Monday, December 29, 2008

How will future economic growth be affected?

Sunday Stabroek, feature column GWW, Sunday 28 December 2008
Guyana and the wider world
BY Dr Clive Thomas
Published: December 28, 2008 in Features
, Sunday

How will future economic growth be affected?
V, U, or L-shaped growth curve

Following last week's column, I shall discuss this week the impact of the
financial crisis and credit crunch on the prospects for economic growth
performance in the United States, the broader global economy, and Caricom. I
will start the discussion on Caricom in next week's column.
At this juncture, economists are pointing out that it makes a big difference
whether the chart or curve for future GDP growth in the developed countries
takes the shape of a V, U or L. In the first instance, the V shape indicates
a relatively sharp decline of economic growth into recession and an equally
sharp revival in economic fortunes, after a very limited period at the
bottom of the curve.
In the case of a U shaped curve, as the letter indicates, the economic
decline is steep and the revival, when it comes is also steep. However, the
time spent in recession at the bottom of the curve is much more prolonged
than in the previous example of the V shaped curve.
The L shaped curve is normally indicated as an elongated L. Here the stay in
recession (after the precipitous economic decline) is protracted. The
economy finds it very difficult to overcome the downward drag on its growth,
incomes and employment and the recession therefore, persists.
With these possibilities the most optimistic forecast out there is that
recovery from the recession in the developed economies will not be underway
before the start of the second decade (2010).
Monetary, fiscal and trade policies
It is concern over a protracted depression that drives the coordinated
global effort to utilize monetary, fiscal and trade measures to stimulate
global growth. Monetary measures have taken the form of reduced interest
rates and the stimulation of bank lending. Global interest rates are now at
record low levels. The present Fed Rate, at a quarter-of-one per cent, is
the lowest rate ever for the US.
Fiscal measures have taken the form of both tax cuts and beefed-up spending
by governmental authorities. The fiscal stimulus packages in the US and
Europe, discussed last week, signify the magnitude of this effort. The
International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have also concentrated on
increased availability of funding for social, infrastructural, and poverty
programmes in developing countries.
Trade measures, under WTO-guidance have been coordinated to ensure that
countries do not restrict imports or subsidise exports in an effort to
confer preferment or advantages to their domestic producers. Such policies
are called 'beggar thy neighbour policies' and were major contributory
factors to the prolongation and depth of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
To sum up, there can be little doubt at this stage that the global economy
has already suffered major reverses in its real sectors, stemming from the
financial crisis and credit crunch. Moreover, there is every prospect that
these negative outcomes will intensify.
Spread of economic difficulties
Even high-flying economies with stellar growth rates have been badly
impacted by the economic reverses. For example, China's economy has had the
most explosive growth over the past three decades. This growth, however, has
been export-based, and dependent on the US market. The recession has already
hurt sales of Chinese manufactures in the US, leading to a deceleration of
China's economic growth prospects.
There are two important barometers of expectations for future global growth.
Firstly, the behaviour of securities prices on the various global stock
exchanges. And, secondly, oil prices in the world market.
In so far as stock exchanges reflect future expectations about the
performance of national and global economies, the trend in stock prices
tends to be a good guide to the level of economic uncertainty among
investors. In recent months global stock exchanges have shown exceptional
volatility, even as overall indices of prices have trended downwards. Record
swings in these indices have been recorded on all the major stock exchanges
leading regulatory authorities to impose restrictions on investor behaviour.
In the case of Russia, its stock exchange was temporarily closed!
If stock exchanges have been exceptionally volatile, the behaviour of oil
prices on the world's commodity markets has been equally extraordinary. A
year ago no one would have forecast that the price of a barrel of oil would
reach US$150 by the third quarter of this year. Equally, no one could have
imagined that it would fall precipitously to around US$40 per barrel, in the
space of a few months!
While stock exchange volatility indicates the underlying uncertainty about
the economic future, the drastic decline in oil prices indicates the near
certainty in the expectations of investors that the world is facing a very
serious recession. With recession and the decline in economic activity, the
demand for energy as an input is certain to fall. The price decline in the
oil market has factored in this expectation.
In some ways the most disheartening consequence of the financial crisis and
credit crunch and their spill-over to the real economy has been to put on
the back-burner of global attention, three very crucial global emergencies.
The first of these is the food crisis. I have considered this at some
length, previously in these Sunday Stabroek columns. The second is the
related problem of poverty, nutrition, hunger, homelessness, and deprivation
that the Millennium Development Goals have targeted for global eradication.
The third is the issue of climate change and the global commitment to secure
inter-generational equity, through preserving the sustainability of the
natural environment for future generations.
Next week I will continue the discussion from this point.

Letter on Victoria drainage contains inaccuracies

Stabroek News Letter to the Editor, Monday 9 December 2008
Letter on Victoria drainage contains inaccuracies
BY Staff
Published: December 29, 2008 in Letters

Dear Editor,
In response to a letter appearing in the Stabroek News dated December 27,
captioned 'Little effort made to alleviate the flood sufferings of Victoria'
written by Desmond Saul, I would like to address several inaccuracies
contained therein.
It is important to note from the outset that Guyana, like many parts of the
world, is experiencing unprecedented weather patterns fuelled by climate
change resulting in periods of extreme high-intensity rainfall.
Further, drainage in the Victoria areas is managed at the local level by the
Neighbourhood Democratic Council and the Regional Democratic Council. The
National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) which usually undertakes
works in the primary system is always open to recommendations and
constructive criticism, and in fact, has had a number of engagements with Mr
Saul. However, a number of the writer's assertions smack of a deliberate
attempt to mislead the public by insinuating that certain communities are
being intentionally neglected and deprived of interventions needed to remove
water from the land caused by the historic level of rainfall.
It is also ironic that Mr Saul would claim the NDIA's actions have
contributed to flooding when there were two occasions when an individual
tampered with drainage structures in the Belfield/Victoria area which
resulted in flooding.
In fact the intervention of the Regional Chairman was sought on one occasion
at the start of the rainy season.
The facts are as follows: at the start of the rainy season dredging of
critical primary drainage systems commenced at Greenfield, Belfield and
Sluices at Victoria and Golden Grove were put into operation and all
drainage structures were activated to release accumulated water.
An excavator and dragline were used to clean pump basins at Victoria, while
33 miles of canals and drains were rehabilitated between Victoria (a
community the writer falsely claims was neglected) and Golden Grove. As this
letter is being prepared, an excavator is in the community carrying out
emergency works to a tampered dam and the NDIA dredge is desilting the
Victoria Sluice outfall.
Mr Saul claims that all drainage water from surrounding villages flows into
Victoria and that this community is the lowest point in the area, hence, the
reason for continuous flooding. These claims are misguided and ill-informed
since records from the Guyana Lands and Surveys department indicate that the
areas of Annandale, Buxton and Friendship have an average height of 50.70gd
while the Craig, Victoria, Hope, Enmore areas have an average height of
51.25gd. The notion therefore that Victoria is the lowest point when
compared to neighbouring communities is a figment of the writer's
Additionally, a Water Users' Association and Community Development Council
(CDC) group operates in the Golden Grove/ Victoria communities, which
provides for continuous monitoring and maintenance of drainage systems on a
day-to-day basis. Is Mr Saul accusing these community-based groups of
depriving their own drainage?
It is also important to note that the NDIA undertakes drainage and
irrigation works based on technical advice and the availability of
resources, and remains committed to the maintenance and upgrading of all D&I
systems under its purview.
There is no other consideration and the track record of the body speaks for
Yours faithfully,
Tiana Khan
Corporate Secretary

Institutional strengthening of judiciary in reform strategy

Kaieteur News news item, Saturday 27 December 2008

Institutional strengthening of judiciary in reform strategy
December 27, 2008 | By knews |
Filed Under News

The Justice Sector Reform Strategy includes a plan for institutional
strengthening of the judiciary.
This newspaper understands that the constitution guarantees the Judiciary's
independence in the exercise of its functions.
A key aspect of the reform will be to improve the system for the control of
public expenditure by the Judiciary.
Also, the new budgeting process will ensure that judicial finances are
protected from arbitrary political manipulation, while recognising the
responsibility of Government and Parliament for prudent management of public
Additionally, reform measures will address many of the human resource
"Measures will be taken to strengthen the management, administration and
capacity of the Judiciary including the introducing of enhanced
accountability for Judges' and Magistrates' performance including clear time
standards for case dispositions."
The strategy stated that this will need to be backed up by legislation in
order to give effect to the Constitutional provision enabling Judges to be
removed for failing to give timely decisions.
There will also be the strengthening of case management systems initially by
the introduction of a simple data bases in the High Court and Magistrates
Courts managed by a trained case management officer and enhanced Judicial
training for the induction and on-going training of Judges and Magistrates
including mentoring and refresher courses on practical issues such as
sentencing and summing up.
The strategy also includes a plan for the Court of Appeal. It states that
the backlog that exists in the Court of Appeal will be eliminated speedily,
through the setting of targets for the delivery of judgments.
In addition, it stated, measures will be taken to simplify current appeal
procedures including eliminating the need to copy all the notes of evidence
on appeal against sentence or on a point of law; requiring attorneys to make
and keep written note of a judgments delivered in open court or chambers,
thus dispensing with need for judge to communicate the reasons for their
decision to the Court of Appeal.
"Once judgment in a civil case has been awarded, in order to conclude the
case satisfactorily, it must be executed. Current methods of execution
including insolvency procedures, and performance of the Marshall's
Department, will be reviewed, in the light of international best practice.
Where necessary the review will be followed up by administrative and
legislative reform."

