Sunday, April 26, 2009

On the Line:National Insurance Scheme Annual Report 2007

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Posted By Christopher Ram On April 26, 2009 @ 5:10 am In Features, Sunday | 1 Comment
On the Line:National Insurance Scheme Annual Report 2007


The column on March 29, 2009 featured the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) along with the New Building Society in a supporting role to Clico Guyana in which the NIS stands to lose several billions of dollars worth of investments. Today’s column is entirely on the NIS and specifically its Annual Report for 2007 which recently became available, well outside the statutory deadline, a recurring feature of just about every public body. Yet, the 120-page report is a rich minefield of statistical, demographic and economic information of potential importance and relevance to those engaged in policy formulation.

Some of the data seem inconsistent with the statistics provided by the Finance Minister in his 2008 Budget presentation, particularly as they relate to sectoral growth and labour participation. I will refer to some of those apparent inconsistencies later but now offer a review of the operating performance of the scheme for the year and compare it with the preceding three years.

2007 2006 2005 2004

$ M $ M $ M $ M


Contributions 8,061 7,462 6,670 6,470

Investment income 1,492 1,294 1,209 1,160

Other 33 15 66 44

Total 9,586 8,771 7,945 7,674

Benefits 7,325 6,496 5,516 5,292

Administrative 1,252 1,076 982 900

Total 8,571 7,572 6,498 6,192
Exp. as % of Income 89.5 86.3 81.8 80.7
Exp. as % of Total Exp.

Benefits 85.4 85.8 84.9 85.5

Administrative 14.6 14.2 15.1 14.5
Source: NIS Annual Reports 2004-2007
Before discussing these numbers we need to be clear: Dr Roger Luncheon who has been Chairman of the Board since 1992 is incorrect in stating that the audited statements prove that the NIS is sound. The soundness of an entity, such as the NIS, that provides long-term benefits is determined, not by the auditors but by an actuarial examination which, using a range of data and assumptions, projects into the future. In fact the auditors draw specific attention to the report by the actuaries while the financial statements devote a full two pages to the recommendations of the actuary. Those, like the recommendations for the 2001 examination, are still being “reviewed” by the directors. Among the actuary’s many recommendations is the immediate need to address a shortfall of 7.1% in the contribution rate − hardly a sign of financial soundness. The problem for Dr Luncheon is that he seems unable to distinguish when he should speak as a politician, or as a director with fiduciary obligations or as a key policymaker responsible for oversight.

Income over the period 2004 to 2007 has increased by 24.6% while expenditure has increased by 38.4%. Expressed another way expenditure as a percentage of income has moved within the short period of three years from 80.7% to 89.5%, a significant increase indeed. On the other hand, the composition of expenditure between Benefits and Administrative Costs has remained − as the Table shows − extremely constant. The significance and danger of the increase is best seen when compared with say the average of the five years 1997 to 2001 when it was below 60%. The warnings to the decision-makers about the growth of expenditure relative to income are not new and have been as consistently made as they have been consistently ignored.

With over 80% of its expenditure being in long-term benefits, the scheme should be concerned primarily about its actuarial viability which automatically takes care of its financial soundness, to use Dr Luncheon’s word. But to make up for the unwillingness of the government to raise the rates of contributions to levels that would meet actuarial sustainability, the scheme has become involved in investments that could seriously undermine both its actuarial and financial viability.

The 2006 Actuarial Report projected that total expenditure would, in 2014, exceed total income for the first time in the scheme’s forty years and unless contribution rates are increased the scheme’s reserves would be exhausted by 2022. With the (temporary?) loss of its capital and income in Clico investments and the inaction of the government and the board, including in addition to Dr Luncheon, PPP/C fixtures like trade unionist Komal Chand and Chitraykha Dass, it is possible that the actuary’s fears about expenditure exceeding income may happen sooner rather than later.

Blame the employers

Much of the problems of the Scheme are attributed to delinquent employers not paying over their contributions. As the logic goes the scheme would have been able to invest those monies and earn investment income. However there is nothing to indicate that investments are managed any better than contributions. According to Dr Luncheon the scheme’s investments are made based on a Prudential Investment Progamme which was “baptised by cabinet.” It is therefore surprising that the President recently criticized investments made under that programme when he is the head of the cabinet.

Dr Luncheon correctly states that the law governs the NIS and its investments (particularly those outside government paper) but does not recognise or acknowledge that the report and recommendations underlying that programme did not once mention the restrictions which the law places on the type of investments which the scheme can make.

There is increasing evidence that many of the scheme’s investments are not authorised by law and are not as profitable as they may appear. We will look more closely at the question of the investments under Balance Sheet but with respect to investment income, while $1.492B appears in the income statement, some $790M is shown as investment income receivable. The level was likely to be the same when Clico was put under judicial management and there is still uncertainty as to whether the government would cover accrued interest in its bailout of that entity. The possible infringement of the law, the high risks being undertaken in the search for high returns and the apparent delay in the receipt of investment income would cause even ordinary persons serious migraine. It is therefore very surprising that this does not seem to trouble the board which includes Messrs Maurice Solomon and Paul Cheong who have been on the board for several years and who would be fully aware of the concerns of the actuary about the viability of the scheme.

Balance Sheet

2007 2006 2005 2004

$ M $ M $ M $ M

Fixed assets 750 754 753 727

Investments 26,159 25,129 23,796 22,372

26,909 25,883 24,549 23,099

Current assets

(other than investments) 1,240 1,155 1,264 1,107

Less: current liabilities 281 288 271 219

959 867 993 888

Net assets 27,868 26,750 25,542 23,987
Source: NIS Annual Reports 2004-2007

Included in Current Assets for 2007 is an amount of $197M as sundry receivables (2006-$207M) and prepayments of $62M (2006-$2M). Neither of these amounts is explained for the poor contributor, a key stakeholder. Included as well is an amount of $790M (2006-$753M) described as Accrued income, ie income recognised but not received. Nothing would be wrong with such accounting unless the entities in which the investments are made do not have the cash resources to pay the interest. Other than Treasury Bills the scheme’s principal investments are the Berbice Bridge Company Inc $1.560B; Clico $5.195B; Hand-in-Hand Trust Corp Inc $2.465B; a 25-year US$4M loan to the Government of Guyana for the construction of the Caricom Headquarters and Laparkan Holdings Limited $276M. From a concentration perspective, directly and indirectly the NIS is dangerously exposed with the Berbice Bridge.

With one exception (Laparkan), the private sector entities have recently been subject to public scrutiny − mostly negative – which can impact on their own profitability and their debt service capability. Clico is an immediate and major problem for the NIS. The Berbice Bridge can become another if its cash flows do not pick up significantly to allow it to meet its huge annual interest obligations. Hand-In-Hand Trust (HIHT) has just lost almost its entire reserves with its Stanford investment and as a consequence, a major income stream.

At more than $10B, NIS investments and accrued income in Clico, the Bridge and HIHT account for about 35% of the reserves of the scheme. A significant portion of the $10B is already impaired. The loss has implications not only for the balance sheet and therefore its reserves but annual income as well. It has been estimated that the income the NIS is losing on a daily basis on the Clico investment alone is more than $1M. When the actuary predicted the evaporation of the scheme’s reserves, he did not contemplate the kind of man-made, governance-created misfortunes we are now experiencing. Employees and employers better prepare for what can be a rough and costly ride.

Some statistics

2007 was the year of the World Cup, the biggest sporting extravaganza ever hosted by Guyana. According to Dr Singh there was 5.4% real growth in the economy with increased contributions by sugar (2.7%); mining and quarrying (22.7%); engineering and construction (5.7%) and transportation and communication (9%). Inflation grew by 14% and the minimum wage in the public sector grew by 14.5%. These significant numbers and impressive statistics however are not matched by growth in contribution income (8.01%) or registrations of employers by industry types (Table A of the report) which disclose that not a single sector had a new employer registrant with over 100 employees, and only three had between 51 and 100 employees. These were Transport, Community and Business Services and Personal Services, an interesting and eclectic mix indeed.

