Sunday, December 6, 2009

David Clarke

David Clarke

Posted By Stabroek staff On December 6, 2009 @ 5:01 am In Editorial | 6 Comments

“…when you finish writing your memoir I would like to read it,” said US Judge Raymond Dearie to David Clarke prior to sentencing him. Well wouldn’t we all. However, no doubt we need not hold our collective breaths; there will be no reminiscences emanating from that quarter any time soon – at least not on any of the subjects in which most of the citizens of the Co-operative Republic have an interest. Mr Clarke’s testimony, the local wags presume, might be needed again by the federal authorities, in which case discretion will be forced upon him. In any case, he may also have personal safety issues to consider.

Judge Dearie appears to have been impressed by the defendant – one presumes because he did not fit the profile of the average drug trafficker who normally passes through his courtroom. “This is a remarkable case,” he observed, apparently repeating at other points that it was one of the more interesting ones which had come before him. While it was clearly a remarkable case for the judge, it was even more so for Guyanese, who knew – and still know – hardly anything about either the former major or his trafficking activities. Neither the GDF nor the Government of Guyana saw fit to even inform them that he had been indicted by the United States in 2006, and that he had voluntarily turned himself in; the information that he was incarcerated in the US on drug charges was revealed much later by this newspaper.

It was that revelation which miraculously unsealed the President’s lips, since he then informed the press that when Mr Clarke had been in charge of Operation Tourniquet in Buxton during the notorious years of 2002-03, the then captain had been in league with the criminals. “… the information on Clarke came from people whom I know in Buxton,” he said, “And I would never ever, ever betray their confidence because they told me this in confidence.” It might be added that Mr Roger Khan had made a similar accusation, but against this has to be juxtaposed the fact that the US considered that he and the former army officer were co-conspirators in the export of drugs. This appeared to receive confirmation when Mr Simels (Mr Khan’s former attorney) identified Mr Clarke as the prime candidate for ‘neutralization’ because he was a critical witness in the case against his client.

Whatever he was doing when based in Buxton, Mr Clarke, who reiterated his apologies to his family and the American people when he spoke in court, directed not a word of contrition towards his homeland and his Guyanese compatriots, whose trust he had betrayed and who had provided the opportunities for him to rise – opportunities, it must be said, which he had squandered.

Mr Clarke is now free because of time served, and what is more surprising, he is not to be deported. For the gossips in this country that means that he was very helpful to the prosecution, and/or as suggested above, that his evidence might be required in other cases. And according to the federal prosecutor Ms Shannon Jones, Mr Clarke’s brother and a dozen others were sheltering in Guyana out of reach of the US authorities. If the President signs the Fugitive Offenders (Amendment) Bill into law, then that could allow the institution of extradition proceedings potentially with results more palatable to American justice than what obtains at present. We can only wait and see whether the long arm of US law will be in fact be able to reach directly into Guyana at last.

But we come to a more fundamental point, and that is that the highest profile Guyanese criminals risk facing justice in the United States, but not in Guyana. The government can talk blue cheese about its commitment to fighting narcotics trafficking, and it can churn out as many drug master plans as it pleases, but in the end it has produced zilch in terms of results. The only thing our local drug barons have to fear is that they will end up in a federal courtroom, because the probability that they will ever have to defend themselves in the High Court on Avenue of the Republic is so low as to be almost non-existent. And the worst of it is the government seems totally unconcerned about this.

And there is the extraordinary silence on the part of the administration about what has emerged from these New York trials in general, and from this last one in particular. Apart from the President’s brief interlude of garrulousness occasioned by the revelation from Stabroek News that Mr Clarke was being held in the United States, the authorities here have been silent on the case. What was so secret about the army officer’s arrest that the citizenry could not be told? And why were proceedings not instituted against him here? Mr Jagdeo’s remarks about protecting his Buxton sources (it must have come as a surprise in many quarters that he personally knows people in Buxton who would give him sensitive information of that kind), surely makes no sense. Ways could have been found to pursue investigations without the source of the information ever being disclosed.

If on the basis of intelligence received law enforcement cannot build a case that someone is in league with criminals then something is really wrong. As it was, Mr Clarke was allowed to remain in the army, although the President did block his promotion and recalled him in the middle of a training stint in the US, of all places. The fact that he was put on trial in the United States, Mr Jagdeo thought, vindicated his actions re the recall, etc. Well, not quite. With all that information to which the President was privy and which the joint services could have followed up, he still ended up being held on an American indictment and not on a Guyanese warrant. This seems to be an instance of total incompetence on the part of the authorities; other than that, they open themselves to the accusation that they did not want to arrest him for some reason. And if they didn’t want to pursue a case against him, then why not? Clearly there is a lot more yet to be uncovered in this matter.

Last week Parliament passed the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, which makes it easier for Guyana to seek help from Commonwealth countries or other countries with which Guyana has a treaty concerning such assistance. As PNCR MP Debra Backer commented, this was the second time round for this bill, which had been passed unanimously by the House in March 2006, but which had not received presidential assent.

So now three-and-a-half years later, it has made its second entrance, and presumably the President has every intention of signing it this time, although he never explained why he didn’t sign it on the first occasion. While as Ms Backer said, it will enable the government to seek information on the drug cases against Roger Khan, David Clarke and others, whether it actually acts is another matter entirely. As in the case of Mr Clarke’s memoir, no one should hold their breath.
6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "David Clarke"

#1 Comment By La Dorada On December 6, 2009 @ 6:38 am

Prez didn’t sign the Bill. Hmmm, must be just one of those things….like the marriage certificate.

#2 Comment By MXQBH On December 6, 2009 @ 7:47 am

Blue cheese! Very bad metaphor, ed-op writer. I can think of some more appropriate metaphors, non even vaguely edible, but not blue cheese. Blue cheese is considered a delightful delicacy among cheeese aficionados.

#3 Comment By Raj On December 6, 2009 @ 9:41 am

SN go after this story and expose it for all its worth. A key piece of the government role is when Khan told Simels to nutralize Clarke but don’t kill his mother because the government will be upset. Why would Khan say that if the government is not complicit in Khan/Clarke association or at least know something.

#4 Comment By Carl On December 6, 2009 @ 11:51 am

Lest it seems that David Clarke or Roger Khan voluntarily chose to apologize only to Americans for their crimes, I’d like to advise readers that an apology to the U.S. is required as part of a plea deal.

Besides, no criminal would apologize for crimes committed in a jurisdiction in which he/she is yet to be charged. After all, almost everyone always claims to be innocent after being charged with a crime. And neither Clarke nor Khan is ready to offer apologies that could be immediately construed as guilt.

#5 Comment By Blackrattlesnake On December 6, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

La Dorada…..the Prez always on the move…..he’s jetsetter with plenty frequent flyer miles…..Guyana is where he changes his suitcases and clothes……no time for trivial things like signing stuff here……as a ‘finance’ man…..his pens are only for signing ‘money’ matters.

#6 Comment By Blackrattlesnake On December 6, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

MXQBH….them really meant to use the expression…’talk til them blue in the face’…..proof-reader lapse…..

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Finance Minister seeking another US$25M from nation's coffers

Kaieteur News news item, Friday 04 December 2009 - "Finance Minister seeking another US$25M from nation's coffers …to extend fence, build roads, fuel for joint operations, etc" -