Disappointed it was not passed this year, optimistic for new year - Trotman

Kaieteur News news item, Saturday 27 December 2008

Disappointed it was not passed this year, optimistic for new year - Trotman
December 27, 2008 | By knews |
Filed Under News

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Raphael Trotman, says that he is
disappointed that the Government did not see it fit to support the Freedom
of Information legislation this year. He says that he is, nevertheless,
optimistic that this will change in the new year.
He noted that his disappointment was further fuelled by the fact that the
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association had held a workshop for
Parliamentarians and media operatives, where Freedom of Information (FOI)
was extensively discussed.
He conceded that legislation such as the FOI will take time, but pointed out
that there was a resounding call by Guyanese, who were now beginning to
understand the importance of such a piece of legislation, as well as the
calls from the international organisations.
According to Trotman, FOI is important for good governance and transparency
in Guyana.
Recently, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds had stated that FOI, which is
currently on hold by its mover Trotman, is being advanced, and as fast as
possible, aimed at being implemented; but Trotman had informed this
newspaper that he was unaware of any such initiatives on the part of the
Former Minister of Information, Moses Nagamootoo, had also told this
newspaper that he was a staunch advocate of FOI legislation, and restated
his position at the recently held Commonwealth Forum for Parliamentarians
and media personnel on FOI.
At that forum, he and the Prime Minister had said that FOI was inevitable
for Guyana.
Nagamootoo added that, ever since the Commonwealth Forum that was held at
the Grand Coastal Inn, he has not been aware of any discussion pertaining to
FOI legislation.
According to Nagamootoo, he was also not aware of any alternative of counter
to Trotman's proposed legislation.
He did say that, being that he was the former journalist as well as a former
Minister of Information, such discussions would have been held with him.
The People's National Congress Reform has already voiced its support for the
legislation; and yesterday, leader of Vision Guyana, Peter Ramsaroop, did
In an invited comment, Ramsaroop said: "This will allow us to ensure
accountability and transparency...Critical information such as procurements
and contracts should be visible to the public."
He said that his party actively supports the AFC cause in getting the
legislation passed in the National Assembly. "There should be no objection
by the Administration if they believe everything is being done above board."
During a mid-year press briefing, General Secretary of the PPP, Donald
Ramotar, had disclosed that at that time the party "has never consulted
internally on whether it would support Freedom of Information legislation."
Ramotar did concede that the PPP may have to support FOI some time in
future, and that it is likely that this was what the Prime Minister was
referring to.
The position adopted by Ramotar came on the heels of public statements by
both Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, in
which they conceded that the enactment of the legislation was inevitable.
Despite acknowledging its inevitability, the Prime Minister had said that
Guyana was already experiencing 80 per cent of Freedom of Information, in
that the Government already makes information available in a proactive
manner. The Prime Minister made this statement at a forum to discuss the
mining situation.
The essence of the Freedom of Information Act, according to the Commonwealth
Parliamentary Association (CPA), is the empowerment of the populace to
request any piece of information (with few exceptions, such as medical
records) held by a public authority. One such utilisation of the Act was
cited by a renowned Trinidadian journalist, Sasha Mohammad, at the CPA
According to Mohammad, one such incident was when there was a request that
the salaries and monies paid to the director of a bank be disclosed.
The Bill proposed by Trotman is based on the Trinidad model, which has been
criticised by the Government for having too many flaws.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Committee reviewing anti-money laundering law now meeting more often

Sunday Stabroek, Sunday 14 December 2008
Committee reviewing anti-money laundering law now meeting more often
BY Staff
Published: December 14, 2008 in News

The special parliamentary committee reviewing the proposed anti-money
laundering law has begun its deliberations on the substantive provisions of
the long-awaited legislation.
The special select committee was created by the National Assembly June last
year to examine the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Finance of
Terrorism Bill 2007.
After a year-long hiatus, the committee started meeting in June.
"[The work] is not moving as fast as we would have wanted," AFC MP Raphael
Trotman admitted recently. "We are now looking at ways to speed it up," he,
however, added.
Based on public notices, Trotman said, the committee received several oral
and written submissions from various stakeholders; in addition to public
institutions like the Bank of Guyana and the Guyana Association of
Securities Companies and Intermediaries Inc and private citizens like
accountant Christopher Ram. He explained that the committee is now
considering the legislation clause by clause and three weeks ago it began
meeting on a weekly basis.
The Bill provides for oversight of export industries, the insurance
industry, real estate and alternative remittance systems. It also caters for
the establishment of the Financial Intelligence Unit as an independent body
answerable only to the president and strengthens it by giving it broader
roles and responsibilities.
The new law is thought to be a significant improvement over previous
anti-money laundering legislation, covering the freezing and forfeiture of
assets owned or controlled by persons suspected of being involved in money
laundering activities. President Bharrat Jagdeo had given a commitment for
the passage of the law by July, saying that it was government's intention to
move forward with the legislation in a way that would facilitate Guyana
becoming an offshore financial centre (OFC).
Trotman, however, said he has heard no word about this plan and he noted
that Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, who chairs the committee, has not
raised it in connection with the Bill. According to Trotman, regulations to
facilitate Guyana's development as an OFC might require special legislation.
At the same time, he noted that it would require "a lot more than
legislation," citing the need for a stable political environment. "And that
is not being done," he said, adding "I have not heard anything about it
The 2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said the government
needs to pass effective legislation to deal with money laundering, including
provisions allowing forfeiture of seized assets. The report noted that the
government made no arrests or prosecutions for money laundering in 2007. It
added that money laundering is perceived to be a serious problem here and
has been linked to trafficking in drugs, guns and persons as well as to
fraud and corruption.
About Comments

The Comments section of this website is intended to provide a forum for
reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an
extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its
history: accuracy, balance and fairness.
We reserve the right to edit/delete comments which contain attacks on other
users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary
references to race and ethnicity.
Curious about the little images next to each commenter's name ? Go here
and sign up using the same email address you used
to register for then upload your image and confirm it.
1. a person says:
December 14, 2008 at 5:13 pm
Who woke up the government? we shall wait & see what law
they are going to pass.... Are they going to protect the drug lords? Only
time will tell...
2. a person says:
December 14, 2008 at 5:41 pm
Would the new law have a safety net for the DRUG LORDS .
Parlement shuuld get off their backside & write a law to outlaw DROUG LORDS
December 14, 2008 at 7:31 pm

Govt must say whether or not it wants FOI law

Sunday Stabroek news item, Sunday 14 December 2008
Govt must say whether or not it wants FOI law
BY Staff
Published: December 14, 2008 in News

Saying the government needs to make a decision, AFC leader Raphael Trotman
intends to advance the long delayed Freedom of Infor-mation Bill through the
National Assembly.
"Either the government wants it or it doesn't," Trotman told Stabroek News.
"It has been in abeyance for almost two years, in the hope that government
would accept the need for the legislation."
There has been "no serious engagement" with the AFC to reach consensus on
the legislation, Trotman said, noting with exasperation that government
spokesman continues to say it was being examined. The main opposition PNCR
has already given its support for the bill. "I intend very soon to bring it
to a head and have the government say to the people of Guyana whether they
want freedom of information legislation," Trotman added.
The successful passage of the Freedom of Information Bill, a private
members' bill, hinges entirely on support of the government, which holds a
majority in the National Assembly. There has been no substantive movement
since the introduction of the bill in November 2006.
In May, government declared that the legislation would ultimately be enacted
but it did not give a clear timeline. Head of the Presi-dential Secretariat
(HPS) Dr Roger Luncheon said freedom of information legislation would be
enacted, though he added it would be only one aspect of access to
His comments were in response to a recommendation made at a Common-wealth
Parliamentary Asso-ciation (CPA) workshop that the government should enact
freedom of information legislation within a clear timeframe and make efforts
to implement it fully.
Another recommendation emanating from the workshop is for the National
Assembly to facilitate the broadcast of its proceedings; and that the
initiative by the Guyana Parliament to establish a communications and public
education unit should be supported. In this regard, it was suggested that
the dedicated parliament channel of Trinidad and Tobago, with its live
television and radio broadcasts, packaged edited versions, as well as
internet transmission of the deliberations of parliament should be studied.
PNCR-1G MP Aubrey Norton has tabled a motion calling for live and unedited
broadcasts of the sittings of the National Assembly. It seeks to have the
sittings of the National Assembly broadcast live and unedited by the
National Communications Network with costs borne by the state. The motion
also seeks to have the Assembly call on the government to allocate a
broadcast frequency for a parliamentary channel as happens in "most
democratic countries." Additionally, the motion proposes a timeframe for
implementation within one month of its adoption by the Assembly.
About Comments

