September 7, 2011 issue

Guyana Focus

Sugar woes: Management cannot escape blame

As Guyana's sugar industry shows signs of recovery after three dismal years, a new controversy appears to be brewing over the management of the modernized Skeldon factory.
According to the local press, Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud is reported as saying that management of the factory might be turned over to a private firm, possibly Indian or Chinese.
The implication of his statement is that local expertise is not available, raising questions from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the union representing sugar workers; and the political opposition, the Alliance for Change (AFC).

According to GAWU, management may be weak but the union is not convinced that the failures at the Skeldon factory are solely the consequence of poor management. The AFC, on the other hand, alludes to potential corruption in considering the contractors of the "defect-riddled" factory for the role of management.
Incidentally, the Skeldon factory which cost some US$200 million has never functioned to even half capacity since it was launched two years ago. Arguably, the factory has been plagued by mechanical defects but it is evident that management of not only the Skeldon factory but GUYSUCO at large leaves much to be desired.
At the crux of the matter is the fact that the government has been wildly optimistic that its sugar modernization efforts launched in 1998 as part of a 10-year plan would lead to a dramatic increase in production. But when the 10-year plan finally materialized twelve years later with the commissioning of the modernized Skeldon factory in September 2009, sugar was still in trouble.
The reality is: barring its mechanical problems, capacity at Skeldon cannot be maximized without adequate sugar cane production. Evidently, acreage under cultivation is not sufficient to meet production targets.
Earlier this year, it was anticipated that some 15,000 hectares would be brought into production in time for 2012. Of this hectarage, 30% is expected to be cultivated by private farmers. But according to a 2009 GUYSUCO report, the land development program at Skeldon for private cane farmers and new estate lands has been hamstrung by bad weather for two successive years. Incidentally, this is the same land that was expected to be brought to cultivation to allow the Skeldon factory to maximize its capacity.
Therefore, while mechanical problems and management may be problematic, there is not enough sugar cane production to operate the Skeldon factory at full capacity. Consequently, private management might not necessarily make a difference at this stage. This is not to say that GUYSUCO management has been any good, putting a dent in the claims of both GAWU and the AFC about the availability of local expertise.
For instance, GUYSUCO had at least 10 years to make preparations for the launch of the Skeldon initiative. Its' 1999-2008 strategic plan was designed to turn the industry around. Its main objective was to reduce the unit cost of sugar through a combination of initiatives, including: concentrating on increasing production in the lower cost areas of Berbice; maximizing use of good quality land; and developing larger processing facilities which can benefit from economies of scale and modern technology.
During Phase I, it was planned to construct a new factory at Skeldon, expand operations at Albion, and close the Rose Hall estate. In Phase II, GUYSUCO planned to establish a new factory on the west bank of the Canje River, expand the Blairmont estate and consolidate operations in Demerara. In addition, the corporation proposed to diversify the industry by constructing a distillery and a refinery to produce special sugars.
When the Skeldon factory was completed only in 2009, it was evident that GUYSUCO had not achieved many of the objectives it set out more than 10-years earlier. What this tells us is that while sugar might remain viable, management should be accountable for its problems.
It was expected that the factory would become fully operational in 2011, producing some 500,000 tonnes of sugar annually for export and that total industry production would increase to 1.2 million tonnes annually.
To put production expectations in perspective, sugar was forecasted to be the main driver of economic growth in 2009, following a poor 2008 when production fell from 266,000 tonnes in the previous year to 226,000 tonnes. But in 2009, production increased only marginally to 234,000 tonnes. And in 2010, production fell even further to 221,000 tonnes – miles away from anticipated production target.
An examination of historical production patterns show that during the 1960s, sugar output averaged about 300,000 tons per year. In the 1970-1980 period, production averaged over 306,000 tons per year, with a peak of 369,000 tons in 1971. However, during the 1990-2000 period, average sugar production fell to about 245,000 tons, with 1999 output of 365,000 tons being the highest. Since 2000, production averaged 270,000 tonnes, with 2002 production of 331,000 tonnes being the highest.
But the kicker is that between 2005 and 2010 when GUYSUCO's 10-year plan should have been in full gear, sugar production averaged a mere 242,000 tonnes. Therein lies evidence of the incompetence of the industry's management.
Typically, blame for low production falls squarely on weather and labour conditions – which are in reality contributors to a decline in production in specific years - but a steady decline in production cannot be solely attributed to these variables. Blame for the poor performance of the industry cannot also be placed on the removal of tariff protection by the European Union and teething problems at the modern Skeldon factory.
In the country's 2011 budget presentation, Finance Minister, Ashni Singh, lamented that sugar production targets were elusive because they were premised on the expectation that acreage under cultivation and productivity gains would materialize. However, the industry's turnaround objectives were hampered by "less than favourable weather conditions, complicated industrial relations, and the need for greater improvements in managerial efficiency and effectiveness." Note: "the need for greater improvements in managerial efficiency and effectiveness."
Incidentally, in the first half of 2011, the sugar industry showed tentative signs of recovery. The sector returned a 2011 first crop of 106,871 tonnes, reflecting a 30.5 percent increase over the first crop of 2010 and the best first crop performance since 2004. The sector's projected growth for the full year remains unrevised at 35.3 percent. These statistics should not be misinterpreted as they reflect an increase from a historically low level of production in 2010.
Arguably, current management has failed the sugar industry. Ironically, since the appointment of a new Board of Directors two years ago, industry performance has headed further south. Worker disenchantment has also increased, to the extent that GAWU, the sugar union, was threatened with de-recognition earlier this year.
President Bharat Jagdeo has openly expressed his disappointment with the Skeldon factory, claiming that if it "doesn't work well the sugar industry is dead….it's dead. It's as simple as that…"
The Minister of Agriculture might be on the right track to employ private management to run the Skeldon factory but such management must be selected without any strings attached. He should also note that production levels must rise if sugar is to become viable once again.


