August 25, 2016

African Reparations and the Indian security dilemma  

As I wrote in my last piece, the issue of reparations for Africans is a major issue being debated in Guyana and the Caribbean community, particularly since Caricom is keeping the issue on top of its agenda. In Guyana, reparations are closely tied to Eric Phillips, who as the leader of the Guyana Reparations Committee, has made a serious commitment to seeking reparations from European countries which committed “crimes against humanity” in their pursuit of chattel slavery, resulting in the forceful removal of Africans from their homeland and distribution to plantation economies around the world. It was the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, under the PPP government, which established the Guyana Reparations Committee in 2013. Mr Phillips has since served as its Chairperson.
For the record, I have no problem with demands for reparations by African leaders in Guyana, as long as reparation claims do not brand the Amerindians and Indians as perpetrators of this crime against humanity, overtly or covertly. A civilized world owes it to humanity to correct past injustices against its fellow citizens. Social justice and correcting historical wrongs should not create additional strains in our already racially divided society.
No doubt, Phillips, who is quite capable of leading this charge, is determined to seek out justice for his fellow Africans. According to his resume, Phillips is listed as a consultant and a former White House Fellow. He is a lecturer at the Business and Management Department at the University of Guyana and a Director of the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA). Needless to say, Eric is well grounded in the African tradition, and his role in the Reparations Committee makes him a central leader of Africans in Guyana. Additionally, his current position as a Presidential advisor puts him in a position where he can effectively influence the Guyana government on this issue. Not surprisingly, President Granger, in a recent presentation at the Cuffy 250 symposium, made it clear that the Guyana Government is interested in more than an apology from the guilty party, and that his government will pursue the call for reparations with a sense of urgency.
Whether Africans like it or not, Phillips is speaking on behalf of the over 200,000 or more Persons of African Descent living in Guyana and their ancestors who have made Guyana their home for over three hundred and fifty years, following the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Phillips is not alone in this struggle. There is a silent majority, represented by a wide ranging number of African organisations in Guyana that have accepted the reality of reparations as a compensatory act towards the injustice of slavery. If most African organisations are not on board yet, they will probably join the calls for reparations at some point. As Granger reminded us, these African organisations, with those formed over the last 25 years, include, but are not limited to: the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA); African Heritage Foundation (AHF); African Welfare Convention (AWC); All African-Guyanese Council (AAGC); Forum for the Liberation of African-Guyanese (FLAG); National Emancipation Trust (NET); Movement for Economic Empowerment (MEE); Pan-African Movement (PAM); and Revival of Awareness and Promotion of African Culture (RAPAC).
History has recorded that Africans “had driven back the sea and had cleared, drained and reclaimed 15,000 square miles of forest and swamps” [equivalent to 9,000,000 acres of land]… installed “2,580,000 miles of drainage canals, trenches and inter-bed drains…3,500 miles of dams, roads and footpaths, and 2,176 miles of sea and river defence” and the Venn Commission has noted that “a value of 100,000,000 tons of earth” was moved by African slaves to humanize the Guyanese physical landscape. This is no small accomplishment, but the labour that went into this turning point in Guyana’s early history, converted a wasteland into a habitable environment for future generations.
In his quest to convince the naysayers that justice for Africans will be achieved through reparations, Eric Phillips has eagerly over-extended his reach and has taken antagonistic positions against his opponents. While he has been criticized for downplaying the Amerindians’ case for reparations, he now seems to have placed Indians as perpetrators of the injustice against Africans. Here is what he said:
“…denying the descendants of Africans in Guyana their just reparations in terms of lands is simply another ‘crime against humanity’ by those who came after them”. He left us dangling by saying that his comments on these issues “will have to wait”. Is there any doubt as to what he meant?
To be continued.

The public health sector is a running away cash cow – risking Guyanese lives

 

Under the APNU/AFC, the public health sector has become a cash cow, milked to create jobs for activists of the APNU/AFC and to give lucrative procurement contracts to donors and friends of the APNU/AFC. In 2016, the $28B budget is being milked for political pay-offs and for buying political loyalty, rather than to improve people’s lives.

The latest scandal to rock Guyana is a house bought by a businessman for $25M and then rented out to the Ministry of Public Health as a medical warehouse for $12.5M per month. Clearly this sweetheart deal is a political farce that smells like some people are lining their pockets. The so-called ‘warehouse’ is still under construction even though the Minister clearly pronounced that they were forced into a non-tender, sole sourcing devise to rent the building because of the urgency of storage space for medicines which are sitting at the wharf. The Minister lied and, in the meantime, the scandal of drugs and medical supplies shortages at every hospital and every health centre in all ten regions continue.