Women registrants in the Employed Persons category are fast catching up with their male counterparts and in 2007 for every 100 males there were 87 females. In the self-employed category the ratio is about 2:1. Compared with the gender mix of pensioners (more than 3 males for every 1 female) there is a dramatic transformation in the workforce, even as women still carry the burden of the work to be done at home. Only in the age group 41-45 do women come anywhere close to men in the number of self-employed registrants in 2007. Table G of the report indicates that some sixty-five persons in receipt of Old Age Pension are aged 98 and a surprising 389 are 95 years and older. With such numbers we should have far more centenarians than our newspapers consider worthy of celebration. We need to make sure that there are no phantom pensioners.

One other significant gender difference appears in Table N which presents the number of sickness spells by diagnosis and sector. Here women seem to do very badly. Diseases of the female genital organs accounted for 880 sickness spells, the fourth highest. Complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth account for 845 sickness spells, the fifth highest. Such statistics should impress both our Ministers of Health, and the Ministers of Labour and Human Services. While the statistics are not significantly different from preceding years it is yet hoped that we will see some policy initiatives to address them.


The state of the NIS confronts the government with a real dilemma. The government seems to have an insatiable appetite for spending which it finances mainly through direct taxes (Income and Corporation Tax) and indirect taxes (VAT, Excise and Customs) borne mainly by the workers and the lower income group. As a result Guyana is now among the most taxed countries in the world. In public finance, NIS contributions are a tax. Except that in a contributions-based scheme such as ours, the contributor can get back benefits in proportion to contributions. Even without the Clico debacle and the other challenges, contributions should have been increased. Based on the recommendations of the actuary the required contribution rate (without Clico) should be around 20% instead of 13% but the government’s reluctance to increase the rate may reflect its own recognition that increased NIS contributions are already too high for the overtaxed Guyanese.

While the NIS inherited by the government in 1992 was not as healthy as one would like, its condition is now much worse. The expenditure to income ratio was already 67% in 1992. It is now 89%. Failure by the government over the years to act promptly on successive actuarial recommendations has aggravated the situation. This however does not exonerate the directors of the NIS who have sat back and done precious little to stem the drift.

‘Deepening democracy’

‘Deepening democracy’

Posted By Stabroek staff On April 26, 2009 @ 5:01 am In Editorial | No Comments

PPP General Secretary Donald Ramotar is the latest ruling party figure to have his say on the local government task force, following Mr Clinton Collymore, Dr Roger Luncheon and President Jagdeo. Mr Collymore, of course, was Co-Chair of the task force, and it was he who unilaterally aborted its deliberations, despite the fact that in so doing he was operating outside his sphere of authority. He was adamant that he had not issued his termination notice under instructions, although his illegitimate action has now been sanctioned by the highest levels in the government and party, giving substance to the opposition’s claim that he was, in fact, directed to end the proceedings.

The President groused about the eight years it has taken to get this far, omitting to mention, as said in an earlier editorial, that some of the delay in the past two years can be laid at the door of his party’s Co-Chair, who was simply not available for work to proceed; on one occasion, for instance, the hiatus in the discussions lasted almost three months on his account. In addition, as also mentioned previously, Mr Collymore is not noted for his negotiating skills, something one would have expected the President would not have been unaware of. Considering that the PPP/C Co-Chair had attempted to bring the task force to an end unilaterally last October as well, the inference that compromise was never really intended by the governing party appears not that outlandish.

After the combined opposition had raised their voices to condemn Mr Collymore’s action in terminating the task force, the President said that unresolved issues would be discussed by himself and the Leader of the Opposition, and if that failed, the local government bills would go to Parliament. Given what Mr Ramotar was reported to have said on Friday, the electorate should entertain no optimism about the outcome of the discussions between Messrs Jagdeo and Corbin. In addition, both Dr Luncheon and the President have made no secret of the fact that they feel Parliament is the best place for the debate on amendments to local government legislation, the former, it seems, because then it would be in the public eye.

And what delayed the decisions on reform in the task force for so long? The PNCR has been consistent in its claims over the years that the PPP/C side has shown reluctance to release central government’s hold on local bodies. This position is in consonance with what the nation in a general sense knows about how the governing party operates, viz, it is obsessed with control and is allergic to autonomous institutions. In addition, its treatment of the city of Georgetown − the shortcomings of the Mayor and City Council notwithstanding − supplies ample evidence of its determination to maintain its stranglehold on councils, particularly those where the opposition predominates. As a general observation too, it could reasonably be argued that it is the party out of office which would want greater devolution to local councils, not the one in office.

President Jagdeo cited Mr Collymore when accounting for the difficulty the two sides had in reaching agreement. The latter said apparently that the opposition lacked a sense of urgency – an extraordinary claim coming from him, one would have thought – and that it was “stonewalling.” This is not a helpful term, especially if it simply means that the PNCR representatives refused to accede to what the PPP/C wanted, and what the PPP/C wanted was to continue to keep local government bodies in its thrall. For his part Mr Ramotar advanced the reason that decisions made at one meeting had been “recommitted” at another. Exactly what that referred to was not explained.

Be that as it may, on Friday he gave some no doubt unintended credence to what the PNCR has been saying. He expounded on the difference between the two sides on the issue of phased local government elections, ie, holding such elections on different dates within a fixed time frame. The PNCR, he was reported as saying, wanted decisions about phasing to reside with Gecom, while the PPP/C wanted it to reside with the minister. That it is not in the interest of genuine democracy to have a decision of this kind taken by a political party in government does not seem to have occurred to the PPP/C; the truth is that in any regular democratic jurisdiction it simply should not be in a position to manipulate dates in its favour, even if its intentions are entirely above board. The appearance of manipulation would be every bit as damaging as the reality, more especially in our contentious political climate.

Of course the General Secretary held forth on the PPP’s favourite subject of “consolidating, widening and deepening our democracy,” and expressed the conviction that local government elections were essential to “renewing democracy at the grass roots.” It is perfectly true that there is a desperate need for the holding of such elections, but to what extent these will ‘renew democracy at the grass roots’ will depend in the first instance on how radical the reforms to the existing system are. If central government retains something like its current grip on local government organs, then grass-roots democratic revival will be correspondingly limited.

Referring to a disagreement with the PNCR about the inclusion of certain new sections in one of the bills under discussion, which the PPP/C wanted postponed in order not to delay the submission of the bill, Mr Ramotar adverted to “the second phase of the local government reform process.” After eight years key decisions should not be postponed; they should be made now and included in the legislation. A “second phase” which one must presume is intended for after the local government elections, will probably never materialise, or if it does will be subject to endless procrastination.

The President is right about one thing, and that is what happens in Parliament will be open to public scrutiny. If it emerges, therefore, that the governing party is prepared to ram through legislation some of which will not be reflective of true devolution, then their claims about grass-roots democracy will be exposed as a chimera. Local government elections held under arrangements which continue any of the key central government controls which exist at present, will not ‘deepen democracy.’

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Commentary Hope Relief Canal.

Commentary Hope Relief Canal.
By Tony Vieira [April 2009]

There are a numerous facts about the proposed Hope relief canal and the structure which has to be built to pass the lama water through the sea wall to the Atlantic Ocean which require an explanation by the authorities. Since a lot of us do not see this as a viable project.

First of all we have Mott Mc Donald along with CEMCO/SRKN’gineering as the contractors which will do the design of the canal which has to be built to remove excess water from the conservancy during periods of heavy rainfall.

There are four problems with the information in this first paragraph 1. CEMCO was not one of the bidders for this contract, Mott Mc Donald and SRKN’gineering and E&A Consultants were. Now ladies and gentlemen since CEMCO were not bidders in this contract, how is it possible that they end up as being one of the companies which was awarded this huge contract of 56.4 million dollars!

Secondly if the original contract had deficiencies, and was offered again for tendering so that CEMCO could win the contract, how can it be that no one knew about it?

Thirdly Mr Ravi Narine who was the chairman of the D&I board until last year is the major shareholder in SRKN’geneering its an abbreviation of Steve, S; Ravi, R; and Krisna K; Narine N; SRKN then ‘geenering thus SRKN’geenering, whilst Ravi Narine was chairman of the Drainige and Irrigation Board of Guyana his company was getting contracts to do civil engineering works in drainage and irrigation and sea defences for the government in this country and at least one of those contracts for 90 million dollars was an emergency work in East Berbice which did not go through the tender process. In other words we had in this country a chairman of the national drainage board who had an engineering company which benefited from the failure of national infrastructure, and no one in this country ever questioned it except me. And when I did, no one paid attention.

