Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell reaffirmed his call for a collective agreement to reduce airline ticket taxes and some other fees attached to intra-regional air travel.The former Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chairman made the call at the opening of the 29th Intersessional Heads of Government Meeting being held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Meeting concludes today.“This would represent a significant instalment to the regional integration account,” Dr Mitchell said.Regional transport and travel continue to challenge Caricom. Dr Mitchell said the community must take “due responsibility” for failing to properly respond. Addressing connectivity should be an urgent priority for regional leaders, Dr Mitchell added.Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge also reiterated the call for more cost-effective intra-regional travel. He noted that this was the focus of one of the legal instruments that would be discussed at this Intersessional Meeting.“There are a number of things the Attorney Generals have been asked to look at which have to do with aviation, trying to ensure that the aviation industry in the Region meets the needs of the Region,” Minister Greenidge said.Last July, affordable intra-regional travel was addressed at the Caricom Heads of Government Conference in Grenada. Leaders were expected to sign off on an age-old Multilateral Air Services Agreement that sought to pave the way for easier inter-regional travel.Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago have all ratified the Multilateral Air Services Agreement, which came into force in 1998.
Signing bonus challenge…case adjournedA new date has been set for the court case where Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall is challenging Government’s decision to deposit the US$18 million bonus received from ExxonMobil into a private account.Nandlall was represented in the High Court by Attorneys Rajendra Jaigobin and Manoj Narayan at Tuesday’s hearing before Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George at 13:00h in chamber.Opposition Member of Parliament Anil NandlallDue to the Attorney General’s Chambers’ failure to file their affidavit of defence on time, an application for an extension was submitted. That application was heard on Tuesday and was granted by the CJ who has extended the time to March 20 to permit them to file their affidavit in defence on or before that date.The CJ has also given timelines for the parties to file the requisite documents. Nandlall has to file an affidavit in reply, on or before March 26. Thereafter, the applicant has to file the submissions before April 20 and the respondents have to file their submissions before May 11.Nandlall in his legal challenge said the deposit of the signing bonus into a private bank account is contrary to, and in violation of, the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA).In his application, the MP is also seeking, among other things, an order from the court directing that Finance Minister Winston Jordan transfer and deposit the bonus into the Consolidated Fund forthwith.Attorney General Basil WilliamsHe argued that Government is in breach of Section 38 of the FMAA, which provides that all public moneys raised or received by the Government shall be credited fully and promptly to the Fund.In accordance with Article 216 of the Constitution and Section 38 of the FMAA, Nandlall said the US$18 million bonus and such other sums collected by the Government under the Petroleum Agreement with ExxonMobil are public moneys and must therefore be paid into and form one consolidated fund.This legal challenge follows a lawsuit that was filed in January by Attorney Christopher Ram, on behalf of anti-corruption activist Troy Thomas who also asked the High Court to order Minister Jordan to immediately deposit the US$18 million received from ExxonMobil as a signing bonus into the Consolidated Fund, while saying his failure to do so is unlawful.When the matter was called, however, the challenge had to be retracted after Chief Justice Roxane George had ruled that the litigation’s format was flawed. It now has to be refiled and served on all parties before the court can proceed. The legal team, headed by Ram, is currently in the process of reframing the documents and plan to file a new application soon.The bonus in question was paid to the Government’s Central Bank account by US oil giant ExxonMobil in 2016. The existence of this bonus and the renegotiated oil agreement with the company was kept a secret until evidence of the transaction was leaked in December 2017.The correspondence of September 20, 2016, which was leaked to the media was addressed to the Governor of the Bank of Guyana with the subject being, “Signing bonus granted by ExxonMobil – Request to open bank account”.It showed Finance Secretary at the Finance Ministry, Hector Butts, requesting that a foreign currency account be opened at the Bank in order to receive a deposit in the form of a ‘signing bonus’ to be given by the oil company.The letter stated, “This account should not be treated as part of the Bank’s reserves. Instead, the proceeds should be held in the currency of the deposit, that is, United States dollars, and invested in secured interest-bearing securities.”After mounting criticism, President David Granger defended the transaction by saying it was the thing to do at the time. He also noted that the money was placed in an escrow account, though observers have disputed this.After the fact, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman also defended the secrecy by saying the money would be used to defend Guyana’s sovereignty in the legal process.The matter has been adjourned to June 14 at 15:00h for hearing or ruling.
