Friday, March 30, 2012

Trade Union body welcomes 'pro-workers' budget

Below is a statement issued by Mr Carvil Duncan, AA President of FITUG and General Secretary of the GLU:

FITUG welcomes this budget as a pro-workers budget particularly given the 25% increase in the income tax threshold. FUTUG also welcome the support for the sugar workers of this country and their families; also the direct support to avoid increases in electricity bills by 20% since it is the average worker that would feel the brunt of this. But first, we recognize that the 2012 Budget reflects a country continuing on the rise, and all Guyanese should have a sense of pride of what we, as Guyanese brothers and sisters, can achieve when we work together.

Real growth in gross domestic product averaging 4.4 percent over the past five years, external reserves rising threefold since 2006 to US$798 million, external debt being reduced from 658 percent of GDP at the end of 1991 to 47 percent at the end of 201, the fiscal deficit being reduced from 11.2 percent in 2006 to 4.4 percent in 201, foreign direct investment amounting to US$1.3 billion over the past five years, credit by the banking sector expanding by almost 20%, and inflation last year being only 3.3 %. Apart from economic growth, we are pleased with both the level of foreign interest and investment and the expansion of lending by our banking sector. First, let me complement the Minister of Finance and the Government for the macro economic performance particularly given the performance of the rest of the world over the last 5 years. It is a testimony to the persons in charge.

For the average working man, the biggest measure in this budget is the increase in the income tax threshold that put an additional 40,000 in one’s pocket/annum, if they are earning above 50,000 per month. This 25% increase in the income tax threshold is the largest on record and is very much appreciated. Given the pubic sector wage increase last year of 8% vs. 3.3 inflation for last year, the increase in the threshold this year will continue to see an increase in disposable income for both the public sector and the general working class. We welcome the continued focus on social services and the expansion of the OLPF program this year. It is hoped that the long overdue telecom reform will occur soon and consumers/workers will see a drop in telecom rates and greater access to the wide array of services now available in the telecom sector. We also recognize that the Government contribution to GPL of G$6 B is to avoid the 20% increase in electricity rates that the company is entitled to get –this is in essence a subsidy to the customer. Given the share of electricity prices in the average man’s budget, the Government support is very welcome; we also recognize that much is being done to reduce the price of transportation via the lower of applicable taxes on fuel. FITUG strongly welcomes the intervention in the sugar industry, with the intention of supporting the company on its return to viability. Without this, the company would face the real threat of closure or substantial loss of employment. Subsidizing sugar ensures the continuity of employment for over 18,000 and their families and those who benefit from the sugar industry—the budget notes that over 120,000 persons will benefit from this. While last year’s performance of Guysuco was better than before and the workers are to be commended for achieving this, it is hoped that the company performance will improve as projected and that this subsidy will be avoided next year. But the sugar sector and workers are important and deserves our support.

We also support the continuing subsidy to our bauxite brothers and sisters in the towns of Linden and Kwakwani; it is hoped that the transition in tariffs announced in the budget will be manageable but it is recognized that fuel has increased and the prices in Linden is about 10% that of GPL for residential customers. Persons in Kwakwani receive electricity free. It is heartening to see the expansion of investment in the bauxite industry despite the difficulty in the world markets and declining prices. We recognize the increase in benefits for old age persons and pensioners and while it would have been desired to have a larger increase, we recognize that over the last 5 years, this represents a doubling. We would want to ask Government to consider this group of Guyanese as our brother and sisters that are most vulnerable and do deserve as much support as possible. We look forward to this budget being approved by this unique composition of Parliament. We wish to call on all political parties to conduct the debate in the best interests of all Guyanese with a focus on issues rather than personalities.

Kissoon’s contract properly terminated- Chief Labour Officer

The Chief Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Officer of the Ministry of Labour, Charles Ogle, has said that the recommendation that Mr. Frederick Kissoon be paid from May to August 2012 has no merit in law.
“The (recommendation) has no merit in law since the University of Guyana honoured its obligation under the contracts by granting payment of three months’ salary in lieu of notice as provided for in the said contract.”

