Dear Editor,The GAWU has seen and considered the statements of Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan expressed in the August 5 Stabroek News article titled “GuySuCo diversification delayed – Jordan”. The article, we gather, is the latest in the series of articles published by the newspaper arising from a wide-ranging interview with the Minister on a host of matters under his stewardship.Through the latest instalment of the interview, our Union was gravely disappointed to learn that the planned diversification programme, with respect to the estates under the stewardship of GuySuCo, has been delayed. From the news report, we gather that the Minister indicated that the initiatives to construct co-generation plants have been shelved for the time being as emphasis is placed on other areas.While we noted that the Minister did not specifically identify where the previously allocated co-generation monies would be spent, he did disclose, we saw, that the sums would be used to hasten the State-owned estates’ return to viability. While we welcome every and all workable and considered efforts to restore the industry to a viable and sustainable state, the Minister’s admission is yet another sad twist in the confused road the industry has been taking in recent times.The fact that NICIL-SPU will have to now approach bondholders to receive their proverbial ‘blessing’ to re-jig the utilisation of the $30 billion bond only serves to confirm, yet again, that absent was any plan to properly utilise the large sum. It is the absence of such a plan, in our view, that was the source of the animosity that spilled over into the public arena between the NICIL-SPU and the GuySuCo.As may well be recalled, the GAWU, on several occasions, has reiterated that, from our point of view, there appeared to be no plan regarding the expenditure. We should add that our concerted and consistent attempts to engage the Corporation on its plan was stonewalled, it seemed, at every turn. Now, the admission that the bond proceeds have to be adjusted only serves to further confirm our suspicions.This latest episode is yet another indication that the powers-that-be are either clueless or unconcerned, or maybe both, as they address the sugar industry. It must not be forgotten, that the industry, in spite of the reduced scale, is still the nation’s largest employer. It is also a significant source of sustenance in rural Guyana. This clear fact has been demonstrated by the vacuum created in the communities of the closed sugar estates.It is saddening to recognise the reality that more than one year has elapsed and millions of dollars, so far, have been paid to bondholders as interest and there is, apparently, no tangible utilisation of the invested sums. This, for us, is not a matter of great comfort. What’s even more disheartening is that the latest admission comes just a mere week after no lesser than President David Granger, himself, had said he wanted the sugar industry to thrive. While the President is saying one thing, we see completely different actions coming from the other officials of the Granger Administration.Certainly, and undoubtedly, it is hard to really give credence to what the Government is saying about the sugar industry any longer. Remember the now-a-day governmental leaders told the Guyanese electorate prior to their election to office, that “Sugar was too big to fail”. The reality is that they were less than truthful as the industry was minimised and thousands lost their jobs. We cannot afford any further miniaturisation and a clearly workable plan is not an option but an imperative.Yours faithfully,Seepaul NarineGeneral SecretaryGAWU
Varsityblues.ca will highlight the nominees of U of T’s major awards – male & female rookie of the year, Dr. Clara Benson honour award, George M. Biggs trophy, as well as the male & female Frank Pindar and T-Holders’ athletes of the year – to be awarded at the 2019 intercollegiate athletic banquet on Saturday, March 30 at Chestnut Residence Ballroom.The following Varsity Blues athletes were nominated by their coaches and chosen through the awards selection process as finalists for the male rookie of the year award, presented to a male athlete in their first year of competition who exhibits the highest degree of athletic excellence (in alpha order):Femi Akinduro – Track & FieldTriple jump specialist Femi Akinduro certainly made a name for himself in his first season of intercollegiate competition. Akinduro garnered OUA first team all-star honours following a gold-medal performance at the provincial championships. There, he notched a top jump of 14.56m. Akinduro went onto also win the U SPORTS national gold medal. The first team all-Canadian jumped 14.73m to cap off an impressive first season with the Blues.Iñaki Alvarez – BasketballFirst-guard Iñaki Alvarez was named a member of the 2018-19 OUA all-rookie team after a breakout first season at U of T. Alvarez ranked second on the Blues, averaging 12.9 points over 15 regular season games in 2018-19. The native of Altafulla, Spain led the Blues with 26 steals and reached double-digit points in 13 games this season. An arts and science major, Alvarez recorded a season-high 22 points as the