In the face of widespread criticism of the state-owned Guyana National Newspapers Limited’s (GNNL’s) decision to discontinue publication of articles from columnists Dr. David Hinds and Trade Unionist Lincoln Lewis, Government Spokesperson, State Minister Joseph Harmon, on Thursday denied that any directive had been issued from the Executive level of Government to discontinue the columns of the two commentators, who have been outspokenly critical of the Coalition Administration.He has directed questions regarding the source of the decision to the Board of theDr David HindsGuyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL).That board held a meeting on Saturday, and in a statement issued thereafter, said a decision was taken to refer the issue to a fully constituted board, which was scheduled to meet last Tuesday, during which a policy decision on the general direction of the content of the paper would be determined.However, asked whether there was, in regard to these columnists’ writings, any political discomfort on part of Government or sections of the administration, Minister Harmon said, “I won’t be able to say. You know we’ve always encouraged freedom of the press, free expressions and so on. So, certainly, from my part, I‘ve never had a discomfort. In fact, I welcome those types of criticisms, because (they make) you better and stronger; and I’ve, on so many occasions, responded to them.”Further probed as to whether there was any discomfort from his colleagues in theTrade unionist Lincoln LewisExecutive, the State Minister added, “I can’t say about that, because it was never a matter of policy discussed. There may have been some persons who might have been uncomfortable, but I cannot say specifically whether there’re persons who were actually at discomfort about it.”Questioned as to whether the Executive would, without interfering with the autonomy of the newspaper, suggest that the publication of articles from the columnists be restored, the Government’s spokesman outlined that that decision is a matter for the Board and Management of the Chronicle newspapers.The Guyana Press Association (GPA) had, last week, also expressed concerns over the Chronicle’s decision to end its relationship with the two columnists.“The GPA finds it puzzling that after two and a half years of featuring columns and editorials by the two experts in their own right…, the newspaper decided to discontinue publishing their columns,” a statement from the body said.That statement went on to outline that the right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Article 146:1, which states: “Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression; that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his correspondence.”The GPA has accordingly called on the Chronicle’s Editor-in-Chief, the Board of Directors, and by extension the Government, to revisit the decision with the aim of reinstating the views of these columnists, in keeping with the Guyana Chronicle’s motto – “the Nation’s Newspaper”.
The Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) Regional Democratic Council (RDC) has expressed its disappointment with the Guyana Power and Light’s service to the Region.Region Two Chairman Devanand RamdattRegional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt said that the RDC was very much disappointed that despite previous pledges by senior management of the power company to use available mediums to inform residents of scheduled outages, this was not being done.Ramdatt said on Monday that GPL and key stakeholders in the Region had agreed that the company would utilise local media (RCA TV) and cellphone messages to inform residents of power outages, but to date this system has not been put in place.The Regional Chairman added that the RDC recalled an email from Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, dated July 9, 2017 which stated, ‘“I will ask GPL to provide advance notice on any load-shedding activities; on the long term, a new set for Anna Regina has been procured already, it is expected to be on site by October; however, we have to complete ground works and other infrastructure issues before we can connect it and have it in full service; it is anticipated all to be completed by November.”’“We are now in April 2018 and the Region is still suffering from constant blackouts which is causing disruption to all GTT landline phones, GWI water flow and Internet service just to name a few,” the RDC said in a statement on Monday.As such, the RDC said, residents, especially the business community, are calling on the Government and GPL to speed up the process at Anna Regina Power Plant and bring some relief to the Region.Only last week, Deputy Mayor of the town of Anna Regina, Darshan Persaud expressed his outrage at the service being offered by the power company.In an interview with Guyana Times, Persaud said residents in the township were complaining about the long periods of power outage, which have contributed to the loss of thousands of dollars in ice cream, chicken, meat, and other frozen foods.Over the Easter weekend, a generator placed by GPL at the Anna Regina Power Station, Essequibo to supply the Region with electricity was moved to Bartica for the Regatta.According to reports, the remaining generators cannot supply the coast, and as such, residents were faced with constant blackouts. (Mohanlall Seulall)