Fourthly Mott Mc Donald is a consulting company which the government hires to advise them on civil engineering matters; as recently as 2007 Mott Mc Donald was advising the government on how to design and maintain our drainage system, how can this company which the government relies on to tell them how to design our systems end up as a contractor actually being paid to design this canal and to tell us how it must be constructed to relieve the high water level of the Lama conservancy, is this not a conflict of interest? This company advises us on what to do, then we allow them to bid on doing it?

Having gotten over these 4 obstacles to the project we then see a letter to the newspaper telling the government that their current Chairman of the National Drainage and Irrigation Board does not know what he is talking about, since he has publicly declared that this new relief canal must be designed to withstand a 10,000 year storm i.e. a storm which only comes every 10,000 years! Now ladies and gentlemen Messers Ralph V. Seegobin and Ram Dharamdial have rightly pointed out in their letter to the newspaper dated April 8th 2009 that it would be impossible to design any system for such a storm since data would have had to be available before Columbus discovered the new world in 1492, 517 years ago duhhhh…. Lionel; so it would be impossible to have records going back 5,000 years.

Before I go further I would like to put into perspective for you what this canal will entail, we will have running from the conservancy a canal which has embankments at nearly 59 GD high on both banks i.e. Higher than the highest high tide we ever had in this country which was 57.3 ft. GD running from south to north for nearly 12 miles from the conservancy to the Atlantic ocean and it would have to be wide at least 100-40 ft wide. The land level in most of this area from the conservancy to the Atlantic would be about 50/52 ft. GD. So the banks and the water running from the conservancy to the Atlantic Ocean for 8 miles would be 8-9 ft higher than the surrounding terrain.

This year in February I asked a question in parliament about the lama levels during the month of December 2008 and January 2009 including the levels of the Land of Canaan relief on the East Bank.

The relief structure at Land of Canaan is 40 ft wide but the bottom [the floor] is not as low as our normal kokers it is at around 54 GD so this structure is a weir and not a koker at all. The normal koker level at the bottom i.e. the invert level is usually 44 to 45 GD, 10 feet deeper.

The information presented to me suggested that all through January 2009 the water level at Land of Canaan was 2 ft lower than in the conservancy; it was 56 ft. GD compared to 58 ft. GD, this means to me that this relief is only working at 50% of its capacity, if we can deliver more water to Land Of Canaan we can double the discharge rate of the outlet to the Demerara River and if we changed it from a 40 wide weir, to a 40 ft wide x 10 ft deep multiple koker structure we would have a 400 foot wide aperture to the Demerara river i.e. we would be able to discharge nearly 20 times the current amount of water to the Demerara river.

One engineer tells me that the water level at the northern dam of the conservancy which runs parallel to the east coast road is higher than the water at the back end of the conservancy I am saying that this is nonsense since the water coming into the conservancy and causing so much damage is coming from the highlands at Timehri and as far back as Saint Cuthbert Mission [see map] since both the Lama and Maduni creeks empty water from these highlands into the back or southern end of the conservancy, the reason why the back end of the conservancy has a lower average water level than the front or northern end of the conservancy is that we are blowing quite a bit of the water at Land of Canaan but clearly we are not blowing enough hence the level in the front is high.

Relieving this high level of water at Land of Canaan at the western end of the conservancy would be far more effective since the discharge canal would be a fraction of the length than that which would be required to bring it to the Atlantic to the north and it would be safer than removing the high Lama level through a new high level trench at Hope.

Building a koker of any kind to the Ocean is far, far more expensive than building it to a river the tide action alone makes it a very expensive proposition to build maintain and operate.

Additionally even if there is reason why this Hope project should go ahead it is my firm belief that the trench delivering the lama water to the Land of Canaan Relief should be examined very closely and widened so that its efficiency can be enhanced, after all ladies and gentlemen if the water level in the conservancy is 58 GD and the water level at Land of Canaan is 56 GD then there is a two foot drop in a canal of less than one and a half miles reducing its effectiveness considerably.

But essentially all rational thought would prompt any intelligent person to conclude that the major Lama relief should be at land of Canaan, first the one and a half mile feeder trench from Land of Canaan to the conservancy which has been there since the 60’s and could be as wide as we want it to be since the population there is much less than on the East Coast is already there; secondly it would be far shorter run than the proposed approximately 10-12 mile canal which will terminate at Hope and therefore it would not cost anywhere near 3 billion dollars; thirdly the cost of constructing relief structures to the Demerara river would be far less than similar construction to the Atlantic; fourthly the surrounding land level at Land of Canaan is nearly 4 ft higher than the run from the conservancy to Hope on the East coast thus it would have the potential to be less of a menace in case of a breach.

Really ladies and gentlemen I can’t under the circumstances agree to this situation at all and every engineer I have expressed this view to agrees with me. This project is looking more and more as one to put money in someone’s pocket rather than a realistic and cost effective solution to a real and dangerous problem.

The government must be aware that this project is now riddled with controversy and that there is significant data to suggest that it is not a viable project. Obviously since there are so many plusses to this relief being sighted at Land of Canaan, we have to conclude that some person or persons have an agenda which is militating against doing this job in the most cost effective and safe manner.

No local probe into Roger Khan without 'conclusive evidence' of illegality

Sunday Stabroek news item, Sunday 19 April 2009 - with 84 comments
No local probe into Roger Khan without 'conclusive evidence' of illegality- Luncheon

By Stabroek staff | April 19,
2009 in Local News
- Luncheon
Even though Shaheed Roger Khan has pleaded guilty in the US to trafficking
in some 150 kilos of cocaine, the Guyana government would still need
conclusive evidence that criminal and other unlawful activities took place
in connection with his business dealings in Guyana before an investigation
could be launched.

Roger Luncheon
This is according to Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon
who was asked whether the government would be investigating Khan's business
dealings with a view to seizing some of his assets.
Khan, who has been in a US prison since 2006, surprisingly threw in the
towel early last month after strenuously proclaiming his innocence for
years. He admitted before Judge Dora L. Irizarry that he had trafficked in
some 150 kilos of cocaine from January 2001 to March 2006 and she accepted
his plea. Khan also changed his not guilty pleas to charges of witness
tampering and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He had been
jointly charged with witness tampering with his former lawyer Robert Simels
and his assistant Arianne Irving, both of whom are still to face trial in
the matter. He is now awaiting sentencing, pending a probation report.
"It's a difficult question to answer off the bat," Luncheon said, when asked
about an investigation into Khan's businesses. "But I would say this [if]
information is provided to the administration that conclusively shows or
establishes that in his business dealings and in his activities in Guyana
criminal and other unlawful activities have been taking place, prosecution
would of course flow."
Luncheon further said that the administration would not pursue any criminal
procedure or proceedings in the absence of "definitive information to the
effect that criminal activities and specific criminal activities have taken
He said this is so "particularly because Mr Khan is incarcerated overseas
and much of the information that is flowing is information that has been
provided or there is a suggestion that it has been provided under oath in
the US court system, that is the information that we... or the average
Guyanese would be relying on to be the basis of pursuing Mr Khan [with
regard to] improper and illegal activities in Guyana...."
While Khan was said to have owned several business ventures in Guyana,
including a popular night club, attorney-at-law Vic Puran, who had
represented him while he was in Guyana, had told Stabroek News that as far
as he knew the drug trafficker had no businesses in Guyana. He had said the
housing development company, Dream Works Development Inc, was a company on
paper as the houses it built had already been sold to people and Khan had
collected the money. So he now had no say in the housing scheme. Puran had
also claimed that persons had moved to the court over money Khan owed them,
but with him behind bars it was unclear how they expected to collect. He
said Khan had been in financial woes for quite some time and found it
difficult to even pay his lawyers in the US.