By Gary Eleazar

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, by way of two supplementary papers tabled in the National Assembly, is seeking another $4,677,208,405 (the equivalent of US$25M) from the nation’s coffers.
Dr Singh yesterday tabled the documents asking that it be debated at the next sitting of the House.
According to financial paper three with the schedule of supplementary provision on the current and capital estimates totaling $2.2B, some $28M was allocated in the voted provision in this year’s budget, and now the Guyana Defence Force is gearing to receive another $22M for the extension of a fence at Camp Groomes on the Soesdyke Linden Highway.
The GDF is also slated for an additional $135M under ‘Legend’ fuel and lubricants and it is explained that the money is required to meet additional expenditure.
The Defence Force will also be receiving under the description “other” an additional $273.8M
And this too is listed to meet expenditure for joint operations.
Added to the $14.5M that was given to Office of the President for the purchase of equipment another $5.6M is being requested.
The Public Works Ministry is also slated to benefit from some $1.2B in addition to the $67M it had already received.
Office of the President-Presidential Advisory is in line for a generous boost of $50M in addition to its original allocation of 413.6M.
The document that was tabled by Dr Singh stated that the money is to meet expenditure in relation to the Office of Climate Change and the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
The Agriculture sector is also slated for just under half off a billion dollars with $10M of that identified for hinterland communities affected by El Nino.
Included too in that sum is the $400M that will be going to the Guyana Rice Development Board which was announced earlier this year by head of State Bharrat Jagdeo to assist rice farmers.
Another $40M will be shared between the National Agriculture Research Institute and the New Guyana Marketing Corporation.
On the supplementary provision of the capital estimates on financial paper four, the Guyana Sugar Corporation will be the beneficiaries of another $1.4B in addition to the $1.8B for the construction of the packaging plant at Enmore.
The two papers make their way to the House shortly after the National Assembly approved more than $2B in addition to what was voted for in the 2009 Budget.
The Minister in August successfully tabled the First Schedule of Supplementary Provision on the current and Capital Estimates totaling $247.4 million for the period from July 16 to December 31 this year.
The monies requested at that time for current estimates included funds for the Amerindian Affairs Ministry for items such as rental of buildings, print and non print materials, fuel and lubricants, vehicles spares and services, other transport travel and postage, electricity charges, training (including Scholarships) and another item line named ‘other’.
As it relates to the rental of buildings, no money was voted for in the budget and the Finance Minister had sought some $2.5M on their behalf.
For the Ministry of Health, in addition to the $7.3M voted for the maintenance of buildings, an additional $30M was received and it is said to be used for the refurbishing of offices, electrical installation and plumbing to existing buildings to house staff of the Ministry of Health that formerly occupied the building that was destroyed by fire.
Under the Agency, Guyana Defence Force Defence Headquarters, below the description of ‘other’ an initial $350,000 was voted and another $115M was sought to meet expenditure for joint operations.
Under capital estimates, a total of $93.9M was allocated to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Amerindian Affairs and Education.
There was also the second supplementary provision paper for the period ending yesterday for $2.5B.
Out of that the Finance Ministry secured some $473M for the Guyana Sugar Corporation.
That was in addition to the more than $1.8B that was already been provided to GuySuCo for additional inflows.
The Ministry of Agriculture received $125M which went to hydrometeorology and provided for additional inflows.
The Ministry of Public Works and Communication benefited from more than $700M for various projects that target sea defences, roads and government buildings.
The Ministry of Education under that second supplementary paper received an additional $573M in addition to the $497.7M it had already received for the BEAMS programme.
The Ministry of Housing at that time was provided with $400M as was expected, given that President Jagdeo had earlier in the year announced the Low Cost Housing programme revolving fund and the money has been identified for this purpose.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crime is the main deterrent to investment in Guyana - AFC

Kaieteur News news item, Tuesday 01 December 2009 - "Crime is the main deterrent to investment in Guyana - AFC" -

Opposition parliamentary party, the Alliance For Change (AFC) is insisting that crime is the main deterrent to investments in Guyana.
This is despite claims otherwise by the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Donald Ramotar, has described the AFC’s negative position on investors coming into Guyana as “absolute nonsense.”
Ramotar opined that even though there should be more investors entering Guyana, the absence of large scale investors “has to do with infrastructure”.
This was a response to Chief Executive Officer of the AFC, Peter Ramsaroop, who had said that the current crime situation and general absence of rule of law are warding off any massive investments in the agriculture sector.
Yesterday, the AFC maintained its position. The party said it sees the Diaspora as a key resource for skills, ideas and investments for the development of Guyana.
“The Diaspora is most influenced by crimes. Importantly also, the Diaspora is influenced by the fact that too many crimes/murders are never solved and too few criminals are convicted,” the AFC stated.
These important and valuable Guyanese will never return home as long as there is no credibility in the police, the AFC added.
Crimes also retard business formation, the party said, while it was noted that drug dealers can launder funds while legitimate businesses must borrow from the commercial banks at 15% interest rate.
“Legitimate business folks have also been threatened and killed by the drug pushers,” the AFC claimed.
Crime, the party stated, also destroys and corrupts key institutions that are needed for development; such as the legal institutions.
“Investments are retarded because of the lack of strong laws and the enforcement of these laws. Take for instance the infringement of copyright in Guyana. It has killed the creative and cultural industries. Why write a poem, a song or story when others will abuse them?”
The party said serious crimes also force our people to migrate.
“Many of these Guyanese are educated, technically skilled, investors and entrepreneurs. Therefore, crimes lead to shortage of investors/risk-takers and depletes our human capital,” the AFC stated.
The AFC is of the view that the following are the key binding constraints that impede investments in Guyana: (i) Lack of infrastructure (energy and other infrastructure like farm to market roads). (ii) Lack of reasonable financing. (iii) Crime and the lack of credibility within the police force. (iv) A severe shortage of human capital. (v) Lack of suitable institutions/laws (and the enforcement of these laws) that can stimulate the creative and cultural industries. (vi) A limited role and focus on research and development.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Corrupt politicians and functionaries of the state

Corrupt politicians and functionaries of the state

Posted By Stabroek staff On November 27, 2009 @ 5:06 am In Business | No Comments

It is pretty clear from Transparency Internation-al’s 2009 Global Report on Corruption that the taking of bribes and kickbacks by politicians in developing countries is a well-established and institutionalized practice. In fact, even allowing for the kind of inexactitude that understandably derives from estimates, the figure of between US$20 million and US$40 million is staggering. These sums, the TI report says, must be shared by public officials, expeditors of one sort or another, public officers of limited means who are in fact that people that administer those state services for which people are prepared to pay.

So endemic has corruption become in some countries – frequently, the poorer they are the more corrupt their politicians and public officials tend to be – that some aspiring politicians have actually been known to make significant “investments” in finding themselves in positions of influence. Politicians’ substantive pay is not usually anything to shout about. The “bonus,” the kickback worth several times the salaries of politician lies in the fact that their position of influence allows for the selling of state services at bumper prices. The significance of this, of course, is that it raises serious questions about the motives of so many politicians who use the hustings to proffer altruistic motives for seeking election when in fact their only real motive is to plunder the state.

Over time we in Guyana have come to know of several notorious cases of corrupt politicians in other countries who fabulously enriched themselves at the expense of the state – Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire come readily to mind. Both are said to have plundered their countries mostly by simply possessing state assets and the former, having sufficiently enriched, then assumed the title Emperor Bokassa 1.

In our part of the world we hear rather less of the exploits of corrupt politicians though in some cases patterns of conspicuous consumption and ‘good living’ coincide with entry into politics to provide a dead giveaway. Most of the corruption-related scandals are associated with relationships between public servants and businessmen, the former driven by considerations of both greed and poor pay and the latter by a preparedness to pay well mostly for the privilege of acquiring official favours and circumventing their obligations – mostly financial ones to the state.

An interesting feature of the 2009 TI Corruption Report is the extent to which it lays the blame at the door of the international business community for the scale of corruption in poor countries. Some businesses, it seems, place a high value on corrupting officers of the state and while their respective annual reports and accounts are unlikely to show it, there are numerous cases in which corrupt public servants are on the permanent payrolls of people in the various business communities. Here too, suspicions of corruption invariably envelop public servants whose life styles cannot be sustained on their public service salaries.

Much of this, of course, is familiar to Guyana. Corruption – mostly transactions involving state functionaries and businessmen – has become so commonplace that discussions on the issue tend to dwell on issues of scale rather than whether or not the practice actually exists. Those commentators with an interest in defending the status quo would of course contend that the scale of corrupt practices is rather less than is said to be the case though when one thinks of the opportunities for corrupt practices across the spectrum of state resources and services which are in demand, we can do more than speculate as to the real scale of corruption.

Then there is of course the issue of whether or not our state bureaucracies are not themselves tailor-made for corruption. One can find numerous examples of basic services – licenses, permits, certificates etc, the preparation of which is preceded by fairly routine procedures but the acquisition of which is enmeshed in thickets of bureaucracy that have the effect of inflating the value of these services and attaching bribes and kickbacks to their acquisition. Oddly enough, despite the fact that the complexity of these systems is often linked to corrupt practices, little if any effort is made to render them less complex. Who among us is not familiar with those state agencies that attract long queues, large crowds, endless delays and needless paperwork, all of which, deliberately or otherwise, are tailor-made for corrupt practices.

Interestingly, states on the whole have little appetite for the scandal associated with revelations of corruption, particularly when high officials including politicians are implicated. If finger pointing and suspicion often tends to go in the direction of persons in authority the blanket of guilt all to frequently descends on lesser functionaries who cost the political administration little or not political capital. This too is an issue with which we in Guyana are familiar. Considerations of mistrust hopelessly compromise the credibility of official investigations while suspicions about the veracity of corruption investigations are even more deeply entrenched by the frequent exoneration of those who, ironically, are best-positioned to become involved in corrupt practices.

All of this, of course, amounts to the further weakening of both the economic resilience and moral outlook of countries most prone to corruption. Not only are the state coffers plundered and national resources sold off but – particularly for ordinary people – the cost of living is literally and sometimes significantly inflated by a sudden and unplanned necessity to pay bribes for services provided by the state. From the standpoint of what is perhaps best described as national moral fibre there has long occurred a coming to terms with the reality of bribery and corruption, the acceptance of the practice of kickbacks and backhanders as a norm rather than an aberration. That, perhaps, is the most disturbing thing of all.