In its attempt to provide quality products to the consuming public, the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) would be undertaking a countrywide campaign aimed at assisting manufacturers of hollow blocks to provide consumers with products of a standardised high quality.This was revealed by the GNBS on Monday when it announced that it had successfully passed the Concrete Hollow Block Standard. It has been indicated that manufacturers would be responsible for having their hollow blocks tested to ensure they possess the required PSI (pound per square inch) before being placed on the local and international markets. Kenrick Singh, a laboratory technician of the GNBS, related that the GNBS is working towards having standard requirements which all manufacturers can follow.“We’ve had the Hollow Blocks Standards passed, and we’re going to get all the manufacturers to register with us, so that they could manufacture to one specific PSI,” he said.He noted that manufacturers are responsible for having their standards fully compliant with those of the GNBS, lest they be restricted from marketing their blocks to consumers. This will ensure that only superior materials are produced in Guyana.In this case, the new standard that will be used in PSI readings is GYS 215:2002 for load-bearing blocks, and GYS 216:2002 for non-load-bearing blocks.Singh noted that while the hollow block is first and foremost on the GNBS agenda, standards are currently being drafted for PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) pipes produced in Guyana. The standards being tested for will be GYS 99:2010, ASTM D 1785-06, also in PSI readings.“For the PVC pipes, it’s the burst pressure, and this is a newly introduced testing which we’ve introduced for the testing of PVC pipes,” he explained.“We will be testing the pipes and hollow blocks of all the manufacturers in the country, to see if they reach the standards that they say that they are,” Singh disclosed.Consultations conducted in various regions of Guyana last year encouraged manufacturers to participate in discussions in relation to the drafts that would be made, in order to simplify the passing of the Concrete Hollow Block Standard. This decision flowed from the fact that many contractors and homeowners were raising concerns about the poor quality of concrete hollow blocks being sold by manufacturers.In a few days’ time, tests will be conducted to ensure that the blocks are of the PSI touted by the manufacturers, and also to determine whether they surpass the new standards set by the GNBS. This goes with the bureau’s mission to improve the services and goods produced in Guyana through standardisation.
Following the discovery of high levels of mercury in the Kaituma River, Region One (Barima-Waini), the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) has opted to drill a well and activate two others, to supply previously affected residents in the Region One communities with safe water.GWI’s Managing Director, Dr Richard Van West-Charles said the new well will be completed before the end of October. “We are presently drilling another well and in another three weeks that area will have about three wells and we will be pumping into the town so nearly all of the residents will have access to potable water,” Dr Van West-Charles explained.The new well will work concurrently with two others which GWI also intends to activate in the community.Also, in Port Kaituma, works are underway for the completion of a new well at Arakaka and the installation of a C2 Lifesaver filter tank at the Port Kaituma Hospital.Meanwhile, the plan for Mabaruma is to increase the hours of water supply for the residents, Dr Van West-Charles said.“They are moving from pumping from two hours a day to six hours and it should extend, and we are preparing to drill a well in Mabaruma so they should move very quickly to about 24/7.”The design works are ongoing for the construction of a catchment area and trestle at the Arawak Pond in Mabaruma. This will be equipped with storage tanks and a pump. Works will also include the installation of an electro-mechanical system and distribution network along with the implementation of a chlorination system.The sum of $3.2 billion has been allocated to GWI in the 2018 Budget, for the provision of safe and potable drinking water to all citizens. Last week, the report on the findings of an investigation into the mercury level in the waterways in Region One was released.In the final report submitted by Environmental Officer Tamara Gilhuys, it was recommended that complaint officers ensure sample points at and near pump station are included in their routine water quality monitoring. The report further outlined that the environmental division should “lead investigations to ascertain the status of rivers or creeks within mining districts” where Guyana Water Inc pump stations are located and where contamination from mining operations poses an imminent threat to the community.Eleven river water samples were submitted but only 10 were analysed due to leakage of Sample ID ‘10’ during shipment by Kaizen Environmental Services Inc. In the analysis, it was found that at all sample points, the concentrations were within the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.Despite the generally low readings, it was however found that in Sample 4 at 125m upstream Pump Creek, there was 0.000219 mg/L of mercury. Meanwhile, the lowest concentration of 0.000016 mg/L was found in Sample 2 which was located on the Kaituma Canal downstream section of Pump Creek. The WHO guideline is 0.006 mg/L. It was explained that mercury is easily transported to bed sediments from the water column due to its high affinity for organic ligands.The investigation revealed a variety of organisms live in or come into contact with bed sediments and therefore the sediments act as an important route of exposure to aquatic organisms which in turn has implications for human health. “Sediment mercury, therefore, is an indicator of the recreational safety and ecological health of a water source as it relates to wildlife and human health,” the reported observed.