The smell of such a blatant, corrupt, rotten deal even shocked some of the most ardent supporters and apologists for the APNU/AFC. In response to the shock and the uproar, the President pretended to be surprised and established a Cabinet Review Team, headed by Raphael Trotman, the Minister of Natural Resources and the resident governance czar. Within days, he reported that the team had completed the review and that they found nothing wrong with the contract, even while admitting that the Minister of Public Health may have misrepresented some of the facts. Trotman simply recommended that the Minister apologise.

One detail in this warehouse scandal that deserves highlighting is that the Minister of Public Health reported that the make-believe warehouse met all of the PAHO/WHO requirements, a pronouncement that was reiterated by Trotman. But how could PAHO/WHO, or anyone, else certify that a building has met PAHO/WHO requirements, when it is still a house being reconfigured as a warehouse? Trotman himself insisted that the Cabinet Review Team had visited the building and they themselves have determined that the building has met all the requirements.

Truth is, someone should ask them to produce any certificate that any expert team has visited and certified that the building has indeed met all the requirements. The owners who rented the building also need to provide such a statement. No matter what anyone says, the truth is pellucid – both Norton and Trotman are lying about the building meeting PAHO/WHO requirements.

But the hypocrisy is even starker – Cabinet appoints a Review Team to look at a contract that shocks the whole country by its shamelessness and sheer audacity. This, however, was another hoax because Cabinet had to approve this contract. Did they approve the contract without knowing about it? Renting a house that the owners bought for just $25M, just within the last few months, for more than $450M over three years and renting it as a medical warehouse which has certain rigid requirements, must have raised urgent red flags. Red flags had to be raised further because the Ministry could have rented space for less than 25% this cost, space that was utilized by the Ministry for free for the last decade and which is certified as an internationally certified warehouse.

The truth is, all of this is symptomatic of the health sector being viewed as a place to stash large sums of money to maintain a political cash machine or a cash cow to allow the APNU/AFC to build political loyalties. For example, a person shows up at the GPHC as the new Deputy CEO. The Ministry of Public Health is unaware of his appointment. This is not a rare example of people being appointed to big jobs in the public health sector without the requisite qualifications and without the knowledge and input of the Public health Ministry. It happens every day somewhere in the sector. In one instance, the supervising doctor at one hospital went to work one day and was met by another doctor who had just graduated and was informed that he was no longer in charge.

In the meantime, medicines and medical supplies are absent, and often patients are told that medicines must be obtained through the private sector. Operating theatres are closed because there are no supplies. Dentists cannot do their job because they have no anaesthetic. Children are put at risk because there are shortages of vaccines. Diabetic, heart and high blood pressure patients risk their lives because they cannot get medicines from their hospitals or health centres. There are serious shortages of laboratory supplies and often the blood bank runs out of blood bags, etc. These have become common, everyday occurrence in the public health sector. Throughout it all, Granger and his merry band of APNU/AFC Ministers only see the cash cow to be used for buying political favours.

 

Silence of good people promotes the crime of ethnic discrimination

 

A couple of weeks ago, there were self-righteous denunciation of Bharrat Jagdeo for highlighting ethnic discrimination against Indo-Guyanese by the APNU/AFC Government in a speech made in Queens, New York. David Granger, in his role of BLOVIATOR–IN-CHIEF, told Jagdeo to “mind his words” and implied that Jagdeo was being a racist. Not to be outdone, bloviating with spittle, Prime Minister Nagamootoo desperately joined Granger in scurrilously condemning Jagdeo.

There were others that joined Granger and Nagamootoo in attacking the Leader of the Opposition. Even my good friend Ralph Ramkarran joined in the attack. But I know Ramkarran will not deny the facts – the fact that APNU/AFC has dismissed hundreds of public servants since May 2015 and that greater than 95 per cent of those dismissed are Indo-Guyanese and has acted with hostility to rice and sugar, economic areas dominated by the presence of Indo-Guyanese. There are Indo-Guyanese contractors that have been selectively marginalised and only those who fall in the category of political donors are favoured. Have we seen the make-up of State Boards and the political advisers who are paid salaries often in excess of $500,000 per month? These give the impression that Guyana is made up of a single race.

Jagdeo was stating the facts and called on the Guyanese Diaspora to work together so that the present Government can be voted out of office in the next election. He pointedly asserted that APNU/AFC ignores the imperative of national unity, refuses to disavow discrimination of all sorts, and only talk the talk of social cohesion, but actively promotes ethnic non-cohesion. He insisted that we must be prepared to “throw them out” in the next election.

Last week, MR BLOVIATOR, David Granger, addressed the need for his Government (APNU/AFC) to specifically heed the African-Guyanese interest in Guyana. To be fair, he also spoke of national unity. Dr Hinds and many other Afrocentric advocates insisted that African-Guyanese must hold the Government accountable and that Government must promote the interest of Afro-Guyanese since they overwhelmingly voted for APNU/AFC. These statements are by themselves not harmful and I expect that any government must address the special and particular vulnerabilities of all groups in a diverse country like Guyana. On Emancipation Day and in emancipation month, I accept the good intention of these statements.