Blues narrowly fell, 70-68, to the No. 1 nationally ranked Carleton Ravens on Jan. 7.Graeme Aylward – SwimmingGraeme Aylward notched numerous podium finishes in his first season with the Blues. At the OUA championships, Aylward earned the individual silver medal in the 200 breaststroke, while also claiming the bronze medals in the 50 and 100 breaststroke events. He helped Toronto’s 400 medley relay team to a gold-medal finish and placed second with U of T’s 200 medley relay team, all of which helped Toronto win their 16th straight OUA title. Aylward went on to place 12th in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events at the U SPORTS championships in Vancouver, while also earning a silver medal in the 400 medley relay to help the Blues to an overall bronze-medal team finish.Evan Falardeau – VolleyballFirst-year outside hitter Evan Falardeau had a breakout first season with the Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team and was recognized as a member of both the OUA and U SPORTS all-rookie teams for his efforts. The Stratford, Ont., native led the Blues with 3.16 kills and 3.7 points per set, recording a season-high 26.5 points in a 3-1 victory at Ryerson on Feb. 1. He helped lead the Blues to their first playoff victory since 2004, a 3-2 upset quarter-final win at Western. Falardeau and the Blues went onto place fourth at the OUA Final Four in Kingston.Michael Farrell – BadmintonFirst-year standout Michael Farrell was named the OUA male rookie of the year in helping the Blues win the 2019 provincial title. Farrell went 5-1 in men’s singles action at the OUA championship, outscoring his opponents by a combined 236-139. Earlier in the season, he was a semifinalist at both the Ryerson Open and Ridgeback Challenge, upsetting two seeded players in both tournaments.David Thomson – HockeyFirst-year forward David Thomson led the Blues with nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 28 regular season games. He registered eight multi-point games, co-led Toronto with four powerplay markers and registered seven points as the Blues went 6-2 in their final eight games to reach the post season for the first time in three seasons. He went onto lead the team in scoring in their first-round playoff series versus the top-ranked Ryerson Rams. Immediately following the season, Thomson represented Canada at the 2019 FISU Universiade in Russia, scoring four goals and added two assists in helping the Red and White to a bronze-medal finish.For more information, scores and highlights on your favourite U of T athletes and teams, please visit www.varsityblues.ca. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for the latest and greatest in Varsity Blues intercollegiate athletics. Print Friendly Version Story Links
– alleges forged signature, corruption by businessmanThe threat of legal action made by local businessman Rafik Ahmad of Superfood Inc against the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GAF&D), may very well be a lost cause, as the organiastion on Tuesday refuted the claims made by the Ruimveldt, Greater Georgetown businessman.Government Analyst Food and Drug Department Director, Marlon ColeGAF&D Director Marlon Cole on Tuesday gave the organsiation’s side of the matter, which he said is currently before the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).The claims made by the businessman through his lawyer Anil Nandlall is that the Food and Drug Department has been preventing him from uplifting a container of tinned milk which came into the country several months ago.According to Ahmad, this is the first time something like this has happened, and he has ordered through his lawyer that the items, which will reach expiry date in less than four months, be released.But Cole speaking to Guyana Times said since the arrival of the item in December 2015, Customs for the entry reached his office in early February this year. He said a number of discrepancies were found, including the recognition of his forged signature.It was also found that while Ahmad had recorded the item in the container as powdered milk, it was in fact a sweetened condensed milk.“My forged signature was used to clear the confinement and at the time it was recorded full cream milk, which is [Value Added Tax] VAT exempted from tax, imported by Superfood Inc by Rafeek Ahmad”.He said it was Customs that recognised the unusual signature and alerted the Department.“When we looked at the signature, we recognised that it was unusual. We then sent for the document at Customs; however, before the Department received it, it was intercepted by a staff. It was then realised that the staff may have been in collusion with the Customs broker and the importer,” Cole told Guyana Times.He said the Police was called in, the staff was placed on bail, the importer was charged and the matter is currently before the court.According to the Director, the Department was seeking to gain access to the full cream milk, because there were reports of substandard milk being imported by Ahmad.