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“Small and medium enterprises: challenges in combating corruption

“Small and medium enterprises: challenges in combating corruption

Posted By Stabroek staff On November 27, 2009 @ 5:02 am In Business | No Comments

By Elaine Burns

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are of huge importance to the global economy, representing over 95 per cent of businesses worldwide and even more than 99 per cent of the business sector in countries such as Belgium, Greece, Italy and South Korea. Operating, as many do, in difficult developing markets and supporting major industries as crucial links in their supply chains, SMEs are vulnerable to the threat of corruption. As a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)/World Bank survey has revealed, more than 70 per cent of SMEs perceive corruption as an impediment to their business, compared to around 60 per cent of large companies.

What can an SME do to avoid bribery when a customs official demands a bribe in order to allow the import of a perishable product? Where can a supplier get help when the buyer for a major retailer expects ‘encouragement’ when awarding contracts? Assisting SMEs to resist corruption is an essential component of any comprehensive anti-corruption initiative and can prevent them from becoming the weakest link.

SMEs can be as small as a sole trader or a family business of twenty, but they can also reach the size of a company with several hundred employees. Each of these categories of SME, however, whatever its size or structure, faces four main challenges, albeit to varying extents.

* It is possible that the culture of bribery may be so much a part of the business scene that SMEs are under pressure to submit or fail. In some contexts bribery may be seen as just another business device, a necessary short cut that would be an overwhelming challenge to the company to counter. A business run on bribery is not only acting illegally, however, but also exposing itself to penalties. Such vulnerabilities can further increase the pressure on SMEs to succumb to the demands of corruption.

* SMEs may often not recognise or understand the complexities or grey areas of corruption. There may be uncertainty as to when a gift or entertainment is intended as inducement; when a donation to a political party or charity might be used as a bribe; and what the consequences of undetected conflicts of interest could be. An OECD analysis of some major export countries, for example, reports that even when SMEs represented the majority of exporting businesses they still tended to be poorly informed about anti-bribery laws.
* Limited resources are also a major challenge. The amount of people, time and money needed to create anti-bribery programmes will generally be more restricted than in larger organisations, but there is already considerable pressure on many SMEs just to make enough profit to survive, let alone find additional resources to resist corruption.

* SMEs have little support when dealing with extortion – demands for money, goods or services – and as a result they are often unable to offer much resistance. While there may be good intentions and good practice among many SMEs, there are few networks of support for such organisations and little consistency in anti-bribery measures.

In order to meet the specific challenges above, SMEs need to be made aware of the clear margins of corruption, be provided with knowledge on how to resist it and be supported in doing so. As an incentive to resist bribery, businesses need to understand the damage that it causes – such as loss of control and reputation and potential penalties and convictions – as well as recognise that the money paid in bribes has a direct impact on the economic availability of companies, by eating away at the bottom line. Furthermore, as the wider business environment becomes more aware of the risks involved in corruption, SMEs need to catch up: a reputation for integrity and anti-bribery activism is becoming increasingly important in making companies attractive to financial institutions and in the selection processes for becoming part of supply chains for larger companies.

As such, it is essential that SMEs begin tackling the issue of corruption in a concerted and coordinated fashion. In order to do this, they will need support from governments, primarily through the committed enforcement of anti-bribery legislation, and also from government procurement agencies, which can establish integrity pacts for bidders and contractors as agreements on transparency and accountability prior to entering into contracts with SMEs. Incentives from banks, such as a favourable interest rate for businesses that have implemented anti-bribery plans, could also encourage SMEs to invest in anti-corruption initiatives. Importantly, assistance from large companies, which can use their experience in supporting their suppliers through training and resources, would help SMEs prepare for bribery situations.

There is also assistance being offered by civil society. Transparency International has recently developed a tool for use by SMEs that sets out clear guidance and gives practical examples of the issues involved and how to set up an anti-bribery programme.

Bribery can also be resisted in imaginative, cost-effective ways. In some countries, SMEs have formed cooperatives in order to fight corruption through mutual support and by developing their own collective anti-corruption plans. When one voice may be insubstantial or ineffective, many are strong. In another initiative, sponsored by the Danish International Development Agency through the Confederation of Tanzanian Industries, SMEs in Tanzania fought back against fraudulent tax demands by referring them to a dedicated phone number manned by a small staff who deluged callers with questions concerning the demands, requiring names, reference numbers, department heads and telephone numbers, until the scam eventually stopped, drowned out by the detai1. With all this activity, the OECD statement in its Anti-Bribery Convention, that ‘corruption is no longer business as usual’, is starting to become more convincing, even in the complex environment in which SMEs work.?

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Corruption can be reduced by reducing closed-door approvals for state services – GCCI President

Corruption can be reduced by reducing closed-door approvals for state services – GCCI President

Posted By Stabroek staff On November 27, 2009 @ 5:08 am In Business | No Comments

- says procedures must be driven by transparency
— will engage Customs on any chamber member corruption-related concern
Simplification and transparency of systems and procedures within state agencies that provide important services can go a far way towards reducing the level of corruption in the relationships between those state agencies and the people seeking their services. “We need to make changes to complex systems. We need to make them simpler, more transparent, more accessible, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Chandradat Chintamani.

The GCCI President was at the time providing an invited comment to a question raised by this newspaper regarding the assertion in the recently published 2009 Transparency International Global Corruption Report regarding the collection of billions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks by politicians and public servants from businessmen seeking various services from the state.
Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Chandradat Chintamani [1]

Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Chandradat Chintamani

And according to Chintamani, state systems and procedures that are particularly vulnerable to corrupt practices must rely to a greater extent on technology that minimizes human intervention. “We need to enhance the use of technology. We need to reduce our dependence on sustained involvement and intervention by people. The truth of the matter that where there is involvement by people in these processes we become vulnerable to corrupt practices,” Chintamani said.

The GCCI President told Stabroek Business that he believed his views on the increased application of technology in state-run service systems was particularly relevant tothe Customs and Trade Administration which is widely believed to be particularly vulnerable to corrupt practices involving Customs officials and businessmen.

“I have said before that as far as Customs is concerned we should consider finding an area on each wharf where surveillance systems can be set up to monitor the processing of containers of cargo,” Chintamani said. “What this does is to create a system that allows for monitoring from an office. The process allows you to see what is inside the container from where you are so that you are in a position to provide quicker clearance. I believe that what this does is to lay the system open, to lay it bare. The room for corruption is created when you have two or three persons sitting behind closed doors making decisions about the clearance of goods.”

Meanwhile, Chintamani told Stabroek Business that he believed the allusion in the Transparency International Report to the complicity of businessmen in the bribes and kickbacks applied to some transactions here in Guyana. “Some of us in the private sector who may have to pay a liability of $2 million are prepared to pay bribes to the level of maybe $1.5 million. The preferable thing to do of course is to let that $2 million go to the state so that we can see that money utilized to the benefit of the country. Of course there is another side to this. There are some people who might question the way in which the money is used by the state. In such cases they would pay that bribe and simply close the door or the transaction.”

And while the GCCI President says he believes that there are still loopholes that can be closed in order to reduce the scale of corruption, he feels nonetheless, that some systems have been put in place within the Customs and Trade Administration “and within the wider GRA” to reduce the level of corrupt practices. “The process has improved tremendously. I can say this both as President of the Chamber and as a businessman. Within a few days of a container arriving it is processed and in my warehouse. A number of other members of the Chamber have also reported improvements in the quality of service that they receive from Customs.”

Meanwhile, Chintamani told Stabroek Business that he believed the issue of the payment of bribes and kickbacks for services provided by state agencies was “a significant challenge but one which we have to confront.” The Chamber President told Stabroek Business that the frequent pronouncements that have been made by President Bharrat Jagdeo on his administration’s posture towards corruption did not appear to be attended by speedy action. “I happen to believe that the President is sincere in his attitude to corruption. The problem is that it some times does not appear that the people whose job it is to close the door on corruption are acting in accordance with the wishes of the President,” he added.

Chintamani said he is prepared to approach the Guyana Revenue Authority on any corruption-related or other matter raised with the Chamber. “I am willing to take these issues up with the Customs. At the same time, however, I need to be careful that when I approach the head of the GRA he does not pull a file on the person who I am purporting to represent and point to irregularities in that person’s dealings with Customs.”

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Economy firewall malfunctions

Economy firewall malfunctions

Posted By Christopher Ram On November 29, 2009 @ 5:11 am In Features, Sunday | 1 Comment
Business Page

Business Page is dedicated to providing objective information and opinion on issues of interest to the business community and the public at large. The articles in Business Page are prepared and contributed by Christopher Ram who is the Managing Partner of Ram & McRae, Chartered Accountants, Professional Service Firm. This and previous columns can be found at [1]
Part 2


During the past week, I received the Bank of Guyana (BOG) Report for the first half of 2009 which the bank is required under the law to submit to the Minister of Finance. As usual the report is comprehensive, contains valuable economic data, is very professionally written and therefore considered generally quite reliable. I will take into account the contents of that report as I continue my review of the 2009 mid-year report of the Minister of Finance, but before doing so, let me draw attention to certain matters touched on last week that are also addressed in the BOG report.
Christopher Ram [2]

Christopher Ram

The first and perhaps the most important relates to performance of the economy in the first six months of the year. The Minister of Finance reported in unambiguous terms that the economy declined in 2009 by 1.4%, supporting this in Appendix A1 of his report, sourced to the Bureau of Statistics. The Bank of Guyana on the other hand, reports, both in narrative form and in a graph, a positive growth of an identical percentage and projects that the economy will “continue to grow during the second half of the year.”