But I do question the insensitivity and insincerity of those who attack the messengers that highlight the rampant discrimination that Indo-Guyanese are subjected to and how many of our citizens are being made to feel as though they do not belong to our country or being made to feel like second-class citizens. I find it reprehensible when someone is attacked because he dares to highlight the efforts of APNU/AFC to downgrade and destroy the sugar and rice industries, with the only plausible explanation being that these are economic foci for Indo-Guyanese.

In a diverse ethnic country like Guyana, it is admirable that there are groups like ACDA, IAC, APA and others that focus on the interest and benefits of specific ethnic groups and that advocate for greater resources of Government to be earmarked for development that will see the overall improvement in the lives of people and communities dominated by a particular race. This is not unlike Black Lives Matter in the USA. Where it becomes problematic is when we do so at the expense of national unity and social cohesion.

The truth is that presently it is acceptable to APNU/AFC for advocacy on behalf of Afro-Guyanese. There is recognition of poverty and underdevelopment among Afro-Guyanese. But this Government is overly sensitive to rebuke when it comes to the treatment of Indo-Guyanese and anyone who dares to address poverty and under-development in Indo-Guyanese communities is seen as racist and inciter of hate. It is the reason why Jagdeo was viciously attacked for inciting hate when all he was doing is highlighting the vulgarity of discrimination against Guyanese because they happen to be Indo-Guyanese.

For leaders like Nagamootoo and Ramjattan to acquiesce to those among them who see it as an imperative to advocate for Afro-Guyanese, while simultaneously attacking those who advocate for non-discrimination against Indo-Guyanese is not merely hypocrisy, it is abdicating their responsibility to speak out when obvious wrongs are perpetuated. Remember the words of Edmund Burke – the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to stay silent and do nothing. But people like Nagamootoo and Ramjattan are not just complicit with the ugliness of open discrimination against their Indo-Guyanese sisters and brothers, they promote the ethnic malfeasance by not their silence but by attacking the messengers. (Send comments to doc_ram@hotmail.com)

 

Descending into dark places – we must shed light now

A nine-year-old child was sneered at by stray animal catchers and arrested by Police as if he was a stray animal and a common criminal at the same time. This is an ugly example of CHILD ABUSE. I am grateful for the MPs from the People’s Progressive Party for taking action to highlight this sordid example of child abuse in our country. At the same time, I am perplexed because of the silence from authorities. This is another example of APNU/AFC abdicating its responsibilities to protect and promote the rights and dignity of all citizens, not just some.
Like in every country, we have political differences. But there comes a time when we must put country first. America is facing such a crisis today and many Republicans have found it necessary to abandon their presidential candidate and vote for the Democratic Party candidate because they are putting their country first, above their political party. When a country begins to descend into dark places, it is time for good people to get together and act in the interest of their country. Under APNU/AFC, Guyana is rapidly descending into a dark corner and we need to shed light now before it is too late. None of us good Guyanese want a repeat of the authoritarian rule we experienced between 1964 and 1992.
This ugly episode occurred a couple of weeks ago when a nine-year-old boy was arrested jointly by the Police and the stray animal catchers at Albion. The boy was treated like a criminal and worst yet as an animal. In a country where we have made tremendous progress in confronting rights of children, child abuse and even animal abuse, it is unfathomable that Police Officers who rarely show up to respond to criminals terrorising people in communities like Albion. It is an abomination that a child could be treated as if he was an animal and Police could arrest him as a criminal.
Guyana has certainly made much progress in combating child abuse. The Child Protection Agency and the Children Rights Commission were institutional arrangements to support efforts to stop child abuse and to stamp it out. I will not attempt to present a laundry list of things that were done and accomplished in the last 20 years. But the People’s Progressive Party Government made children a priority and under the PPP regime tangible progress was made.
But child abuse is still a big problem in Guyana and this one demonstrates that Guyana is moving back into a dark place, a place we have worked assiduously in the last two decades to come out from. The APNU/AFC Minister with responsibility for Children (Minister of Human Services) was a very vocal proponent for even more actions to be taken when she was the Opposition shadow minister. Now Ms Lawrence is in charge and she has become less of an advocate for the rights of children. I note her total silence on the matter of a nine-year-old boy being treated as a stray animal and being arrested like a common criminal.
I have not seen any concern being expressed neither by the Child Protection Agency nor the Rights of the Child Commission. I have not heard a word from the Minister of Public Security or the Attorney General. The Prime Minister is more concerned about travelling abroad and the President seems oblivious of these matters. I am yet to hear any indignation from various NGOs and commentators who normally jump on matters like these that affect the human rights and dignity of citizens. Does it have anything to do with the fact that the child is from Albion on the Corentyne which was solidly and more so today a stronghold of the PPP?
There are other worrying examples of child abuse in our country that fail to jolt authorities from acting. A nine-year-old arrested like a common criminal and sneered at like a stray animal is an act that must be a lightning bolt to mobilise citizens in rebuking authorities. When even one of our children is demeaned in this way, it is a very dark place for our country to enter and an even darker place if we cannot unite to shed a light and stop this confounded nonsense from ever repeating itself. I remembered the many times, as teenagers when I and many of our friends were hauled away by the Police and locked up for political reasons. The laws and political consciousness were not there to protect us, but they are there today to stamp out abuse of children, whether it is from individuals or State agencies. Let us shed a light into dark corners now emerging in our beautiful country. (Send comments to doc_ram@hotmail.com)