Generous across-the-board payment package for Bosai workers

NAACIE Gen Secretary Kenneth Joseph (l) and BOSAI GM George Zhoa

Georgetown - A 7% across-the-board wages and salaries increase and other benefits package has been agreed upon for employees of the bauxite company Bosai Minerals Group (Guyana) following a new Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) entered into with their union, National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) last Thursday.
A joint statement from the union and the company issued last Friday revealed that the Wages and Salaries Agreement will be effective from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012 while the CLA will be effective for four years beginning April 1, 2011. Among the new benefits agreed upon are the increase of the Providence fund to $40,000 or one week's pay, whichever is greater; increase in vacation allowance; 7 percent increase for foremen, 6.5 percent for other employees with five or more years of service, and 6 percent for those with one year and below five years of service. Other benefits to accrue from the agreement include an education allowance of $10,000 to workers with seven years service, and those with five years and less, $5,000, which is expected to go towards equipping employee's children with school supplies. Workers' meal allowance has also been raised from $700 to $825; vacation time-off was also changed to 21 days while out of town allowances were also increased. There will also be increased medical benefits to cover the cost for dental and optical care for employees and their dependents, the release added.
The agreement which was signed last Thursday at the Watooka Complex will affect approximately 500 workers employed with the company at its Linden bauxite operations. The across-the-board seven per cent increase for workers will be retroactive from March 31st this year.
Among those in attendance at the signing of the agreement were Chief Labour Officer Yoganand Persaud, Interim Management Committee Chairman Orrin Gordon and senior executives of Bosai including the General Manager, George Zhoa, Senior Personnel Relations Officer, Vance Reid, and Branch Chairman of NAACIE, Lethem Wilson.
Officials on the NAACIE side included General Secretary, Kenneth Joseph, and Linden Branch Chairman, Linnell Warden.
The Chief Labour Officer said that it is good that the workers themselves negotiated an agreement. NAACIE Branch Chairman Linnell Warden pointed out that the wage increase of 7 per cent, is 'most reasonable'. He commended the pension plan where workers would get dentures along with medical care for themselves and family.