Shaheed Roger Khan
There have been many calls from sections of society for the government and
the police to launch investigations into the activities of Khan while he was
in Guyana. And while President Bharrat Jagdeo had said that the police ought
to investigate Khan's activities, including his alleged involvement in
executions and extensive drug trafficking, no move has been made in this
Following Khan's guilty plea, Alliance For Change leader Raphael Trotman had
said that there was enough evidence from the case to warrant a full-scale
investigation into Khan's involvement with the government and the unsolved
murders that piled up during his activities in Guyana.
The PNCR has also maintained that it is not possible that Khan's activities
in Guyana would not have been known to senior officials of the Guyana
The party has reiterated its position that an "independent and impartial
Commission of Inquiry must now be launched into the criminal enterprise
headed by Roger Khan which was responsible for the deaths of more than 200
It had pointed out that Khan himself had publicly stated in a paid
advertisement in 2006 that he worked along with a section of the security
forces to curb crime and protect the government.
But President Jagdeo had dismissed the calls for investigation into
government links to Khan saying that Khan had made several claims and he had
never given any weight to what Khan had said in the past.
"Did you ever have contact with Roger Khan?" the President was asked days
after the guilty plea and he responded "No."
A former government minister and a serving one had been mentioned in the
transcript of a conversation Robert Simels had with a US government
confidential source (CS), as having met with Khan. But the President had
said he knew nothing of any such meetings. It was the conversations Simels
had with the CS that saw him, Irving and Khan being slapped with
witness-tampering charges.
"I have said before, Khan said several things, he said that [former
Commissioner of Police Winston] Felix was undermining the Government of
Guyana too; he said he had taped conversations with people sharing
information who are linked to drug dealers," the Head of State had told
"I have never put any store on what Roger Khan has said in the past or not
said. I never decided whether he is guilty or not guilty, so if he pleads
guilty he has to face the consequences, that is clear."
However, at a later press conference he did say that local authorities were
obligated to investigate Khan's activities in Guyana, including his alleged
involvement in executions and extensive drug trafficking.
But he had emphasised that US collaboration was essential and placed the
burden for seeking available evidence squarely on the shoulders of Police
Commissioner Henry Greene, saying that it was his job. "If there was any
criminal offence that was committed in Guyana, then we have an obligation,
once we get the information to pursue that," he had said at a press briefing
at the Office of the President. "I said this before: We have an obligation,
according to our laws; if people were killed here and we have information
that this was so, it requires collaboration with the US government."
The US government had said that Khan was the leader of a Georgetown-based
cocaine trafficking organisation, which was backed by a "paramilitary squad
that would murder, threaten, and intimidate" others at his directive. The
organisation imported large quantities of cocaine into Guyana, which were
then shipped to the Eastern District of New York and other places for
distribution. The US government had said Khan's enforcers committed violent
acts and murders on Khan's orders that were directly in furtherance of his
drug trafficking conspiracy. The paramilitary squad was referred to as the
"Phantom Squad," which a confidential US source said was responsible for "at
least 200 extra-judicial killings" in Guyana between 2002 and 2006.
Prior to fleeing to Suriname after there was an attempt to arrest him, Khan
himself placed newspaper advertisements in the Guyana Chronicle and the
Kaieteur News stating that he had been involved in crime fighting in Guyana
and had worked closely with local and US law enforcement officials.
The now dead George Bacchus, a self-confessed informant for the group, which
targeted suspected criminals for execution, claimed that its formation was
in response to the upsurge in violence. The then home minister Ronald Gajraj
was linked to the group by Bacchus, but was subsequently cleared of any
involvement by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Parliamentary reforms increasing political accord, Ramkarran says

Parliamentary reforms increasing political accord, Ramkarran says– still a lot of work to be done

Posted By Stabroek staff On April 5, 2009 @ 5:58 am In Local News | 16 Comments

Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran says parliamentary reform has been yielding greater political cooperation, although there remains a great deal of work to be done.
Ramkarran noted that reforms have particularly enhanced the work of select committees, where there is a far greater capacity for cooperation and consensus among political parties.

For almost three years, the National Assembly has been engaged in implementing reforms. These include recommendations contained in a 2005 Needs Assessment conducted by Commonwealth Parliamentary Staff Advisor Sir Michael Davies as well as those contained in the 2005 Guyana Fiduciary Oversight Report done by Bradford and Associates for the World Bank. The approved reforms were adopted along with other recommendations compiled by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which has funded implementation under a US$600,000 programme for the strengthening of the Parliament. Further, the Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC) has approved a strategic plan for the Parliament that was prepared under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and partially funded under the Fiscal and Financial Management Programme (FFMP). A part of the plan, dealing with proposals for the budgetary and staffing autonomy of the Parliament Office, is awaiting the completion of the work of a Special Select Committee.
Ralph Ramkarran [1]

Ralph Ramkarran

In his report, Sir Michael Davies had noted that his recommendations were intended to effect changes to enable the National Assembly to become the principal institution for political dialogue. He found that although the Parliament was recognised as paramount in the Constitution, it was not playing its proper role in governance. He cited the lack of independence of the Parliament and its management from the control of the executive among his findings as well as a committee system that was not functioning. In particular, he recommended that committees should be given work on a much more regular basis, choosing subjects for inquiry which are focused and capable of being completed within two to three months. Further, he said committees should recognise that they were bodies in which party differences should be largely forgotten.

“The atmosphere has been transformed,” Ramkarran said of the ongoing reforms in a recent interview with Stabroek News, noting that more bills are going to Special Select Committees while the Standing Committee system is becoming more effective. “This is what is facilitating the better functioning of Parliament and strengthening its capacity as a place where a continuing political dialogue can take place fruitfully.”

A recent example of the success of dialogue at the parliamentary level, according to Ramkarran, was the political consensus reached on the passage of a motion directing the Economic Services Committee to monitor the developments at CLICO (Guyana), while guaranteeing the savings of policy holders and other investors. The motion, in the name of PNCR-1G leader Robert Corbin and seconded by PNCR-1G MP Winston Murray, also resolved to call on the government to take all necessary steps to ensure that there would be no financial loss to any policyholder or depositor in CLICO (Guyana) and to secure investments made by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) in CLICO (Guyana) on behalf of contributors. It was passed with support by the governing PPP/C as well as the AFC and GAP-ROAR.

According to Ramkarran, reaching agreement on the motion was difficult, given the sharp differences between the government and opposition parties. He explained that while there were discussions on the motion to ensure it did not breach any rules, there were simultaneous talks ongoing between government and the opposition on the resolutions. “Now, it was very tough bargaining, I understand,” he said, “but eventually they came to an agreement on a matter where there is still significant difference.”

At the same time, he noted that while there has been progress, it is a slow process that still requires a great deal of work. Ramkarran also pointed out that like in every other country, the success of political dialogue would be subject to sharp political differences between the parties. Further, he pointed out that political differences have the added dimension of the historical association made between two large majorities of the population and two political parties.

Reacting to the concern about the majority having the final say, he noted that it is no different in other Westminster-type parliaments where the executive sits and the governing party holds the majority. He added that there is a little more flexibility in developed countries like the UK, where some MPs choose to vote against party lines under constituency systems. “But I find wherever a Bill goes to Select Committee, there is a far greater capacity for cooperation and consensus and that should be done more often,” he said.

Recall legislation
Asked whether in that context, the enactment of recall legislation could be seen as a backward step since it entrenches voting along party lines, Ramkarran indicated that the law was oriented towards the current electoral system, which provides for Members of Parliament (MPs) who are selected from party lists by their respective leadership. “What happens in the case of an MP who is selected by his party leadership?” he asked. “He is not selected by a constituency -whether right or wrong that is the system we have.” He added that it is unlikely that the decision on the selection of the MP list would be made arbitrarily by any individual leader. Rather, he said, the process extended to the ground and great care is taken to ensure the list is representative. “At the end of the day, there must be a mechanism for when one member says I no longer support the party,” he said. “How can you have within your ranks a member who you put there, who says that he no longer supports your party?”

Ramkarran said that there was a vast number of countries with recall legislation, adding it was nothing unusual.
He also felt that the parliament would be a useful forum to some extent for actualising Article 13, which provides for increasing participation of citizens and civil society organisations in the decision-making process of the state. He noted that the committee system, in particular, is oriented to encourage public participation, through the holding of public hearings. He added that his call for some full-time MPs could see more work being done. Ramkarran explained that while some committees are functioning okay, others are not, adding that it depended on the workload of the chairperson. He noted that committees suffer when chairpersons have to manage a large workload. A permanent full-time chair and staff, he said, would enhance the work of the committees, especially since the facilities are now in place to support them.

Sir Michael had also noted the need to improve relations with all sections of civil society and the private sector and to take steps to facilitate access to information about the work of the National Assembly.

“The relationship between the Parliament and civil society and private sector is not as it should be,” Ramkarran acknowledged, adding that there is need to meet various sections of the society to explain Parliament’s work and show how they can help each other. He said there is a lot of work that will be done, targeting schools, NGOs, the business community, trade unions and service organisations.