“We had wanted to retrieve a sample of the milk, but when we got to the container, it was not a container of full cream milk, but of Moee condensed milk. We then wrote the Customs Department on March 29. Since the February 8, we trying to get to examine the container and get a sample of the milk. We were only able to examine the container on March 24.”Cole further related that the importer was supposed to be charged by the Guyana Revenue Authority for false declaration, but he couldn’t say why Ahmad has not yet been charged.He said when it was realized that the contents of the container were condensed milk, it was stamped “entry refused” in March. “We found that it is milk filled with vegetable fat and is being sold as regular standardised milk. So Customs received the entry and the item was changed to condensed milk. The importer had to pay $1.5 million in duty. It was presented to the Department, and was again stamped “refused entry” because it was filled with vegetable fat instead of animal fat.”He said Customs was informed of the reason why the milk was refused entry – it bore the forged signature of the Director. Ahmad later went to the Department, demanding the document, but was informed that he could not get such. Cole added that Nandlall subsequently wrote the Separtment, stating that it has had the document for over a month and asked that it be immediately released.
As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen relations with the public, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) last week‘D’ Division Commander Stephen Mansell handing over the PA system to L’Aventure Secondary School’s Head Teacher Althea Stewarthanded over a Public Address (PA) system to the L’Aventure Secondary School on the West Bank of Demerara.According to D (West Demerara) Division Commander, Senior Superintendent of Police Stephen Mansell, this donation was as a result of a request made by the school’s Head Teacher, Althea Stewart.He explained that Stewart had written to Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud, asking for the Force to donate a PA system to the school that will be used for events such as debate competitions, public speaking enhancement and to address the general assembly, among others.Mansell went on to say that he was mandated by the Top Cop to execute the request and acquire the equipment at the cost of $80,000.During the simple handing over ceremony, the Divisional Commander urged the Head Teacher to care the equipment as it would go a long way in benefiting the school, especially in developing students’ public speaking ability.He added that the donation was yet another measure that the Division had embarked on to improve Police-public relations.Commander Mansell further noted that his Division had commenced a number of social crime prevention and partnership programmes targeting early school leavers and unemployed youth on West Demerara.
A 41-year-old man of Lot 15 Station Street, Kitty, Georgetown, was on Tuesday granted bail in the sum of .5 million for allegedly committing a million fraud.He appeared before Magistrate Judy Latchman at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.The charge against Rajesh Tahadeo stated that on September 7, 2015, at Georgetown, he conspired with another person to commit a felony; that is to say, obtaining money by false pretence.It is alleged that Tahadeo had falsely obtained million by virtue of a Republic Bank cheque #322007167, from Lloyd Singh after falsely pretending he knew Shane-Ann Boston as “Venice LaRose”, claiming the said woman owned a plot of land at Block H1 Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara.Police Prosecutor Vishnu Hunt stated in the prosecution’s case that the defendant and the Virtual Complainant (VC) are known to each other. He stated that on the day in question, the defendant brought a woman to the VC, claiming she had a plot of land to sell. Singh paid the million and bought the land. However, it was later discovered that the plot of land was not for sale and the passport the woman used as a form of identification was forged.Tahadeo’s Attorney Glen Hanoman said Tahadeo was granted bail in his own recognisance and has given six statements to Police Officers at the Police station.Hanoman continued that his client is surprised to have been called into court and charged. He argued that his client was not aware that the woman was a con woman. He therefore requested bail to be set in a reasonable sum.Police Prosecutor Hunt indicated to the court that he has no objections to bail since the defendant cooperated with Police Officers during the investigation. He further stated that the defendant was only made aware of the charges the day before via phone call when he was also told he needed to attend court the next day.Magistrate Latchman granted the defendant bail in the sum of ,500,000, to which the Defence Attorney objected. According to Hanoman, the amount granted would be tantamount to bail being refused to his client.He explained that Tahadeo is currently in an embarrassing financial situation, and appealed for the sum to be reduced.The Magistrate stated that she had considered his request and bail was maintained at the sum of .5 million.The defendant is scheduled to make his next court appearance on November 1, 2016, before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan for statements and assignment.