The decision by the Chief Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Officer represented the findings of the conciliation and was communicated to Dr. Patsy Francis, President of the University of Guyana Staff Association and copied to Bruce Haynes, President of the University of Guyana Workers’ Union; Compton Bourne, Chancellor of the University of Guyana; Dr. Prem Misir, Pro Chancellor and Dr. Marlene Cox, Vice Chancellor.
The University of Guyana Staff Association had also called for a review of the manner in which the contracts were terminated. The arbitrator found that “it is the prerogative of the employer to continue to rehire workers after they would have attained the retirement age.”
He added that as a consequence, no trade union or other workers’ organisation can compel an employer to do so.
“It should be noted that an employer has the right to terminate a contract of employment, provided adequate notice is given or payment in lieu thereof.”

AFC misleading Lindeners

Some people want to forget – or pretend to forget – that politics in Guyana is not just ‘war by other means”. Ever so often it descends into the “real means” with guns and bombs and killings and maimings. That is where the budget debate in 1963 ended up and so many other budget debates in the last decade. We have not forgotten the Buxton “Freedom Fighters” have we? The claims of discrimination and ‘marginalisation’ in budgetary spending certainly fired them up. The AFC was just in Linden telling the people the government treats them like a “step child”. And the provocations for war continue.

All of this was brought to mind by the freeing of the “Three Treason Accused” by a magistrate recently. The government had evidence that these individuals were plotting to “wage war” against the government of Guyana. Much as the “Freedom Fighters” planned along with some others described as ‘outside political sophisticates’ by Eusi Kwayana. However, when the prosecutor filed the case, he didn’t place the required ‘overt act’ demanded by the elements of treason under the proper heading. And the accused are freed on this technicality!

There will be no principled opposition critiques of the budget – just opportunistic populist proposals that would bankrupt the country.

Forbes Burnham, the founder leader of the PNC that has morphed into APNU (for cover), famously invoked (in Latin) an aphorism to describe one of his attacks to depose the PPP government: “it was the occasion for the war; not the cause of the war”. The budget to be presented by Minister Ashni Singh today will just be another occasion for the never-ending war by the acolytes of Burnham. Granger is a linear descendant of Burnham while Ramjattan matches the old fox in ambition – sadly not in wit or verbal facility. Their cause remains constant – to ‘depose’ the PPP by any means necessary.

So while tradition dictates that the minister will simply read his speech summarising his budget and the opposition will have a week off to study the same and the return for the debate; expect the long knives to be drawn reflexively and immediately. It is ironic that at the last elections this opposition lulled the people into believing that they wanted “shared governance”. Never in the annals of our history has an opposition been so focused on seizing power by breaking all traditions – except for the Burnhamite betrayals of 1962-64, of course.
Then, too, (1963) the budget became a focal point of fear mongering to provoke violence between the people of Guyana. Budget allocations were alleged to be discriminatory to one section of the people: expect the same once again. The old accusations that sugar workers were being pampered might be now muted because of the travails in the industry but now expect them to hypocritically accuse the government of neglecting them!
There will be no principled critiques of the budget – just opportunistic populist proposals that would bankrupt the country – as before – if implemented. Take the opposition’s demand for a massive reduction in VAT. Where will they get the money to maintain the high level of social spending that our people have become accustomed to? Some airy fairy promise that they will realise ‘savings’ by curbing corruption!
Do these jokers know how the budgetary process works? Of course they do! They know they can’t sit in Parliament and examine spending on paper to realise ‘savings’ in advance. But they simply want to create confusion and trouble. Unmask the fascists!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

GT&T looking for protection in an ‘open playing field’ – Dean

Just days after the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) accused its competitor of financial secrecy, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Digicel (Guyana), Gregory Dean, said yesterday that GT&T was seeking protection in what is an ‘open playing field’ and branded comments made by the company’s CEO as ‘blatant lies’.

“A lot of what was said last week was just another publicity stunt, basically aimed at influencing the future of this legislation. For us, they just need to paint GT&T as some kind of victim and, therefore, ensure that they have some protection in terms of what we consider to be an open playing field,” Dean said.

Dean said his company’s performance is routinely reported to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Registrar of Companies in Guyana.

GT&T’s CEO, Yog Mahadeo said at a press briefing last Friday that Digicel’s failure to release its financial records especially in an era of openness and full disclosures was troubling, especially as the country moves towards liberalisation of the industry.