He noted that just recently a public relations officer was hired for the National Assembly and tasked with publicising its work and generating greater public interest. Asked whether the National Assembly is considering broadcasting its proceedings either by radio or through the internet, he admitted that it is not being explored. Though he indicated an interest in radio broadcasting, he said the National Assembly is engaged in a tremendous amount of work and does not have the capacity. He said it is currently in the midst of setting up a Hansard Department, through which it hoped to get Hansards to MPs within a maximum of four weeks. He said the possibility of producing them in electronic form is also being pursued as is updating and archiving on the Parliament’s website. Responding to the question of whether the public is interested in the work of the Parliament, Ramkarran said “It’s not whether the public is interested; that’s not the criteria—it’s not a question of how many people are interested, it’s a question of what the parliament needs to do to have its business in the public domain.”
16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "Parliamentary reforms increasing political accord, Ramkarran says"

#1 Comment By Seefar On April 5, 2009 @ 8:04 am

The political climate in Guyana will not improve until people are allowed to elect their representatives and their representatives can vote their interests regardless of the party line. Too much power is concentrated in the hands of the politicians. A system where one votes for a party and allows the party to decide who one’s representative will be does not provide fair representation. In the current system most people don’t know who represents their district and cannot demand that their representative act or lose the right to represent them in the next term of office by being voted out.

#2 Comment By eloise On April 5, 2009 @ 10:17 am


#3 Comment By Joe On April 5, 2009 @ 10:51 am

The parlimentary system in Guyana is dysfunctional and irrelevant to the needs of the people. It does not matter what system of parliment they are practicing,it simply does not meet the needs of the people.

What we have here is the political power elites who get to wield the power and get to put food on their table. Then there is the opposition, who fight for the right to wield some of that power and who get to put food on their table also.

The majority of the population is shut out from the process and left to struggle by themselves.

This is the way it was intended to be my friends, this is the way it will always be, no matter who takes the reins of power.

It was never intended to take care of the need of the masses only that of the controlling elite. It is the system of the Empire builders my friends, it will never work for us.

The last thing the country needs is for our most meaningful leaders to lock themselves behind these prominent concrete walls and haggle forever, on the virtues of administration based on a deceptive system of divide and rule, which they cunningly call Democracy. Government for the people by the people. What a crock of BS.

I am not at all surprised that the IDB and the World Bank would give grants and send in their “expert” to make recommendations for a more meaningful Westminster style of parliment. It serves to their advantage.

They are trying to even the battle field and then say; ok guys you now have it right, go right ahead and continue fighting about all the non issues you can possibly conjure up in your little parliment playpen.

Attaboy mates, you are now doing a jolly good job. While you guys are at it, please keep in mind that you still owe us on that last loan.

Nothing tangible or meaningful to the development of Guyana ever came out of that building called parliment. They need to convert it to the people Library.

We do not need leaders who know how to practice Westminster style politics, we need leaders who can mobolize the people to come out with their forks and shovels and reshape the landscape for the betterment of all.

This continent is filled with examples and remnants of great and powerful lost civilizations, who built monumental cities and irrigation canals useing tools and techinques that has baffled the greatest scientific minds to this day.They did it all with local resources and materials, and no loans from any foreign money lenders.

We are the descendants of those lost civilizations and yet we are unable to build a proper irrigation and drainage system. Are you kidding me?

The reason for this is because we are being constantly misguided in the wrong direction. Enough already.


#4 Comment By Andy On April 5, 2009 @ 11:11 am

Man, you can reaaly tell the truth as much as you can see far! Though the original source is not known at this time, the following is a related extract from another Guyanese blog that you don’t have to agree with entirely, but it is food for thought:

1) The Presidency: The President maintains the awesome reserve powers of the British Sovereign in the most fundamental ways as exercised by the last of the powerful Crown Governors of British Guiana. The President of Guyana is less president, more Sovereign. He is also still immune from the Civil and Criminal courts for any act whatsoever as is the British Sovereign. He maintains de facto absolute veto over Parliament. In the off chance that Parliament moves to override a Presidential veto, he may simply by proclamation dissolve Parliament. However, even that scenario can only happen in theory as our List MPs are subject to recall if they dare stray from their party line. Parliament is thus effectively a forum of the Leader of the PPP and the Leader of the PNC with ceremonial bit parts for their MP-servants.

2) Parliament: The matters brought before the House are solely at the discretion of the Leader of Gov’t Business. No free votes or votes of conscience has ever been allowed in this the Ninth or the previous Parliaments. The Opposition may meekly oppose in debate and then cast meaningless votes. The Speaker is not even a “parliamentary” speaker but a mere Servant of the Sovereign (read Jagdeo). In the Westminister system, the Speaker’s authority and impartiality is buttressed and reinforced by his seat becoming uncontestable for the remainder of his poltical life and that no party (esp his own) would dare take reprisal against him for an unfavorable ruling. Also the Speaker by tradition may never hold a further political office. In the Guyanese Parliament, the Speaker is just another Agent of the Sovereign. He does not and cannot protect the House’s Members from the Sovereign’s displeasure. A famous scene in English constitutional history took place in 1642 when King Charles I and his Guard entered the House of Commons in search of 5 MPs and demanded of Speaker William Lenthall that he reveal their location. Speaker Lenthall very bravely said “May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.” That is the essence of the role of a Parliamentary Speaker.

#5 Comment By Diamond Dog On April 5, 2009 @ 11:56 am

There is a refreshing wind of change blowing across the universe, yet Guyana seems bent on wallowing in the same old stale, political vamparisimic dead atmosphere.Racism, bad leadership and corruption, have sucked the oxygen from Guyana’s once refreshing climate, leaving the guyanese people stagnated and struggling for survival. Guyana must have new leadership, or die a slow, but painful economic death.

#6 Comment By caesar agustus On April 5, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

We need to cut government spending and stop employing more politicians, or forming political committees.Politicians are a burden to the taxpayer.We need cut the political apparatus in half, and fire some of these chair warmers operating at the public expense.

#7 Comment By Joe On April 5, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

The following quote demonstrates what this so called democratic system of parliament, which was introduced to us by the British House of Lords, does to all of us.

“The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawarely enslave themselves.” -Dresden James


#8 Comment By Joe On April 5, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

My friends this attached video is by an Argentenian financial analyst, who very eloquently explains the financial crisis and the failed attempts to correct the situation. Our leaders in Guyana are completely blind, but you do not have to be.

Knowledge is real power my friends, we owe it to ourselves.

It is a two part series. Enjoy my friends.



#9 Comment By eric phillips On April 5, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

you are in rare and correct form …we need to rid ourselves of the system and all those whom have been politicains for more than 10 years

#10 Comment By storme williams On April 5, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

The 1980 Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana was the author’s gift to Forbes Burnham and the PNC. Forbes was supposed to be still alive and the PNC was supposed to be still in power. Unfortunately Forbes died and the PNC lost power. The Constitution turned out to be the perfect gift for the PPP. I will always remember what a former PPP parliamentarian now in the opposition told me after 1992 elections. I questioned about constitutional reforms that were spoken of in the campaign. He said to me that who would not like to rule with a constitution like that. So basically the PPP has replaced the PNC.

#11 Comment By caesar agustus On April 5, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

Better. ‘No one is more enslaved than the one who says he is free.’

#12 Comment By tiger On April 6, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

agreed storme,same political crap, just different people, i can remember back in the days when the ppp use to noisely protest the laws of the then pnc, but when you look at all of it, nothing has changed, infact it now greatly benifits the ppp.

#13 Comment By Brandon Samaroo On April 6, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

You are on the money. The political climate also will not change unless there is full transparency so parliament and the people can see where lotto funds are being spent, where NIS money is being invested and the returns we are getting on those investments etc.

TRANSPARENCY RALPHie boy Transparency

#14 Comment By Brandon Samaroo On April 6, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

Now you are talking you are on the money here.

It is amazing how many Guyanese do not realize this.

#15 Comment By Soldier On April 6, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

The Auditor General report on on of these Mr Samaroo,,,When the PNC was in power did you get any report then and could you have asked for it??? Asking for it then was like waking up in the Lockups with your eyes swolen…This is the difference that the PPPC has brought in Guyana…

#16 Comment By Brandon Samaroo On April 7, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

The auditor general reports on lotto funds and the audited financials of state corp?