Guyana pursues Voluntary Partnership Agreements with EU

Norbert Probst, EU Head of Section, Politics, Trade, Press and Information

Georgetown - Guyana is considering entering into Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with the European Union (EU) in an effort to ensure that Guyana's timber products gain greater access to the European market. Accessibility to these markets requires that only legal timbers are exported there which would call for close collaboration between Government and the private sector.
The VPSs are bilateral agreements between the European Union (EU) and tropical wood-exporting countries, which aim to improve forest governance and guarantee that the wood imported into the EU is from legal sources. The VPAs act as vehicles to Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLGET). The EU promotes trade in legal timber through FLEGT-VPAs with Third World countries.
At present the main stakeholders in the forest sector including the Guyana Forestry Commission, Forest Products Association (FPA), National Toshaos Council and representatives of the Surinamese Forest Sector are engaging in consultations to develop a suitable definition of legality within Guyana's context and to ensure Guyana's compliance with set standards of the FLGET-VPAs.
The second round of consultation was held last Wednesday at the Grand Coastal Hotel at Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara.
According to Norbert Probst, Head of Section, Politics, Trade, Press and Information, the EU is very active, driven by strong consumer and hence business interests, to ensure that its consumption of timber products is not contributing to trade in illegal timber and deforestation, Kaieteur News (KN) reported.
Probst noted that Member States have introduced procurement policies and businesses have established systems to better know their supply chain. He added that in October 2009, it adopted the "Due Diligence" which prohibits the sale of illegally harvested timber in the EU and obliges operators to exercise due diligence to minimize the risk of illegal timber in their supply chain. This FPA project is funded by the EU under its ACP-FLEGT Support Programme and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


Guyana signs agreement with OAS to observe upcoming elections

Georgetown — The Guyana government signed an agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS) on the Privileges and Immunities of the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) for the upcoming general and regional elections in Guyana constitutionally due by December 28, 2011.
The document was inked last Thursday at a ceremony held at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC. Signing on behalf of OAS was Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza while the Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS, Ambassador Bayney R. Karran, signed on behalf of the government of Guyana. They both expressed wishes for the elections to take place in an environment of normalcy and transparency.
Secretary General Insulza thanked the Government of Guyana for the opportunity given to the OAS to observe the electoral process. He recalled the strong presence the country has had in regional and international relations adding "I hope that all this international activity will now be accompanied by a very good coop in matters that are really of concern for the Guyanese democracy." He went on to say "Your country has a solid democratic vocation and a clear will from its authorities to carry out an election that is transparent and satisfactory for everybody."
Ambassador Karran, also speaking at the ceremony, recalled that since 1992 his country has achieved great progress in the strengthening of electoral democracy. He noted that "the Organization of American States has played a very important role in that area," adding, "We are looking forward to having elections that are going to express the free will of the Guyanese people and establish the bases for the continuing strengthening of democracy."
Also present at the signing ceremony on behalf of the ALADI Group was the Interim Representative of Argentina to the OAS, Martín Gómez Bustillo.
Guyana has also invited Caricom, United Nations, European Union, Carter Center and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to send observers.