The Comments section of this website is intended to provide a forum for
reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an
extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its
history: accuracy, balance and fairness.
We reserve the right to edit/delete comments which contain attacks on other
users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary
references to race and ethnicity.
Curious about the little images next to each commenter's name ? Go here
and sign up using the same email address you used
to register for then upload your image and confirm it.
1. amen-ra says:
December 14, 2008 at 9:15 am
yes, there's a need for the freedom of information act in
guyana,and the govt need to implement it fortwith.
2. Light says:
December 14, 2008 at 6:09 pm
By procrastination and delay, characteristic of the PPP's
administration methods in stifling reforms; it is already quite clear to the
public, that the political administratin feels threatened by the Freedom of
Information Bill, it is for this reason it has failed to pass this
legislation, which will help to expose the massive corruption, cronyism and
political patronage in government.
December 14, 2008 at 7:39 pm
Contrary to what most people believe, the FOI will not give
full access to ALL files. The Government will seek to place restrictions and
time limits on MOST sensitive Government imformation leaving no room for
transparency. All what the Government seeks to restrict will be restricted,
so it makes no difference if the legislation is acted on or not.
4. caesar agustus. says:
December 14, 2008 at 8:09 pm
The government in order to be transparent, must enact a
freedom of information act. Under the illegal regime of the past,such an act
if tabled,was a basket case.
December 14, 2008 at 11:14 pm
caesar agustus,,,I never knew that Guyana
had an "Illegal regime", this is news to me....I was under the impression
that when an election is held, and supervised by an international Governing
body who declares the results valid, then you have a LEGALLY ELECTED

Little effort made to alleviate the flood sufferings of Victoria

Stabroek News Letter to Editor, Saturday 27 December 2008
Little effort made to alleviate the flood sufferings of Victoria
BY Staff
Published: December 27, 2008 in Letters

Dear Editor,
I write today to address a serious situation which is blatantly challenging
a rational mind in search of a plausible explanation. What I will outline,
is being seen in our beloved country. The government continues to boast that
it has spent large sums on the drainage system in this country since the
floods of 2005; however, it is blatantly obvious that in 2008, exactly 3
years later, in spite of this massive amount of money having been spent,
that all the villages between Beterverwagting and Clonbrook are worse off.
Many of these villages have been continuously under floodwaters for in
excess of two weeks, some as long as three weeks, with no relief in sight.
In contrast however, even though this area is contiguous, the areas of Mon
Repos, Lusignan, Annandale, Good Hope, Enmore, Nootenzuil, Lowlands, Hope
and Greenfield have had massive efforts expended to remove their
floodwaters, while the villages themselves have all been allowed to remain
submerged for these extended periods.
Ann's Grove, Victoria, Nabaclis, Golden Grove, Haslington, Paradise, Dazzell
Scheme, Melanie Damishana, Friendship and Buxton have all continued to be
submerged, with the worst being Victoria and Dazzell Scheme, which have had
water continuously since before December 8, 2008.
There has been little effort made to alleviate the sufferings of the people
in Victoria, which is arguably the largest village in this area (population
wise). To add insult to injury, even though the Victorians have suffered and
continue to suffer, neighbouring areas like Lowlands and Hope with a
fraction of the population of this village have had every effort made to
remove their water and they have been furnished with cleansers to disinfect
the land and prevent the spread of diseases and medical teams.
It is mind boggling that the kokers at Hope, Nootenzuil and Victoria had all
been inoperative up until a week ago and all that was needed for the
operation of these structures were (Nootenzuil - a winch; Victoria a Hymac
to lift the door) to be able to bring some relief. Unfortunately, when the
area from Hope to Nabaclis was inundated with water, all of this water was
funnelled through Victoria to be pumped out to sea by the three pumps
situated at Victoria. Yet Victoria, which has been the primary drainage for
this entire area, has been allowed to remain submerged, while these eastern
areas have all received relief.
Victoria is situated in a basin in relation to all the surrounding areas,
hence, because of a re-engineered drainage system in this area, all the
drainage waters from these areas flow into Victoria and remain there, if
there is no effort made to ensure that the systems in Victoria are working
to their best ability.
The outfall from the Victoria koker is so clogged, that even though the
koker doors have been raised above the level of the water, the flow out to
sea is negligible, because the outfall to the sea is clogged with silt.
Since Victoria is the lowest point in this area, one would think that it
would make sense to ensure that the outfall to the sea is cleared so that
the water would flow unimpeded. However, this has not been done. The outfall
at Hope has been cleared, even though the koker itself is inoperative, the
outfall at Nootenzuil-Belfield has been cleared and that koker now operates
effectively; but if the water from Belfield and Nootenzuil is not stopped
from flowing into Victoria, even though Lowlands, Nootenzuil and Belfield
are now free from water on the land, this water flows into Victoria and
prevents the water in Victoria from being able to be drained to the sea.
You may ask why this is. Well the drainage and irrigation board in its
wisdom has had two sluice kokers constructed in the crown dam behind these
areas in such a manner, that the sluice doors are permanently below the
water level in the savannah, so that these two sluices bring water 24 hours
per day into Victoria and this water overpowers the water on the land in
Victoria and keeps the village submerged.
Even though there has been money expended in digging some of the drainage
trenches in Victoria, all that this has done is to make Victoria a deeper
storage basin for flood waters and the waters from the savannah, since the
outfall to the sea remains clogged.
Mr. Editor, one has to ask, if Good Hope, Lusignan, Annandale, Enmore,
Nootenzuil, Hope, Clonbrook and Greenfield can all be drained in a short
space of time and the residents there given the necessary fluids to ensure
that diseases do not take hold in those areas along with medical outreach
teams, why is there still water on the land in Buxton, Friendship, Paradise,
Dazzell scheme, Golden Grove, Nabaclis, Victoria, Ann's Grove and DochFour?
Yours faithfully,
Desmond Saul

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jagdeo's naming bank account is quite interesting - Ramjattan

Kaieteur News news item, Tuesday 23 December 2008

Jagdeo's naming bank account is quite interesting - Ramjattan
December 23, 2008

Alliance For Change Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan says that, for the President
to name a bank account he contends contains monies purportedly from the
Wildlife Fund, when the Finance Minister tabled a Treasury Memorandum
indicating that the records could not be located or reconstructed, is a
"quite interesting development". Ramjattan expressed this opinion in an
invited comment yesterday following the adjournment of the National
On Saturday last, President Bharrat Jagdeo, during a press briefing at State
House, had stated that he was unaware of any financial records being
missing, but noted that the money was placed into a non-interest bank
account and he had a problem with that.
He also noted that there was some level of corruption at the Office of the
President (OP), and several persons had to be fired as a result.
Commenting on the missing financial records for the Wildlife bank account
for the period 1998 to 2002, which was at the time operated under the
auspices of OP, President Jagdeo said that he was not au fait with all of
the details of the issue, but he noted that, in one instance, people were
caught taking money and giving permits for the export of animals, "way
beyond what our quota allowed." He added that the money was then placed in a
non-interest account at the Bank of Baroda.
However, the Treasury Memorandum that was recently tabled in the National
Assembly clearly states that the records in relation to the period July 1998
to June 2002 - four years - cannot be located, and all attempts to have them
reconstructed have been futile.
The "Treasury Memorandum" is a written response to the inconsistencies
raised by the Public Accounts Committee for the period 2002 and 2003.
Following the discovery of the missing files, Ramjattan had called for the
implementation of a fraud investigation into the incident, and for persons
found culpable to feel the full brunt of the law.
Chairman of Vision Guyana, Peter Ramsaroop, as well as the People's National
Congress Reform, had also echoed these sentiments.
The disappearance of several hundred million dollars earned from the export
of wildlife is reminiscent of the dolphin scandal that came to light in
In that year, the Board of the Wildlife Management Authority fired its
secretary for authorizing exports of dolphins without proper permits.
It was later learnt that 38 giant anteaters had also been shipped without
proper permits.
These animals sell for upwards of US$10,000 each.
The Opposition PNCR had referred to the situation as a scam, and had said it
would not be fooled by the firing of sacrificial scapegoats.