There is an obvious conflict between the numbers and it is disappointing that the Minister of Finance did not detect the discrepancy on such a fundamental matter, given that the BOG’s half-year report is submitted to him. This failure suggests either gross carelessness, or, heaven forbid, that the Minister did not read the BOG report, both of which would be sad indeed. The country would no doubt expect a clarification from one or both of the parties responsible for these reports.

Another issue is the different approaches to inflation. While the BOG uses the identical percentage of 1.3% reported by the Minister of Finance, its report describes the inflation number specifically as the Georgetown Urban Consumer Price Index which is obviously different from a national inflation rate. The Minister of Finance on the other hand, was not as specific and importantly, gave only an estimate of inflation, inevitably inviting speculation about the margin of error.

In last week’s column, there was a comment that sugar was becoming the scapegoat for the poor performance of the economy with its field workers being increasingly blamed not only for the industry’s, but also the country’s economic woes. The BOG report offers some perspective. While the number of work stoppages increased by 22.9% to 102 from 83 in the corresponding period last year, the number of man days lost was only 18,785 compared with 33,389 in half-year 2008, a 44% drop in production days lost.

The BOG also informs us that exports to the European Union accounted for 97.5% of Guysuco’s exports, up from 91.7% in 2008. For all the noise that the President made about the EPA and its adverse effects on sugar prices, our dependence on the EU market in 2009 was practically total, despite the corporation’s attempt at market diversification. It would seem unfair to place that at the feet of the field workers.


When the 2009 National Budget was presented earlier this year it was followed by the usual chorus of the biggest budget ever, no consideration given to the absorptive capacity of the economy. Business Page of November 16 last year in commenting on the expenditure side of the 2008 mid-year report, noted that it was “a matter of speculation why only 38% of the full year budget has been expended on what a table in the report described as key sectors.” That column went on to draw attention to the Health, Infrastructure and Agriculture sectors where only 41%, 27% and 33% respectively, had been spent in the first half of the year and asked whether the country was “going to see a mad and irresponsible rush to spend during the second half of the year, simply because the money has been allocated.” That indeed is what appears to have taken place in 2008.

Mid-year expenditure of Key Sectors – G$ million

20091129table [3]

Source: Mid Year Report 2009
Note: H1 refers to the first six months.

As the table above shows, we are faced with a very similar situation in 2009, even as the number of sectors identified as “key” is reduced from nine in 2008 to five in 2009. Those excluded this year are Culture, Office of the President, Public Service Ministry and Social Welfare for which billions were allocated in the 2009 Budget. The Minister’s report did not indicate why he considered that these were no longer “key” and his discussion was therefore more than limited in this regard. In 2008 the expenditure on the Minister’s key sectors in 2008 accounted for 37% of the full-year budget allocation, compared with 34.6% this year. Yet, the Minister did not think it necessary to make any significant adjustment to the full-year projections, in fact marginally increasing the total non-interest budget expenses for the full year. If technical and administrative skills are regarded as critical to delivering on the 2009 Budget programmes, it is difficult to see how those programmes could be achieved given that there is no greater implementation capacity in the second half 2009 than in the first half.

Many of the numbers speak for themselves but with all the contracts being awarded, the almost daily appearances in the press of some of the ministers and the extent to which we have committed the country to borrowings, it is difficult to understand the low spending on these sectors, particularly given that several line items are of a fixed and constant nature. To put the figures in context, it means that Agriculture would have to spend in the current half of 2009 four dollars for every dollar spent in the first half. The same applies to Infrastructure, while for Education and Housing and Water it is a more modest $1.5 for every dollar.

The drug bonanza

Health is interesting. Successive annual reports from the Audit Office remind us that cabinet has hand-picked for unlawful but very lucrative, multi-billion procurement contracts to supply the government with drugs and medical supplies, one of the companies of the Ramroop Group, with which President Jagdeo announced he has a friendly relationship and for which new tax concession laws were passed in 2008. As if the selection by the President’s cabinet were not enough, the government makes up-front payment on those contracts. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, of the $2.5 billion budgeted for Drugs and Medical Supplies, 66.5 % was spent in the first six months of the year, up from 53% for the corresponding period in 2008.

With this kind of abuse, the government ought not to be surprised that Guyana is ranked at 126 among 180 countries listed in the Transparency International (TI) Report, along with seven other countries that include war-ravaged countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mozambique and Uganda. The government’s protestations about TI’s methodology would have credibility and resonance if the country was convinced that it had any interest in halting the abuses attendant on the procurement of drugs and other products and services and the Lotto funds, pursuing those who contribute to its party while engaging in the worst forms of corruption of revenue officers, keeping its promise on a Freedom of Information Act and observing good governance and the rule of law in all their forms and manifestations.

With corruption and the absence of any culture of accountability and transparency in religion, the trade union movement, civil society, the private and NGO sectors, the political parties, sports, in national and local government – in short in every area of life – many Guyanese find it hard to believe that there are countries more corrupt than Guyana. The fact is, however, that there are and we need to ensure that we do not slip further to the bottom. Like the rotting of the fish, the disintegration from corruption begins at the head.

Bloating the public sector

Another interesting line item is what is referred to in Appendix E4 to the Mid-year Report as Contracted Employees. There too we have spending very much on track as the government selectively employs more and more persons at the public expense. The 2009 Budget allocation for wages and salaries of contracted employees is $3.2 billion which the Minister projects will be exceeded, no doubt because more than 50% has already been spent in the first six months of the year. The Office of the President in particular now has a number of advisers and consultants, some of whose designations and functions are by no means clear, and who seem to be paid either for their past service to the party or to do political work on behalf of the party. The contracted employees do not come cheap. Some of them are paid in real currency, have 24-hour security, chauffeur, administrative support, enjoy valuable tax and duty concessions – all paid for by the poor taxpayers or financed by the donors who seem to be salivating at the prospect of giving to a poor country.

How much of the further $2.2 billion dollars in benefits and allowances goes to the contracted employees is not determinable but what is interesting is that the wages and salaries of the contracted employees exceeds that of the total administrative staff of the central government by more than 15%. And it is because of these contracted employees including permanent secretaries, many politically appointed, that the Public Service Commission is becoming increasingly sidelined and irrelevant. Is it because of the chauffeur-driven and state-provided vehicles that the Public Service Ministry has not seen it fit or necessary to revise the 1995 rates of travel allowances paid to public officers, many of them lower level operatives not important to the new order governing public finances in the country?

To be continued
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1 Comment To "Economy firewall malfunctions"

#1 Comment By tkhemraj On November 29, 2009 @ 10:19 am

Mr Ram,

I will make sure I save these columns for history. You have done a remarkable job to show how the PPP has exceeded PNC level corruption. Well done!

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GuySuCo plagued by run-down equipment

GuySuCo plagued by run-down equipment

Posted By Stabroek staff On November 30, 2009 @ 5:19 am In Local News | 14 Comments
-Interim Board

The deplorable state of field and factory assets within the sugar industry has been blamed by the Interim Board as a factor responsible for the current troubles plaguing GuySuCo.

The corporation has been unable to expend capital for the past four years, the Board said in a turnaround plan earlier this year, noting that this resulted in very low expenditure for replacement of the assets. The board observed that currently many assets are over their economic lives, and said this is impacting on production and operations.

The Board noted that a concerted effort has to be made to increase the level of capital spending within the industry and improve the state of its assets. The issues raised in the turnaround plan are that the run-down assets are increasing the length of time taken to complete tasks within the industry, such as longer transport routes due to inaccessible roadways and bridges. It is also blamed for increased fuel and material costs as well as low productivity. Additionally, the plan said the poor state of the assets is impacting on the ability to improve programme targets, and also resulting in the de-motivation of staff.

For the period 2009 to 2011, factory capital for the industry has already increased as per the indicators agreed between the government and the EC delegation to an average of US$9M annually, according to the turnaround plan.

Thereafter, factory capital will be as per the factory review concluded in 2007 that assessed the industry’s needs over a 10-year period.

The plan also noted that the MOU signed by GuySuCo with the Government of Guyana on December 31, 2008 agreed to defer US$8M annually on SSMP interest/loan repayments from 2009 to 2011. However, the plan said this increased expenditure is required by the EU to be placed in additional factory capital expenditure. Thus, it observed the deferral involves no significant cash saving for the corporation.

According to the Interim Board, the capital programme will require a Project Management team to plan and implement the expenditure programme for both the fields and factories. It pointed out that agriculture capital requirements were determined based on a detailed assessment of the state of agriculture assets and their useful lives. Based on this, it said, high levels of capital are needed from 2009 to 2011.