Guyana`s economy grew by 5.9% in first half of this year

Dr. Ashni Singh
Georgetown - Guyana's economy grew by 5.9 percent in the first half of 2011 making it the fifth consecutive year of positive growth in the economy since 2006. This was announced by Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh, who tabled the 2011 Mid-Year Report in the National Assembly last Thursday.
The report said that underlying this overall expansion in real gross domestic product was growth in the non-sugar sectors of five percent, while the sugar sector contributed to the overall acceleration of growth. The economy is projected to grow by 5.1 percent this year overall, revised upward from the original projection of 4.6 percent at the time of the budget of 2011, while the non-sugar sector is projected to grow at 3.4 percent, revised upward from the original projection of 2.8 percent. The report noted that export earnings overall expanded by 34.6 percent to US$533.1 million, while export earnings from sugar increased by 32.4 percent to US$50.1 million. This figure reflected a 30.4 percent increase in quantity of sugar shipped to 99,738 tonnes.
The report also identified increases in the mining and quarrying sector with bauxite production reaching a total of 815,505 tonnes at the half year - an increase of 38.6 percent compared to the same period in 2010- and gold production reaching 163,413 ounces, an increase of 14.9 percent over 2010.
However, the report noted a contraction in the forestry sector. The production of logs, lumber and roundwood all contracted, resulting in an overall negative growth in the industry of 30.3 percent during this period.
Though production in the livestock industry was targeted to remain stable through 2011, the report said that for the first half of the year, overall production levels actually increased by 2.7 percent, with increases in poultry meat, table eggs, mutton and beef, while pork production declined. Fish also suffered a decline in production, having been projected to grow by 0.4 percent.
Earnings from rice export expanded by 35.1 percent to US$92.6 million, mainly attributed to a 26.4 percent increase in average export price to US$551.4 per tonne, coupled with a 6.8 percent increase in export volume to 167,945 tonnes, the report noted.
Elections unlikely before Nov 14
Georgetown — President Bharrat Jagdeo is not expected to call general elections before November 14, 2011. This was disclosed by Head of the President Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon last Thursday at his press briefing. This is consistent with the date given by the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr Steve Surujbally, who had earlier said that the earliest date that GECOM can conduct the elections is November 14, 2011. The elections are constitutionally due by December 28, 2011.
GECOM had to carry forward the date so as to accommodate a new round of the Claims and Objections which allowed more eligible electors to get their names on the Final Voters' List. According to Luncheon, more than 8,000 persons added their names to the National Register through this process.
Meanwhile GECOM announced last Sunday that electronic fingerprint cross-matching done in the United States has helped authorities find more than 100 multiple registrants associated with the first phase of Claims and Objections and another 27 linked to the second Claims and Objections phase. GECOM said that the police are being called in to investigate a number of those believed to have been done "deliberately."
GECOM has also announced that National Identification Cards issued before October 2009 will be decommissioned after October 31, 2011 and will not be valid for use in the upcoming local and general elections. GECOM says it has over 30,000 identification (ID) cards which are yet to be uplifted.
And in another announcement GECOM said that it will not be carrying the photos of Presidential Candidates on ballot papers in the upcoming elections since it is against regulations. GECOM, in a release last Thursday, said that it has noted the recent calls made in the media for the photographs of the various Presidential Candidates of the respective political parties, which would be contesting the General and Regional Elections, 2011, to be published alongside the particulars of the relevant parties.
Dr Luncheon said that of the organizations that were invited to observe the elections, the Organisation of American States and the Caribbean Community have so far confirmed that they will be fielding teams of observers. The Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) is the first local organisation to have been announced as observers of the elections and will be fielding a team of some 2,200 observers.
Man shot, killed while in car

Georgetown — Anthony Ting-A-Kee, 21, of Robb Street, Georgetown, was pronounced dead at the Georgetown Public Hospital last Friday where he was taken after being shot in the chest and leg in a pre-dawn attack.
According to a police report Anthony Ting-A-Kee and a female friend were in a Toyota motor car which was parked along the Rupert Craig Highway when they were confronted by two men, one of whom was armed with a handgun. The men took away Ting-A-Kee's jewellery and the motor vehicle, but the young man put up a resistance and was shot to his right foot and chest, the statement said.
Ting-A-Kee was taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital by a public-spirited citizen after his female companion raised an alarm..
Police said that the car was recovered in Lamaha Park last Friday afternoon. Six .38 rounds were found at the scene of the shooting.
The female companion has been questioned by police.


Woman killed by cop driver

Georgetown — Floyd Elaine Harris of First Street, Alberttown, died after being struck down by a police car driven by an unauthorized cop.
According to reports the motor vehicle, owned by the Guyana Police Force and driven by a Constable, was proceeding along Smyth Street, when it is alleged that the driver failed to stop at the intersection, collided with another motor vehicle and then struck Harris who was standing on the eastern side of the road. The accident occurred at around 4:20 pm last Wednesday at the corner of Smyth and Princes Street, Georgetown.
The injured woman was taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital where she died while receiving medical attention.
According to a police statement, the Constable was not authorized to drive the force's vehicles and is under close arrest assisting with the investigations.


Shot, robbed at traffic light

Georgetown — Danesh Boodna, 34, and Harry Jodhan were relieved of a bag containing $4 million while they were in their car which had stopped at the traffic light in the vicinity of Conversation Tree, Rupert Craig Highway, two Tuesdays ago.
The perpetrators had driven up in another motor vehicle alongside the victims' vehicle and discharged rounds at the vehicle which damaged a window, after which they took away of a bag containing $4 million and escaped, police spokesman, Ivelaw Whittaker said in a statement.
The attackers were on the driver`s side of the victim's car. One of the bullets pierced the front seat of the vehicle before shattering the passenger-side glass window. The incident occurred at around 6:30 pm. The victims said no one challenged the attackers.
The matter was reported to the police, but so far no one has been arrested.