Over the course of the next four weeks, 40 additional youths from the Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) community will benefit from an Information Communication Technology (ICT) training workshop, an initiative of the Office of First Lady Sandra Granger in collaboration with the Social Protection Ministry and the Board of Industrial Training (BIT). The programme, which is the third of its kind in Linden, targets adolescents and out-of-school youths between the ages of 16 to 25 and was launched at the Linden Enterprise Network on Monday.Some of the persons who will benefit from the ICT trainingIt will see participants being trained with job-readiness skills. Speaking at the launching ceremony, First Lady Sandra Granger emphasised the importance of ICT in ensuring that youths are well equipped to meet the challenges Guyana will be faced with in moving forward.“We keep going after ICT because…this is where the jobs lie. Robots would have taken over sixty per cent of our jobs…It is estimated that ninety per cent of the jobs women do will be done by robots or through technology. So, this is why I’m all fired up to get women involved in ICT…The young people of Guyana are a major part of our population, so it is a fact that you are the ones who have to take us forward…As you know, eyes are on Guyana, not only with the discovery of oil but all the technology associated with it, not least among which would be ICT technologies,” the First Lady told participants.She also challenged communities to move towards digitising records, hence giving persons skilled in ICT an opportunity to develop their skills. In giving an overview of the workshop, Chief Facilitator Fitzroy Younge extended gratitude to the First Lady on behalf of the people of Linden. He also credited her for the belief that ICT is the new frontier of change which fosters poverty alleviation. Younge said the objective of the programme is to empower not only young adults but unskilled and vulnerable groups within the community.He added that elements of the workshop will also entail “Soft Skills”, which will include telephone ethics, interviewing and communication skills, etc, while ICT will include Knowledge basics and keyboard references, Introduction to Computers, Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint and Micro-Enterprise, among others. Other classes will include Numeracy and Literacy, Sexual and Reproductive Health and STEM Robotics. In his remarks, Regional Chairman Renis Morian pointed out that the initiative was created by Government with emphasis on young people, whom he noted are the future leaders. He encouraged the participants to seize the opportunity, noting that the sky is the limit.“Don’t just see this as (a) one-off, don’t just see this as we’re just teaching ICT, but the whole business is to ready your mind for developmental work programmes and jobs that would be coming your way,” Morian said.Seventy-nine persons have been trained so far from the region via the initiative which is available throughout all the 10 Administrative Regions.
Ranks of the Police Narcotics Branch have arrested a 24-year-old woman of West Coast Berbice, who had in her possesion in excess of 10 pounds of cocaine concealed in books at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, East Bank Demerara.The four books were reportedly in her luggage. According to information received, the woman cut holes in the centre of the books and stashed the cocaine inside. She then used glue to past the pages together.She was destined for the United States of America. Up to late Monday evening, she was being questioned by members of the Narcotics Branch. She is expected to be charged for trafficking in narcotics later in the week.
A Pakistani was slapped with a fraud charge on Wednesday and taken to the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.Thirty-seven-year-old Imran Khan of Lot ‘C’ Church Street, Enterprise, East Coast Demerara (ECD), appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan and pleaded not guilty to the charge.The charge alleged that between March 5 and March 8, 2019 at Georgetown, with intent to commit fraud, he conspired with others to forge his Pakistani passport stamp in favour of himself, to show that it was issued by the Central Immigration and Passport Office.According to the Prosecutor’s case, Khan entered Guyana via Suriname, but failed to present himself to an immigration officer. The prosecution is contending that Khan then conspired with others to forge a stamp in his passport to show that he presented himself to immigration.Police ranks acting on information contacted the defendant and asked him to present his documents, but during the confrontation, ranks realised the immigration stamp was forged. The defendant was subsequently arrested. On Wednesday, he was released on $200,000 bail and the case will continue on August 14.
Fisherman Jamol Bunbury was on Wednesday remanded to prison by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan on a charge detailing that, on August 3, 2019, he allegedly entered the home of a 26-year-old Venezuelan woman and raped her.The 21-year-old defendant, a resident of the North West District in Region One (Barima-Waini), was not required to plead to the indictable charge, which alleges that he engaged in sexual penetration of a woman without her consent.In the matter, heard in-camera, it was stated that the victim was allegedly at a party with her cousin, and Bunbury was also allegedly at the same party. Reports are that, after the party, the woman and her cousin went home and proceeded to go to bed.Shortly after, the woman was awoken by someone holding her hands and shining a light in her face. Bunbury then allegedly forced himself on the woman, but the matter was reported and an investigation was carried out, thus Bunbury was charged.After hearing the prosecution’s case, the Chief Magistrate remanded Bunbury to prison, and set the case for continuation before the Mabaruma Magistrate on August 20.