The Skeldon factory is currently contributing around 14% of the industry’s sugar, according to the plan. It is expected to generate 26% by 2013 but this hinges on cane supply that is currently inadequate. The plan envisages that the industry will produce some 312,000 tonnes of sugar in 2011 and 410,000 tonnes in 2013.

The refinery, which the Interim Board said is now on the back-burner, is not being considered at present because of the reduction in production, among other factors. The Board said the significant reduction in the industry sugar production means that any refined sugar sales will not erode sales in another market.

It said also that the refinery would be a distraction from rehabilitation, noting that managing the construction of a refinery in the same period when concentration would be on rehabilitation is problematic. “The Interim Board considers it wise to concentrate on rehabilitation of the core business before embarking on the construction of a refinery.

A refinery will therefore not be included in the forecasts from 2009 to 2013,” the plan explained. It said too that it could be difficult to produce an investor friendly prospectus before the industry shows sign of a turnaround.

The refinery appears to be an unprofitable venture based on current economic assumptions, the plan said, and it also called for a review of this project based on an updated feasibility study.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guyana still ranked among most corrupt – TI survey

Stabroek News news item. November 18, 2009. Guyana still ranked among most corrupt – TI survey.

Guyana remains ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world, according to the 2009 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released yesterday.

In a survey of 180 countries, Guyana was ranked 126 for the second straight year, with a score of 2.6 out of 10. The country is again the lowest ranked English-speaking Caribbean nation on the list and the second lowest ranked Caricom territory, behind Haiti. Guyana shares its ranking with Syria and Tanzania.

A majority of the countries in the index scored below five on a scale from zero (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 10 (perceived to have low levels of corruption).As a result, TI said the corruption challenge is undeniable. It noted that corruption continues to lurk “where opacity rules, where institutions still need strengthening and where governments have not implemented anti-corruption legal frameworks.”

New Zealand (9.4), Denmark (9.3), Singapore and Sweden (9.2) as well as Switzerland (9.0) ranked the highest, with scores that are said to reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions.

TI, which is based in Germany, is a global civil society organisation that fights against corruption. The CPI measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in a given country and is a composite index, drawing on 13 different expert and business surveys. Four surveys were used to determine Guyana’s score. The number of indicators has been a point of contention for the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, which has also criticised the source of the data.

For Caribbean nations, Barbados (7.4) was ranked the highest, jumping two places to 20, just ahead of St. Lucia (7.0) which slipped one place to 22, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (6.4) at 31, Dominica (5.9) at 34, Suriname (3.7) at 75, Trinidad and Tobago (3.6) at 79, the Dominican Republic (3.0) at 99, and Jamaica (3.0) at 99.

According to regional highlights of the CPI, 10 of the 31 countries from the Americas scored above 5, while 21 scored less than 5, indicating “a serious corruption problem.” Further, noting that nine of the countries failed to score over 3, TI said there is an indication of “rampant corruption.” Additional-ly, with the exception of Guatemala, no country in the region showed an increase in its CPI score.

TI said although each country has its own particular context, across the board the effects of the financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn have highlighted the crucial importance of governance in the private and public sectors and the relationships between the two, particularly in respect to stimulus packages which are already pumping large amounts of money into badly affected economies. It added that states across the region-rich and poor-will have to respond by ensuring that these funds are handled with integrity.

In a statement, TI noted that no region is immune to the perils of corruption as the world economy begins to register a tentative recovery and some nations continue to wrestle with ongoing conflict and insecurity. “At a time when massive stimulus packages, fast-track disbursements of public funds and attempts to secure peace are being implemented around the world, it is essential to identify where corruption blocks good governance and accountability, in order to break its corrosive cycle” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of TI. “Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society,” Labelle said too, adding “The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions.”

TI observed that when essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption, it added, also normalises a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability.

It insisted that countries at the bottom of the index cannot be shut out from development efforts. Instead, it said, what the index points to is the need to strengthen their institutions. According to TI, investors and donors should be equally vigilant of their operations and as accountable for their own actions as they are in demanding transparency and accountability from beneficiary countries.

TI said the Group of 20 has made strong commitments to ensure that integrity and transparency form the cornerstone of a newfound regulatory structure. “As the G20 tackles financial sector and economic reforms, it is critical to address corruption as a substantial threat to a sustainable economic future,” it said. TI added, “The G20 must also remain committed to gaining public support for essential reforms by making institutions such as the Financial Stability Board and decisions about investments in infrastructure, transparent and open to civil society input.”

There is some level of corruption - Donald Ramotar

Kaieteur News news item, Thursday 19 November 2009 - "There is some level of corruption - Donald Ramotar" -

“If we continue to bury our heads in the muck which is now evident, we leave exposed the most vulnerable parts of our anatomy for further violation and abuse” - GAP/ROAR

While acknowledging that there is some level of corruption in Guyana, General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Donald Ramotar, says that it is nowhere close to what is being reflected by Transparency International.

Ramotar was at the time responding to the recently released Global Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International which scored Guyana at 126 of the 180 countries surveyed

The PPP General Secretary also questioned and challenged Transparency International to reveal its source of information in Guyana positing that it must be the work of the People’s National Congress Reform using old connections.

Ramotar is of the opinion that it is only anti-government elements that could be responsible for presenting such an image of Guyana.

Calling Transparency International’s report a “cockeyed” position, Ramotar said that he was very concerned about a position by some international organisations to demonise developing countries.

He noted that there should be greater scrutiny of the more developed countries. He pointed to the United States of America and identified the Halliburton affair coupled with the billions of dollars that are being pumped into the banks and being siphoned off by the upper echelon officials.

Ramotar said, too, that he was worried that there might ulterior motives with the reports.

Guyana Action Party Member of Parliament, Everall Franklin, recently stated that “the nation is insulted constantly by the sheer outrageousness of corrupt practices being perpetrated against us, the people of this country.”

He said that the recent exposure of a few contracts, which left many people shaking their heads in bewilderment, is but a small portion of the uncontrolled mismanagement meted out to the Guyanese population.

He added, “This is how the people’s wealth is being squandered…If we continue to bury our heads in the muck which is now evident, we leave exposed the most vulnerable parts of our anatomy for further violation and abuse…This cannot be allowed to continue, we all have to raise our voices in condemnation with the aim to stop this rape of our resources.”

When asked if the elected leaders were not scrutinizing the expenditure of taxpayer money, the politician insisted in the affirmative, but pointed out that the opposition and media could expose these glaring anomalies, but it is ultimately up to the Government to curb the practice.

Meanwhile the Alliance for Change leader, Raphael Trotman, during a press briefing held at the Sidewalk Café called on Ramotar to present their data to support his contention and compare with that of Transparency International.

According to Trotman, Transparency International was international respected with a sound reputation adding that International Financial Institutions pay attention to its reports and uses them as indicators when issuing loans or grants.

Trotman noted that it is expected Ramotar would make such a statement in that he would want to wash discredit the report adding that, “you can fool the people some times but you can’t fool the people all of the time.”

Among some of the other countries that rank close to Guyana in the 2009 report are Vietnam, Syria, Tanzania, Lebanon and Mongolia.

The CPI score indicates the perceived level of public-sector corruption in a country/territory.

Opposition politicians have time and time again sought to argue that there is a high level of corruption in Guyana.

Veteran Trade Unionist Lincoln Lewis also recently lashed out at the Government, saying that the administration was acting like vultures picking at the flesh of a dying nation, citing what he sees as the wanton abuse of the nation’s finances as a point of reference.

Lewis said there is no country that is going to create wealth if its leaders “exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers.”

He said too that no business would want to invest in a place where there is widespread corruption.

“No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery.”

Friday, November 6, 2009


November 6, 2009 | By KNews | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom

Now that visas are being revoked, the government of Guyana is going to wake up and smell the coffee. It is only a matter of time before they concede and appoint either a commission of inquiry into the Guyana Police Force or a variation of an inquiry that they hope will appease those who are outraged about what is taking place in Guyana.
The Guyanese people must not allow themselves to believe that the Jagdeo administration is capable of dealing with the problems of this country.
What is happening in Guyana is a direct result of the attitude of the Jagdeo administration towards the problems of this country, and what is sad is that persons are now beginning to imitate that same attitude in dealing with the media.
The Jagdeo administration only has uses for civil society when they need the support of civil society. All interactions are on the government terms and when they have no more uses for civil society, it’s “Ta Ta”
The government has friends who will come to its rescue, like they did when the President came under criticism for comments he made at a private sector dinner. Those friends were quick to come to the defence of the President.
The government is now once again under serious pressures because of the emergence of a terrorist gang which committed murder, arson and terror in the city a few days ago. The Jagdeo administration needs civil society now. But why should civil society cuddle up to the President? Why having been bitten before should civil society go back to the charade of seeking an accommodation from the government? For what purpose? To be dumped again like they were just after the Lusignan and Bartica massacres? What has come of the commitments that were given to the stakeholders?
Civil society should fight tooth and nail to bring the government to its senses and appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the outstanding torture claims, but they should be cautious about attending any meeting with the President to discuss this and any other matter such as the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
It should not be business as usual with the government until such time that it demonstrates that it is prepared to act in a responsible manner so as to avoid further shame and embarrassment to this country.
Imagine it had to take the Americans to do something about the infamous sex talk tape. Is it not a disgrace that the Americans have had to act in this matter while the government sits and does absolutely nothing but talk a lot of tripe about what is going on in Guyana?
How come there is no investigation into the sixty-million-dollar house purchased by a clerk? How come there is no investigation into the controversial contracts which were reported on by this newspaper? How come no independent investigation into the ants nest torture reported in the newspaper? How come no investigation into allegations that a Government Minister facilitated the purchase of sensitive equipment for a man who entered into a plea bargain with the US government and is now in jail? Does the government not wish to definitively clear itself of this particular allegation?
What sort of government in the face of the reports by this newspaper of controversial contracts is going to suggest that the Kaieteur News tender for contracts?
How more flippant can one get about what is taking place with allegations about the use of public funds?
What about the ants nest torture case? What is the government for? Is it waiting for the Americans to pull another visa before it acts?
The ruling party is now totally emasculated from effective opposition to what is taking place in the government. The ruling party is powerless to influence what takes place within the government. But there are persons who are far from satisfied with what is going on and they are privately letting it be known that they do not condone the indifference that is being demonstrated by the regime towards serious issues in this country.
They are also concerned that the actions of the administration can affect the popularity of the ruling party and its chances at the next elections. And thus there are serious concerns within the ruling party about the direction in which the government is heading.
This is all the more reason why the national stakeholders must not jump into bed with the Jagdeo administration. Instead they should all make a joint appeal for the government to either concede to the demand for impartial investigations into the matters listed about or face its problems alone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

After five years only two countries accept CCJ as final appellate court

After five years only two countries accept CCJ as final appellate court
May 31, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under News

By Oscar Ramjeet

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) entered its fifth year on April 12 since it was inaugurated at a lavish ceremony in Port of Spain, which was attended by nearly all the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as well as most legal luminaries in the region.
The Court was, however, initially established in February 2001, more than eight years ago.
It is very unfortunate that, after such a long time, only two countries, Guyana and Barbados, have accepted the CCJ as the final court. No other country has joined after 48 long months. This is indeed a misfortune since most Caribbean countries rid themselves of colonial rule more than four decades ago: Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in 1962, Guyana and Barbados in 1966 and the Eastern Caribbean countries a few years later.
Since these former British colonies achieved political independence so long ago, one would have expected them to have judicial independence as well, especially since they have highly qualified and experienced judges.
I had the privilege of visiting the Court while in Trinidad for the Fifth Summit of the Americas and was impressed by what I saw — besides the well equipped libraries, spacious conference room, robing room, etc., I was elated with the Courtroom’s appearance, with the most modern electronic equipment, which is said to be one of the best in the world. The facilities include: a document reader/visual presenter; the ability to use laptop computers; DVF/VCR; audio/video digital recording (microphones situated throughout the courtroom); wireless internet access, and audio/video transcripts.
Former Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General Ramesh Maharaj said that the judges have little to do and it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. His statement is somewhat surprising since it was under his party’s administration that the Court was established and up to this day Trinidad and Tobago has not joined.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt made a sweeping statement when he said that if the region is not serious about the CCJ, it should close down the court.
Skeritt, a few months ago, asked his Attorney General to engage the local Bar Association as well as the political opposition with a view of having the decision fully implemented. I have not heard the progress of those discussions.
However, there is some glimmer of hope that at least one more country will join. Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow, one of the first graduates from the Council of Legal Education in the Caribbean, has announced that his country will take steps to remove the Privy Council as the final Court of Appeal.
I contacted his office and was advised that a Bill will be presented to Parliament next month to pave the way to remove the Privy Council as the final Court. Three-fourths of parliamentary votes are required, but it is understood that the opposition will support the move since it had advocated the measure when it was in government.
There is no doubt that there is reluctance on the part of governments to get rid of the Privy Council as the final court for varying reasons. Jamaica at one stage claimed that the CCJ will be a hanging court, but they cannot press that issue now because that government recently passed legislation to retain the death penalty.
The JLP government was in power when the idea of setting up of the CCJ first started, but now the party, which is back in power after 15 years, is somewhat reluctant — new reasons have surfaced, including the heavy costs of maintaining the Court, pointing out that, when the first idea was mooted 20 years ago, the Jamaican dollar was much stronger, and the latest is that the Court does not have a Jamaican as a judge, although its population is nearly 2.5 million — more than all the other 11 countries combined.
Former Jamaican Attorney General Dr Oswald Harding, who was the AG in 1988, said that he is very disturbed that no Jamaican was appointed as judge when he knew that about eight well qualified jurists had applied.
I have been advocating for a distinguished West Indian to be appointed as a lobbyist, but both CARICOM and the CCJ are both reluctant to do so. CARICOM, it is understood, feels it should distance itself from the CCJ, especially since it is a party to recent litigation before the Court. I refer to a law suit brought by Trinidad and Tobago Cement Company against CARICOM.
On the other hand, the CCJ feels that it should not indulge in such an exercise; but they nevertheless held seminars in jurisdictions such as Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, Belize on the functions and the operations of the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.
It is worrying that CARICOM countries do not even use the CCJ in its original jurisdictions, since they do not have to seek constitutional amendments to do so. In four long years only three such matters have reached the Court.
It is my humble and respectful view that CARICOM should have sensitised the public and ensured that the necessary legislation was in place to accept the CCJ as the final court long before the Court was established and, as Dame Dr Bernice Lake, QC, a distinguished jurist from Anguilla, put it, “The regional governments disenfranchised the public when they set up the CCJ without referenda.”

Monday, November 2, 2009

Given the excesses of the security forces the gov’t should have welcomed the UK reform plan

Given the excesses of the security forces the gov’t should have welcomed the UK reform plan

Posted By Stabroek staff On November 2, 2009 @ 5:06 am In Letters | 7 Comments

Dear Editor,
Is the Guyana government truly committed to its constitutionally entrenched responsibility to ensure the safety and security of its citizens? The recent decision by the British government to pull the plug on its £3 million for the security reform project is a massive blow to the local security sector and a major setback for citizens.

According to the government spokesperson Dr. Luncheon, “the British want to be chief cook and battle washer”, the government also tells Guyanese that the British proposal infringes on Guyana’s sovereignty. The UK rebutted the Guyana government, and stated that their decision to abandon the project is because the Guyana government would have, drastically, changed the original project. Specific mention was made regarding the scope of the project. According to the British, the Guyana government changed the original project to reflect modernization of the police force, only, as opposed to a holistic reform of the entire security sector as was agreed to earlier by the Guyana government and the U.K.

It is very difficult for Guyanese to accept and understand why the PPP/C government would try to play the power game and risk the successful overhauling of the nation’s entire security system, at a time when the safety and security of every Guyanese is at risk. Dr. Luncheon’s comments in the press leave much to be desired and signalled yet another missed opportunity by the nation’s chief executives to demonstrate to the public that they are serious about putting the nation first. Instead, the government seems more interested in exhibiting some kind of political muscle.

Like many Guyanese I am not, at all, surprised by the government’s actions and their usual follow up activity of a shameless propaganda scheme aimed at wining public sympathy.

The government tells Guyanese that it is concerned about their safety but their report card on crime and security concerns is dismal, as their actions are wholly inconsistent with their claims. Just last August the government ditched a crime and security conference organized by the U.S Southern Command, U.S Embassy, and the Center of Hemispheric Defense Studies, and stated publicly that it will have no part of the conference. A day or two before the start of the conference Dr. Luncheon made a statement in the press stating that the government will not attend the conference because, according to him, the government was not allowed to own the programme. So this political stunt pulled by the government should come as no surprise to any of us who pay attention to the actions of this government.

The question now should be who benefits from sustained criminal activities, perpetrated by a growing criminal enterprise?

How can the government defend its position to only want police reform when the Guyana Defence Force and Prison Service are all in the same dilemma? Is the government satisfied with the work of the joint services, in light of the many reports of torture committed by same?

Does the killing of Bartica gold dealer Dweive Ramdass by Guyana Defence Force Coastguards not create a renewed urgency on the part of the government to reform the Guyana Defence Force? One would have thought that with the torture and resulting murder of Edwin Niles while in custody of the Guyana Prison Service, the allegations of the torture of Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones, David Zammit and others by the security forces the President and government would have been adamant in ensuring that there is a major restructuring of the entire security sector.

Why attempt to restrict the reform to the police only, is the government happy with the claims of torture levelled at the security agency?

Dr. Luncheon tells Guyanese that the fact that the British have no longer committed to funding the project will not hamper its implementation, and that public funding will pick up the slack. What he failed to tell us is how much our unborn children will be indebted to the government as a result of this public funding.

Secondly, since the Guyana government, as can be gleaned from his utterances, could have handled this project why didn’t the government initiate same much earlier, and spare the nation all the massacres and mayhem?