Customs bribery probe

Stabroek News news item, Tuesday 23 December 2008
Customs bribery probe
Stabroek News: December 23, 2008 in News

Report recommends Fidelity, CTA officials face charges
The task force initiated by the President to investigate bribery allegations
at the Customs and Trade Admin-istration (CTA) has reportedly made
recommendations for officials at Fidelity Invest-ment to face criminal
charges for their role in the reported multimillion dollar scam at Customs.
Close to 15 employees within the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) will also
face the courts - if the recommendations are taken onboard by the
administration - for colluding to defraud customs and "openly lying about
what they saw in the containers cleared from the wharfs," sources told
Stabroek News yesterday. The investigation wrapped up two weeks ago and the
report is now awaiting an official release from President Bharrat Jagdeo
after he reads it.
The examining routine of officers named in the Polar beer scandal has been
severely criticized in the task force report, sources said, referring to a
part of the report that underscored the importance of the Total Revenue
In-tegrated Processing System (TRIPS) being fully implemented at all levels
within the GRA, particularly at the wharfs. TRIPS advocates 100 per cent
examination of all containers that are cleared at the wharfs.
But more importantly, the report has found that the officers were openly
deceptive about the contents of the containers that they had examined and
cleared at the wharf for Fidelity as they insisted and even falsified
documents stating that soft drinks had been imported by Fidelity. Fidelity
had disputed this since the investigation first commenced stating that the
company had imported Polar beer and not soft drinks.
It is believed that at least one high-ranking official within the GRA, who
had been embroiled in the Polar beer scandal involving Fidelity, will face
disciplinary action as recommended by the task force, for incompetence; more
so failing to detect the corrupt practices of officers working in that
Sources said yesterday that no evidence was garnered throughout the entire
process to corroborate reports about high ranking officials being involved
in the scandal at Customs. The report is therefore expected to clear key
officials initially fingered in the fraud.
But sources have observed that that many junior staff named in the fraud,
who had initially pointed fingers at those in the upper echelons at customs,
later failed to give any solid information to corroborate their stories.
There was a suggestion that some persons "basically appear willing to stand
alone in the fraud" though no one has confessed to any wrongdoing.
Auditor General (ag) Deodat Sharma, who headed the task force investigation,
was brief yesterday when this newspaper spoke with him. He said that the
findings of the report would be made public in time, but confirmed that the
committee has made recommendations for disciplinary action to taken against
GRA staff, and also for criminal charges to be instituted in several cases.
It was all Sharma would say on the report.
Soft drinks
The issue of whether Fidelity imported soft drinks or Polar beer is a key
part of the report findings, according to sources. This had been part of the
investigation since the story first broke, owing to a statement given to
Customs officials by the broker attached to Fidelity. The broker had stated
and still maintains that he cleared containers with aerated drinks and not
Polar beer, and he had produced documents stating as much.
Those documents and the signatures attached have positively linked many of
the GRA staff, since the task force's investigations have revealed that soft
drinks were not imported into the country by Fidelity Investments; the team
had travelled to Venezuela to confirm this.
Sources told this newspaper that Fidelity officials have been unable to
provide a clear, coherent story to the task force as it relates to the
company's bookkeeping records on the containers that are the subject of the
investigation. The containers were cleared in January this year and the
documents that were reportedly produced by Fidelity have corroborated the
broker's soft drink story.
Stabroek News was reliably informed that Fidelity officials have since said
that the broker was handed money to clear the containers and that he handled
all the transactions for the company, and that officials had no idea what
had been taking place. Fidelity sought to distance itself from the falsified
documents, unconvincingly, according to sources.
Recommendations have also been made for the broker to face charges for his
role in the scandal. Sources say that though he has since been barred from
entering any GRA premises, the broker still transacts business for other
local businesses from the sidelines.
It is expected that a few changes would be made at GRA after the report
comes out, a source told Stabroek News. Already, persons within the
administration are curious as to the findings of the report and some have
been unofficially notified that they make be called as witnesses when the
case goes to court.
But recommendations have also been made for persons to be reinstated since
no evidence was found to support claims that they were involved. One such
person is said to be an office assistant, who was fingered but who
apparently had no ties to the fraud.
Sources said the scandal initially involved a series of accusations as
persons fingered others, but when the task force went in and started
investigating there was little or no evidence to tie some persons to the
The task force investigation had focused solely on the bribery allegations
at customs, but there are reports that the team may be asked to conduct a
wider probe into the recently acquired assets of some officials since this
came up as part of the recent investigation.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Whose freedom at midnight?

Whose freedom at midnight? Machinations towards Guyana’s Independence, May 1966
By Clem Seecharan
September 3, 2008 in Guyana Review

Professor of Caribbean History and Head of Caribbean Studies, London Metropolitan University (forthcoming in Round Table October 2008)

Guyana (formerly British Guiana), the only British colony on the mainland of South America, became independent at midnight on 26 May 1966. But whose freedom was it? For nearly 20 years the Marxist leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Cheddi Jagan (1918-97), of Indian extraction, buoyed by the independence of India and obsessed with the dominance of the British company, Booker, in the colony’s plantation economy, had championed Guyana’s ‘struggle’ for independence. Yet, on the big night it was the African leader of the People’s National Congress (PNC), L.F.S. Burnham (1923-85), who was the recipient of the prize. His politics, though left-wing, was characterised by a cultivated pragmatism, strategic ambiguity ─ the facility to ‘tack and turn as advantage seems to dictate…his whole political approach is opportunistic’, as a British politician had assessed him in 1954.i With the aid of the Portuguese and Coloured (mixed race) political party, the United Force (UF), led by a Portuguese businessman, Peter D’Aguiar, a rabid anti-communist, in conjunction with the decisive intervention of President Kennedy himself and the CIA, in 1962-3, the PNC resorted to violence to make British Guiana ungovernable. The latter proved effective: it delayed independence, while Anglo-American collusion brought a Burnham-D’Aguiar coalition to power in December 1964 and independence in May 1966. Cheddi Jagan was a virtual spectator to the celebrations of the country’s ‘freedom’.

Speaking in the National Assembly on Independence Day, Jagan made it clear that this was not his freedom

Former President LFS Burnham
Former President LFS Burnham

day. That had to be struggled for: foreign control of the economy had to be eliminated; only his party, the PPP, could achieve real liberation for the country. He meant disengagement from ‘imperialism’ and the capitalist system ─ the building of the communist utopia, following the path of the glorious Soviet Union. It was not an auspicious beginning for this troubled land:

[P]olitical independence has been attained under the continuation and consolidation of foreign economic control and the maintenance of the colonial type economy, based on primary production and extraction. This has already detracted from the living standards of the working people…The PPP, the vanguard of Guyana’s struggle for national liberation, is convinced that liberty is achieved only when it has been struggled for and won. It cannot be a gift of charity. For the people of Guyana, real freedom is still a prize to be won, and win it we will ─ as a reunited free people. i

Jagan and Burnham, founder-members of the PPP in 1950, had won the first general elections under universal adult suffrage in April 1953. But after 133 days the British suspended the constitution and evicted the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government from office, convinced that Jagan was a pro-Moscow communist bent on subverting liberal democracy.iii His politics was anathema to the Fabian socialism of the British West Indies. The tenuous coalition, suggestive of African-Indian unity in the PPP, did not survive the report of the Robertson Commission sent by the Colonial Office to British Guiana in early 1954, following the suspension of the constitution. It sought to make a distinction between the ‘communism’ of Cheddi Jagan and the moderate ‘socialism’ of Forbes Burnham. But this was not merely a ‘divide and rule’ tactic; it was an astute exploitation of the seeds of ethnic division, immanent in the society, and marked by a tendency towards Indian triumphalism and African apprehension, since the freedom of ‘Mother India’ in 1947. They argued: ‘Mr Burnham (chairman of the Party) was generally recognised as the leader of the socialists in the PPP and as such to be in rivalry with Dr Jagan for the moral leadership of the Party as a whole…[T]here were many who thought that as the recognised leader of the socialists…Mr Burnham ought to have taken a much stronger line than he did in opposition to the more blatantly communist activities of the Jagans and their supporters. We came to the conclusion that…the ambiguous Mr Burnham…and a number of its less prominent leaders were socialists…We doubt, however, if they had the wit to see the essential difference between themselves and their communist colleagues or the ability to avoid being out-manoeuvred by them’.iv

Cheddi Jagan
Cheddi Jagan

As early as the elections of April 1953, 30-year old Burnham, a brilliant lawyer with considerable oratorical gifts and already identified as the premier African leader in the colony, had endeavoured to wrest the leadership of the PPP from the Indian leader, Cheddi Jagan. The mutual African-Indian suspicion permeating the wider colonial environment was reproduced in the Party, Jagan’s Marxist dogmas on the primacy of the class struggle notwithstanding. It was so bedevilling a feature of the PPP, in its so-called golden phase of racial unity, that Eusi Kwayana (formerly Sydney King), another founder-member of the Party, an African school teacher from the historic village of Buxton, fearing the escalation of racial rivalry if the assumption of power were to be confronted precipitately, had counselled that they should not contest more than eight seats. The Party should focus on forging a degree of genuine ethnic unity. He had advised Jagan and Burnham that they should seek not to win in 1953:

Some people like to ignore reality. I had moved in the PPP Executive that we should not win a majority, and my reason was that the country was not sufficiently united. I think only Martin Carter [the poet] and I supported the motion that we should not go for a majority. I knew we would win a majority, but I didn’t think the Party was prepared for it because although the racial unity was there ─ it was a kind of coalition ─ it was not well-grounded; it was tenuous. I told Jagan and Burnham we would win the elections. They didn’t believe it; they thought we would win about eight seats [out of 24]. I moved a motion that we fight about eight seats and try to do, in a multiple of eight, what Jagan alone had done [since 1947], and really try to unite the country [emphasis added].v

Kwayana was correct. African and Indians are separated by a cultural chasm that breeds mutual incomprehension. Indians were not a clear majority, but they constituted the largest group. Africans were afraid that with growing economic and cultural self-assurance, coupled with their demographic superiority, Indians under Cheddi Jagan’s leadership would soon lead British Guiana to ‘freedom’ from British rule. They were therefore apprehensive that independence would herald their permanent subjugation by a wily people. Indian rule was infinitely less tolerable than British colonialism. Indeed African Guyanese would have opted for remaining colonials indefinitely rather than support independence under a party led by an Indian. The instinct to categorise and calibrate everything on the basis of ethnicity is chronic in this polyglot, incoherent place.