LBI businessplace robbed

Georgetown — Armed robbers made off with some GUY$300,000 from an East Coast Demerara (ECD) business after holding up the security guard and employees two Mondays ago.
Guyana Police Force spokesman Ivelaw Whittaker said the robbery took place at around 8.10 pm at the Shivrattan Molding Establishment, LBI, East Coast Demerara (ECD). "Manager Haymant Singh, 30, of Triumph, ECD and two other employees were attacked and robbed by four men, three of whom were armed with handguns. Investigations revealed that the perpetrators entered the premises and held the security guard and the three employees at gunpoint," Whittaker said.
He added that the men took the cash, a quantity of personal jewellery and two cell phones from their victims and escaped in a waiting motor vehicle.


Russians on shooting spree

Georgetown — Two drunken Russian employees of a gold mining company in the North West District allegedly opened fire on two workers of a Canadian-owned manganese company, according to a report in
The two Guyanese workers of Reunion Manganese escaped injury as one hid behind a bulldozer while the other raised an excavator bucket and used it as a shield, reported. The shooting incident reportedly occurred at Hill Nine-East, Matthews Ridge some time after 4:00 pm last Friday.
Police sources confirmed that the unlicensed handgun, 14 spent shells and 10 live rounds were seized by police and that the shooters were intoxicated at the time of the incident. A law enforcement officer explained that the men went at the back of Reunion Manganese operations and discharged several rounds.
According to a company official said the Russians misbehaved and damaged a cell at the Matthews Ridge police station, forcing police to take them to the Port Kaituma police station where there was greater supervision and security.


Cop accused of shoplifting

Georgetown — A female constable attached to the Brickdam Police Station was accused of shoplifting at Giftland Office Max, Water Street recently.
According to Kaieteur News (KN) the woman was caught with several chocolate bars and compact discs in her bag after she had denied that she was in possession of the items. The woman was reportedly seen putting the items into her bag and attempted to leave the premises when she was stopped by the store's personnel. She became abusive when she was accused of attempting to leave without paying for the items in her bag, KN reported.
The woman was detained by the store's security personnel until the police arrived on the scene and a check of her bag unearthed the items. She was reportedly allowed to go free without being charged. However, according to KN, word of the incident somehow reached the ears of a senior police officer, who immediately ordered an investigation.


Gunman beaten by citizens

Georgetown — A gunman identified as Toney Ogle, 34, of Beterverwagting, East Coast Demerara who was caught and beaten shortly after he committed a robbery on a popular taxi service in Alexander Village around midday last Sunday, is currently in police custody.
Two suspected accomplices in the robbery have also been reportedly arrested.
According to media reports Ogle attacked Jenelle Burke, a female dispatcher, who is attached to the Green Ice Taxi Service, at the Cross and Fourth Street, Alexander Village base, sometime after 1:00 pm last Sunday.
Ogle reportedly turned up at the Taxi Service base pretending to be a customer but while Jenelle was attempting to locate a car for him he grabbed at her hand and began demanding that she hand over her valuables and the base fees that were collected for the day. He relieved her of her gold chain.
The woman told him she already handed over the money to her employer and he then ransacked the office but after coming up empty handed he turned his attention to her handbag, in which he found two cellular phones and an undisclosed sum of cash.
The woman raised an alarm as the man was fleeing which caused him to pull out a gun and discharge a round into the air.
However public spirited citizens and drivers attached to the taxi service pursued the man and caught him. In the process he discharged a round which damaged the windscreen of a car of one of his pursuers.
He was handed over to the police after a sound beating.


Another successful kidney transplant organized by George Subraj

Philantropist George Subraj and kidney recipient Mark David
Georgetown - Mark David became the latest person to benefit from a kidney transplant operation in Guyana. Speaking with Kaieteur News (KN) after the surgery, David, a father of two, said that he has been given a new lease on life and is very thankful.
The 37-year old certified accountant of Anna Catherina, West Coast Demerara received his new kidney from his close friend Raymond Bacchus. Both donor and recipient were doing fine up to press time. The surgery was performed last Wednesday at the Balwant Singh Hospital by Dr Rahul Jindal and his team comprising, Dr Steven Guy, Dr Alden Doyle, Dr David Oliver, Dr Amit Verma, Dr Vineet Naja, Dr Aashish Chavan, Chelsea Guy and Mission Coordinator Lake Persaud.
This is the ninth visit to Guyana by Dr Jindal and his team of medical personnel to carry out such operations. The entire project was organized by New York-based Guyanese philanthropist, George Subraj, President of the Zara Realty Holding Corporation.
Subraj said that the Ministry of Health has been very co-operative with the surgery, especially when it involved the supply of medication, and the Balwant Singh Hospital has been very receptive and helpful in facilitating the initiative, KN reported. Subraj further stated that the medication is free since it is supplied by the Government of Guyana; the patients would not pay the doctors; and even the Balwant Singh Hospital reduced its fees to facilitate more patients, KN noted.
Currently there are more patients being screened and with this surgery being successful, more emphasis will be placed on training the local doctors to "take over" after Dr. Jindal and his team would have completed surgeries, KN reported.
CMO: cancer deaths on the increase especially among women

Georgetown - The number of deaths from cancer has been increasing in recent years with more women than men dying of the disease said Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Shamdeo Persaud at the National Consultation on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) held at the Ocean View Hotel Convention Centre last Monday.
The latest figures quoted were 426 cancer deaths in 2004 with 207 males and 219 females; 453 in 2005 with 223 males and 230 females; and 406 in 2006 with 197 males and 209 females; 453 cancer deaths in 2007 with 198 males and 255 females and 469 cancer deaths recorded in 2008. No breakdown was provided for that year. Dr. Shamdeo disclosed that the most prevalent forms of cancer were prostate; breast; cervical; stomach, colon and other bowel cancers; liver and lung.
Dr Shamdeo also noted that some 64,000 Guyanese are said to be living with diabetes and hypertension. According to the CMO stated that there is a 6.2 percent prevalence of diabetes in Guyana's population with approximately 47,000 people living with the disease. The doctor also revealed that ninety-two percent of the cases are Type 2 (non-Insulin dependent) diabetes. He added that there is an incidence average of 4.8 percent in the population over 30 years with 2,000 new cases being added annually.
The CMO also stated that the there is a 9 percent prevalence rate of hypertension in persons above 30 years with 16,000 cases reported annually. He noted that hypertension is the "major contributing cause of strokes in persons over 40, heart attacks, disability and under productivity" affecting some 64,000 persons along with diabetes.
Commenting on other diseases, Dr Shamdeo said there are also some 2800 cases of strokes annually, 2,012 cases of heart attacks and 3,129 cases of blood vessel disease. He noted that the non-communicable diseases are caused primarily by tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
The meeting was a preamble to the upcoming September 19 and 20 high level meeting of the General Assembly which will address the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases worldwide, with a particular focus on developmental and other challenges and social and economic impacts, particularly for developing countries.


Fake identity used by US financier in Ministry of Health arson

Georgetown - The United States-based suspected mastermind behind the 2009 Ministry of Health fire used false identity to register a mobile phone that was used to contact local co-conspirators says US authorities.
This was disclosed two Tuesdays ago by Assistant Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud.
Persaud told that there have been no new leads and he assumed that the US was still continuing their probe into the whereabouts of the person described as a "key man."
The building housing the Ministry of Health was destroyed by fire during the wee hours of July 17, 2009. Arson was suspected as several bottle bombs comprising gasoline, chick peas and wicks were recovered from the scene. reported that according to information released by Wikileaks Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee had communicated to the United States embassy in Georgetown information about the suspect and sought American help to track him down. Rohee was quoted as saying, "The Police are also in receipt of information that the group receives some funding, firearms and direction form a Guyanese-born male living in New York, USA who is referred to as "Mr T" and whose telephone number is 646-372-2397."
Rohee explained that Guyanese police were able to link Mr. T to a Guyanese man nicknamed "The General" who was among five persons who were arrested and charged with the arson. The Home Affairs Minister explained that 'The General' was found in possession of cellular phone number 592-682-4698.
Further investigation revealed that a call was made at 3:06 am and another at 3:08 am on July 17, 2009 from that cellular phone to telephone number 646-372-2397 and that these calls were made from a location within close proximity to the scene of the arson.
"Two of the persons charged have confessed that they were hired by "The General" to participate in the arson. The Guyana Police Force has intelligence of 'The General's "involvement with a group of Guyanese nationals that commit crimes with intent to cause mayhem in the society and that specifically target Government entities and personnel," Rohee said according to
He noted that several members of that group are currently on trial in Guyanese courts for Murder, Advocating a Terrorist Act, Robbery under Arms and other offences.


GAWU wants stakeholders' consultation on foreign management of Skeldon

Georgetown - Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is calling for government to hold off on placing the Skeldon sugar factory under foreign management until a full stakeholders' consultation is held.
Two Fridays ago Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, announced that the board of the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was considering Indian and Chinese proposals for the running of the factory as GuySuCo does not have the management expertise to run the Skeldon Sugar factory.
GAWU claimed that it was "reliably informed" that the matter had not been brought before the Board at the time of the announcement. GAWU says it is very much disappointed by the alleged remarks of the Minister implying that Guyanese are incapable of running the industry.
GAWU said that several critical questions should now be asked as to why the US$200M Skeldon factory, Guyana's largest single capital project to date, has been singled out from the rest of sugar-making facilities, for foreign management.


Leadership crisis hits TUF
Valerie Garrido-Lowe

Georgetown — There is a leadership crisis in The United Force (TUF), one of the opposition parties, with recently elected party leader Valerie Garrido-Lowe claiming that she was locked out of the offices last Friday. A faction of the party has also passed a resolution which states that Garrido-Lowe is no longer a member, presidential candidate or leader of the party and that she is no longer authorized to transact party business.
Former leader Manzoor Nadir explained that Article 11 of TUF's constitution empowers the executive to remove any officer or group of persons.
Nadir, who stepped down as leader in July, is at the centre of the controversy as a faction of the executive wants him to take over as party leader. He has denied any knowledge of the lock out. Nadir, since stepping down as party leader, has been asked by new leader, Garrido-Lowe, to vacate his seat in the government as she said she wants TUF to be seen as an independent party free from any influences of the incumbent PPP/C party.
Following the lockout Garrido-Lowe has written a letter to the foreign missions in Guyana stating that former Party leader, Manzoor Nadir is looking to usurp her authority.
In a letter dated September 2, 2011 which was released to the media last Saturday Garrido-Lowe said the latest development stemmed from her assertion that she was going to lead the party into the general election free of any strings to the incumbent PPP/C. Nadir has served twice as minister under the PPP/C government.
Meanwhile Nadir is claiming that when executives turned up for a meeting on Thursday at the New Garden and Robb Streets-based office, the building was closed and they were forced to meet on the middle floor. He said he did not know whether the locks were changed. He was quoted as saying that "She (Valerie Garrido-Lowe) needs time to reconcile so we are giving her a chance," in apparent reference to moves to depose her as party leader.


Finger raising protest at State House

Georgetown - A number of persons picketed outside the State House on Main Street and raised their middle fingers in solidarity with teenager Kevin Simon, who was remanded to prison for two weeks, for allegedly showing his middle finger to President Jagdeo's convoy.
Kevin Simon, 18, allegedly made the obscene gesture while travelling on the main East Coast Highway on August 8. He was initially charged with breaching the peace under one section of the law and appeared before Magistrate Judy Latchman the following day and pleaded not guilty. He was remanded to prison for one week. However, on his return to court on August 16, he was sent back to the Camp Street Prison for another week. He was unrepresented on both occasions but since then his family has secured prominent defence attorney Nigel Hughes, who subsequently applied to the High Court and secured bail in the sum of $5,000.
Two Tuesdays ago the Prosecution informed the court that they were withdrawing the charge against the young man, with a view to reinstitution under another section of the law.
The Prosecution is contending that sticking out his middle finger at the President amounted to a criminal act. The young man, a porter on a water delivery truck, is on the other hand contending that he was merely hanging his hand against the breeze when he was accused of the act.


Haier wins US$7.5M lap tops contract

Georgetown - The Haier Electrical Appliances Limited of China won the US$7.5 million contract to supply the government with 27,000 netbooks.
The bidding, conducted through the International Competitive Bidding (ICB) procedures, required bidders to show evidence of technical experience and financial capacity; manufacturer's authorization and warranty; audited financial statements for the past three years from a recognized/authorized agency; and submission of the bid security.
According to bid documents the government has to publish on the national website ( the results identifying the winning bidder, the price it was offered and the duration and summary scope of the contract awarded. The government, is also obligated to give the reasons why the other bids were rejected. After publication of the award, unsuccessful bidders may request in writing to the Purchaser for a debriefing, seeking explanations on the grounds on which their bids were not selected.


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