Describing Mahadeo’s remarks as blatant lies, Dean asserted that except for GT&T reporting to government which is a 20 percent shareholder, Digicel was required to stick by the same rules of disclosure.

“We are in a very competitive field where financial information is very important to our competitors and I would say it would be the same for GT&T. As a result, we chose not to discuss that financial information publicly,” he said.

Dean called on the Government of Guyana to firmly state when telecoms legislation will be enacted, thereby enabling a level playing field for all competitors.

Sasenarine Singh surmised from personal introspection, the veracity of Rollins’ "Jackass theory"..

A Freudian slip, we know, is a repressed wish or desire that involuntarily escapes from a person’s unconscious through his speech or writings. Sase “Thunderbolt” Singh surely made a Freudian slip when he referred to ex-punker Henry Rollins’ “Jackass Theory”. The human population explosion evidently outstripped the supply of human souls, resulting, according to Rollins, in the souls of jackasses being substituted. And presto! We can now appreciate the upsurge in jackasses parading in human bodies. Thunderbolt obviously surmised from personal introspection, the veracity of Rollins’ theory. He had sweated for months over the AFC’s economic plans with his buddy Tarron Khemraj of “Donkey Cart” economy fame – see the obsession with jackasses? They both had to be jackasses for believing that the AFC could ever win an election in Guyana!

Fleeing Guyana after the AFC’s ignominious defeat (and no finance minister’s ‘wuk’ available) Khemraj still hasn’t surfaced. We fear for his sanity. Thunderbolt, at least, has let slip what he thinks of himself after months of soul searching. But we think that Thunderbolt is being too harsh on jackasses: those poor creatures, after all, just bray without malice. Thunderbolt and Donkey Cart, on the other hand, have been viciously attacking their old comrades in the PPP just because Jagdeo refused to give them minister ‘wuk’ (Thunderbolt) and Bank of Guyana ‘wuk’ (Donkey Cart).

From their actions over the past couple of years, it is obvious that the two of them received the souls of snakes – more specifically, the souls of the black labaria. We note their propensity to strike viciously from their hiding places. Also their willingness to shed their skins (“loyalties”— PPP to ROAR to AFC) opportunistically to fulfil their ambition just to eat and grow – ie steal and get rich.

Another sign of ‘snakehood’ is that it’s not just “birds of a feather that flock together” – snakes also do the same. Now look at the characteristics of most – if not all of those in the AFC. All of them sly creatures willing to betray friend and family to satisfy their ambitions. Beware this nest of labarias!

Does the GHRA's mission now involve undermining discipline in the GPF to create nationwide chaos?