Former Guyana Defence Force Chief-of-Staff, Rear Admiral Gary Best has been sworn in to head the latestRear Admiral (Retired) Gary Best taking the oath to head the latest CoI on TuesdayCommission of Inquiry (CoI), this time to probe a mining death.This comes less than two weeks after 33-year-old miner Keon Wilson was killed after a mining pit collapsed on him at Rock Creek, Mining District Three, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).Under the orders of President David Granger, the CoI was set up to investigate, examine, probe and report on the circumstances that led to the miner’s demise. The Rear Admiral took his oath before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday morning, and pledged that he would be impartial while executing his duties.After being sworn in, Best told media operatives that the CoI was a “step in the right direction” as it could establish blame for the fatal event.“The Commission of Inquiry is an important step in determining what happened…and to determine blameworthiness, if there is blameworthiness; whether or not the Government will implement those or not, that is for the Government – I trust that they will,” the former Army Chief explained.A preliminary report will be released in two weeks, the public was informed.Meanwhile, Best was questioned over concerns that only ex-military officers were being chosen to oversee the many CoIs set up. The Rear Admiral noted that while he did not see any difficulty in ex-military personnel or civilians conducting inquiries, he believed that “competence” of the individuals must be taken into consideration.Over 35 mining deaths have been recorded so far in Guyana over the past two years.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) does not support the passage of an early budget, saying the dynamics of the situation limit its scrutiny of Government’s performance.Finance Minister Winston Jordan had announced that the National Budget 2017 would be presented in early December and would aid in the timely implementation of Government’s agenda.Former Junior Finance Minister Juan EdghillHowever, the PPP/C is contending that it will not get to examine and compare the actual expenditure for 2016, since the 2017 Budget will be presented and debated while the 2016 Budget is still being implemented.Former Junior Finance Minister Juan Edghill, during a news conference on Monday, explained that the books for the fiscal year close on December 31; therefore, if the Budget is presented before that date, then figures on the various Ministries and agencies’ performance will not be available for comparison during the budget debates.“We will be debating and examining a budget where a current budget is being executed and we don’t know for sure actuals. For example, between December 21 and December 31, do you know what the expenditure of this country can be? If the books are not closed, we don’t know how much they spent, how much is their capital expenditure, how much is their current expenditure to find out what we are doing for 2017; so we will be at a disadvantage,” Edghill explained.Given these circumstances, he suspected that Government’s early budget presentation could be its sneaky way of evading public scrutiny.“We are very concerned if this is another three-card trick that is being played out in the public where we are going to be duped. Is this another form of corruption to hide underperformance and create opportunities for greater levels of corruption….?” he mused.Edghill maintained that there was no haste for an early budget presentation, noting historically, the country’s budget was presented in the first quarter of the fiscal year. He noted too that there were already mechanisms in place for the interim spending of the Government, which is 1/12 of the previous budget, until the new budget is presented and passed.