Yours faithfully,
Lurlene Nestor
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Delayed $400M conservancy project now hinges on World Bank

Kaieteur News news item, Tuesday 27 October 2009 - "Delayed $400M conservancy project now hinges on World Bank" -

By Gary Eleazar

The $400M funded World Bank Project that involves works to be carried out on the East Demerara Water Conservancy was at one time placed on hold because of the fact that the lone bidder had submitted a bid that was over inflated.

A Hymac undertakes remedial works in the conservancy

A Hymac undertakes remedial works in the conservancy

Today that project hinges on a renewed proposal to that bank.

According to Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, ever since the cancellation of the bid that is in keeping with the Procurement Guidelines established by the World Bank and the Government of Guyana, his Ministry has requested the reformulation of the Pre- Investment Studies in light of the current situation that obtains with respect to climate change and the country’s Drainage and Irrigation Master plan.

Persaud, in an interview with this newspaper, disclosed that his Ministry has provided all the technical information relevant to the project.

“We had undertaken a number of works in the Conservancy under the NDIA (Hope Canal Project) and the World Bank Technical Team has since reviewed and resubmitted Terms of Reference that only includes the work that needs to be done but has not been completed.”

He did emphasise that it should be noted that by completing these works NDIA has effected cost savings on the Project.

“This means that the likelihood of having a successful bidder has increased significantly because of the intervention of the government.”

According to Persaud, NDIA has since received the document and he was informed that the review is complete and will be forwarded to the Bank for Final review and No-Objection yesterday.

He stated that the Tender document and the Expression of Interest have already been prepared simultaneous and once the No Objection is received, “we will be launching the EOI and then the Calls for Proposals before the end of the Year.”

“In my view, the World Bank can move quickly to assist in early implementation,” Persaud said. The World Bank approved grant funding for the project some two years ago. The Conservancy has been a source of grave concern recently, given unusual periods of heavy rainfall.

When the conservancy, which holds water to irrigate farmlands during the dry season, is overwhelmed, it threatens the integrity of the dam, which, if compromised could cause widespread flooding on the heavily populated East Coast Demerara.

In recent years, during the rainy season when the water built up in the Conservancy, the government has had cause to release the water into the Mahaica and Mahaicony Rivers, flooding out the farming communities along the rivers.

Some residents have had to abandon their homes and farmlands and have taken up housing offered by Food for the Poor. The World Bank, on October 11, 2007, approved what it called ‘The Conservancy Adaptation Project’, for overall, US$3.8 million.

The project aims at strengthening the government’s and donor understanding of the EDWC system and coastal drainage patterns through the integration of advanced mapping and engineering analysis.

The project also aims at implementing infrastructure investments to improve drainage performance, to strengthen the institutional capacity for managing water and floodwater levels, and to guide interventions to reduce Guyana’s vulnerability to floods.

According to Minister Persaud, after the Request for Proposals was closed for Component 1 of the project, which involved the pre-investment studies for the engineering design of works, one tender was received.

He indicated that the evaluation committee recommended that the tender be annulled since the Bidder exceeded the set budgeted price by more than 100 per cent.

Accordingly, the tender has since been reformulated and will be launched internationally shortly.

He noted that World Bank is financing the development of the technical foundation for a master plan of future interventions within Conservancy and lowland drainage systems, as well as specific upgrading works and operational improvements aimed at enhancing the flood control capacity of the EDWC.

“The tools developed under the analytical component will be used by the (government) and donor agencies to guide future investments,” Persaud stated.

The objective of Phase One is to provide the hydrologic baseline necessary for contemplating rational interventions aimed at increasing the current discharge capacity of the flood control system.

The Conservancy system includes a reservoir, fronted by an earthen dam; drainage channels, used to release excess water from the reservoir during the rainy season; and a network of canals used to provide drinking water and irrigation during the dry seasons.

Because of this system, farmers are able to realise two harvests of sugar cane and rice annually.

The drainage relief structures were created to protect the EDWC dam from overtopping and collapsing during rainy seasons.

As the sea levels rise, the hydraulic head between the EDWC water control structures and sea outlets is significantly reduced. The smaller head reduces both the flow rate and discharge window available to discharge excess water from the system.

In addition, sea level rise has shortened the discharge window for the coastal plain. At present, flood control is managed on an emergency basis and control efforts focused on responding to immediate needs rather than the development of long-term control strategies.

This system of flood control is no longer effective and there are limitations on the ability to manage water levels in the coastal plain and prevent flooding.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The police probe and Roger Khan

The police probe and Roger Khan
Stabroek News Editorial. October 26, 2009.

After years of unremitting pressure, the government seems to be attempting to do something about the elephant in the room – the rampage of Roger Khan and his cohorts in these parts. It came in the form of an announcement by the police inviting all and sundry to testify before the police about what they know about alleged murders committed by Mr Khan’s gang and by the notorious `Fineman’.

Whoever thinks that this was the initiative of the police force is deluded. Nothing about Roger Khan will ever see the light of day without the political directorate carefully scripting the act and putting the force’s figurehead in front of a teleprompter. It must be remembered that when pressed by the media on several occasions about the allegations flowing from the Brooklyn court about Roger Khan and what it revealed about his government, President Jagdeo brushed aside the matter by saying that it was up to the police to investigate these alleged murders and other matters. It was to put it lightly an unvarnished attempt to fabricate a parallel reality. Roger Khan is a political hot potato for the police force and is therefore a no fly zone. The discerning public is well aware of this. Second, President Jagdeo would no doubt be fully cognisant that the police force is intrinsically incapable of investigating any of these murders and other aberrations of the Khan and `Fineman’ rampage and so this would have been futile from the start.

This sop to the public is probably the result of the pressure that has been applied here and abroad over the Roger Khan debacle. It is also a pre-emptive strike to blunt any embarrassment at the upcoming meetings over REDD and the climate campaign at Copenhagen particularly in light of the governance issues that will be raised by donor countries and multilateral institutions. It won’t, however, amount to much and in the crucial weeks leading up to Copenhagen President Jagdeo and his spin doctors will have much explaining to do.

The bland announcement by the police force is an insult to the years of death, maiming, bloodshed and grief that rained upon the populace beginning in 2002 at the hands of the escapees who fled Camp Street in 2002 and the phantom groups that were subcontracted to go after them. And the timing, days after the sentencing of Roger Khan adds further insult to injury. Is it the case that the police have only now been convinced that Roger Khan is worthy of investigation simply because of his sentencing in New York? Even though he pleaded guilty months ago to conspiracy to import cocaine into the US and a dangerous witness tampering charge? Even though for years ordinary citizens here have harboured grave concerns about what he was engaged in and had repeatedly pressed the authorities in various ways to act?

And this is why the invitation by the police to members of the public is likely to be viewed with pure cynicism and trepidation. Can the police and the government reasonably expect people to come forward and testify when there are irresistible leads pointing to collaboration between Roger Khan and the police/government? The earliest indicator of this was his apprehension at Good Hope with high-powered weapons and the spy equipment, the clear reluctance to charge him and his subsequent acquittal on all of the charges. More recently, this view has been cemented by the shenanigans surrounding the spy equipment, several pieces of which Khan was able to import and one of which his now convicted lawyer Robert Simels apparently spirited out of the country. Also knotted into this are the allegations swirling around Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy and his alleged facilitating of the purchase of one of the spy machines. So organized was this assistance programme for Khan that a trainer was dispatched here to school those who would be using the equipment. Surely if the police were serious about investigating Khan’s organization they would have already ferreted out information on the trainer’s movements here and tracked down who he was in touch with and relating to.

Do the police expect the public to have any confidence in their probe when Roger Khan operated here as the number one drug kingpin without so much as being hauled in for questioning? If in the six or seven years he functioned here as a drug trafficker and as the head of a violent criminal network that allegedly murdered dozens of people without being investigated by law enforcement authorities and prosecuted is it realistic to believe that the police can make any meaningful inroads in this investigation so long after the fact and with many of the potential witnesses not here or in the great beyond? How can these lapses – the length of the Essequibo – be squared with what the police are now attempting to do?

Do the police expect the public to come forward when dozens of serving and former law enforcement officers were known to be in the employ of Mr Khan? Many of the phantom killings were attended by strange movements of police vehicles and personnel as if to ensure that there was no hindrance or apprehension of those involved. Who is to say that these men are still not in the employ of the force or retain the ability to penetrate the upper echelons and gather information about what witnesses are presenting to the police? Remember it was Mr Khan himself who bugged the office of Commissioner Felix probably with the assistance of some ranking police officer.

Do the police expect the public to take this probe seriously when there are myriad recourses to the courts in New York for sworn affidavits, testimony and witnesses? If the force acted only after Roger Khan was sentenced in New York should it not have immediately applied to the courts there for all of the relevant testimony, access to witnesses and Mr Khan himself? There are state-to-state mechanisms in place for this as reported in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek but does the government really want to find out about Roger Khan’s drug business and the dealings of the phantom gang? Will Minister Rohee, as head of the designated agency under the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters now formally approach the US government for material which may not even have been made available to the courts and publicise this request so that the public can judge the government’s seriousness?