Kwayana is a rare example of an individual at the heart of these seminal events in Guyana’s meandering path to independence, to speak frankly on racism in the colony. He contends that Jagan failed to address the fundamental fact of African insecurity in the early 1950s. Jagan thought that his Marxist truth, ‘scientific socialism’, the source of ‘total understanding’, would dissolve the question of race: a false problem in any case. He failed to comprehend, in Kwayana’s evocative phrase, ‘the hinterland of suspicion’ in the African community. Kwayana explains why the PPP split into two factions in 1955, one Indian (led by Jagan); the other African (led by Forbes Burnham:

The two major groups have stereotypes of each other. Africans tended to see Indians as clannish, as having more money, having an interest in land ─ a lot of them were selling out their lands to Indians when they went broke. Although they were doing it voluntarily, it also alarmed them. Then there was this rumour that someone from India had come and said who owned the land owned the country…A lot of Africans were unable to go beyond that. They would look at the behaviour of Indians near to them in judging the PPP (the PPP does not understand this until now).

He elaborates:
If there is an aggressive [racist] member of the PPP in their district, this is how Africans see the PPP. Jagan never…[dealt] with these things at the subjective level, although he ha[d] a lot of rage against Imperialism.

That problem was never dealt with; that’s one of the reasons why I left the PPP [in 1956, the year after Burnham]. The psychology of the leader is crucial. We had to fight to get Africans to accept an Indian leader [Jagan]. He didn’t have that problem. He never had to accept a leader of another race so he didn’t know what it is. He talks about revolution, but the personal revolution ─ nothing. He had a cultural problem. Having rejected colonialism and its intellectual and cultural baggage he had to take something from somewhere else [Russian communism]; he didn’t rely on his own personality. If he had Hinduism, it would have made him a different

There were no intellectual or cultural foundations to Cheddi Jagan’s ideology. He had rejected his Indian cultural antecedents, so he absorbed the received Marxist dogmas uncritically. They took the place of the eclectic Hinduism of his boyhood. Yet, imprisoned by the intractability of racial identities in Guyana, Jagan was discernibly adept at garnering Indian loyalty ─ and keeping it, manipulating crucial Indo-Guyanese idioms with dexterity. That was why he was able to survive the split in the PPP in 1955, with the departure of Forbes Burnham, as well as that of Eusi Kwayana and Martin Carter in 1956, and proceed, on the basis of Indo-Guyanese invincibility under the first-past-the-post electoral system, to gain re-election in August 1957. Burnham’s faction of the PPP was vanquished so he decided to form a party with a less ambiguous identity, the predominantly African, People’s National Congress (PNC), in late 1957. Africans were demoralised. This was exacerbated by the fact that in 1960 the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan granted Jagan self-government with virtual assurance of independence, in a couple of years, after fresh general elections. Burnham was rudderless and his African supporters clueless (like their contemporary situation in Guyana). For Cheddi Jagan, independence was there for the take. He just had to know how to wait. He did not.

Fidel Castro’s revolution of 1959 dazzled him. The circumspection and moderation he strained to project in 1957-9, since his re-election, did not sit easily with him. His constipated Marxist dogmas, the source of ‘total knowledge’, were battling within him for release. In 1991 he explained for V.S. Naipaul the illumination that was given him by some Marxist primers:

It was Janet [his American-born wife] who, when she came here [British Guiana] in 1943, brought me Little Lenin Library books ─ little tracts, pamphlets. It was the first time I read Marxist literature. And then…I began reading Marxist books like mad. I read Das Kapital after the Little Lenin series. And that helped me to have a total understanding of the development of society. Until then, all the various struggles ─ Indians, blacks, the American people ─ had been disjointed experiences. To put it in a way that was totally related to a socio-economic system came from the reading of Marxist literature. For instance, the women question was dealt with in Engels’s book, The Origins of the Family. The Marxist theory of surplus value brought a totally new understanding of the struggle of the working class ─ not only that they were exploited. It was exciting to me, an intellectual excitement because a whole new world opened to me, a total understanding of the world [emphasis added].vii

Such was the mesmeric spell of the received dogmas! He got the chance to break out of his brief, but stressful, play at moderation, in early 1960, when it became clear that Fidel Castro was a communist, and that the new Cuba would be guided by Marxism-Leninism. Cheddi was over the moon. He would not play ball with the ‘imperialists’ any longer. Even Ian Macleod, the liberal Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had defied several right-wingers in the Tory Party and committed himself to granting Jagan independence by 1962, would be construed as just another imperialist by Cheddi. After the constitutional conference in London, where it had become transparent that no ‘struggle’ was really necessary for independence, Jagan proceeded to Cuba, his new Mecca, twice in 1960. He was certain that Marxism-Leninism, the purest form of governance devised by humankind, was inevitable. Fidel had vindicated this. The days of capitalism were numbered ─ the communist utopia was around the next bend. He pontificated:

I completely support the Revolutionary Government of Cuba…[It] has the support of most of the Cuban people. I have no doubt the revolution will achieve all its objectives. Any revolutionary movement such as this which is tending towards social and economic emancipation will obviously have enemies both inside and outside the country, but if we take into account the times in which we are living, the speed with which the progressive forces of the world are advancing [the communist bloc], and the great support of the majority of the Cuban people, I have no doubts about the Cuban Revolution.viii

Cheddi boasted in September 1960 that ‘the only Government in Latin America which was openly supporting the Cuban Revolution was ours’. He was confident that time was on their side, guided by the Soviet Union and the so-called people’s democracies of Eastern Europe. He added that Marxism-Leninism was bound to win; Suez (1956) was a ‘turning point in the history of imperialism which is now on the defensive and is losing more and more positions every day. The process will grow not in arithmetic, but in geometric progression’. He predicted that the communist utopia was unstoppable: it would ‘emerge triumphant’, as capitalism was ‘becoming a moribund system’. Communism represented the logic of history; the Cuban Revolution was the watershed in the Western Hemisphere. He could not contain himself: ‘Fidel Castro is not only the liberator of the American continent but also the liberator of the century’.ix

It is arguable that without Castro’s Revolution and Cheddi’s consuming infatuation, he might have kept his head, his circumspection of 1957-9; he would not have stirred the Cold War venom of the United States. He would also have deprived his local enemies ─ Burnham’s People’s National Congress (PNC) and the rabidly anti-communist United Force (UF) and their allies, the Catholic Church ─ of the desperate ammunition that would resurrect their seemingly terminal fortunes. In spite of Jagan’s folly, in early 1961 Ian Macleod genuinely sought to persuade President Kennedy that Jagan was not a communist; he was more of a Laskiite radical (Kennedy was taught by Harold Laski at LSE): there was no need to be afraid of his political outlook.

Meanwhile, the Fabian socialist oriented head of Booker in Guyana (owner of most of the sugar plantations), Jock Campbell (a friend of Macleod), also, endeavoured to detract from Jagan’s fatal attraction to communism. This, however, was not easy for Kennedy to take. After the failure to overthrow Castro, the Bay of Pigs debacle of April 1961, the President became preoccupied that he would be seen as being too soft on communism. Therefore, he still harboured apprehensions about Jagan’s ideology, wary that an independent Guyana would become a Soviet beachhead for spreading the virus into the continent.

But Jagan was re-elected in August 1961, and it seemed as if the Kennedy administration could be persuaded to follow the British and put up with him, hoping that power would breed responsibility and moderation. However, Jagan organised a tawdry triumphalist parade to celebrate his victory. His jubilant Indian supporters repeatedly behaved in a manner humiliating to African bystanders: they dragged the symbol of the PNC, the broom, behind their vehicles; some displayed small coffins marked ‘PNC’. Africans were demoralised by another electoral defeat and deeply apprehensive that Indians were about to collect the big prize: ‘freedom’ for Guyana. Jagan’s pretext for the parade was that it would dispel whatever doubts the imperialists had of the strength of his support. This was unnecessary: independence was there for the take ─ whoever won the elections had earned the right to collect the prize. The meretricious display, the perceived arrogance of Indians, magnified the fears of Africans that dark times were ahead when Jagan got independence, which the British were committed to granting. Africans viewed independence with foreboding: freedom for the ‘coolies’; slavery for them.