Digicel Guyana on Thursday launched its Christmas promotion titled #GetGifted – in Guyana” at its Flagship store at Giftland Mall, Liliendaal, Georgetown.#GetGifted is built on the premise that the Christmas holidays is said to be the happiest time of the year – all about great gifts, quality family time, joy and happiness – well not quite. The flipside is the hustle and bustle to find the right gifts for loved-ones and friends, which at times turn out to be bad gift choices – and that is something many Guyanese relate to.A student of the Gifted Hands Special Needs School receives gifts from Santa ClausWith the launch of Digicel’s #GetGifted handset promotion, customers can gift themselves or their loved-ones, that perfect cell phone for the holidays. There is a range of over 20 handsets to choose from, and customers can get up to 50% off on selected handsets.Some of the handsets include the popular Samsung S7, Samsung S7 Edge, Samsung J10, the Digicel range DL1 Plus and D1 LITE, as well as the Alcatel, Huawei and Azumi brands.The #GetGifted Christmas promotion has handsets and prices to suit every lifestyle and pocket. Customers can find a phone that matches their lifestyle and personality at a price that suits their budget. #GetGifted will keep customers on the go and connected to Digicel’s superior network this Christmas, as with every smartphone purchased, you will receive a Value Bundle of a one-week 4G Data Plan with over 900MBs, inclusive of 30 minutes Talk and 30 Text Messages to any local number absolutely FREE. Customers will also be able to rollover their unused data, talk and text once they renew their Value Bundle Plan. The campaign comes on the heels of a tongue-in-cheek Christmas song, “Gifted,” which was released by the company’s Chief Speed Officer, Usain Bolt, on his social media pages. The heavily auto-tuned song immediately became a viral hit, racking up over 6.5 million views just days after its release. However, through a partnership with Samsung, the campaign will see Digicel leveraging across digital and mobile platforms ensuring that customers are gifted with everything they need – including better deals on the amazing Samsung Galaxy S7 and better connectivity from the most reliable network in the region.Meanwhile, #GetGifted is giving back to children across the region with its Gifted Kids initiative. During the launch on Thursday students of the ‘Gifted Hands Special Needs School, were treated to gifts from Santa Claus of ice cream and goodies. This initiative will be spread across the Caribbean and Central America in all of Digicel’s 32 markets. Through the Gifted Kids – Christmas Cheers, Digicel’s employees will bring the love and joy of the festive season to kids by feting and treating them to toys and a host of entertaining activities. Digicel will be taking its #Gifted Kids – Christmas Cheers across Guyana by visiting Linden, Berbice, Essequibo and Georgetown.“This holiday, it’s all about playing with the notion of being gifted – from being gifted by Usain Bolt’s Christmas song to gifting our customers with better products and services or gifting kids with the most memorable Christmas – we know what our customers want and that’s what we are giving them,” said Jacqueline James, Head of Marketing.
Estate closures…says “incompetence” of decision-makers caused downfall of sugarEconomist Sasenarine SinghThe recent announcement by Government that more sugar estates will be closed has been described as a move which lacks transparency by economist Sasenarine Singh, who believes that the downfall of the sugar industry is as a result of the incompetence of decision-makers.Last week, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon admitted that more estates would be shut down as Government moved to finalise its options with regard to the future of the sugar industry. “Well, there are proposals with respect to diversification; and in the diversification plan, there is a proposal to that effect,” the State Minister told reporters at the post-Cabinet press briefing.However, Singh pointed out that the premise upon which such a decision was taken was “totally non-transparent” and lacked “a comprehensive understanding of the social impact on rural Guyana”.The Skeldon Sugar FactoryThe economist explained that if the intention was to reduce the drag on the fiscal performance of the economy, then the first thing any skilful policymaker would have done was conduct a full-blown Socioeconomic Impact Assessment (SIA) on different options available to Government.“No one has priced in the loss of the sugar earnings on the national reserves. No one has priced in the social cost and drain on the social security system because of a trimmed [Guyana Sugar Corporation] GuySuCo operations. The focus all along should have been on cutting out the fat from the industry – the non-value added cost, not kill the goose all together to get rid of the fat,” he stated.Singh added that if this move reflected the reality in the minds of the decision-makers in the Cabinet of Guyana, then Tuesday ,February 28, 2017, would be “a date which will live in infamy” in the Cooperative Republic, he said, paraphrasing Roosevelt.Moreover, the economist believes that the treatment of the Skeldon Estate reveals the deficiency of proper management capabilities at the helm of GuySuCo.He noted that the reason given for the recent abandonment of the first crop at Skeldon – that the co-generation plant was unsafe to operate was nothing but a lame excuse. He pointed out that the situation exposed a deep deficiency in the project planning and engineering skills in GuySuCo, laying the blame at the feet of co-Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman, whom Singh said should be fired forthwith for “gross negligence and incompetence”.