Yet, it is sage advice as provided by the Guyana Human Rights Association that this current investigation – warts and all – must be tested to fullest so that the sincerity and the machinery of the law enforcement agencies and the government could be assessed. Perhaps it could lead to a broader enquiry. However, before this is done the police force and the government need to put confidence-building measures in place or else the hotlines will remain silent and the force bereft of any meaningful leads. Considering that the force is riddled with corruption and that some of its serving members were colluding with Khan and may have taken part in some of his extrajudicial operations, the government has to enable a decent distance between those who might want to testify and the police force. One way of doing this is to have a team of credible civil society members and perhaps a senior law enforcement officer from within the Caribbean, be part of the investigating process. This will comfort potential witnesses who are likely to be skeptical that their accounts will be taken seriously by the police.

Second as was the case during the very limited investigation of former Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, there is an irrefutable need for witness protection. Remember that George Bacchus paid with his life after deciding to spill the beans. How this can be achieved in the present circumstances is unclear. There is, however, plea bargain legislation which could be employed to convince some who may not have committed the most serious crimes to tell of what they know in return for lighter penalties.

Third, if there are remnants of Roger Khan’s network engaged in illicit activities and continuing businesses in his name, the police, CANU and the Financial Intelligence Unit under the new anti-money laundering act, should immediately set about investigating even if this is shamelessly after the fact. There should also be a careful review by a security expert from outside the disciplined forces on why they failed so shockingly to detect and investigate Mr Khan over the drug business. This should entail detailed interviews with the police commissioners in question. Such moves would encourage members of the public to believe that the police are serious about getting to the bottom of this brutal phase of our history. It will be an uphill task.
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8 Comments To "The police probe and Roger Khan"

#1 Comment By coolieman On October 26, 2009 @ 9:27 am

Time to move on

#2 Comment By tkhemraj On October 26, 2009 @ 11:00 am

Very good editorial. Only Stabroek News could say it like this.

#3 Comment By tkhemraj On October 26, 2009 @ 11:05 am

EDITORIAL: “Do the police expect the public to come forward when dozens of serving and former law enforcement officers were known to be in the employ of Mr Khan? Many of the phantom killings were attended by strange movements of police vehicles and personnel as if to ensure that there was no hindrance or apprehension of those involved.”

Well that more or less sums up the spurious nature of the inquiry!

#4 Comment By Bismattie Ramsawak On October 26, 2009 @ 11:42 am

A courageously honest editorial by the Stabroek News… very courageous indeed.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

GuySuCo says fees for trademark litigation reasonable

GuySuCo says fees for trademark litigation reasonable

Posted By Stabroek staff On October 24, 2009 @ 5:19 am In Local News | No Comments

The Guyana Sugar Corporation is currently engaged in defending its rights to the trademark ‘Demerara Gold’, both in the United States and in Canada against claims made by Bedessee Imports Inc. and Bedessee Imports Ltd, and according to the corporation the fees being charged by the lawyers are moderate and reasonable.

In any event and more so in a case as complex as this one, the fees are nothing close to the US$1,500 an hour as reported by the Kaieteur News in its edition of October 20, 2009, GuySuCo said in a news release yesterday.

The Guyana Government and the Minister of Agriculture are also parties to the litigation in the US.

GuySuCo is maintaining that it has the exclusive right to the trademark ‘Demerara Gold’ and expects to be vindicated in the pending proceedings in furtherance of its strategic plan to develop ‘Demerara Gold’ as a flagship product.

GuySuCo’s lawyers in the US are Foley Hoag LLP, a firm with offices in Washington, DC and Boston. This is the same law firm that successfully spearheaded the case for the Government of Guyana in the maritime boundary dispute with Suriname, the release added.

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Phantom probe should be tested – GHRA

Phantom probe should be tested – GHRA

Posted By Stabroek staff On October 24, 2009 @ 5:37 am In Local News | 24 Comments
– police say no response yet

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) yesterday said it is important to test the bona fides of the announced investigation by the police into the alleged murders by drug convict Roger Khan by collaborating with their call for public cooperation.
Seelall Persaud [1]

Seelall Persaud

The GHRA, in a press release yesterday entitled `Phantom enquiry must not be a charade’, suggested a number of initial steps which it said would establish both the parameters of the task at hand and provide the force with an opportunity to demonstrate the authenticity of the initiative.

The first step, according to the GHRA, should be the compilation of a list of all the unresolved cases of deaths which occurred between February 2002 — the year and month five dangerous prisoners escaped triggering one of the worst crime sprees in recent history — and the arrest of Khan in 2006. The list should be published for public scrutiny and for additions and subtractions by any interested party.

The second step, the human rights body said, should see the police providing updates of the status of as many cases on the list for which they have information.

The third step should then see an agreement involving all parliamentary parties as to how to deal with the rest of the list. If normal criminal procedures are not possible for a variety of reasons then the relevant parties may jointly need to agree to a process, which while not strictly judicial, “will bring a measure of closure, justice and healing to the families most affected by the deaths as well as to the society in general.”

No response

Meanwhile, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, who is heading the investigative team, told Stabroek News yesterday that since the force’s announcement on Tuesday there had been no response from members of the public.

Asked if the force would be contacting some of Khan’s close associates, including a number of former policemen one of whom is in jail on a murder charge, the Assistant Commissioner of police said that the police had an investigative team “out there” and “wherever the investigation leads them they would investigate and question people.”

Three former policemen, Ricardo Rodrigues, Shawn Belfield — for whom the police have issued an arrest warrant in connection with a double murder — and Mark Roberts, now in jail on a double murder charges, were held with Khan in Suriname in 2006 before the drug convict was taken to the US.

Following the police’s announcement the PNCR said that it was not “impressed” by what it described as the “latest manoeuvre” by the government “to deceive the world that it is taking some action against the atrocities committed in Guyana.”

The opposition party at its weekly press conference on Thursday said the force’s belated call for individuals and groups to provide evidence is “another attempt to fool the public that the police are not in possession of any evidence.” It said it was a serious indictment on the force after more than 200 gangland-style executions were committed in this jurisdiction.

The major opposition party said it rejected the announcement as it was clearly another attempt to deceive the people of Guyana and to shift the focus of the demand by the opposition for an international inquiry which would not hone in on Khan alone, but on criminal activities in Guyana where the force and the government were involved.

Three days after Khan was sentenced in a Brooklyn Federal Court to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking, witness tampering and a 16-year-old gun-running charge, the police announced their intention to set up a special unit to investigate the charges that he had been directly or indirectly involved in killing locals.

Khan had operated a drug trafficking enterprise here for more than eight years, US prosecutors said, and he headed the violent ‘Phantom Squad’ that was responsible for many deaths. Khan had publicly said that he worked with the security forces to stem the crime wave following the 2002 prison break.

According to the police press release, the special unit will be based at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters, Eve Leary. The force called “on all individuals, organisations or groups who may have information or vital evidence concerning these alleged murders involving the Fineman gang, Roger Khan’s gang or any other gang or individuals who may be involved to come forward and provide whatever information or vital evidence may be available.”

Persons can also dial telephone numbers 225-2227, 226-6978 or 225-8196.

Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan questioned the “genuineness” of the move.

He added that he hoped it was an authentic move to do a “thorough and professional” investigation as the police‘s behaviour prior to the announcement gave the impression that they did not want to conduct an investigation into Khan’s activities.

Two lists

Meanwhile, the GHRA said as a first step it will shortly submit two preliminary lists to Seelall with the first one comprising deaths at the hands of police/disciplined services between March 2002 and June 2003. It was the same list the rights body submitted to the Disciplined Services Commission of Enquiry in 2003. A second list would have some 30 deaths mainly during the months of October and November 2003, including that of Police Inspector Leyland October, and a range of deaths typical of many more during the 2003-2005 period, which may have been drug or politically inspired or simply criminally motivated.

Whether the human right body submits more lists in the future will depend on the manner in which the enquiry is conducted with respect to political independence, transparency and acceptance of constructive cooperation with all interested parties.

According to the GHRA the new initiative by the force faces major credibility challenges. It posited that the dispelling of the skepticism will be key to public acceptance of the new undertaking.

Some of the challenges faced by the initiative include persuasive evidence of strong links between government officials, drug lords and senior elements of the force; the undermining of efforts of former police commissioner Winston Felix to confront drug barons by government officials; and the generalized failure to investigate, prosecute and protect witnesses in a large number of murders, possibly 200 or more which occurred under circumstances that suggest either political or drug-related factors at work.

Many calls have been made – more recently by the opposition parties – for an investigation to be conducted into Khan’s activities in Guyana. The calls had been made even as he was awaiting sentencing in the US, having pleaded guilty to exporting large quantities of cocaine into that country from these shores.

The opposition parties had specifically asked that an International Commission of Enquiry be conducted into the many dimensions of Khan’s activities, particularly his alleged links to the government.
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