Weh? show me? publish them ere lemmme see em?

Everytime I ask you to back up your statements soldier you run and hide like a kat. I asked you for the comparisons to show where Obama budget and Jagdeo budget are the same, ah still waitin.

Article printed from Stabroek News:

URL to article:

Friday, April 10, 2009

New permanent secretaries appointed

Kaieteur News news item, Friday 10 April 2009

New permanent secretaries appointed

New Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Colin Croal, MBA
There have been new appointments within several Ministries. Yesterday, Head
of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, announced that there
will be new Permanent Secretaries with the Ministry of Legal Affairs,
Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, and Ministry of Housing and Water.
Former Deputy Director of the Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology,
Colin Croal, has been appointed the new Permanent Secretary of the Ministry
of Legal Affairs.
Croal has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of
Malaya and a degree in Business Management from the University of Guyana.
Over at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Nigel Dharamlall, the Head of
the Fisheries Department within the Ministry of Agriculture, has replaced
Emile Mc Garrell.
Mc Garrell has been appointed Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing
and Water.
Other appointments include Dr. Inderjit Ramdass, who has been appointed as
Chief Executive Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The former head of the EPA, Doerga Persaud, has been identified to be the
head of the Lands and Survey Commission.
Andrew Bishop from the Lands and Survey Commission has since taken up a
position at the Office of the President.
Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Mitra Devi Alli
has been appointed Guyana's Ambassador to Cuba

Monday, April 6, 2009

McDougall Report is an exceptionally good analysis of the social situation in Guyana

Kaieteur News Letter to the editor, Monday 06 April 2009

McDougall Report is an exceptionally good analysis of the social situation
in Guyana

Dear Editor,
The McDougall Report on Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil,
Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to
Development, presents us with an exceptionally good analysis of the social
situation in Guyana. It is a report that should be seized upon by a
Government interested in racial harmony. It accepts the institutional
framework and the premises under which it operates as appropriate for social
justice if improvements are made in the functioning of the institutions.
That approach favours East Indian dominance (as distinct from East Indian
domination) and ought to have been gleefully accepted by President Jagdeo.
Instead, Jagdeo has lambasted the report in almost every aspect and has
referred to the UN Expert as lacking in experience. His response reveals an
in-bred racism. Dr. Jagan, before him, had rejected African UNDP
Representatives and had made it clear that he preferred white
Representatives. That prejudice is evident in Jagdeo's rejection of the
McDougall analysis.
Jagdeo's fundamental objection is that the Government's policies towards
Amerindians were ignored in the report even though they are the true
minority in Guyana. The Report states quite clearly that Amerindians were
regarded as indigenous people and that policies relating to Amerindians were
dealt with exclusively in another report. With excessive childishness, the
President rejects the separate treatment of Amerindians and crudely asserts
that the Government has no policy related to minorities since East Indians
can be equally regarded as a minority because they number less than half of
the total population. This argument is easily dismissed later in this
The President is worried about the influence of Guyanese living in the
U.S.A. whom he regards as political extremists. Ordinarily we would be
referred to as the Guyanese Diaspora that remits huge amounts of remittances
to impoverished Guyanese and that contributes to the maintenance of social
peace. The Diaspora does, however, have the potential to express dissent
more strongly than Guyanese at home largely because Guyanese overseas are
further removed from bounty killings. Death stalks the land in Guyana and
silences dissent. Mr. Sharma, the owner of a TV broadcasting station has
been physically brutalised in an effort to silence him. Extra judicial
killings in the several hundreds, torture in the disciplined services,
bulldozing of farmlands are among the methods used to suppress opposition.
The Report highlights these brutalities and is accordingly regarded with
Brutalities cannot be easily extended to the Diaspora. The silencing of
dissent in Guyana, when combined with the numerical and financial
superiority of the Government's supporters, provides the basis for
perpetuating a PPP majority into the foreseeable future. The dynamic of the
flow of money, with the skilful and brutal manipulation of political power
is enough to overcome the shortfall in the ethnic proportion to win
elections forever. It is a delusion to think that some combination of
political forces can overcome the fear, which people have and secure an
electoral victory over the PPP.
But there is a sense in which Jagdeo is correct in having misgivings about
the Diaspora. Africans in the Diaspora are awakening to the need to end the
confusion about African culture that Jagdeo smirks about. Led by Dr. Kimani
Nehusi, Africans, particularly those in the Diaspora, now realise that the
most devastating aspect of enslavement is the loss of African culture. We,
Africans, intend to stress this cultural deprivation in our
self-determination by focus on who we are, on our identity.
Jagdeo fears this African assertiveness like the plague because it does not
end at individual self-determination but extends into collective
self-determination. It is in respect of the assertiveness of African
collective self-determination that the McDougall report is deficient.
It must be noted that Ms. McDougall had no mandate for considering African
collective self-determination. And the Africans whom she met were
preoccupied with individual self-determination and did not extend their
horizons further. East Indians have, since the early 20th century, embarked
on collective self-determination. Mr. Nandalall spelt this out fully at an
Indian Arrival Day Celebration when he boasted
about how, "We (note the collective concept) came as indentured labourers
and now dominate the commercial and political and professional scene."
African collective self-determination demands changes to the institutional
framework that Ms. McDougall found satisfying. Collective self-determination
demands an equivalent space for Africans in commerce in Regent Street, in
Water Street, in Lombard Street, in Bourda Market, in Stabroek Market, in
Sussex Street Market. Collective self-determination demands an equivalent
space for Africans in fishing co-operatives, in pharmaceutical manufacture,
in stock feed manufacture, in rice cultivation, in rice milling, in the
construction industry (where the large contracts are awarded), in the legal
profession, in the medical profession and in academia.
It is presented here as a zero-sum approach. It should not be zero-sum. It
should be positive sum. To achieve positive sum, the economy has to be
expanded substantially. This expansion of the economy for positive sum
outcomes is what amounts to a minority policy. For Jagdeo to state that the
Government has no minority policy demonstrates a blank mind and a bankrupt
development policy. The statement ignores the reality that equal opportunity
for Africans requires an investment policy and a training policy that pays
special attention to the reduction of inequalities between East Indians and
Africans and, between East Indians and East Indians, by rapid expansion of
the economy.
It is for this reason that Jagdeo considers us in the Diaspora to be wild
extremists. We upgrade the debate to the level of greater equity in the
economy. This is a level that Jagdeo seems unable to appreciate. But if he
hopes to work in an international institution in a manner as Ms. McDougall,
it would be necessary for him to be less superficial. Ms. McDougall is a
deep thinker. She did not embrace our collective self-determination concept
because her institutions have not thought in those terms. At the level that
she was mandated to report, she did an excellent job.
Are we going to take advantage of this report? The PNCR and the AFC should
get together and set out their own comments, thanking Ms. McDougall for her
work and putting forward her recommendations for consideration at the
Hemispheric Summit to be held in Trinidad later this month. Time is of the
essence. Jagdeo will attend the Summit. He will not dare criticise Ms.
McDougall if the Opposition champions her.
Clarence F. Ellis

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Guyana’s future as seen by a USAID report

Guyana’s future as seen by a USAID report
April 5, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon

The USAID –Guyana Country Strategy, 2009-2013 is a document that will reinforce the pessimism that overwhelms a majority of people who live in this country. Like the Gay Mc Dougall Report submitted to the UN Human Rights Commission, the Guyana Government will label it a work of fiction. That is to be expected.

The USAID analysis should be of special concern to investors in this society. The essential observation on the evaluation of governance is that ethnic polarization threatens Guyana’s future. There are the usual judgements like centralized decision-making and weak rule of law.
But the report takes a dig at civil society and the business community. Here is a quote; “A weak civil society and fragmented private sector are not adequately equipped to engage in or influence decision-making processes.”

This USAID document has its pointed features and its hypocritical moments. It talks about the jeopardy that faces Guyana’s future because of political instability but it glaringly and egregiously overlooks the unwillingness of the aid donors to rein in an elected dictatorship in Guyana.
In this context, the opinion of the authors that is contained in that quote is unfair. Why should civil society and the private sector endanger the well-being, economic or otherwise, of their members by demanding participation in the process of governance when powerful countries that offer a lifeline to Guyana are not prepared to castigate the centralized machinery when it attempts to victimize civil society and the private sector for demanding just what the USAID authors want it to do?