Sultan Mohamed: When the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) comes out blazing in (SN, 4-23-12, “GHRA keeping eye on Ramnarine case, points Brummell to policing standards”) it unreservedly supports the indiscipline of Police Assistant Commissioner Mr. David Ramnarine, which weakens the police force. This can only result in a breakdown of law and order, as much as it further damages GHRA’s credibility.
What’s GHRA’s motive? It’s certainly not a human rights issue. Does its mission now involve undermining discipline to create nationwide chaos? Why its silence on crime, AIDS prevention, women and children’s’ rights? When the same GHRA’s apathy records its selective silence on the presence of Venezuelan troops at Guyana’s borders, it speaks volumes of its callousness, insincerity and frivolity with a situation likely to invite insufferable human tragedy for all Guyanese.
Such GHRA blatant, selective preoccupation with only the political objectives of the opposition cannot exonerate them of prejudice and guilt, especially in our plural society. The fact that Home Affairs Minister Mr. Clement Rohee has openly admitted that he neither ordered nor approved any instructions for the Police Force to solicit money to feed its staff during the November 2011 elections is revealing. One can understand the righteous indignation of the Home Affairs Minister when he emphasizes that he secured a $90 million budget for the police during the 2011 elections. All this now brings into question the objectives for such original procurement and allocation. Do the police normally get free meals during non-election time for them to be entitled to such meals as a routine during Election Day? Same police work, only a different day. Wouldn’t such a tradition also entitle all, – yes all – nationwide Government employees to free meals?
APNU’s Mr. David Granger could have secured significant brownie points and more so upstaged Minister Rohee by publicly revealing the availability of the $90 million. Now Mr. Granger’s non-revelation highlights his lack of knowledge of Guyana’s budget process, especially since such funding was already approved by Parliament. Mr. Granger’s negligence only facilitated Home Affairs Minister Rohee’s clarification for him to get credit.
Such APNU incompetence damages any hope they will provide a substantially better, alternative government. Whether APNU’S shadow Finance Minister Mr. Carl Greenidge was unable to teach him a lesson by any briefing lends creditability to the growing rift and friction between the two.
Nevertheless, the humbug with timely distribution of the budgeted money for the police requires investigation and correction. Obviously Mr. Ramnarine can be credited with much bravery in defending his integrity publicly. But Mr. Ramnarine originally claimed he never received any money; when a cheque was produced that was issued to him he recanted his previous denial.
As a seasoned senior police officer Mr. Ramnarine was empowered to complain directly to his superiors in the first place. Contrary to the rules, he chose to go public disregarding police departmental procedures and his pledge to maintain discipline. He could have handled the problem a lot better.
All Guyanese have the right of freedom of speech. But it is not absolute, especially when one is a member of the disciplined forces. Any staff member who publicly challenges his department head in the press – anywhere in the world- both in the private and public sector, would automatically be disciplined for insubordination.
While the GHRA reminds us that “-police officials shall at all times fulfill the duty imposed on them by law to serve and protect the community and its members against illegal acts” it must urgently explain and provide any evidence for this innuendo i.e., what, if any, illegal acts were committed by Home Affairs Minister Rohee (or Mr. Ramnarine) whose joint responsibility it is to maintain the law and public order.
No such illegalities can be tolerated, especially by those in charge of Guyana’s security and wellbeing. GHRA’s haste to endorse and fortify Mr. Ramnarine’s indiscipline can only be viewed as deplorable – a glaring attempt to foment mischief as part of their historical Afrocentric biases and agenda. It was the same GHRA which ridicuously attributed Guyana’s existence to slaves carving it out of the Atlantic Ocean, subjecting the body to ridicule and disrespect.
Where native Guyanese Amerindians actually lived before Guyana’s alleged creation is a mystery that GHRA is still unable to address. Nevertheless, GHRA can only be right that “-police officials shall not commit any acts of corruption themselves and should rigorously oppose such acts by others”.
So when Mr. Ramnarine says he never received any money, but later changed his position, GHRA could not be seriously advocating charges against their hero for attempted corruption. Would this be fruitful and necessary?
It’s all a simple misunderstanding. More like a lack of communication, with some wickedly trying to fan conflict between Minister Rohee, Mr. Ramnarine and others. Any reprimanding of a subordinate by the Commissioner of Police would be understandable and appropriate; even as Minister Rohee’s attempt to discipline a subordinate thru the press has been unwise.
If the Police Commissioner does not act decisively, he risks a snowball breakdown of discipline among his ranks. In which case the Commissioner will incur blame for failure to arrest any looming breakdown within the law enforcement institution which he commands.
It’s better to fix any engine problems so the police car does not run off the road. Crocodile tears like those which are currently being shed would flow in torrents if the vehicle ends up in a trench with juicy rumps to feast on. Already GHRA is in the trench sharpening its teeth.

How much Malcom Harripaul paid for the Rolex wristwatch he wore after becoming a customs official in the early to mid 1990’s?