In August 1961 Jagan had all the trumps; few envisaged that he would pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ever a fantasist, he believed passionately that Marxism-Leninism was superior in comprehending the laws of development ─ it constituted a science of society ─ and that the mighty United States was in line for the fall. So his meeting with President Kennedy in the Oval Office, in October 1961, to procure aid for development, was potentially fatal. He was going to see the President precisely at a time when he was buoyed by the Cuban Revolution and impatient to create the communist utopia on which he thought Fidel had embarked. The British Embassy in Washington had sought to counsel Jagan to moderate his stance when he met the President, eschewing words or expressions that Americans tend to construe as synonymous with communism. This proved futile. A little before he met Kennedy, Jagan explained his political philosophy to the Washington Press Club: ‘I believe…that the economic theories of scientific socialism [Marxism] hold out the promise of a dynamic social discipline which can transform an underdeveloped country into a developed one in a far shorter time than any other system. We may [therefore] differ from you in the way we [choose to] organise our economic life’.x He could not comprehend that it was not simply a matter of differential approaches to economic development; it was a deeply contentious question, its implications for the Cold War. He had taken his little country into it, on the side the Americans deemed abominable ─ a peril to ‘freedom’ in the Hemisphere. British Guiana was on the verge of becoming another Cuba.

Jagan did not excel either, in his appearance on ‘Meet the Press’ on 15 October 1961. The President was watching the programme, and the moderator had asked Jagan whether there was freedom in the Soviet Union and China. He waffled:

All I can say ─ I haven’t been to China, I haven’t been to Russia, but the experts who have been there have said ─ for instance, you have this chap who is a writer on the question, an expert apparently, who writes for the London Observer, I can’t recall his name right now. But he has said in his latest book that life in the Soviet Union is growing day by day better and better. The standards of living are improving, and as such, we are concerned. We want to know how this is done.xi

When he met President Kennedy on 25 October 1961, he virtually committed suicide by leaving the President with no doubt whatsoever that he was a communist. No aid would be forthcoming, and in view of Kennedy’s apprehension that he was being perceived as soft on hemispheric subversion, he soon became obsessed with the future of little British Guiana. The British must not give independence to Jagan; a second Cuba must not emerge. By early 1962, therefore, Jagan’s enemies in the colony were aware that the American President was on their side. The PNC and UF therefore used the budget of February 1962 as a pretext for fomenting trouble: they mobilised African, Coloured and Portuguese resistance to Jagan’s government, in the capital Georgetown. A vast section of the commercial district was burnt down. It is noteworthy that Burnham was in favour of independence before the elections of August 1961; by early 1962, with the Americans on his side, he had changed his mind. He was prepared to use violence to make the place ungovernable. His aim was to delay a date for independence, which many had anticipated as forthcoming in May 1962. In fact, Jagan’s Government had printed a stamp for official documents that read: ‘Freedom Year, 1962’.

Burnham’s socialist pretensions and his craving of Third World credibility, however, had inhibited his capacity to initiate any form of subversion of Jagan’s Government. In late 1961 he was floundering. He was saved by the United Force and the Catholic Church, which were closely aligned and had been propagating a rabidly anti-communist crusade against Jagan. They did not prevaricate. Although their support-base was smaller, they had a consistency of focus engendered by a hatred of Castro and ‘godless communism’ ─ the ‘red peril’. In May 1961, for instance, the Catholic Standard observed that Jagan’s government had never ‘uttered one breath of criticism of any of Castro’s doings ─ to them, he is apparently perfect. It means that…they support all of Castro’s methods (as well as aims) in Cuba. Among these are: the denial of freedom; the destruction of free trade unions; suppression of the free press; mass arrests.’xii They also deemed Jagan an enemy of freedom of worship, as the paper cited, week after week, incidents of persecution of the Catholic Church in Cuba. The organ of the United Force, the Sun, and a daily newspaper largely owned by Peter D’Aguiar, leader of the Party, the Daily Chronicle, sustained a veritable ant-communist crusade against Jagan. They were clearly sustained by Jagan’s declared admiration for Castro; they were also energised by the presence in the White House of the first Catholic President. This was the context, in early 1962, in which Burnham was resurrected. His socialist rhetoric notwithstanding, he dexterously exploited the virulent anti-communist passions of the Portuguese and Coloured minority in order to make British Guiana ungovernable. In the process, the Kennedy administration settled on him as their man. President Kennedy himself would put relentless pressure on Harold Macmillan to ensure that independence was not granted to Cheddi Jagan.

As Kennedy’s chief political assistant, Professor Arthur Schlesinger, documented:

[I]n May 1962 Burnham came to Washington. He appeared an intelligent, self-possessed, reasonable man, insisting quite firmly on his ‘socialism’ and ‘neutralism’ but stoutly anti-communist…In the meantime, events had convinced us that Jagan though perhaps not a disciplined communist had that kind of deep pro-communist emotion…[that] the United States could not afford…when it involved a quasi-communist regime on the mainland of Latin America. Burnham’s visit left the feeling, as I reported to the President [on 21 June 1962], that ‘an independent British Guiana under Burnham…would cause us many fewer problems than an independent British Guiana under Jagan’. And a way was open to bring it about because Jagan’s parliamentary strength was larger than his popular strength… …An obvious solution would be to establish a system of proportional representation [PR]. This, after prolonged discussion, the British Government finally did in October 1963; and elections held…at the end of 1964 produced a coalition government under Burnham. With much unhappiness and turbulence, British Guiana seemed to have passed safely out of the communist orbit’.xiii

But Schlesinger had not told the whole tale: the machinations of the President and the CIA to ensure that their man, Forbes Burnham, would take Guyana to independence. Burnham, with the priceless support, also, of the Portuguese leader, Peter D’Aguiar, was now on the road to eclipsing Cheddi Jagan. By 1963 the CIA had got into the act, providing funds through diverse front organisations, to fight Jagan Government’s Labour Relations Bill. It was a measure to empower the Minister of Labour to recommend a poll to resolve jurisdictional disputes between contending trade unions. The main reason, of course, was that although the overwhelming majority of the workers in the sugar industry were Indians, Jagan’s supporters, they were still represented by a union, the Manpower Citizens’ Association (MPCA), which the PPP deemed a company union that was collaborating with Burnham in subverting their Government. They had founded their own union, the Guyana Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU), and were seeking to get it recognised by a poll in the strategic sugar industry. If the Bill were passed, they would require two-thirds of the workers’ votes to unseat the MPCA. The PNC and UF had found another issue for galvanising more resistance to Jagan and delay independence. The Labour Relations Bill was framed as a pernicious measure to eliminate unions deemed enemies of the PPP ─ a threat to free trade unions. The first half of 1963 was marked by an 80-day general strike ostensibly against the Bill; it was sustained primarily with money from the CIA.xiv

The constitutional conference held in October 1962 had collapsed because the PNC and UF had stalled on all the contentious issues, knowing that the US was on their side. As in 1962 the aim was to delay independence further. The general strike of 1963 degenerated into racial violence throughout the colony.

Apart from economic disaster, Africans and Indians were consumed by racial hatred and violence, even ‘ethnic cleansing’ in some districts.

This, in conjunction with the destruction of most of the commercial section of Georgetown the previous year, provided President Kennedy with the ammunition he needed to pressure the British to delay independence and to change the electoral system to proportional representation, which, as Schlesinger had argued, was bound to secure the defeat of Jagan.

Kennedy met Macmillan in England on 30 June 1963: the destruction of Cheddi Jagan was the principal item on the agenda. The President made his case forthrightly: ‘It was obvious if the UK were to get rid of British Guiana now it would become a communist state. He thought the thing to do was to look for ways to drag the thing out [no immediate independence]…He [argued] that Latin America was the most dangerous area in the world. The effect of having a communist state in British Guiana in addition to Cuba in 1964 [the Presidential elections], would be to create irresistible pressures on the Unites States to strike militarily at Cuba’.xv Coming after the Cuban missiles crisis of October 1962 and the consuming fear that the world was on the brink of nuclear war, Kennedy’s pressure to get rid of Jagan, which the British had hitherto sought to deflect with much conviction, now carried the force of a moral imperative.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Broadcast licence requests must be dealt with urgently – CJ Chang rules

Broadcast licence requests must be dealt with urgently – CJ Chang rules
Says political consensus argument invalid
Stabroek News.
Published: December 13, 2008 in News

In a landmark decision in favour of Lindeners, Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang ruled yesterday that government cannot penalize the people of the mining town and freeze applications for wider broadcast access until it reaches a political consensus with the main opposition party on broadcast legislation.

Though reforms in the telecommunications sector are critical, the Chief Justice said residents in the community should not be made to suffer, and he ordered that all applications for television and radio licences be dealt with forthwith, and not “at the convenience of the administration”.

His judgment comes in the wake of the defeat by the government benches of an Alliance For Change motion in parliament last week, which had called for wider television access in Linden. Government rejected the motion, but had indicated its willingness to grant new broadcast licences and re-examine long-delayed legislation, something that had been promised since 1992.

Chief Justice Chang said that applications should not be placed on file as had been the practice since the issue speaks to the fundamental right of residents in the community i.e. freedom of expression. According to him, there can be no excuses, particularly as it relates to the administration having to consult with the PNCR to move the legislation forward in the telecommunications sector.

Further, he said that what has happened to the people of Linden is discriminatory; noting that they have a constitutional right to access more than one television station. Thus far, only state TV NCN has been allowed to broadcast there.