We must do better for our newborns – breastfeeding rates are abysmal

We must do better for our newborns – breastfeeding rates are abysmal

The breastfeeding rate for new born babies in Guyana is now about 23 per cent. Breastfeeding rates have been improving in Guyana since 1995 and were at least close to 50 per cent in 2010. Why it is now only 23 per cent demonstrates that public health administration is failing our mothers and our children. Under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), public health has been relegated to lesser priority and this is reflected by poor public health programmes that now neglect important initiatives such as exclusive breastfeeding for newborns.
A breastfeeding rate of 23 per cent is abysmal and is an anti-children status for Guyana. For APNU/AFC which is so mesmerised and infatuated with Commissions of Inquiries (CoI), the abomination of 23 per cent breastfeeding rate deserves its own CoI. Indeed, the Opposition is urged to introduce a motion in Parliament to seek explanation why we have deteriorated so badly.
Even as Guyana has fallen to 23 per cent in breastfeeding rates, Rwanda is exceeding 90 per cent; Sri Lanka – 76 per cent; Cambodia, Solomon Islands and Nepal – 74 per cent, Malawi – 72 per cent; Peru – 71 per cent; Eritrea – 59 per cent; Uganda – 57 per cent; Egypt and Iran – 56 per cent; Bolivia –
50 per cent; and Madagascar – 48 per cent. It is no accident that these countries have made significant progress in reducing child mortalities.
Child mortality has decreased considerably in the last 20 years, in both Guyana and globally. Globally, close to seven million children under five years of age still die each year (dropping from about 20 million in 1990), mainly from preventable causes.  In Guyana, child mortality fell from 120 per 1000 to less than 20 in that period. In both Guyana and globally, newborn deaths now represent nearly 50 to 75 per cent of all child deaths under five years. One strategy to reduce child mortality further is immediate breastfeeding: Science has proven that placing babies to the mother’s breasts within an hour after birth significantly reduce neonatal mortality.
For the last 20 years at least, we have tried to persuade mothers and fathers that early and exclusive breastfeeding helps children survive, supports healthy brain development, improves cognitive performance and is a major factor in better educational achievement at age five. UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and scientists across the world have promoted breastfeeding as the foundation of good nutrition and a platform to protect children against disease.
Yet, the Public Health Ministry has failed our mothers and children and our families by allowing breastfeeding rates to deteriorate so dramatically. It is true that less than half of the world’s newborns benefit from early breastfeeding and even fewer are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. But for Guyana to see breastfeeding rates drop is another example of how the APNU/AFC is failing our people.
Of all the preventive interventions to reduce child deaths, optimal breastfeeding of infants under two years of age has proven to be the most effective. Exclusive breastfeeding has the potential to prevent over 800,000 deaths (13 per cent of all deaths) in children under five in the developing world this year. For countries like Guyana to ignore this powerful strategy in its public health programme is a scandal and the Public Health Ministry needs to provide an explanation why it has failed and what it intends to do to change this dismal reality.
Science is clear on breastfeeding. An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child, and breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers, particularly in developing countries with a high burden of disease and low access to clean water and sanitation. But non-breastfed children in industrialised countries are also at greater risk of dying – in the United States there is a 25 per cent increase in mortality among non-breastfed infants. In the UK Millennium Cohort Survey, six months of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a 53 per cent decrease in hospital admissions for diarrhoea and a 27 per cent decrease in respiratory tract infections.
The scientific imperatives for an aggressive breastfeeding programme for newborns are undeniable. But the sad reality is that only 39 per cent of children less than six months of age in the developing world are exclusively breastfed and just 58 per cent of 20-23-month-olds benefit from the practice of continued breastfeeding. In Guyana we have also seen increases from under 15 per cent in 1990 to about 50 per cent by 2010. The reported rate of less than 23 per cent now must be regarded as an urgent cry to do better for our families. It is a dismal failure of the Public Health Ministry, one that requires an immediate crisis response. This is why we must have a meaningful accountability measure in place: a CoI is a way to show Government is serious and I urge the Opposition to introduce a motion seeking better answers from APNU/AFC. (Send comments to doc_ram@hotmail.com)

APNU/AFC has completely hijacked Guyana’s Parliament

Bishop George, the former Anglican Bishop of Guyana, passed away on Monday. Guyana lost a great son that brought pride and dignity to our country and our people. Bishop George saw that politics had brought disgrace and suffering to our people post-independence and he became a vigorous voice in demanding democracy in our country. He was a freedom fighter. I send my profound sympathies to his family, his Anglican sisters and brothers and all his comrades in Guyana. His life is worth celebrating; his name has an indelible place in the annals of Guyana’s history.

His was an authentic voice in the fight to restore democracy in the 1970s and 1980s.He must have been pleased that since October 5, 1992, Guyana has progressed gradually. No one can deny that our economy has grown manifold since then, from about US$250 per capita to about US$4000. The economy has expanded whereas rice, sugar and bauxite still prevail, agriculture and manufacturing have grown by leaps and bounds; service, tourism and ICT are dynamic new economic sectors today. Oil is on the horizon. The private sector has resumed its role as an engine of growth and development.

Life expectancy is today 71. It had risen to 60 by 1964, but was threatening to fall under 60 again by 1992. Child and maternal mortality rates have improved dramatically, with child mortality improving from about 120 per 1000 in 1990 to under 20 today and maternal mortality improving from about 400 per 100,000 in 1990 to about 100 today. Poverty has been reduced from about 66% and 88% in 1990 to under 20% today. Clive Thomas, one of Bishop George’s comrades at the time, wrote and spoke extensively then of the despair that existed in Guyana.

Incidentally, our children dominate at CXC today, our infrastructure is being expanded and modernised, greater than 90 per cent of Guyanese have access to potable water and electricity. The number of people living in their own homes has more than doubled and the number of people who use safe sanitation has increased several-fold. More people own their own vehicles, TV, telephones, modern cooking equipment and things like washing machines.

Bishop George dies at a time when Guyana is truly a very different country than it was in 1992. He had seen by 1992, after almost three decades of dictatorial rule, how Guyana had become a poverty-stricken country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with a totally dilapidated infrastructure and an economy that had hit bottom. The commanding heights of the economy were State-controlled. Sugar, rice and bauxite had collapsed. Mining and forestry were part of the parallel economy which was several times larger than the formal economy. The country’s money deteriorated from $2 to one US dollar to $125.

In 1992, Guyana was a country where people lived in utter despair, where people lived in fear and where the social welfare needs of our people were unmet. Health, education, water, housing, sanitation and other needs of people were ignored and unmet and the social sector total expenditure in the nation’s budget was under 10 per cent. These facts are confessions in the last budget presented by Carl Greenidge, the then Minister of Finance and now Minister of Foreign Affairs.

One of Bishop George’s alarms in the pre-1992 Guyana was the total disregard and emaciation of Guyana’s Parliament. The then People’s National Congress had hijacked Guyana’s Parliament and used it to humiliate the Opposition and to rubber stamp the authoritarian rule of the PNC. The Leader of the Opposition was banned from speaking in Parliament. Bishop George insisted that Parliament was critical for good governance and for development.

The development in our Parliament since 1992 must have warmed Bishop George’s heart. It became an important part of shared governance in our country. The various sector committees, together with the Public Accounts Committee and Special Select Committees, gave the Parliament the power to hold Government accountable. All large and complex bills were referred to Special Select Committees as a rule, not the exception and not the option of Government, but imperatives. No bill was passed with all three stages at one sitting. The ability of MPs to question Ministers was a standard feature of the Parliament. Parliament made sure that laws created avenues for shared governance, for increased participation of political and civil societies and in appointments to statutory bodies.

But at the time of his death, Bishop George must have become worried that Guyana’s Parliament – the central institution of democracy – is facing a crisis of legitimacy. APNU/AFC has rapidly destroyed these developments. Sector and Special Select Committees rarely meet now, the executive dominates the agenda, bills are rarely referred to Special Select Committees, the Speaker denies the right of MPs to ask questions and present motions, and bills are passed through all stages in the same day. Now powers of Ministers have become extreme. Parliament is no longer a deliberative body championing democracy, but a central institution to move dictatorship forward.

 

Bloviating cannot provide food security for Caricom – agriculture can

Caricom imports more than US$4 billion of food from outside Caricom, including sugar, rice, meat, milk, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, fish, beverages and other foods. We import potato, carrots, broccoli and other cash crop products. We spend more than US$200 million importing corn and soya for poultry stock feed. The ugly truth is that Caricom is not food secure and our leaders have BLOVIATED more than they have acted to address the food security challenge.
There is an ugly competition in the APNU/AFC and President Granger seems determined not to allow Moses Nagamootoo and others in his Government to bloviate more than him. For instance, he prognosticates that Guyana will be a green economy by 2025, but APNU/AFC has blocked hydro-electricity without which Guyana cannot meaningfully reduce dependency on fossil fuels, one of the main impediments to a totally green economy. He disavows the judicial death penalty, but approves it for 14 new offences in the anti-money laundering law. His rhetoric conflicts with the actions of his Government daily.
Granger this week spoke of Guyana being key to Caricom’s food security challenge. As Minister of Agriculture, I spoke of Guyana’s capacity to provide for Caricom’s food security and, therefore, would agree with Granger. But Guyana cannot fulfil this potential without developing a strong agriculture sector. The truth is that APNU/AFC under Granger has considerably weakened the agriculture sector and we are rapidly reversing all the gains Guyana made in the last 20 years in advancing agriculture and improving Guyana’s and Caricom’s food security.
Even as Granger was bloviating about food security in Caricom, APNU/AFC was seeking to downgrade the importance of Guyana’s sugar industry. After a good start in the first crop of 2015, GuySuCo only reached a reduced 2015 target and the first crop of 2016 was 43 per cent below target. The second crop is likely to be one of the worst ever. The most noteworthy actions of APNU/AFC in the sugar industry so far have been denying sugar workers a wage increase and a fair Annual Production Incentive for 2015 and closing Wales and LBI sugar estates.
At the same time, APNU/AFC has created conditions for the downward trajectory of rice. Rice production for the second crop of 2015 was lower than the first crop and notice no one is talking anymore about rice production in 2016. The truth is production has dropped dramatically and rice production in 2016 is likely to be the lowest in a decade. In fact, the acreage under rice is the lowest it has been for the last decade. In addition, farmers are receiving the lowest prices for a bag of paddy than they are accustomed to in almost two decades.
The importation of rice and sugar into most of Caricom is an important part of the food security and economic challenges in virtually the whole of Caricom. Guyana is the one country that can meet its entire demand for rice and sugar and is in a position to help Caricom reduce or eliminate its dependency on sugar and rice importation from outside Caricom. If we are serious about Guyana helping Caricom meet its food security needs, we must start with sugar and rice, which represent a market for more than US$500 million. Not only will Guyana be able to support food security in Caricom, but it will catalyse its own economy.
But rice and sugar represent symptoms of a downgraded sector. APNU/AFC provides little or no support for the agriculture sector. Region Five, by far the largest contributor to agriculture GDP in Guyana, has endured months of flooding and APNU/AFC was too busy with Jubilee and other matters to pay any attention. Granger, Nagamootoo and other Ministers have visited other countries more than they have visited Region Five and APNU/AFC has provided zero support and compensation to farmers. Right now poultry farmers are suffering from a disease that is killing large numbers of their flocks. After weeks of ignoring the farmers, and after massive losses in poultry production, the Ministry of Agriculture, under public pressure, has only now sought to find out why poultry are dying.
The truth is APNU/AFC has deliberately neglected agriculture. It sees agriculture as a PPP thing and it has decided to downgrade agriculture and place its hopes almost entirely on oil. But oil has not solved development problems in Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Nigeria and other countries. Without agriculture, food security is not possible and without food security, oil will not prove the panacea Granger and APNU/AFC are hoping for. For sure without agriculture, Guyana and Caricom have a serious food security threat and no amount of bloviating will bring relief. (Send comments to doc_ram@hotmail.com)

Scandal in the health sector is an everyday business for APNU/AFC

The shame of a human foetus (a dead baby) being dragged away by a stray dog from a hospital must bring utter shame for every Guyanese, even if they are living abroad. This absolutely horrendous story reminds us all of the infamy of a baby being eaten by rats at the Georgetown Hospital when the People’s National Congress (PNC) was in Government. Now under APNU/AFC, the new name of the PNC, the health sector is rapidly deteriorating to bring back horrible memories of the disgrace that was the health sector of Guyana in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Guyana Times must be commended for keeping alive the disgusting story of a human foetus being dragged away by a stray dog from the East Bank Demerara Regional Hospital at Diamond. This story is a scandal of epic proportion. It is a story of a failing health sector, a failing government and a media which has failed to hold APNU/AFC accountable either because they are fearful or still in cahoots with them, looking for favours from a corrupt and incompetent government.

But why is a foetus in a garbage pail? Why are stray dogs still feeding in garbage dumps anywhere in a hospital compound? Why is it that personnel, including doctors and nurses, do not know what to do with a dead human foetus? Is this merely just one of the known instances where this has happened, or is this just another routine example of a dysfunctional health sector? Surely, this is not the first time that a dead human foetus had to be discarded at the East Demerara Regional Hospital at Diamond. What happened on previous occasions when a dead foetus appeared at this and other hospitals in Guyana?

Each of these questions demands answers and the fact that any of these and other related questions have to be asked is itself scandalous. Had it not been for the reporting in the Guyana Times, TVG and Citizen’s Report, this scandal would have never been revealed and would have been another shameful routine occurrence. The horror of this story also depicts a media woefully falling short to hold APNU/AFC accountable.

I am well aware that there will be fall guys. Doctors and nurses are in the front of those who will be held responsible. But the buck stops at the top. We cannot continue each day to hold investigations and then allow junior staff occasionally to be fall guys. There is a responsibility for senior personnel to be accountable too. Why it is that no one ensured that each hospital has active written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? SOPs were in place when I was Minister of Health and were actively evaluated as part of the Service Agreements.

While the Minister of Health is not directly responsible for this particular fiasco of a human foetus being dragged away from a government hospital by a hungry stray dog, the buck does stop at him and his senior officers in the Ministry of Health itself. The present Minister of Health himself had demanded that his immediate predecessor resign from office for matters that make this one pale in comparison. Recall that Dr Bheri Ramsarran did resign for making derogatory remarks to a young woman. The media and the then APNU/AFC demanded that Dr Ramsarran resign and he did under pressure from some of his own colleagues. When I was Minister any deficiency in the performance of the sector was enough to have APNU/AFC in a frenzy demanding my resignation.

Yet no one in the Ministry of Health from the Minister down to any of his senior executives will be held responsible for this shameful incident. But make no mistake the scandal of people getting sicker, disabled and even dying from avoidable causes in the health sector is an everyday, routine occurrence in our country today. People’s lives are at risk because of blood shortages, shortages of critical medicines such as insulin and antibiotics, shortages of supplies for the operating theatre causing deferral of life-saving surgeries, etc.

Add to all of these, the debacle of special interests in awarding the contract for the Specialty Hospital to Fedders Lloyd, totally disregarding standard government procedures. Or add the fact that baby milk not permissible for sale in Guyana according to the Ministry of Health’s own laws and which cannot be sold for babies in the country of origin and manufacture (France) is allowed to still be sold, all because of special interest, rewarding an APNU/AFC donor, putting babies’ lives at risk. Something is rotten in Guyana and none is accountable.

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Clumsy, confused? APNU/AFC clueless in governance

 

As the parking meter corruption within the Georgetown City Council stinks to heaven, President David Granger found no reason to address this matter when he visited the City Council this week. APNU/AFC in the meantime will now review the parking meter contract, not caring that it is interfering with the business of the Council and not caring that it has set the example for the City Council by its own sole sourcing.

If there is one thing that we cannot debate, it is that APNU/AFC has been clueless since assuming the mantle of Government over a year ago. It has been consistently clumsy, almost invariably confused and reckless far too often. There has not been a day where one or more of these things apply. This past week the Prime Minister showed up in New York City to attend a conference hosted by the Global People of Indian Origin. Moses Nagamootoo, just over a year ago, not far from the venue of this conference had disavowed his Indianess, but had the temerity to attend the conference because it was another free trip to boast his ego.

The next couple of days in New York, he was on a drinking holiday. All throughout the trip he had a convoy of Secret Service escorting him, at the expense of the Guyanese people. All of this at a time when APNU/AFC has totally ignored the plight of thousands of people in Region Five who have endured almost three months of flooding. Nagamootoo found it more pressing to be in New York to have a jolly good time. This smacks of clumsiness, confusion and recklessness, but equally uncaring behaviour.

Meanwhile, President Granger last week vehemently objected to the death penalty, insisting that no one will be executed on judicial order under his watch. Then why do we have laws that permit judges to sentence people with the death penalty? I commend Granger for his courage in articulating a position that is consistent with the views of an increasing number of countries around the world and for taking a position that is progressive.

But Granger is President of Guyana and head of the APNU/AFC coalition in Government. The same Government and the same APNU/AFC included 14 offences that are punishable by the death penalty in their amended Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism legislation earlier in the year. His Attorney General when informed in the Parliament that the death penalty for the given offences would mean that Guyana was deliberately choosing to disavow our commitments to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and we were heightening our non-compliance with our international obligations, insisted that the death sentences in the law were requirements under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It was obvious then and it has become clear since that he was not telling the truth.

But the clumsiness and confusion have been further exemplified by the President’s position. The President proclaims that he was not supportive of the death penalty, a sentence that he would have to sign off on before anyone can be executed. Executing a prisoner sentenced to death is not possible without the signature of the President. This demonstrates confusion and recklessness in conducting the affairs of our country. With all the lawyers in the Cabinet and all the people who seem to have answers for everything, did no one tell the Attorney General and the President that FATF did not require the death penalty? Did no one reminded the President and the Cabinet that Guyana is under Procedural Review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and that among our commitments is the abolishment of the death penalty?