“Did the senior team at GuySuCo in 2016 not developed a project plan for Skeldon for the first crop? Did they not identified and inspected their assets at Skeldon (their pool of available technicians, their equipment, the field are scheduled for reaping during the first crop of 2017 and most importantly the factory)? From that assessment, any skilled executive will then clear know what they can do and what they cannot do,” the economist posited.LossesHe went on to question who would take responsibility for the losses in the field since some 4000 acres of mature cane was now left to dry in the field. This, he noted, is a permanent loss of some $2 billion.“So, you see these decisions cannot be made lightly, because they result in billions of dollars in opportunity losses, which then translate into socio-economic deprivation in the local area – the Upper Corentyne. So when the local businesses would have expected a bump in their financial transaction in the first half of the year, they must settle for a season of “beri-beri”. Who is going to feed, clothe and pay the mortgage for the sugar families of the upper Corentyne now?” he argued.Nevertheless, when it comes to saving the Skeldon Estate, Singh is of the opinion that “boat done gone a falls”. He explained that back in May 2015, he was convinced without a shadow of doubt that the situation was recoverable, but this was not so anymore because of the high level of executive incompetence and bungled decision-making at the highest levels within GuySuCo for years now – not only under Hanoman but Raj Singh as well, who was ‘doubly worst’.Moreover, the economist outlined that he was advised that the decision was made to sell the entire operations at Skeldon and that the son-in-law of a senior Government official was eligible for a finder’s fee of US$1 million if he could structure a deal for the Skeldon Estate with the co-generation plant.“I was also reliably advised that as a precondition, investors want the balance sheet assigned to the Skeldon Estate to be stripped of the US$200 million debt that funded the factory. But anyone involved in any business acquisition will know that the valuation of a business is three-fold – the future cash flows, the expected rate of returns and the net asset value of the balance sheet. Everyone is focused on the fact that the factory is a mess, but no one is focusing on the intangible losses,” he posited.According to Singh, if the debt for the factory is extricated from the deal, then the people of Guyana will get pennies on the dollar when this deal is done, with limited access to the future cash flows, most of which will be shipped out of the country for the investor, and the equity built up will all be owned by the investor.To this end, the economist noted that it was imperative that deal or no deal, Skeldon should be formed into its own joint stock company and listed on the Guyana stock exchange. This way, he added, Government would be able to sell 75 per cent of the shares to private shareholders, not just the international investors, but to local companies such as Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) or anyone else who can afford to buy the shares.
The Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) has issued a Consumer Advisory against the use of DOST Patent Barley following discoveries of the product being adulterated. The product from Canada which was packed exclusively for a local distributor was flagged by the GA-FDD after it was found to be contaminated with wheaten flour.Analysis conducted by the Food Chemistry laboratory of the GA-FDD determined the product to be adulterated and this was after weeks of meticulous investigation and collaboration among Inspectors and Analytical Scientific Officers.DOST Patent BarleyThe investigation was initiated as a result of concerns raised and complaints lodged at the monthly National Food Safety and Control Committee meeting.The Department has since visited the premises of the distributor, Geetanjali Rai at Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara, where on both occasions; the Inspectors were unable to gain access to the premises to continue their investigation. According to the GA-FDD advisory, Rai is now in violation of the Laws of Guyana, firstly the Food and Drug Act Chapter 34:03, Section 25, Part 5, which states that “Any person who sells an article of food that is adulterated is guilty of an offence”. Also, Rai is faced with denied access to a premise to which the Act applies in contravention to the Laws of Guyana Food and Drug Act Chapter 34:03 Part VI, Section 21, “Powers of Inspectors”.Consumers are therefore advised not to purchase this particular brand of Patent Barley given the reports of contamination by the GA-FDD. Furthermore, the Department said it has widened the target to analyse similar products such as those that are also being imported from intra and extra regional countries. In addition, Environmental Health Officers within the regions will also be targeted as investigations on the other brands are to be submitted to the Department for analysis. The Department said it will continue to utilise the resources that are to their disposal to facilitate trade and most importantly to protect consumers against falsified and/or substandard food, drug, cosmetics and medical devices.