The Chief Justice’s ruling came in response to a 2005 constitutional case brought by Linden residents, Norman Chapman and Mortimer Yearwood. They had been seeking to set up a radio station since 2001 and also signaled renewed interest ahead of the 2006 General Elections and had merely been told by the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) that their application would be placed on file as no agreement had yet been reached on broadcast legislation reform. Through attorney-at-law Llewellyn John they then approached the court against the Attorney General and the Guyana Elections Commission seeking several declarations.

Among these were that the failure of the respondents to have radio broadcasts from stations other than state radio is a negation of free and fair elections; the failure of the respondents to allow television channels other than state TV in Region 10 is a contravention of the applicants’ fundamental rights under Article 146 of the constitution. They also sought declarations that their rights under Article 149 in relation to accessing information and ideas and Article 40 in relation to equality of treatment and protection of the law had been infringed.

In clearing the way for Yearwood and Chapman’s licence application, Chief Justice Chang has also opened the door for CNS television station owner, CN Sharma and a host of others who are seeking to expand coverage to Linden and other parts. Sharma, though not an applicant in the court matter, had testified at the hearing regarding his efforts to transmit in Region 10 being stymied by the government.

John last evening referred to the ruling as momentous and as of particular importance to his clients and persons with ambitions to transit in Region Ten. He said the decision has determined a critical aspect of the constitution that speaks to free expression. “I take a strong view on this issue and I also intend to pursue this matter to the highest level and the final court because it is an important one”, John said in reference to an indication by the Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh of the state’s intention to appeal the ruling.

John said he will push the case all the way, adding that he was heartened by the position taken by the Acting Chief Justice in the case.

The move to the High Court by Chapman and Yearwood was initiated after they failed to secure a television licence to operate in Linden. They had outlined back in 2005 that the request was being made because of the need in the area for an extension in electronic media services. Yearwood was applying through his company, LIHCO (Lanmac Investment Holdings Co Ltd).

According to them, they were being denied a right to get information for the 2006 General and Regional Elections by radio and television stations from mediums other than those owned and controlled by the National Communication Network (NCN). Managing Director of the NMFU, Valmikki Singh, was on record in court documents as saying that the application by the two residents of Linden were placed on file and that it would come up for consideration at such a point as sufficient progress had been made with respect to the enactment of Broadcast legislation and in the area of the reform and modernization of the telecommunications sector. “To date, neither has been completed…it is necessary for technical reasons for these to be resolved before any new licences are granted”, Singh said.

The Attorney General advanced similar arguments in court, emphasizing though the need for a consensus between the government and the main opposition on the issue.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Stabroek News: December 12, 2008 in Business, Editorial

Here we go again! The latest word on the report regarding the alleged Fidelity/Customs fraud is that the investigation is now finished and that, as of last Friday, the report has been completed and awaiting the scrutiny of the President. At least this is what another section of the media, the Kaieteur News says it has been told by the Acting Auditor General.

Mind you, more than a week ago and having failed to secure an update on the status of the report from the Acting Auditor General, a Stabroek News reporter was told by another source in the Auditor General’s Office that the report had in fact been completed some time earlier and that it simply remained for it to be sent to the Presidential Secretariat.

Both accounts, of course, cannot be true and while we cannot say which of the two is accurate, the evidence clearly suggests that one of the two was misleading. It is of course by no means uncommon for the ‘management’ of official information on sensitive issues (and this particular issue is both sensitive and potentially damaging to the government and the GRA) to be badly bungled when it is felt that revelation of the truth can be embarrassing and both the Office of the Auditor General and the Government of Guyana need to understand that the conflicting signals that are being sent regarding the status of the report can have the effect of giving rise to public suspicion about the content of the report which, of course, would be a pity.

One can perhaps understand the jitteriness of the Office of the Auditor General in responding to media enquiries about the report. Those jitters are clearly the result of their acute awareness of a prevailing media culture that prohibits public comment on sensitive issues even by the most senior public officials, placing responsibility for both the manner in which that information is communicated to the public in the hands of either the Head of the Presidential Secretariat or the President himself.

It would of course be wrong to prejudge the outcome of the investigation even though it is entirely reasonable to assume that the allegations of a conspiracy to deny the public treasury millions of dollars did not simply materialize out of thin air. Something clearly happened and we need to be told the truth about what happened and who the players in the drama were.
With President Jagdeo now out of the country on official duties it is difficult to say when the report will be brought to his attention and when, indeed, if, its contents will be made public. Certainly, however, given the fact that in the immediate aftermath of the alleged Fidelity/Customs fraud being made public the President had openly frowned on what he described as “scams” and shakedowns” inside Customs, one would expect that he would wish to deal with the report expeditiously.

Of course, it will not be enough for the public to be told who is guilty and who is innocent since whether we like it or not Guyanese have long become cynical of such cut and dried pronouncements that never really get to the heart of the matter. As we have argued in a previous editorial, except the full details of the investigation – including what, if anything, went on between Fidelity and the Customs, who were the functionaries involved, what organizational procedures and rules (if any) were broken and the processes that led to a determination of guilt or otherwise – are made public, it really would be better to say nothing at all since nothing short of a level of disclosure that allows the public to make up its own mind will be enough to staunch the inevitable groundswell of cynicism; and as we have also argued previously the government would have only itself to blame if in the absence of full disclosure its credibility on the issue of its commitment to fighting corruption is further eroded.

The other issue that we have raised previously – and which we consider important to raise again – is whether the investigation and what we understand to be the completed report will take account of the President’s promise of a wider investigation into the operations of Customs, which will allow for a probe of aspects of the operations of the Guyana Revenue Authority or whether that promise will simply disperse like chaff in the wind.

We now know – at least we think we do – that the report is now complete and awaiting the attention of the President. In the circumstances it would do everyone, including the government, a power of good if the President’s pronouncement on the report and its attendant full disclosure can be made with maximum alacrity; before Christmas would not be a bad idea.

Whose resignation can we expect after the flood on Wednesday?

Whose resignation can we expect after the flood on Wednesday?
BY Staff
Published: December 12, 2008 in Letters

Dear Editor,

In any halfway decent country where the concept of accountability is understood the residents would have been greeted this Friday morning with announcements of the resignations of ministers who have any connection with the areas of drainage, flood control and sanitation.

Since the flood of 2005 we have been treated to announcements about how many billions of dollars have been spent to improve drainage on the coast. I’m not sure how many Georgetown and ECD residents could be impressed by these announcements after the flood waters rose and kept rising yesterday. As a resident of the areas affected over and over again I really am not interested in how much the government spent; I want to see the results from this expenditure. I do not want to hear that a Minister is keeping an eye on the situation; I, along with all the other flood sufferers can do that – indeed, yesterday we had to keep both eyes on the rising water. I certainly have no interest in the finger-pointing that continues on and on and on between the central government and the city council. The city council has no power and no resources. The related questions for me are, what does ministerial responsibility mean, and how is this responsibility effected?

Our government has quite correctly joined the platform of nations that seek to address the effects of climate change. Unless Guyana is only concerned with sloganeering and international grandstanding, we have to make some changes here at home. It is not serious to say that our defences can cope with 2 inches of rain but yesterday we had 4 inches of rain. This cannot comfort anyone who suffered damage yesterday.

I ask again, who is responsible? Whose resignation are we to expect? What is the plan beyond Minister Benn “keeping an eye” on the water?

Yours faithfully,
Karen de Souza
Red Thread

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Corbin should step down, McAllister says

Corbin should step down, McAllister says

Stabroek News, December 7, 2008 @ 5:08 am In News | 22 Comments

– sees Murray as transitional leader

Former PNCR Executive James McAllister says Robert Corbin should step down as party leader, accusing him of abusing his authority to drive out challengers while presiding over a decline in fortunes.
[1] Robert Corbin

Robert Corbin

McAllister, who was ousted as a Member of Parliament (MP) last Wednesday, believes that current PNCR Chairman Winston Murray should be appointed as a transitional leader to reunite the party and bring new and exciting faces into the fold as it rebuilds to contest the next general elections.

On Friday, former PNCR Vice-Chairman Vincent Alexander and members of a team that supported his candidacy for the PNCR leadership announced that they had withdrawn from the party, resigning from official appointments and allowing their membership to expire. Among their reasons for their decision was continued persecution against members who sought to challenge the leadership at last year’s congress and they cited treatment of McAllister who was suspended and recalled as an MP. Alexander also sounded a call for the party to look at fostering a new political culture in order to accommodate new ideas essential to its future.

In a telephone interview with Stabroek News, McAllister said there is “distrust and disenchantment” within the party as result of Corbin’s leadership. McAllister, who is currently overseas, said the party’s image has been severely damaged by Corbin’s disregard of party rules in pursuit of vendettas against him and others responsible for the aborted challenge for leadership. As a result, he said the party would have to convince the public that it can be trusted as it seeks to re-establish itself as a viable political force.

He predicted that the results would be “devastating” if Corbin attempted to run as presidential candidate or to anoint a surrogate at the next general elections, warning that the party could lose even more ground.