The President cannot extricate himself from responsibility by claiming that it was not him that introduced a law requiring Judges to sentence people to death because the legislation taken by his Attorney General to the Parliament requires Cabinet approval and he is the Chair of the Cabinet. In addition, the legislation became law because the President assented to it. He not only approved it as Chairman of the Cabinet, but subsequently when there were public revelations that the Attorney General misled the nation pertaining to the reasons for the death penalty for the 14 offences, President Granger still assented to the law. This is clumsy; it is clearly confusion, but it is reckless in pushing Guyana into a rogue nation status.

Every day, examples of clumsiness, confusion and recklessness are evident. Milk not recommended for children is allowed on the shelves even though the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department ordered it be taken down from the shelves and destroyed. The order is not a voluntary one and the Ministry of Health is supposed to remove the product. But the distributor is a supporter of APNU/AFC. Rewarding him is more important than the health of the people. This is the kind of confusion and recklessness that prevail today in Guyana.

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Clumsy, confused? APNU/AFC clueless in governance

As the parking meter corruption within the Georgetown City Council stinks to heaven, President David Granger found no reason to address this matter when he visited the City Council this week. APNU/AFC in the meantime will now review the parking meter contract, not caring that it is interfering with the business of the Council and not caring that it has set the example for the City Council by its own sole sourcing.
If there is one thing that we cannot debate, it is that APNU/AFC has been clueless since assuming the mantle of Government over a year ago. It has been consistently clumsy, almost invariably confused and reckless far too often. There has not been a day where one or more of these things apply. This past week the Prime Minister showed up in New York City to attend a conference hosted by the Global People of Indian Origin. Moses Nagamootoo, just over a year ago, not far from the venue of this conference had disavowed his Indianess, but had the temerity to attend the conference because it was another free trip to boast his ego.
The next couple of days in New York, he was on a drinking holiday. All throughout the trip he had a convoy of Secret Service escorting him, at the expense of the Guyanese people. All of this at a time when APNU/AFC has totally ignored the plight of thousands of people in Region Five who have endured almost three months of flooding. Nagamootoo found it more pressing to be in New York to have a jolly good time. This smacks of clumsiness, confusion and recklessness, but equally uncaring behaviour.
Meanwhile, President Granger last week vehemently objected to the death penalty, insisting that no one will be executed on judicial order under his watch. Then why do we have laws that permit judges to sentence people with the death penalty? I commend Granger for his courage in articulating a position that is consistent with the views of an increasing number of countries around the world and for taking a position that is progressive.
But Granger is President of Guyana and head of the APNU/AFC coalition in Government. The same Government and the same APNU/AFC included 14 offences that are punishable by the death penalty in their amended Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism legislation earlier in the year. His Attorney General when informed in the Parliament that the death penalty for the given offences would mean that Guyana was deliberately choosing to disavow our commitments to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and we were heightening our non-compliance with our international obligations, insisted that the death sentences in the law were requirements under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It was obvious then and it has become clear since that he was not telling the truth.
But the clumsiness and confusion have been further exemplified by the President’s position. The President proclaims that he was not supportive of the death penalty, a sentence that he would have to sign off on before anyone can be executed. Executing a prisoner sentenced to death is not possible without the signature of the President. This demonstrates confusion and recklessness in conducting the affairs of our country. With all the lawyers in the Cabinet and all the people who seem to have answers for everything, did no one tell the Attorney General and the President that FATF did not require the death penalty? Did no one reminded the President and the Cabinet that Guyana is under Procedural Review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and that among our commitments is the abolishment of the death penalty?
The President cannot extricate himself from responsibility by claiming that it was not him that introduced a law requiring Judges to sentence people to death because the legislation taken by his Attorney General to the Parliament requires Cabinet approval and he is the Chair of the Cabinet. In addition, the legislation became law because the President assented to it. He not only approved it as Chairman of the Cabinet, but subsequently when there were public revelations that the Attorney General misled the nation pertaining to the reasons for the death penalty for the 14 offences, President Granger still assented to the law. This is clumsy; it is clearly confusion, but it is reckless in pushing Guyana into a rogue nation status.
Every day, examples of clumsiness, confusion and recklessness are evident. Milk not recommended for children is allowed on the shelves even though the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department ordered it be taken down from the shelves and destroyed. The order is not a voluntary one and the Ministry of Health is supposed to remove the product. But the distributor is a supporter of APNU/AFC. Rewarding him is more important than the health of the people. This is the kind of confusion and recklessness that prevail today in Guyana.
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