Ralph Ramkarran: I refer to the letter published by your edition of March 27, 2012, and written by Mr. Malcolm Harripaul, headed: “Mr Ralph Ramkarran should not be cementing the PPP dictatorship.” Apart from the political bile, Mr. Harripaul accuses me and my firm, Cameron and Shepherd, of improper conduct, to which I respond.
My firm, has been in existence since April, 1901, and for most of its life were the retained lawyers for, firstly, Bookers and then GuySuCo, except for about twenty years during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The records show that we first began representing Bookers at least ninety years ago. We have been and are well qualified to do so having regard to our well established and acknowledged expertise as a commercial and corporate law firm with profound knowledge of GuySuCo’s operations and requirements. I think by now Bookers/GuySuCo would have discovered whether our services and representation are not in their best interest and would have long dispensed with them if we had been found wanting.
We have not sued anyone in New York or anywhere outside of Guyana on behalf of GuySuCo, as alleged by Mr. Harripaul, and have not “hired,” selected or recommended any law firm outside of Guyana to represent GuySuCo, again as alleged by Mr. Harripaul. These are fabrications concocted by Mr. Harripaul with such facility that it appears that he does not care that they are, just so that he can manufacture a case against me and my firm.
GuySuCo has been the victim of two law suits in relation to the “Demerara Gold” trademark and other related matters both in New York and Canada. GuySuCo made its own choice of lawyers without our input, assistance or advice, seeking the best skills and experience to represent them in these very complicated proceedings.
I was never asked by any journalist what my firm was charging GuySuCo. This is another of Mr. Harripaul’s fabrications. I was in fact asked at a recent PPP press conference by a Kaieteur News reporter what the American lawyers were charging in these cases. Assuming that I had such information it would have been quite improper for me to disclose it. The question was as absurd (the word I used to describe it) as if I had asked Mr. Harripaul how much he paid for the Rolex wristwatch that he had been sporting after he became a customs official in the early to mid 1990’s and shortly before he abruptly parted company with the customs department.
As regards our own fee, they are not based on any “contract” for “business” in the way that Mr. Harripaul has suggested with heavy innuendo. We charge different hourly rates for the lawyers of varying experience in our firm. These rates are modest and comparable to the average of what prevails across the legal profession in Guyana. In fact, in a number of cases they are far less than what some senior lawyers and a few junior ones charge. The same fees are applicable across the board for every client except pro bono cases. GuySuCo is not charged a higher fee than the many small firms that we represent
I have never responded to any of the many letters written by Mr. Harripaul about me in the same vein and published, no doubt with glee, by the Kaieteur News. I am forced to do so on this occasion to expose his lies about my own and my firm’s professional integrity.
On the political accusations I leave Mr. Harripaul to his own devices, fabrications, delusions and prejudices. No doubt there will be many more in the future.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All rights guaranteed & all duties demanded by a Constitution can be circumscribed if it clashes with other rights & duties.

Christopher Ram is at it again. And once again, he reveals his abysmal knowledge of the law and what it means to be an officer of the court, which he is even though he’s just been admitted to the bar. Ram once again jumped into the case of Assistant Commissioner Ramnarine, who has been accused by Minister of Home Affairs Rohee for violating a Force Order.

We are on record as stating that a proper accounting of the $90 million allocated to the police for expenses incurred during the elections must be accounted for. But the issue at hand is another, more fundamental one: can an officer of one of our Disciplined Forces, take it upon himself and break an explicit Operating Order? Ram says, “Yes!” and cites the part of the Constitution that says it is the duty of: “every citizen to combat and prevent crime and other violations of the law”.
And this dolt claims that since “the Constitution is the supreme law”, this duty cannot be circumcised by any other law! Is he for real? What marks did he get in Constitutional law? Any first-year law student would know that all rights guaranteed and all duties demanded by a Constitution can be circumscribed if it clashes with other rights and duties!
Can a soldier give away military secrets because he has the right of ‘freedom of speech’? Can Ram traffic in child pornography? All courts have placed some “time, place and manner” restrictions on constitutional freedoms and obligations. The Disciplined Forces have a duty to defend the people and state of Guyana and in fulfilment of this duty rules for their conduct have been promulgated. And it is one of these rules that have been violated.
The Police Order does not abrogate the right of free speech or duty to prevent a crime absolutely. It merely outlines a procedure for the maintenance of discipline in the force so members can better fulfil their duty. Whether we like it or not, the men in the Disciplined Forces are placing their lives on the line and they must have absolute knowledge that they are all on the same page on the Standard Operating Procedures.
If Ram and the rest of the Opposition want a Whistleblower’s Act, there is a procedure to be followed. It’s not on the books right now.

Ramjattan repaying Badal by opposing Marriott.

Does the AFC's Khemraj Ramjattan expect anyone to believe he really knows a thing or two about the hotel industry or the risk involved in government's partial financing of the Marriott? Stewwwww! The AFC's statement read by Ramjattan came straight from the desk of one of its chief financiers and owner of the substand-standard Pegasus Hotel, Robert Badal.
Badal financed the AFC campaign in the last elections and Ramjattan is repaying Badal by opposing this project.