He has ruled out returning to the party under Corbin’s leadership.
McAllister blames Corbin for the party’s poor showing at the 2006 general elections, where it lost six seats. Prior to the elections, he explained, the party had seen polls that suggested that while the PPP/C would win the presidency at the general elections, it would not have gained a parliamentary majority, thereby necessitating a power-sharing arrangement among the parliamentary parties. The PNCR had been promoting power sharing as a governance model for Guyana. At the time, however, all the data available to the party showed that the results were contingent on Corbin not being the presidential candidate. In this regard, McAllister noted Corbin’s indication at the 2004 congress that the party leader need not necessarily be its presidential candidate and the later attempt to form a multi-party 1-Guyana platform. “It was not a genuine statement,” McAllister said, recalling that at the last moment Corbin named himself as the candidate. The result he said was that the PPP/C increased its margin of victory, while the party lost ground.

As a result, McAllister thinks a new culture needs to be inculcated among the political leadership. He noted that there is an attitude of unquestioning support for party leaders, with change only coming when they die or volunteer to give up power. “I expect a leader who recognises that he is detrimental to support would be willing to go his way,” he said. While saying it is a situation that obtains in both the small and large political parties, he noted that the difference is between parties that have no seats to lose and one that is watching its constituency whittle away.

To ensure that no one person is entrenched in office, McAllister said the Alexander campaign was in favour of setting term limits for the party leader. “So, I believe we should have a culture, where if a leader recognises that he is no longer beneficial to you, he will voluntarily step aside,” he added. Admitting that it is not a stance that the party has embraced in the past, he called it a point that the group hoped to reach.

But McAllister does not believe that the situation is irretrievable. He said he was offended by the notion that a party that commands over 40% of the electorate’s support could not find somebody to lead. “I want to reject the notion that the PNC cannot find somebody,” he said. “I see Winston Murray as the only person to act as a transitional leader who might be able to reunite the party and bring in new and exciting faces and to prepare the way for the 2011 elections.” He added that out of the process, a new leader could emerge.


McAllister faced eleven charges of misconduct for his activities during Team Alexander’s campaign as well as two secret charges for his conduct afterward. The party’s disciplinary committee found him guilty and recommended that his membership be suspended for one year and his recall as an MP.

He has charged that the committee was not comprised properly and included opponents at the congress. He said even before it became apparent that there would be a leadership challenge, Corbin had been trying to force the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) to put together a disciplinary committee. McAllister recalled that one of the discussions before the CEC centred on the criteria for prospective members of the disciplinary committee but Corbin was against it. “It sent a clear signal that he had no interest in a process that was fair and balanced,” he said. “Instead it is a political tool used against opponents and to keep the faint at heart in check.”

McAllister, however, was also surprised that Corbin has been allowed pursue what he maintains is still a vendetta against him and other persons who had a different view of the needs of the party. “I am surprised that some members of the committee allowed themselves to be used in this way.”

He described the charges against him as “utterly false” and refused to participate in what he deemed a charade. Although he received no documentation relating to the secret charges against him, he was informed that it was alleged that following last year’s congress he left the country without informing the party and that he also failed to account for party property. In response to the former claim, he said he has registered mail to prove that he alerted the party about his decision. He said he also sent e-mails and he remained in contact with the party whip.

On the other charge, he explained that after last year’s congress he received a letter from the party’s General Secretary informing him to hand over the PNCR’s Region 3 chairmanship. McAllister explained that the party’s constitution is clear that the CEC can only remove regional officials upon an investigation and he maintained that his removal was unlawful and ignored the correspondence. “If the CEC asked me for an audit of the things under my control – fine; but the minute that they broke into my office and into the cupboards, it was a coup d’état,” he said. McAllister said all the locks were changed.

He also expected to be recalled from the National Assembly but was surprised that it did not happen a year ago. McAllister served as an MP since 2001. He described the recall law as draconian and undemocratic, saying that it has undermined the democratic gains made in the parliament. He said flawed disciplinary proceedings were used as the basis for his recall, illustrating the legislation’s potential for political abuse. What is more, he said the PNCR’s support for the legislation has undermined its commitment to democratic principles and usurped any moral authority it had to question the PPP/C’s undermining of democracy.


McAllister says he is not angry about the situation, but he is extremely disappointed. He said that he joined the party in his early teens and worked for twenty years for the party. “There wasn’t a day that I got up that I didn’t have something to do concerning the party, therefore this situation is a tremendous disappointment,” he said. He was disappointed with members of the party whom he believed were capable of reining in Corbin’s excesses, saying that their decision to turn a blind eye to his actions would always be questioned.

Nevertheless, he said that he was prepared to deal with the fall out of the campaign. He did regret that the team did not start its operations sooner, pointing out that the congress was moved to an earlier date to head off the challenge. He said he did not regret the decision to go public with the campaign either, since any modern and democratic political party must be willing to allow its members to speak publicly about their positions.

He added that he always thought the party could have set the example for political parties in how it operated and thereby win the confidence of the people. “I always believed that we had the capacity, inclination and vision to transform the PNCR into a party − notwithstanding the allegations of its past actions − that was modern and transparent and could have won the trust of all Guyanese.”

Alexander and members of his team have already ruled out the establishment of a new political party and so too has McAllister, who says his experience has not affected his resolve to always stand by his principles in his future involvement in politics and the development of Guyana.

Article printed from Stabroek News:

URL to article:

Friday, December 5, 2008

The results of Venezuela’s local elections

The results of Venezuela’s local elections
Stabroek News. December 5, 2008 @ 5:01 am In Editorial

It is being said that the results of Venezuela’s local elections of November 23 have redrawn the political map of that country.

A year ago, President Hugo Chávez suffered a humiliating defeat in a national referendum on constitutional reform, which would have effectively allowed him to become president-for-life. At that time, it was his first defeat in eleven national polls in nine years and it signalled a significant change in the Venezuelan political landscape.

Now, the multi-party opposition has won five of the twenty-two state governorships up for grabs – the Federal District of Caracas, Carabobo, Miranda, Táchira and Zulia. These administrative areas contain almost half of Venezuela’s population and are responsible for the greater share of the country’s GDP. Most of the petroleum industry is concentrated in Zulia, Miranda is the most populous state in the country and Caracas is the seat of the federal government. In addition, the opposition won the mayoralties of the two largest cities, Caracas and Maracaibo, plus four of the five municipalities comprising the Caracas metropolitan area.

The five governorships and the effective capture of the capital city represent for the opposition, for the first time since Mr Chávez came to power by a landslide in 1999, a major breakthrough, in that the heavily populated coastal states of Caracas, Miranda and Zulia constitute the occupation of a strategic political space that has been critical to winning Venezuelan elections in the past.

Thus even though, as Mr Chávez has been quick to point out, his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won the majority of the popular vote and the lion’s share of the governorships, mayoralties and other municipal posts contested, the results also represent both a quantitative and qualitative advance for the opposition.

The opposition is claiming, with some justification, that the Venezuelan political landscape is now more plural, with an opposition presence in areas that were until recently considered chavista bastions. Also, the combined opposition increased its share of the popular vote since the last presidential election, polling 5,041,717, up 53.9% from the 3,274,841 won in 2004, to win approximately 45% of the votes cast.

Undeterred, Mr Chávez and his supporters are celebrating an overall victory. Indeed, it should be noted that, according to some polls, the President still enjoys a near 60% approval rating, in spite of rising crime rates, the rising cost of living and rising fears of a deep economic downturn in the face of impending global recession and the steep drop in oil prices. Some claim however that the figure is closer to 50% and likely to fall if Venezuela’s social and economic woes worsen.

The opposition is therefore treating the results as a triumph of sorts, pointing out that the higher than normal voter turnout of 65%, especially in the face of official intimidation and dirty tricks, and the enthusiastic and active participation of young people demonstrate that democracy is alive and well in Venezuela. All this is proof, they assert, that a significant section of the population wants and deserves a democratic alternative to President Chávez’s ‘Bolivarian’ socialist vision for the country.

For the opposition, the local elections were effectively a plebiscite on Mr Chávez’s rule and they see inroads being made.

Mr Chávez has reiterated his intention to press ahead with constitutional reform, claiming that his overall victory means that Venezuelans want him to press ahead with his ‘revolution.’

Thus, on November 30, Mr Chávez asked for the constitutional procedures to be initiated for a referendum to be held on extending the term of office of the President. If approved, this would allow him to seek indefinite re-election after his term ends in 2012. Typically, with not a hint of immodesty, the 54 year-old leader declaimed, “I am ready, and if I am healthy, God willing, I will be with you until 2019, until 2021.”

What all this means is that Venezuelans could well be going to the polls yet again, probably in February 2009. Whether they will succumb to voter fatigue or not will depend on the ability of the opposition to keep their supporters mobilized and to build on the momentum gained over last year’s referendum and last month’s elections. Their elected representatives will have to work all the harder to consolidate and build their political capital to erode that of President Chávez, who of course has all the resources of the state at his disposal, in order to prove that they can be a viable alternative.

One thing is certain: Venezuelans’ commitment to forging a mature and truly representative democracy will continue to be tested.

Article printed from Stabroek News:

URL to article: