration to me and my family. I thought of you, on and off, when I was kidnapped, blindfolded, interrogated and terrorized on February 9-14, 1984.

This unjust, undemocratic and unpatriotic act caused me irreparable personal and professional damage. Yet, there is no bitterness in my heart. It is sad, however, that working people in Guyana provide many of these folks with rewards and pensions.

Hereunder, are excerpts of the “Minutes of Adjourned Council Meeting held Wednesday March 3, 1982 in the Board Room, Administration Building, Turkeyen Campus. PRESENT :Cdes. C. Baird, CCH, Pro Chancellor (Chairperson), G. Walcott, Vice Chancellor (AG.), D. Ainsworth, MP; L.T. Bowen, V. Burnham, E. Burrowes, N. Chaderpaul, W.A. Davidson, K. Denny, E.Gilbert, MP, H. Green, MP, J. Holder, AA, C. Jarvis, AA, L. Lewis, DSM, R. McKay, F. Mohamed, MP, A. Munroe, S.S. Narine, AA, MP, M. Parris, C. Philadelphia, B. Raghubir, DSM, L. Scotland, S.M. Shakoor, G.Sharma, J. Sinclair, G. Singh, S. Singh, K.A. Juman-Yassin, J. Yates, A. Yhap, AA, N. Younge and H.O. Brewester, Registrar/Secretary (Ag.)…”

(After recommending that 29 students be asked to withdraw from the university because they did not do National Service, the Board dealt with my employment at UG).

“…ANY OTHER BUSINESS: Under this item Cde. A. Munroe, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Higher Education, told the Board that he wished to raise a matter of vital importance in relation to the appointment (of) Paul Nehru Tennassee as a Research Fellow, Institute Development Studies. He said that since Cde. Tennassee’s assumption of duty in January, 1982 information had come to hand which led to the conclusion that he was not (a) fit and proper person to continue in the employment of the University. He therefore proposed that Cde. Tennassee’s appointment be terminated under clause 3 of his contract and that he should be given (6) months salary in lieu of notice along with benefits to which he was entitled. He added that a cheque for the amount due should accompany the letter of termination.

The Dean, Faculty of Social Science, inquired into the reasons for such a proposal at this point of the agenda and felt that the decision to terminate someone’s appointment so abruptly should not be taken lightly. He called on Cde Munroe to put forward reasons to support his proposal since from the information gleaned from Cde Tennessee’s curriculum vitae it would seem that there was no academic reason for the proposal. He opined that such reasons would assist the University in its recruitment decisions. He reminded the Council also of the point of view of the Academic Board which sometime previously had urged that when a person’s contract was being terminated at short notice, some explanation should be given.

The response of some members of the Board was that the Academic Board had no authority over appointments or dismissals and its opinion could be disregarded. They further argued that in matters of this nature the less said the better and no reason should be advanced.

Cde. Juman-Yassin voiced his disagreement and said that such an abrupt termination of anyone’s service could greatly affect his future prospects. He advanced the argument that Council as the body being asked to make the decision was entitled to hear the reasons for the proposal so that it could be satisfied about the objectivity of its decision. He stated that he would be hard pressed to support a proposal without hearing the rationale that led to its presentation.

The majority of the members however insisted that no reasons should be advanced and called on the Pro-Chancellor to put Cde. Munroe’s motion to the vote. The Pro-Chancellor cautioned the Council that the matter was a serious one. However, since there seemed to be a general demand for the motion to be put, she called on members to indicate their support or otherwise of the motion.

In the vote that followed, twenty-six (26) members supported the motion, one (1) member voted against, there was one (1) abstention and one (1) member did not vote.

The Registrar (ag) was advised to dispatch the letter of termination the next day (4th March) and to seek legal advice on the formulation of the letter.

The Dean, Faculty of Social Science, then told Council that his Faculty would view the decision seriously since it placed them in a rather invidious position. He hoped that at a later stage Council would see the wisdom of offering reasons for its decision.

There being no other business the meeting ended at 17.55 hours.”

Eusi Kwayana told me that my father was the first school teacher who responded to his letter inviting teachers on the Corentyne to join the independence struggle. I witnessed with my mother, when I was six-years-old, the invading British soldiers occupy our store (under Dr Lachmansingh’s house in James Street), and later went to our home in search of my father and subversive literature. I met Forbes Burnham in 1969 at his office in Parliament Building. He listened to me explain my views on how the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean should be mobilized and organized to assert their true independence. He then leaned back on his chair, slightly touched his little beard and said to me “idealism, idealism, pure idealism.”

Yours faithfully,

Paul Nehru Tennassee


Town Clerk has some audacity

Dear Editor,
How could the Town Clerk of Georgetown have the audacity to tell the citizenry that there is no secrecy regarding the Council’s accounting system including its many bank accounts?
If there is no secrecy, then why is he and the others so vigorously preventing the commissioning of a deep wide ranging forensic audit of its accounting system?
If there is no secrecy, then why have they not presented their accounts for qualification by the state auditors for more than a decade now?
If there is no secrecy then why aren’t all of their bank accounts reflected on their financial statements?
If there is no secrecy why then can’t all of their Councillors be given a copy of the crooked parking meter contract they signed with Smart City Solutions/National Parking Systems?
If there is no secrecy, why then have they not yet made public the city’s budget for 2016, when it is already August of 2016?
If there is no secrecy, why then are the members of staff of the Finance Department being muzzled and prevented from speaking to the press regarding matters of considerable importance to the citizens?
If there is no secrecy, why did they so hurriedly appoint a Chairman of the Finance Committee after the Mayoral election process and stuff the committee full with old timers from the past scandalous Council?
If there is no secrecy, then why are the senior administrative and financial management staffers of the Council refusing to proceed on their vacation leave like everyone else has to within the municipality? No other public organisation in the whole of Guyana is less transparent and more secretive, than the Georgetown Municipality and yet the Town Clerk goes to the media to say they have no secrets. Wait until a forensic audit is held, then there will no doubt be the discovery of more secrets.

With thanks,
Debra Gibson

Krishna Janmashtami

Dear Editor,
The birthday of Hinduism’s favourite Lord Krishna is a special occasion for Hindus who consider him their leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend all rolled into one. Krishna took birth at midnight on the ashtami or the 8th day of the Krishnapaksha or dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Shravan (August-September). This auspicious day is called Janmashtami. Indian as well as Western scholars have now accepted the period between 3200 and 3100 BC as the period in which Lord Krishna lived on Earth.
How do Hindus celebrate Janmashtami? The devotees of Lord Krishna observe a fast for the whole day and night, worshipping him and keeping vigil through the night while listening to his tales and exploits, reciting hymns from the Gita, singing devotional songs, and chanting the mantra Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.
Krishna’s birthplace Mathura and Vrindavan celebrate this occasion with great pomp and show. Raslilas or religious plays are performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha.
Song and dance mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over northern India. At midnight, the statue of infant Krishna is bathed and placed in a cradle, which is rocked, amidst the blowing of conch shells and the ringing of bells.
In the south-western state of Maharashtra, people enact the god’s childhood attempts to steal butter and curd from earthen pots beyond his reach. A similar pot is suspended high above the ground and groups of young people form human pyramids to try and reach the pot and break it.
The town of Dwarka in Gujarat, Krishna’s own land, comes alive with major celebrations as hordes of visitors flock to the town.

Persaud Tiwari

Business community has no confidence in M&CC

Dear Editor,
The Georgetown municipality could not be serious in its call for an increase and improvement in its revenue collection rate. Is it not quite obvious to them by now that the citizenry at large and the business community in particular that belongs to Georgetown and beyond have absolutely no confidence whatsoever in the Council to manage properly and account for the money it collects on a daily basis?.
And who could blame them for their lack of confidence? An agency such as the Council, which should have its accounts qualified and presented for scrutiny on a yearly basis to the Audit Office of Guyana and to the citizens of Georgetown, has not done so for over a decade.
This is wholly unacceptable. In any decent, progressive and democratic society, at the very least the Chief Administrative and Chief Financial Officers would have long been given pink slips and sent along their way, but not here in Georgetown. In fact, they have even been given acclamations in some quarters for cleaning up the city for the Jubilee celebrations, in spite of their complete lack of accountability.
To add insult to injury, the Town Clerk has indicated his desire to obtain funding, including loans and grants from international organisations and foreign countries. That is unbelievable. Which credible foreign agency do they think would even consider putting a dime into the black hole of City Hall? Clearly, the City Council mistaking the charity of the Central Government who has been bailing them out for decades now, as some endorsement of its crooked accounting system.
The first step that must be taken before any consideration be given to give the Council a blind cent, whether from local or foreign entities, is the qualification and presentation of its accounts to the Audit Office of Guyana, its accounts for the last ten years.
The second non-negotiable step has to be the effecting of a deep and thorough forensic audit of its financial and human resource systems by a private, competent and independent audit agency, with the findings presented to Parliament, debated and made public.
The third requirement is for the Council to recommence making its yearly budget a public document, so that the citizens could be apprised of its proposed work programmes and expenditure, along with its projected revenue.
In the meanwhile, until the Council gets its act together, it would be foolish to give the Council more money such as the container tax, and the parking meter fees which would only exacerbate the problem that it has with corruption, nepotism and fiscal impropriety.

Yours sincerely,
Sean Moniz