The opening section of this manuscript paints Guyana as a small country that is one of the poorest in the world. Yet this obscure nation (comparatively speaking within the global scheme of things) has failed to sustain efforts at democracy that the US helped engineered in 1992 and has since then vitiated the energies of the population to concretize that democracy.

Since 1992, Guyana has joined Venezuela and Russia and a number of other countries that went from dictatorship to free elections as embodying what American scholar, Fareed Zakaria, calls illiberal democracy or known otherwise as elected dictatorship. The USAID report comes close to using that terminology to describe the nature of politics here in Guyana.
But what the USAID study has refrained from doing is to accept blame that American money has bankrolled this elected dictatorship.

Aid to Guyana pours in from the World Bank, IMF and IDB (apart from bilateral transaction from the US Government through USAID) all of which the US has a predominant say in. A high level officer at the US Embassy in Georgetown in 2005 told me that if the Guyana Government persists with torpedoing the establishment of a DEA office in Georgetown, the US would use its influence in these bodies to correct Guyana’s truculence.

On reading this document and its commentaries on political instability, the question stares you in the face – why the US Government does not put pressure on the Guyana Government to embark on good governance
In the section on governance, the USAID study points to other aid programmes of the US Government with components on good governance. It then goes on to depict a country whose future depends on the disappearance of ethnic mobilization and racial polarization. Well obviously one can read into this that the previous programmes on good governance have failed.

I will conclude this essay by suggesting that investors read this evaluation of Guyana very carefully. If entrepreneurs are going to invest billions in the economy of Guyana only to find that the country has a precarious future, then these capitalists as a policy of dire exigency need to engage State actors.
Here is another quote “(Guyana has) a political climate that threatens the country’s ability to consolidate democracy.” Here is yet another one; “The fundamental dysfunction of Guyana’s democracy –ethno-political mobilization – must be addressed if Guyana is to realize its great potential.”

Those who invest billions in this country have to be self-destructive if they cannot see that they have a pressing obligation to involve themselves in the political solutions on which rest the country’s future. I agree it will not be easy because even though this USAID report cites the weakness of civil society and the business class to situate themselves in the machinery of policy-making, the US Government has not shown any interest in rebuking the Guyana Government for its willing drift into authoritarian control.

One hopes that after this study, the US will insist on good governance from the Jagdeo presidency and the PPP Government. Incidentally, the report says 90 % of UG graduates migrate. I thought it was 80%. Things are getting worse.

Obituary - Janet Jagan, OE, October 20, 1920 – March 28, 2009

Obituary - Janet Jagan, OE, October 20, 1920 – March 28, 2009

Posted By Stabroek staff On April 5, 2009 @ 5:08 am In Features, Sunday | No Comments

Janet Rosalie Jagan, née Rosenberg, former President of Guyana, died on March 28 aged 88.
Janet Jagan was the most prominent woman in this country during the last century. A former President, she also held official positions as First Vice-president and Prime Minister, Minister, Senator, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and member of the National Assembly at various times over her sixty-six years of public life. Her career − spread over more than the entire second half of the 20th century − was extraordinary.

A complex person, it was on the Talmud, Judaism’s holy book, that she swore the oath as a member of the Legislative Assembly in September 1961 but she never claimed to be religious. On special occasions in the 1950s, she would wear a sari, a gesture that endeared her to the Hindu population. Time magazine in 1963 called her “the most controversial woman in South American politics since Eva Peron” and others branded her “one of the most dangerous communists” in the hemisphere. Indeed, to the end of her days, she defied easy political characterisation.

Several factors influenced Janet Jagan’s world-view. The most important, perhaps, was the poverty of the lower classes evident in the Depression-era living conditions in her native Chicago. Her father, Charles Rosenberg, was a plumbing and heating salesman. She recalled that both anti-Semitism and the Great Depression took its toll: “Business was awful. My father could not make a good living.” Her Jewish parents were conservative Republicans and her father, in an effort to escape the stigma of his Jewishness, changed his name from Rosenberg to Roberts in order to secure work.

Racial and religious discrimination aggravated poverty. Janet herself – a Jew descended from Czechoslovak immigrants – felt marginalised. She recalled being moved by the fact that one of her college friends of Chinese origin was obliged to work in a laundry every evening after classes to support herself. Although as a young woman she enjoyed a variety of middle-class athletic sports − archery, fencing, speed-skating, swimming and rifle-shooting − she was disturbed by the discrimination which was so evident everywhere. Perceptions of inferiority affected her education and, after attending Michigan State College, she went to the predominantly Catholic University of Detroit where, as a Jew, she considered herself an outsider and sought the company of other outsiders and non-Catholics among the small, non-white student population. Finally, she attended the more liberal Wayne State University but never completed even her first degree.

In December 1941, the USA declared war on Japan and she felt that “it seemed a patriotic thing to do” to switch to nursing in order to contribute to the war effort. As a result, she started studies at the Cook County Hospital Nursing School. But romance with a dark stranger forestalled her graduation, dispelled thoughts of war and brought her formal academic education to an unexpected end. What happened next changed her life completely. Quite fortuitously in December 1942 while still a nursing student at Cook County, she met Cheddi Jagan, a dashing dentistry student who was then at Northwestern University Dental School. Both were interested in the liberal politics of the day and, at a party hosted by a friend who was leaving to join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, they began talking about topics of mutual interest.

Not only was Cheddi Jagan a gentile and a Hindu but he came from a country that no one in her family even knew existed. Strong-willed in the face of strenuous objections of her Jewish and his Hindu parents, the couple married eight months later on August 5, 1943, in a civil ceremony. The father of the bride was so infuriated that he threatened to shoot his prospective son-in-law on sight and her grandmother suffered a stroke. Years later, she and her father were reconciled but Charles Rosenberg never actually met Cheddi Jagan.

Janet’s Jewishness, she believed, meant permanent discrimination in Chicago and, rather than accept that indignity, she chose to leave and to seek self-esteem elsewhere. The circumstances of her quasi-exile and alienation from her father aggravated her feelings of victimhood which had attracted her to Cheddi Jagan in the first place. Her innate insecurity, uncompleted academic record and unorthodox marriage against the wishes of her father, compounded her feelings of inadequacy and explain much of the tenacity she displayed in later life.

After Cheddi Jagan’s US visa expired in 1943, he returned to British Guiana. Janet stayed in Chicago, earning money as a proofreader for the American Medical Association, and followed in December after her husband was able to raise enough for her passage. Cheddi set up a dental surgery with Janet working as his assistant.
Cheddi and Janet Jagan could not realise their political ambitions and aspirations without the concrete base of an organization, so they actively sought to meet leading labour organisers and to join existing trade unions. Jocelyn Hubbard, who would become General Secretary of the British Guiana Trades Union Congress, was one of the first and most influential persons to befriend and introduce them to other liberal persons and trade unionists in Georgetown. They met Ashton Chase and Hubert Critchlow of the British Guiana Labour Union and Dr Joseph Lachhmansingh of the Guiana Industrial Workers’ Union. Mrs Jagan herself became Assistant Secretary of the British Guiana Clerks’ Association. They also joined a discussion group which met at the Public Library. These ideas, individuals and institutions formed the foundation of the Political Affairs Committee in 1946.

The same year, Janet Jagan joined with Winifred Gaskin, Vesta Lowe, Frances Stafford and several other women to bring the Women’s Political and Economic Organisation into being. After that organisation was dissolved, she, along with Jane Philips Gay, Jessica Huntley and others, transformed the idea into the Women’s Progressive Organisation in May 1953.

By 1950, the Jagans also joined with Forbes Burnham and others to establish the People’s Progressive Party. Janet was elected party’s general secretary, a post she retained for two decades. Since then she remained a member of the party’s General Council, Central Committee and Executive Committee and also served as International Secretary and Executive Secretary.

She sought other public office eagerly, competing unsuccessfully for a legislative seat in the 1947 elections. She was the first woman to be elected to the Georgetown Town Council in 1950 and, with Jessie Burnham and Jane Phillips-Gay, was among the first elected women to enter the House of Assembly (ie, the National Assembly) in 1953. She could have gone further. Her husband, the leader of the legislative group, hoped that she would be one of the six ministers appointed to the Executive Council − a sort of proto-cabinet. Forbes Burnham, the party’s chairman, however, preferred to have Dr Joseph Lachhmansingh, Dr Robert Hanoman-Singh and Mr Jai Narine Singh appointed. A compromise was reached to elect Mrs Jagan as Deputy Speaker of the House instead. In any event, the constitution was suspended and the ministers were all expelled by the UK government four and a half months later.

At the core of Janet Jagan’s belief in organisations as vehicles for change was the Leninist concept of democratic centralism. This meant mainly, “freedom of discussion, unity of action;” it also meant a high degree of centralisation of power and imposition of discipline within the hierarchy of the organisation. From the outset, the People’s Progressive Party, like all other post-war national movements, was a congeries of diverse interests, and the adoption of democratic centralism and socialism as the unifying ideology led to all sorts of problems both internally and internationally. Some in the party’s left wing interpreted socialism to mean ‘sovietism.’ During the Cold War, Janet Jagan’s visits to Eastern European countries, and the party’s affiliation to pro-Soviet international organisations, uncritical support for Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe and friendship with the undemocratic communist regime in Cuba, generated the hostility of the US and UK governments. Although the socialist rhetoric created an impression of ideological consistency and conformity, others saw it only as outdated and dangerous dogma.

Janet Jagan was perceptive enough to discover early that it was her husband’s charismatic appeal, especially among the voting rural masses, rather than socialist ideology, that was the party’s most priceless political asset. He had the ability to transcend class, social, religious and occupational barriers in ways that other political ‘doctors’ − Dr Joseph Lachhmansingh, Dr Robert Hanoman-Singh and Dr Jung Bahadur Singh, for example − never could. Her commitment to her husband, therefore, was pragmatic and she fought to protect his reputation through all of the crises that he confronted.

A woman of undoubted toughness and single-mindedness, Janet Jagan steered the party through the great schism that spawned the Jaganite and Burnhamite factions in 1955; the decamping of Sydney King, Martin Carter, and Rory Westmaas; the expulsions of Edward Beharry and Balram Singh Rai; the defections of Ranji Chandisingh, Vincent Teekah and, most recently the defenestration of Khemraj Ramjattan. Owing to her prominent position, political tactics, strong personality and enduring presence, she had always been perceived as the party’s most powerful political tactician.

Her greatest political legacy has been the engineering of an efficient election machine − the PPP − enriched by legends of struggle, embellished with a pantheon of martyrs, and sustained by an ever-faithful constituency. The Jagans have always been at the heart of that party. Even after his death in March 1997, Janet Jagan ensured that Cheddi Jagan’s image remained embedded in the next three election campaigns and his memory was perpetuated by the publication and reprinting of numerous books, and his legacy preserved in the Cheddi Jagan Research Institute.

Despite her political talents, Mrs Jagan was dogged by tribulation. By the late 1940s, several West Indian colonies, including Grenada, St Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago, had deemed her and her husband prohibited immigrants, making inter-colonial travel problematic. She relinquished her American citizenship in 1947 and was declared persona non grata by the United States government in the 1950s. During the state of emergency which accompanied the suspension of the constitution and the expulsion of PPP ministers from the administration in 1953, the party launched a civil disobedience campaign in 1954. Mrs Jagan was charged for two offences related to the emergency regulations – addressing an illegal meeting, said to be a Hindu religious ceremony, and possessing a secret Police Riot Manual – and brought before Magistrate Harold Bollers. Her defence counsel, Forbes Burnham, tried to prove that the manual had been planted in her home by the police during a search for prohibited literature but the magistrate convicted her and sentenced her to six months in prison. She was released in January 1955.
When democratic elections were restored in 1957, Janet Jagan was returned by the constituency of Essequibo-Pomeroon to the Legislative Council and appointed Minister of Labour, Health and Housing. This was probably her finest hour. Her performance evinced serious attempts to improve the living conditions of ordinary folk. In Labour, for instance, a Shops’ Ordinance was passed in 1958, restricting shop assistants’ working week to 40¾ hours instead of 47 and providing for annual holidays with pay. The Workmen’s Compensation Act was also amended to extend protection to domestics and other marginalised workers for the first time. In Health, several cottage hospitals, health centres and maternity and child welfare clinics were constructed in rural and riverain districts. In more remote areas, teams of dentists, doctors and dispensers were dispatched to deliver medical care. In Housing, the Rent Restriction Ordinance was extended beyond urban areas and the construction of low-cost, working-class housing was continued.
After the next general election in 1961, Claude Christian was

appointed Minister of Home Affairs, but he died suddenly. Mrs Jagan was nominated to the Senate and replaced him in 1963. It was a time of riots and a public service strike in which the CIA as is now known was indirectly complicit. The next year in February, the Guiana Agricultural Workers’ Union – a PPP affiliate – started a strike ostensibly to gain recognition in the sugar industry but this soon degenerated into serious inter-ethnic violence which continued with widespread arson on the sugar estates and horrible murders for several months. After the outbreak of violence at Wismar, however, Mrs Jagan resigned as minister in June to protest the slow response of the police to the incident.

Janet Jagan did not return to ministerial office until thirty-three years afterwards in March 1997 when her husband died. Under Samuel Hinds’s caretaker administration, she was appointed first Vice-President and Prime Minister but without a portfolio. Elections fell due in December of that year and, already 77 years old, she decided to run for the presidency. It might have been a measure of her growing isolation from public opinion that she felt confident enough to do so. When her brother, James Rosenberg, learnt of her intentions, his opinion was that she was tired, “but somebody’s got to carry on the work …The last time we talked, she said she wanted to take her dog and cat and go back home.” Her decision might have been motivated by a desire to avoid infighting to succeed Cheddi Jagan but the débâcle that followed suggested that her confidence was misplaced.
Her tenure as the sixth president was a troubled one, marred by political unrest over the election results and the manner in which she was sworn in and plagued by the paralyzing strike by the Guyana Public Service Union. Although the elections commission declared victory for the PPP, only a few persons were invited to her strange swearing-in ceremony. This was followed by a public reception at which High Court marshals, unaware that she had already been sworn-in, attempted to serve a prohibitory order. Mrs Jagan tossed the order aside, explaining her action later in a newspaper article. Ruling on an election petition subsequently, High Court Judge Claudette Singh eventually declared the 1997 elections “unlawful.” After only twenty months in office, Janet Jagan decided to resign in August 1999 because she felt that that she was no longer capable of “vigorous, strong leadership.”

A great believer in the importance of communication, Mrs Jagan contributed countless articles and letters to the press from the earliest days. Most important, in political terms, when the PAC was founded, it was she who became editor of the PAC Bulletin. Similarly, when the PPP was founded, she became editor of the party’s paper – Thunder. Later, when the Thunder was converted to a quarterly journal and the Mirror was launched as a commercial newspaper, it was she again who became editor. She mobilised reporters at the Mirror newspaper into the Union of Guyanese Journalists, as a counterpart to the Guyana Press Association, with herself as its first president.

Over the decades at the Thunder and Mirror, she wrote innumerable editorials and articles, some of the longer and weightier ones – The Army Takeover in the Guyana Elections; National Service, An Act of Coercion, for example – being reprinted and distributed as pamphlets. She also wrote other small books such as the History of the PPP. More recently, she turned to writing children’s books – The Legend of the Enmore Martyrs; Uncle Cheddi; When Grandpa Cheddi Was a Boy and Other Stories; Children’s Stories of Guyana’s Freedom Struggles; Anastasia the Anteater and Other Stories; Alligator Ferry Service; The Dog Who Loved Flowers; and Patricia the Baby Manatee. Mrs Jagan will be remembered also as the subject of the sympathetic and heroic film Thunder in Guyana made by her cousin Suzanne Wasserman in 2003.
Janet Jagan [1]

Janet Jagan

She was returned repeatedly to the National Assembly in every election after independence and also served as her party’s nominee on the Guyana Elections Commission. She was appointed Ambassador-at-large and Guyana’s Ambassador to the UN in October-December 1993 and was chairperson of the Committee of Management of the National Art Gallery and of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child. She is recipient of the Woman of Achievement Award from the University of Guyana and, in 1997, the UNECSO Director General’s Gandhi Gold Medal for Peace, Democracy and Women’s Rights. In 1993, she received the Order of Excellence, the nation’s highest award.

Janet Jagan, neé Rosenberg, was born at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, to Katherine and Charles Rosenberg on October 20, 1920. She married Cheddi Jagan who died in March 1997. Their two children, Cheddi junior and Nadira, survive her.

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